What is Top Grain Leather? The Complete 2022 Guide


what is top grain leather

Gone are the days of frequently buying cheap faux leathers. As shoppers, we want quality leather bags, and that’s where our guide comes in.  We will be answering all of your questions on top grain leather.

So – what is top grain leather?

And, why are top grain leather goods of such high-quality?

At The Real Leather Company, we’re passionate about excellent quality, style and longevity which is why so many of our products make great gifts. We’ve got some wonderful recommendations for you but, first, let us tell you a bit more about the materials and why they make such special products.

What is Top Grain Leather?

Top grain leather is one of the two highest grades of leather that you can use to make leather goods; the other being full-grain leather. (You can check out our guide to full-grain leather here.)

It is strong and stylish and has all of the properties that you would expect with real leather goods. 

Top grain leather is a reliable luxury material, so is often used to create excellent leather products like top grain leather bags.

top grain leather goods

What are The Properties of Top Grain Leather?

As an extremely high-quality material, top grain leather has a number of desirable qualities.

1. The Smell

Of course, it has that luxury leather smell that typically makes real leather goods appealing but it has so many more benefits. 

2. The Strength

Top grain leather is an extremely strong material, making it the perfect option for items like bags, belts and shoes. Its strength comes down to the part of the hide it is sourced from.

3. The Durability

As it's made from top layer cowhide leather, it is designed to last. It's not uncommon for a top grain leather bag to last decades.

How is Top Grain Leather Made?

Top grain leather gets its name from the sanding, buffing of shaving process that gives it its smooth and polished finish. Top grain leather is very similar to full-grain leather, apart from this couple of millimetres that have been sanded down. This is to get rid of some of the blemishes and imperfections that hides naturally have when freshly sourced.

Typically, there are 3 stages of creating leather. A full hide is cleaned and treated and then separated into individual layers that create different types of leather (and leathers of different strengths and qualities).

The hide is then treated again and tanned to make the material more durable. They will then be moisturized and glazed if the type of leather requires it.

The materials are then ready to be made into high-quality leather goods that we can purchase and use for many years.

Does Top Grain Leather Make Good Products?

Absolutely! As one of the highest grades of leather (behind only full-grain leather), top grain leather makes excellent, long-lasting products. It is most commonly used for bags, briefcases and travel bags because of its durable nature.

A top grain leather backpack, for instance, would be an excellent choice for a regular traveller or someone looking for a long-term solution for everyday use. High-quality leathers are incredibly tough and fairly water-resistant (although they should be allowed to dry naturally if they do get wet), so they make an excellent choice for heavy-wear products.

Top grain leather briefcases are an extremely popular gift. Maybe you’re buying a present to celebrate a milestone achievement like a promotion or a birthday. Our customers regularly share stories of their loved ones receiving their real leather gifts and it shows how much these high-quality investment pieces are valued.

Top Grain Leather vs. Full Grain Leather

Both top grain leather and full-grain leather make excellent materials for high-quality products. The tight-knit fibers in both give products a strength and stability that can mean they last for decades with the proper care.

The main difference is that top grain leather will have had a process or processes done to it to hide any imperfections and because of this more polished finish, it is a very commonly used high-quality leather. You can buy many luxury leather travel bags, backpacks and duffle bags that still maintain the classic leather qualities but also look really stylish.

Sometimes you will find that top-grain leather can be slightly shinier than full-grain leather, and this is down to treatments and tanning of the raw material. It’s not always the case, but many find that this slightly smoother finish makes their leather bags easier to care for.

what is top grain leather

Is Top Grain Leather the Same As Genuine Leather?

Genuine leather is usually a term that describes lower quality leather. Sometimes when you’re shopping for leather bags or goods, this can be a confusing term.

Genuine leather is not the same of top grain leather. Genuine leather is often used to describe the lower layer of the cowhide (which is technically still real leather), but does not have the same durability or strength characteristics as the upper layer.

It means that a product is real, genuine leather but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the actual quality of the product. It sounds like it’s the very best but that’s not always the case.

At The Real Leather Company, we guarantee quality leather bags and wallets made from only the top layer of the hide. So you can be sure that what you’re buying isn’t just “technically leather”, it’s the real deal.

How to Look After Top Grain Leather

Leather bags are a real investment piece and they can maintain their classic charms for years and years when looked after properly and maintained with all of the right tools. 

Here’s how you can clean and care for your top grain leather good.

For any surface-level dirt or dust, you should be able to simply wipe it with a soft and slightly damp cloth. You can try warmer water if you find that tougher, dried dirt isn’t budging.

Top grain leather typically has a tighter pattern because of the section of the hide, so you might find, that a really soft brush can help to clean any grooves or details without too much damage.

You should avoid using any abrasive or harsh chemicals or cloths to clean your leather. Instead, look into using a leather conditioner to restore and revitalize your leather product.

Apply a relatively small amount of leather conditioner or cream onto a clean cloth. In a gentle, circular motion, moisturize the conditioner into your top-grain leather. You might want to do this a couple of times a year or when your leather starts to look dry.

If you’re not sure about the conditioner you are using, you can test it out on a small, unseen area and leave it for 24 hours to see how the leather reacts.

what is top grain leather

Why We Recommend Choosing Full Grain or Top Grain Leather Backpacks and Bags

We, of course, are slightly biased in our love for all things real leather – but it's because we see so many benefits in the high-quality products we produce and the properties that they hold.

A top grain leather bag might seem like an expense, but many of our customers find that long-term the cost is very reasonable. Imagine you buy faux or cheap leather bags regularly  for several years – the costs really stack up! Instead, investing in a well crafted and stylistically made real leather bag will pay off financially when it stands the test of time.

Our Favorite Top Grain Leather Goods of 2022

If top grain leather sounds like it might be the perfect option for you, here are our favorite 3 top-grain leather products that you should be looking at this year.

1. The Duffle

the duffle

View Product: https://therealleathercompany.com/products/the-duffel

If you’re a frequent flyer or like an impromptu weekend getaway, then this top grain leather duffle bag might be right up your street. It has a large main compartment, extra pockets for storage (and easy access on the go), and even a separate space for some shoes. With this leather duffle bag, it’s simple to take your essentials with you wherever you might be heading and you’ll be confident that you can do it in style.

2. The Daily

the daily

View Product: https://therealleathercompany.com/products/the-daily  

The Daily is a classic, stylish messenger bag. Available in both light and dark brown to suit your style – this bag is a commuter's dream. Its sturdy design and durable qualities make it the perfect companion for a professional man who wants to look smart and have access to practical storage. The top-grain leather material makes it resistant to the occasional rainstorm, and you can be confident that this bag will stand the test of time.

3. The Compact

the compact

View Product: https://therealleathercompany.com/products/the-compact

This modern leather backpack with nods to classic leather fashion is a must. This sleek and compact real leather backpack will hold a surprising amount and its easily accessible side pockets make it a great option if you find you’re always on the go.

Here, you can shop our full collection of top grain leather bags.

top grain leather goods