If you want to invest in long-lasting, high-quality leather goods, we highly recommend full-grain leather.
Known for its great durability and character, full-grain leather is often used for bags, shoes and other clothing products. It is considered a luxury material, which is why we see it used for high-quality, stylish goods in men’s fashion and beyond.
What is Full Grain Leather?
Full-grain leather is the strongest and most durable part of the animal hide. It is the layer below the hair and this exposure is what gives it the natural leather characteristics that we expect to see, feel and smell with high-quality leather goods.
Full grain leather is not altered during the tanning process and is, therefore, a very natural leather option. It is considered the highest quality leather – even more so than top-grain leather and genuine leather.
The natural pattern on full grain leather is very tight and this closeness in the fibres gives it its durable qualities and makes it more water-resistant than other types of leather.
This durability makes it a brilliant option for luxury leather goods and it also gives it the leather texture that many fake leather products try (and often fail) to mimic.
How is Full Grain Leather Made?
There are usually 3 stages to creating full-grain leather. Preparation, Tanning and Crusting.
Once a full cut of the hide has been cleaned and treated, it is separated into horizontal layers. This is where we get different cuts of leather, like full-grain and suede materials for use on different types of leather products.
The hide is then limed and de-limed to further remove any grease or proteins that the first round of cleaning didn’t get. Some leathers will also be bleached to make them more receptive to the tanning process.
Next, the hide is tanned. This transforms the hide from its more raw form into a stable material, suitable for garments and leather wares.
Tanned hides are then crusted, which means that they are thinned, moisturized and tanned again. Some shinier leathers would be oiled or glazed at this point in the process – full-grain leather won’t typically have these treatments.
Are Full Grain Leather Goods High-Quality? (The Pros & Cons)
Full-grain leather is an extremely sturdy material that has a distinct visual appeal to those who choose to buy real leather goods. To understand why it is considered to be the highest quality leather, we can look at some more details about the pros and cons of full-grain leather.
Pros of Full Grain Leather
The biggest advantage of using full-grain leather is its durability. The tight-knit fibres in the cut make it the perfect material for heavy-duty items like full-grain leather bags and belts.
2. Water Resistance
Full grain leather is more water-resistant than some other leathers. The grain means that it is able to absorb moisture from conditioners (or just bad weather) without sustaining significant damage or misshaping.
3. Natural Look
Its beautiful, natural appearance will also appeal to those who love classic, high-quality goods. The fine texture looks great on real leather products and makes investment in high-quality full-grain leather really worthwhile as a gift to either yourself or a loved one.
4. Built to Last
Full-grain leather, unlike fake leather, will really last. A good real leather bag will often last for decades if well maintained.
Cons of Full Grain Leather
Although many (including us!) will definitely see this as a positive feature, full-grain leather can be prone to marks and imperfections. This is due to both its natural form and exposure when on the animal, and also due to it being untreated. For most, this is one of the appealing qualities of full grain leather as it makes your good totally unique. But for some, imperfections make full-grain leather a less appealing option than top grain leather.
Full-grain leather can be a more expensive option than fake leathers. Many see real leather goods as an investment, so price might not be too much of a concern when you can have confidence that your full-grain leather product can last for many years.
Full Grain Leather vs. Top Grain Leather
Top Grain leather does not quite have the same durable qualities as full-grain leather, but it does have its own perks.
Top grain leather is generally less expensive than full-grain leather alternatives but you are sacrificing some quality and some of those natural features that make full-grain leather so appealing.
Top grain leather has been altered, giving it a less natural look and impacting the strength of the material. It is, however, still much stronger than genuine leather or fake leather alternatives, like PU leather.
Full Grain Leather vs. Genuine Leather
When compared to full-grain leather, genuine leather is not as durable or strong. Genuine leather is slightly misleading in its name – whilst it is real leather, it is the lowest quality real leather you can buy. It does not offer the luxury of full grain or top grain leathers and quite often, there is a noticeable difference.
Genuine leather products are a more affordable option than full-grain leather, but won’t last long. This might mean that they’re okay for lower wear goods, but for items like bags, high-quality leathers will be a much better investment long-term.
How to Care For Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is unusual because it is very strong but can still be damaged due to it being untreated. Here are a few tips on how you can clean your full-grain leather products without causing too much damage to their stylish appearance.
Surface-level marks should be fairly easy to clean. For most full-grain leather products, simply wipe them with a soft damp cloth. If stains are more stubborn or dried, warm water should help to remove any dirt. Your full-grain leather products will be more resistant to water damage during the cleaning process than some other leathers, although you should still be careful to not use excessive amounts of water, and often it will not be necessary.
Full grain leather will naturally have imperfections – it’s part of what makes it so appealing. We recommend against using hard brushes or abrasive cloths as this will likely damage your full-grain leather more than it will help it. Remember, full-grain leather can be prone to scratching if you aren’t careful with your maintenance.
Similarly, you shouldn’t use harsh chemicals on real leather. Instead, consider using a leather conditioner.
When the surface of your full-grain leather appears to be clean, you can apply a leather conditioner if your bag or leather product seems to be dry. (We recommend this Leather Cream)
Apply just a small amount of your leather cream or conditioner onto a lint-free cloth. Moisturize the conditioner into your full-grain leather in a gentle, circular motion. At this point, the real leather will start to absorb the conditioner and this will start to moisturize and revitalize the material.
If you’re unsure about the product you are using, you can test out a leather conditioner on a small, unseen area of your real leather bag and leave it for 24 hours to see how the material reacts.
Our Favorite Full Grain Leather Goods in 2022
We absolutely love high-quality leather products, and we, of course, don’t want to keep them all to ourselves – so, here is our guide to the very best of our full-grain leather bag collection.
Our classic and functional full-grain leather duffle bag. The Lifelong is a real hit. Its stunning stylish appearance is perfect for a romantic weekend away, an adventurous getaway, or really any occasion – it looks too good not to be used!
This classic messenger bag is ideal for the successful 9-to-5er in your life who likes to commute in style. This long-lasting luxury bag is the perfect gift, and when well cared for will last for many years.
3. The Mahi
If you’re looking for a modern twist on a classic look, the Mahi backpack might be for you. Functional and stylish, the Mahi is an excellent investment for an everyday accessory that can last you for years.
You can check out the rest of our collection of full grain leather bags here.