Leather Goods: What Are the Different Types of Leather?

Posted by Tarun Sharma on November 24th, 2020

In leather goods, the type of leather used is fundamental. It is indeed what will determine the quality and value of your object.

To distinguish the different types of leather, you will need to be vigilant on three criteria:

  • What animal does your leather come from?
  • With which part of the animal was your leather goods made?
  • What manufacturing methods were used in the tannery where the object was shaped?

Once informed on these three precise points, you will have a few cards in hand to determine what type of leather you are dealing with, and therefore estimate the quality of the leather.

What animal is the source of your leather?

Know that some animals are much more suitable than others for the design of your leather objects.

Lamb and sheep, flexible and light, are more often used for clothing (jackets for example). In leather goods, on the other hand, sheep and lamb are mainly used for linings.

The difference between sheep and lamb is very subtle; a lamb becomes a sheep at three months; and it is customary to say that sheepskin is thicker than lambskin. Sheep will therefore be sold at a lower price than lamb.

Calfskin is considered to be a very high-quality leather, and it is exclusively processed by certain benchmark tanneries. This leather is used for example for shoes, for branded ladies handbags, clothes, etc.

Goat leather can go through the years without bending, which makes it a preferred material for working shoes.

Pig leather is considered an entry level product. It is however a material whose strength and resistance are recognized.

The leather is also made with the skin of different exotic animals; it is up to everyone to take their responsibility, to verify the origin of the product purchased, and not to develop the illegal animal trafficking market through reckless purchases. Included among these exotic animals are the antelope, the ostrich, the crocodile, the shark, the python, etc.

What part of the animal was used for your leather?

You may have heard of "full grain leather" or "split leather" but you may not know that these names refer to the part of the hide used to make your leather. This short glossary should help you understand more about the different species of leather:

Full grain leather

It is a leather made with the upper part of the skin, also called the dermis. It is on this part of the skin that animal hair is implanted. The dermis is made up of collagen fibers, which are particularly dense.

The dermis is believed to be the noblest part of the skin, so full grain leather is considered premium leather.

Crust of leather

It is a leather made with the lower part of the hide, which is also the cheapest.

Also note that depending on the part of the animal's body used, the quality of the leather will be different.

We distinguish:

  • the butt (the part that included the croup and the back of the animal, which is the part where the leather is of better quality)
  • the collar (back of the animal, which is mainly used for linings)
  • the sides (the less beautiful part of the skin)

What manufacturing method was used?

Each tannery has its method, its manufacturing technique, and its secrets that will differentiate it from others. In particular, we differentiate vegetable tanning from chrome tanning. Vegetable tanning, a secular technique used since the discovery of leather, has experienced renewed success in recent years.

However, it remains very anecdotal, and represents only around 10% of world production. Much more ecological, this technique uses less chemicals, and the leather obtained has a reputation for being more qualitative.

Beware, however, of the tanneries which benefit from this craze; some manufacture "on-line" vegetable-tanned leathers and devote very little time to production, while in absolute terms, vegetable-tanned leather requires long-term work.

In addition, keep in mind that vegetable leather patina very quickly, and react more strongly to stains and scratches. While some appreciate this natural patina, others prefer a leather that keeps best over the years.


In short, it is up to you to choose which leather best corresponds to what you like: you understood it, in this matter, there is no good or bad leather!

Tarun Sharma

About the Author

Tarun Sharma
Joined: September 1st, 2020
Articles Posted: 2

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