Leather Terminology & Glossary

Types of Leather

In selecting the best types of leather for any application, or buying ready made leather products, it is important to understand the various leather types produced today and their processes. This leather terminology and glossary defines in general terms the various types of grains and their process. We encourage customers to ask questions first and become familiar with these terms before making any buying decisions. As most leather product resellers today have never themselves tanned hides, you cannot expect them to know the difference either. Buckskin Leather Company offers only those types we believe in ourselves which are not misleading the customer into believing the look is something it is not. BUYER BEWARE !!! We are available for free advise whether you are buying our product or otherwise.

types of leather terminology glossary header

1. Full Grain or Top Grain Leather – ( ” the best ” )

This is the upper layer of a hide which is split into layers by a splitting machine to various thickness. This outer layer will show natural scars and haircell patterns if left as uncorrected natural grain. The thickness can vary depending on the gauge set at the time of splitting and the application. Thereafter the hides can be colored & given various protective finishes. Whether produced for Upholstery, Garment, Shoe or Saddlery, these are the best types of leather as they are the strongest and most durable and valuable layer of hide.

2. Corrected or Embossed Grain – ( ” 2nd best ” , full grain)

Hides which have an excessive amount of scratches or scars are further processed by “correcting” the natural grain of a Full Grain skin. After splitting to the required thickness, this natural grain is buffed or sanded and replaced with an embossed grain and finish to simulate various hair cell patterns. The resulting effect will look flawless with no natural scars showing, but this is no longer the real or natural grain. The original feel or hand of the natural skin and durability is also reduced with a synthetic grain and finish. Many applications for shoe and handbag leather are embossed with unique exotic prints to simulate the look as well. This process is utilized in many Garments and Upholstery while still represented as “full grain leather” which technically it is that layer.

3. Split Suede – ( “functional and inexpensive leather hides” )

The second layer or lower layer of the skin left after removing the Full Grain layer is the Split Suede and will be suede on both sides. These types of leathers also will come in various thickness depending on application. As this is a byproduct of hide tanning it is less costly and therefore utilized in products where Full Grain is not required such as tool pouches, moccasins, suede garments etc.. This layer of the skin can also be further processed by the application of a synthetic finish and hair cell to one side of the suede to create an artificial look of Full Grain leather, known as “finished split” hide. This is used extensively in lower cost furniture and garments and represented as “Genuine Leather” which technically it still is although it may look like something it is not.

4. Nubuck Sueded Grain – ( “look but don’t touch – very sensitive leather”)

This Full Grain layer of the skin is given a suede effect by lightly sanding the natural grain to open the hair cell and results in a velvety suede feel. This is also correcting imperfections in the natural grain and although soft to the touch, it is a sensitive effect. Care must be taken against soiling or staining as it is very difficult if not impossible to clean afterward. This effect is utilized in many garments and Upholstery products.

5. Reconstituted, Bonded or Fibre Leather – ( “Recycled, particle board” )

Here leather remnants and scraps from garment and shoe factories are ground up and recycled. In these types of leather the fiber particles are bonded with adhesive into a fabric followed by the application of a synthetic grain, hair-cell pattern and finish. This material will have a suede back and looks of smooth Full Grain leather , while it is essentially Particle board leather. As it is comprised of at least 51% leather fiber, it is represented as “Genuine leather” and utilized in many low priced garment and upholstery finished products. BUYER BEWARE – ASK QUESTIONS FIRST!

Different Parts of a Leather Hide

Leather Terminology and Glossary
(Parts Description)

leather terminology glossary
  • Double Shoulder A + B

  • Belly E or F

  • Double Butts C + D

  • Bends C or D

  • Side G+A+C+E or B+D+F+H

  • Full Hide –  All of the above parts


Leather Thickness Chart

Regardless of the type of leather, most leather today is sold in “Ounce” thickness, the approximate equivalent in inch fractions or millimeters can be compared below. As the hide can still vary in thickness from one part of the hide to another, the gauge is usually defined in ranges, for example 3 – 4 ounces, means the skin will be between 3 and 4 ounces throughout the

Leather Thickness Conversion Chart


MMIron% InchDecimal Inch