What is Genuine Leather? The Complete Guide

What is Genuine Leather? The Complete Guide


What is Genuine Leather? A Complete Guide

Genuine Leather: What is it? Is it a high-quality leather?

When you're looking for your next leather briefcase or messenger bag, you’ll be faced with a lot of different options, so it’s important to understand the qualities of the leather to be able to make an informed decision.

Lots of products are described as “genuine leather” but what does that mean for the quality and longevity of the product and are there better options out there?

What is Genuine Leather?

The term genuine leather is slightly misleading and it can confuse many buyers who believe they are getting high-quality leather goods. This is not always the case.

If a product is marked as genuine leather, that just means it contains some real leather, it doesn’t necessarily describe the quality. For luxury products, you want to look for top-grain and full-grain leather.

If you are buying leather goods as a gift for a birthday or anniversary, it’s important to understand the meaning of the phrase and what it can mean for the quality.

What Do Leather Grades Tell Us About Quality?

When it comes to leather, the grade and the type are very different things. Leathers are usually graded by the tannery that separates and treats the hide. Tanned hides are graded in a way that indicates how much of it is a “useable surface”. This is mostly important for goods manufacturers. As the buyer of the end product, the type of leather is more important to you.

Those who know a bit about leather bags and other goods will have heard material descriptions like “full grain leather” or “top grain leather”. These are the two highest quality types of leather, often used to create luxury products. They’re typically the most durable and the most aesthetically appealing options. Sometimes genuine leather is used to describe these high-quality materials but it’s deceptive in that it also covers lower-quality options.

In most scenarios, there are 5 leather types to be aware of. Here they are ranked from the highest quality to the lowest.

  1. Full-grain leather - The most durable and highest quality section of the hide. It is the least processed and offers a nice authentic look.
  2. Top grain leather - A high quality and strong leather that can be slightly softer than full-grain leather due to some treatment of the material. 
  3. Split-grain leather - A soft but weaker form of leather taken from the bottom of the hide. Suede is a common example of split leather.
  4. Genuine leather - Doesn’t typically have the strength of full grain leather or the softness of split grain leather. Is taken from the middle of the hide.
  5. Bonded leather - A low-quality leather made of scraps and leather dust bonded together. Not a very durable material but it is affordable.

Although this is common, the confusion comes because some businesses will describe all of these as genuine leathers, leaning into the more literal indication of them being ‘real’.

Full Grain Leather vs. Genuine Leather

Genuine leather is not as resilient or sturdy as full-grain leather. The term "genuine leather" is a little deceptive because, while it is actual leather, it is the lowest grade available. It lacks the richness of full grain or top grain leathers, and quite frequently, the difference is apparent.

Genuine leather products cost less than full-grain leather, but they are also less durable. This may imply that they are suitable for products with lower wear, but for products like bags, high-quality leathers will prove to be a far better long-term investment.

5 Bags Made From Top Quality Leather for 2023

At The Real Leather Company, we’re focused on creating high-quality real leather goods that our customers love. We’re so passionate about our products being both stylish and strong that we only use full-grain and top-grain leathers. This ensures that every piece we create can be enjoyed for as long as possible.

We often think that durable and stylish leather goods should be the envy of the workplace. Here are five of our favorite high-quality briefcases that will be just that! 

  1. The European


Visit The European

This high-quality leather briefcase is perfect for the busy working man. It’s spacious, durable and makes it comfortable to carry everything you need for the working week.

The European can easily fit a 17” laptop and the high-quality fixtures and strong material mean all of your belongings are protected when you’re on the move.

  1. The Noir

Visit The Noir

The Noir is both professional and endlessly stylish. This black messenger bag crafted from high-quality leather is strong and is designed to work flawlessly with the modern man’s wardrobe.  

Not only does it look great with its natural full-grain texture the star of the show, but it is designed to have a classic charm that means it won’t go out of fashion – no matter how much you use it.

  1. The Briefcase

Visit The Briefcase

The Briefcase is a gorgeous work bag that is both practical and durable. It easily fits a laptop and anything else you might need for the working day and is sure to be the envy of the office.  

With a padded shoulder strap, this work bag is also a comfortable carry and this makes it the perfect option for someone who seeks style and practicality for their daily commute.

  1. The Vintage

Visit The Vintage

The Vintage is a timeless and stylish option for a man who enjoys looking and feeling the part. It’s here to prove that laptop bags can be suave.  

Crafted from full-grain leather and with only high-quality metal fixings, the vintage is perfect for both work and recreation. It’s a durable and fashionable piece that will become a staple of any wardrobe.

  1. The Retro 
The Retro

Visit The Retro

This charming retro-inspired real leather bag is always popular. The premium full-grain buffalo leather protects your belongings with a padded laptop or tablet pouch adding even more protection. 

The Retro acts as a sidekick to your everyday hero, it can go everywhere with you, will last for a long time, and offers you all of the protection you (and your belongings) need. It also looks the part.

You can check out the rest of our collection of leather briefcases here.

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