What hurdles do consumers face when choosing leather shoes? Think about the tons upon tons of shoes on the market at various price points. So many of them are crafted from leather but it’s difficult to determine the exact level of quality. Many shoes are made with a leather upper, meaning some leather was used and the rest is man-made. But how do you know what to look for specifically? Well, we’ve outlined the various types of leather so you can determine how to best spend your hard earned money! For unrivaled custom footwear, click HERE.


The Basics


This leather comes from the top layer of the hide which has ALL of the grain. It refers to hides that have not been sanded, buffed, or snuffed to remove imperfections (or natural marks) on the surface of the hide. The grain remains and provides the fiber width strength and durability. The natural surface of full grain leather burnishes and beautifies with use.


This leather is the second-highest quality. It has had the “split” layer separated away, making it thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added. This step produces a colder synthetic feel with less breathability, and it does not develop a natural patina. It is typically less expensive and has greater stain resistance than full-grain leather. As long as the finish remains unbroken.


This leather is the third grade of leather and is produced from the layers of the hide. These layers remain after the top is split off. The surface is usually refinished (spray painted) to resemble a higher grade. It can be smooth or rough.


This is created from the fibrous part of the hide after the top-grain of the rawhide has been separated. During the splitting operation, the top-grain and drop split are separated and can be used to create suede. The strongest suedes are usually made from grain splits where the grain has been completely removed. They can also derive from the flesh split that has been shaved to the correct thickness. Luxe suede is a man-made material whereas Kid suede comes from a baby goat. Kid suede is usually softer and lighter in weight because the skin is not tough like that of an adult goat.


Is any leather that has had an artificial grain applied to its surface. The hides used to create corrected leather do NOT meet the standards for use in creating vegetable-tanned or aniline leather. The imperfections are corrected or sanded off. Then an artificial grain is embossed into the surface and dressed with stain or dyes. The resulting finish is shiny and plastic in appearance, which helps hide the corrections or imperfections.


This leather is a type of coated leather that has a very glossy, shiny finish. The coating process was introduced to the United States and improved by inventor Seth Boyden of Newark, NJ. He ultimately used a linseed oil–based lacquer coating. However, modern patent leather usually has a plastic coating.

Bonded leather 

Is the dust and shavings of the leather glued and pressed together. In the world of leather, it’s pure junk. Leftover scraps are ground together with glue and resurfaced in a process similar to vinyl manufacture. Bonded leather is weak and degrades quickly with use.

Once you’ve found the right shoes, be sure to protect them with waterproofing sprays and use shoe trees to enforce the structure. Remember to remove any dirt or stains as quickly as possible. Also, by rotating through a few different pairs, you can greatly increase the life of your footwear. 

Hopefully, this guide has put you on the right track in choosing leather shoes. If you need more assistance, contact us HERE.

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