You need a new wallet, and you’re trying to decide between two different kinds. One is listed as being made of full grain leather. The other is stamped with “Genuine Leather” on the inside. Well, you think, the second one must be better. You’re not sure what full grain leather is, but you think the word “genuine” certainly seems to convey a high quality. You purchase the second wallet. You’re proud of your new, genuine leather wallet.
But should you be?
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you’re not alone—it’s a common assumption that genuine leather would mean the highest quality of leather available. As far as materials go, leather in general is a durable and attractive choice. However, there are several different grades of leather, and “genuine leather” is an intentionally vague term: all it means is that your product is made from leather. When you have a product stamped with “Genuine Leather,” it could (and probably does) mean that your product is just made from discarded scraps of low-quality leather that have been sanded down, reconstituted with glue, and painted to look uniform. It may not even be made from cowhide. Because the term “genuine leather” is so vague, you can assume that any product made from it is made of the lowest quality of leather possible. The marketers of genuine leather know that a large portion of consumers will assume that “genuine” conveys high quality without looking further into the matter. We’re here to help ensure that you won’t make that same mistake.
Again, leather itself is a pretty good choice of material. But because genuine leather is almost always made from the leftovers after the nicest leathers have been used, if you’re going to purchase a leather product, you should always make sure that you’re getting the best grade of leather available.
Full grain leather is the highest available quality of leather, so this is what you should always purchase if you want to have a beautiful, long-lasting product that gets better with age (as opposed to deteriorating, as genuine leather would do). Essentially, full grain leather comes from the top layer of the hide, so all the layers are intact and the leather’s natural grain is included. Full grain leather is extremely strong and durable, and its natural surface means that each product is beautifully unique and individual. For a full description of full grain leather, take a look at our Leather 101 blog post.
Now that you know that genuine leather isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, you should avoid making the mistake of purchasing a genuine leather product over a full grain leather product. Genuine leather doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a pieced-together, painted-over product—but it very well could mean that, because the term is so vague. A producer of the highest quality leather would never market a product as being genuine leather. The bottom line: if you’re going to invest in a leather product, make sure you choose one that not only will get better with age, but that’s as unique as you are. Always choose full grain leather—that way you can know that you’re getting the best and most beautiful product on the market.