Types Of Leather For Bags

There are many different types of leather currently being used, from the highest quality to the lowest grade. These include full-grain leather, top-grain, suede, genuine or ‘corrected’ grain and bonded leather.

Full-grain leather is at the top of the chain for quality and refers to leather that wasn’t sanded or buffed out to remove imperfections or marks. It includes the entire thickness of the skin, even though sanding these will make the leather more visually appealing. Keeping that grain will allow additional strength and durability. The highest quality of bags feature full-grain leather, that is most natural and popular. Below is a men’s grey full-grain leather messenger bag, you can see the imperfections which makes it look rugged.

Mens Full Grain leather Grey Messenger Bag

Top-grain leather is second for quality and is a split layer with the imperfections taken away. This makes it thinner and easier to work with. It’s the most common leather that is used for high-end products like handbags. The surface is sanded and finished giving it a smooth look and feel. The finish takes away most of the breathability but prevents stains that would sink into full-grain leather. Below is a men’s brown top-grain leather briefcase, you can see that ‘smooth’ look compared to the full-grain leather.

Mens Top Grain Leather Brown Briefcasw

Suede is the underside of the skin and has a napped surface. It is formed from split leather and has a top grain rawhide that is removed to leave behind the drop split. It can be further divided or sanded to reach the appropriate thickness. Suede has a signature textured feel. Cow leather has a rough feel so goat, lamb, calf or deerskin are used instead. It’s less durable since it’s thinner and absorbs liquid easily because of its porous surface. Nubuck is a top grain and is a more durable cattle hide leather that is lightly sanded on the outside. It has a short nap that gives it the velvety feel. Below is a women’s black suede with leather accents purse.

Women's black suede and leather accents purse

Genuine or ‘corrected’ grain leather has an artificial grain added to the surface. This is not a high quality leather. It’s a leather-like pattern impressed into the surface and sprayed with a stain or dye to give it a fake grain for a more natural appearance. It doesn’t last as long or looks as nice as the better quality grain of leather. When you hear of ‘genuine’ leather, you would think it was top of the line. It’s not as expensive to purchase compared to the better quality versions.

Bonded leather is the lowest grade and is made up of left over scrap pieces of leather that are shredded to near pulp. The shreds are bonded together using polyurethane or latex on top of a fiber sheet. You can’t tell the level of organic leather versus chemical and only the manufacturer would know. Below is a  women’s brown leather bag with the genuine or ‘corrected’ artificial grain added. You can see that texture over the bag.

Women's brown leather bag with artificial grain added

For craftsmanship, Italian leather is known as the very best. Care goes into the manufacturing and only the best quality hides are used. They are not mass produced in the Asian market like other leather. Italian leather designers use the natural vegetable and plant extracts that turn hide into leather.

The process for making leather bags can be a lengthy one. Making a single bag is calculated that more than 230 processes are required for every single bag from the start to finish, with thousands of individual movements. This is noted by a leather goods factory in China. They have developed over 3000 different types of bags. Starting from the patterns created by the bag designers, to the high-end customization for specific products, then the bulk production center making over 20,000 leather bags per month. There is rigorous testing, multiple inspections, and quality leather is used. There is massive production equipment with several machines used at different stages. There is a lot of work involved with making bags.

Click on Women’s Purses and Handbags for more information about them, to read and shop for men’s click on Men’s Bags and Accessories. The option to shop for both are to the right on my sidebar where I have several merchants listed.

Unless otherwise stated, the bags for this article I chose from various merchants for the specific style I needed to write this article.

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  1. Subrat ku Pradhan


    Hi Patsy, This is Subrat from India its glad to see your helpful tips regarding leather i recently started leather business export quality now i am doing trading but soon am planning to put a manufacturing unit so i really need a lots of help and guidance from you i would if appreciate if you can guide me and help me out regarding different types of leather , marketing strategy for leather goods and manufacturing tricks and new design innovation…

    I am eagerly waiting to hear from you
    Subrat k Pradhan

    1. Patsy


      Hi Subrat,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m happy you found my article helpful but I don’t know anything about what you are asking. Sorry, but I am an Affiliate Marketer and promote merchant products making a small commission per sale. I write helpful articles giving advice to potential customers so they can make a decision for what they need. That’s why I have shopping banners on my pages and posts.

      I suggest you do searches for what you need in marketing strategy, manufacturing tips, design and anything else you have in mind. I wish you much luck and success in your business. I removed the number you left in the comment for your privacy.

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. Bella


    Hi Patsy. Thanks so much for your information. I joined to a leatherware company and everything was new to me. Your writing helps me a lot. Big thanks!

    1. Patsy


      Hi Bella,

      You are very welcome! I’m happy you came across my website and this article finding it useful. It’s awesome that you left me a comment to let me know. I know what it’s like to have a new job where it’s all new and I wish you well with it. Thank you for stopping by and I hope you return again soon!

      1. Tomi Olson


        Is snakeskin referred to as leather in handbags?

        1. Patsy


          Hi Tomi,
          Yes, snakeskin is referred to as leather in handbags when it’s made from the hide of a dead snake. It’s called snakeskin leather or, exotic leather. Snakeskin alone is when it’s shed by a live snake and is too thin for making bags.

  3. Reyhana


    Your article has changed my view of leather forever. I love the look and feel of leather and I love the different textures of leather. You are right, I always thought that GENUINE leather was the high-standard leather and thanks to your article, I can now make better decisions when it comes to buying my purse and shoes.

    1. Patsy


      Hi Reyhana,

      I had no idea until I researched leather, that ‘genuine’ wasn’t what I thought either. We should know from the price since it’s supposed to be lower that authentic leather. One thing I thought about is how the retailer may assume it’s top quality and price it higher. We need to be careful to check it out first.

      I’m glad you found my article, and that it will help you make better decisions in the future. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Stevie B.


    This was so helpful! I am a purse addict and I love leather. It’s not always easy to tell exactly what kind of quality you are buying and this will help guide me on my next purse-buying journey.

    What are your thoughts on goat leather? I’ve read some differing opinions on that and I’m not exactly sure of the quality.

    1. Patsy


      Hi Stevie,

      Join the purse addict club! It’s hard to tell with the quality, especially if it’s not properly stated on the exact type of leather. I look inside to find a stamp with the word ‘leather’ and hope the type is there also. 

      As I stated in this article, cow leather has a rough feel so goat, lamb, calf or deerskin are used instead. Goat is used often for the quality as I found with all the research I do.

      I’m glad you found my article helpful and hope to see you back soon!

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