What is Full Grain Leather?

What is Full Grain Leather? Quite simply it is the best grade leather and best quality leather. This type of leather is durable, breathable, and strong. It has not been sanded down, so it contains natural markings. Many confuse Full Grain with Top Grain Leather. Full Grain Leathers have all of the natural markings of the original animal hide because the leather has not been buffed, sanded, or snuffed to remove the natural grains and markings. Top Grain Leather may have a more uniform look, but sanding has removed the strongest fibers! And because of those sanded off fibers, you need to split the leather even thicker to have the same strength as full grain leather. A full grained leather is stronger and has loads of character and style. Each hide has infinitely unique patterns, textures, and sometimes scars or brands. The natural markings and grains tell a story because they show the history of the animal.

What does full grain leather look like?

These photos of Full Grain Leather hides and products were taken at the Buffalo Billfold Company. They show the high quality, unique leather created from our own leather tanning recipes.

Are there scars and brands on your leather goods?

Yes! Scars, scuffs, wrinkles and brands are your assurance that we use real, full grain leather from real wild animals. Some buffalo acquire more scars over their lifetime than others. We constantly find ourselves trying to work around these natural scars and markings because our leather is not sanded down to create a uniform surface. While we hand pick clean areas of leather to feature prominently, the scuffed pieces are just as  structurally sound. So we use those too! We often use scarred pieces for less visible areas. You may find marks on the leather found inside purses or behind pockets in wallets. This allows us to minimize waste while still using the strongest leather available.

We sometimes find a scar or brand that is just too cool to cover up. We like to use these in one-of-a-kind specialty pieces. Our coasters and mouse pads will often proudly bear scars or brands. These marks add to the rustic beauty of these products! With use, these scars and brands will develop a patina and become smoother the more they age. We have it from gamers, developers, every day computer users that any scuffs in the mouse pad do not cause issues with most mice these days.

Standard Legal Pad - Bison Leather & Rattlesnake Skin
Standard Legal Pad made from Full Grain Bison Leather & Rattlesnake Skin. This one-of-a-kind piece prominently features natural markings and scars. Made in USA | Buffalo Billfold Company

How to Identify

To identify full grain leather, look for unique patterns. Don’t confuse faux leather textures with natural textures. Because top grain leather loses its natural textures in the sanding process, an artificial texture is “stamped” onto the leather. It is completely uniform. A trained eye may even be able to spot repeats in the pattern, similar to a patterned wall paper. The texture on full grain leather is all natural! No two pieces are alike. Each hide tells its own story and has its own special beauty. Because less-durable top grain leathers are common, the public has come to expect artificial uniformity. Don’t be disappointed by texture variation. What may appear to be minor imperfections are actually the telltale signs of the strongest type of leather. Our larger products showcase this natural texture best. However, we handcraft all of our leather goods from the best material available: full grained leather.

Full Grain Leathers last long, age well, and have character

Full grained leather lasts long and ages amazingly. If you want leather that will stand the test of time, this is what you’re looking for. Instead of just wearing out as they age, full grain leathers develops an amazing, burnished patina instead. After years of use, our wallets end up looking much like a well worn saddle. Not many things in this world improve with use and age. We’re proud to say our products are one of those rare gems! The more you handle and use a full grained leather good, the better it will look and the more character it will develop. And that character just can’t be duplicated. The unique patterns on the leather grain tell the story of the buffalo. After years of use, these products will tell your story too!

A Lasting Investment

Full grain leather products are more expensive because they are more valuable! They are a worthwhile investment. We pay a premium for full grain buffalo leather, and it requires great skill to work with it successfully. We carefully inspect each hide and select clear pieces to feature prominently. For example, purses and the outsides of wallets get the best of the best. Then we consider which areas of the hide acquire more scuffs during the animal’s life and which areas naturally have more stretch. It takes a highly skilled Leathersmith to use all the leather appropriately and minimize waste. This material is more expensive, requires greater skill, which all takes time. Full grain leather products have a greater initial expense. That is the nature of this “beast.” No wonder full grain Buffalo leather products are so rare!

But that extra, up-front cost pays off in the long run! These leather goods will last much longer than other leathers and are distinctly beautiful. Therefore, the overall cost to the consumer is much lower over the long haul. Why buy a dime store wallet every few months when a full grain wallet could last you years? Invest in a better, longer lasting, and more beautiful product. The Buffalo Billfold Company offers the perfect combination of premium material combined with skilled, American made craftsmanship. Depending on how hard a person is on their wallet or purse, they could be passed down and used for generations. This unique, high quality leather is worth every penny.

Benefits of Full Grain Leather

One large benefit of full grain leather is that it breathes. That extra breathability results in less moisture from prolonged contact. This quality is important in products like wallets, purses, or saddle bags which may be handled frequently or get wet outdoors. This leather won’t crack, tear or peel like cheaper or faux leathers do. These natural leather qualities are important if you want your leather good to last a long time. This type of leather is also very easy to care for. There is no need for polish or other chemicals. At the Buffalo Billfold Company, we recommend that you simply use a cloth to wipe of any dirt that accumulates over time. But if you feel compelled to do a more thorough cleaning, click here to Learn to Clean a Leather Wallet.

Full grain buffalo leather is valuable. It lasts a long time, has distinct beauty, develops a patina with age, and tells a story.  It is simply the best leather available. And that’s why the Buffalo Billfold Company chooses to use full grain buffalo leather in all our handmade leathergoods.