STYLE FAQ. What are the defining characteristics of all the different leather types out there?
Leather is most often categorized by quality and manufacturing methods. First in this lineup is “genuine leather,” which is actually the lowest quality level for products made of real leather. A step up to the mid-quality range is “top-grain leather,” which is often seen in small leather goods produced by famous designer brands. At the top of the leather game, we have “full-grain leather” which is not only durable but also gets better with age. Anything else—bonded, patent and corrected grain leather—are best avoided.
The characteristics of any piece of leather are, of course, also determined by where or which animal it came from. In short:
• Cattle: the most common and economical option that’s highly durable
• Buffalo: thick but surprisingly soft and easily shaped into just about anything
• Lamb: smooth, silky and fit for the finest menswear pieces
• Fish (e.g., salmon): comes with unique patterns in a wide variety of colors
• Snake: thin and flexible albeit not very strong
• Deerskin: supple and soft, making it perfect for accessories like gloves
• Crocodile and alligator: rare and, therefore, expensive
• Ostrich: incredibly unique with bumps where the bird’s feathers used to fit
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