Leather 101

Leather Quality

Identify and Buy High Quality Leather

Cow hides are thick and Steer hides are thicker. Before tanning, the top grain of these hides is split off and tanned into the higher quality leathers. The remainder of the hide is called the “Split” and can be tanned/finished into lower grade products. These will be described under the “Genuine Leather” classification. TPK uses only Full Grain Cowhide or Full Grain Steer Hide leathers in all of our products, both premium leathers.

GOOD: Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather is produced from the top layer of a hide (typically cow hide), but is sanded and refinished to remove visual defects and blemishes. While it may not maintain its appearance and wear in nicely like full grain leather, it is just as durable.

BETTER: Full Grain (Cowhide) Leather

Full grain leather is also produced from the top layer of the hide but is not sanded or refinished and shows all natural markings and grains. With aging and consistent use, this leather will appear more polished and wear in nicely.

BEST: Premium Full Grain (Steer hide) leather

This full grain leather is produced from younger beef type cattle breeds. There is extra wax added in its’ finishing process.

With this extra wax added at the tannery these leathers will “burnish” or “patina” much more quickly and, because they are more supple, will both last forever and will age much more “gracefully.”

Genuine Leather; Made from the splits of the hides

Genuine leather is usually produced from the SPLIT - remaining layers of hide after the top grain is removed to be finished into better grades. Much weaker than the top portions of the hide. Essentially a “finished split” is suede that is refinished to resemble higher quality leather. Even though it’s fairly low quality, many products like wallets and purses boast a ‘made from genuine leather’ tag.

Products stamped as Genuine Leather could be a higher grade but any low grades cannot be stamped as Top Grain or Full Grain.

Bonded genuine leather is one of the lowest grades and is made by mixing shredded leather scraps and fibers with bonding materials. Because of the way it’s made, the leather content of bonded leather can be as low as 60%. Of all types of leather, it is also the least durable and tends to shred or tear easily.

"Exotic" Leather

With "exotic" types of leather, you get what you pay for. While many products are advertised as “snakeskin” or “alligator,” many are just imprints of patterns on the material to make it look like animal skin. Often this is polyurethane plastic and not even an animal hide.

TPK, Inc. uses only the Finest Full Grain Leathers in all our products.