Leather Dictionary (Glossary): Your Ultimate Guide

Here at LeatherDiscover, we’re passionate about all things leather and believe that understanding the different types of leather is key to appreciating its versatility and charm.

Whether you’re a leather enthusiast, a curious beginner, or someone looking to make an informed purchase, this guide is for you. We’ll take you through the various leather types, their unique characteristics, and how to choose the best one for your needs.

Leather’s Dictionary (Glossary)

Let’s dive into the fascinating world of leather and discover what makes each type special!

Full-Grain Leather

The top-tier of leather, full-grain leather comes from the uppermost layer of the hide and retains all of its natural grain. It’s the most durable and develops a beautiful patina over time, showcasing its natural texture and history.

Top-Grain Leather

Top-grain leather is just below full-grain in quality. The top layer is sanded and refinished to remove imperfections, providing a smoother, more uniform look while maintaining good durability and flexibility.

Genuine Leather

Despite its name, genuine leather is a mid-to-lower grade. It’s made from the layers beneath the top-grain and is often treated to mimic higher-quality leather. It’s less durable but still a good option for many uses.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is made from leather scraps that are ground up and bonded together with adhesives. It’s the least durable type but is often used in budget-friendly products.

Nubuck Leather

Nubuck is top-grain leather that has been sanded or buffed on the grain side to create a velvety surface. It has a luxurious feel but is prone to staining and requires careful maintenance.


Suede is made from the underside of the animal hide, giving it a soft, textured surface. It’s not as durable as full-grain or top-grain leather and can be susceptible to water damage, but its unique look and feel are highly valued.

Patent Leather

Patent leather is coated with a high-gloss finish, making it shiny and reflective. It’s commonly used for shoes and handbags. While it’s stylish, it can be less breathable and flexible compared to other types of leather.

Crazy Horse Leather

Crazy Horse leather is a type of full-grain leather that’s treated to have a distressed, vintage look. Known for its rugged appeal and durability, it’s often used in bags and boots and develops a distinctive patina over time.

Saffiano Leather

Saffiano leather features a crosshatch pattern pressed into the wax-coated surface, making it scratch-resistant and water-resistant. Originally patented by Prada, it’s popular in luxury handbags and accessories.

Faux Leather

Faux leather, or synthetic leather, is made from materials like polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). It mimics real leather’s look and feel while being animal-friendly and more affordable.

Vegetable-Tanned Leather

Vegetable-tanned leather is treated using natural tannins from plants, resulting in an eco-friendly product with a rich, earthy color that deepens with age. It’s often used for high-quality leather goods and has a distinctive, pleasant smell.

Chrome-Tanned Leather

Chrome-tanned leather is tanned using chromium salts, which speed up the process and produce soft, pliable leather. It’s available in a variety of colors and is widely used for clothing and accessories.

Oil-Tanned Leather

Oil-tanned leather is treated with oils to make it soft, flexible, and water-resistant. It has a rich color and a smooth, slightly shiny finish. This type of leather is often used for boots and bags that require durability.

Pull-Up Leather

Pull-up leather is a type of oil-tanned leather that lightens in color when stretched or pulled. This creates a unique, distressed look that’s popular for boots, bags, and furniture.

Belting Leather

Belting leather is a heavy, thick, and durable leather typically used for belts and straps. It’s vegetable-tanned and known for its strength and long-lasting nature.

Shearling Leather

Shearling leather is made from sheepskin with the wool still attached. It’s soft, warm, and used in jackets, boots, and other winter wear.

Exotic Leathers

Exotic leathers come from animals like alligators, ostriches, snakes, and stingrays. Each type has its own unique texture and pattern, often used in high-end fashion accessories.

Corrected-Grain Leather

Corrected-grain leather has been buffed and sanded to remove imperfections, then embossed with an artificial grain pattern. It’s not as high-quality as full-grain but still offers a decent durability and a uniform appearance.

Deerskin Leather

Deerskin leather is soft, flexible, and has a spongy feel. It’s highly durable and often used for gloves and high-quality garments.

Elk Leather

Elk leather is similar to deerskin but thicker and more durable. It’s soft and supple, making it great for gloves, garments, and other items requiring a soft touch.

Bison Leather

Bison leather is tough, durable, and has a distinctive grain pattern. It’s often used in rugged, outdoor products like boots and jackets.

Reconstituted Leather

Reconstituted leather, or recycled leather, is made from shredded leather scraps that are bonded together. It’s an eco-friendly option but doesn’t have the same quality or durability as full or top-grain leather.

Eco Leather

Eco leather is leather tanned with processes that have a reduced environmental impact compared to traditional methods. It’s often vegetable-tanned or chrome-free and aims to be a more sustainable option.

Nappa Leather

Nappa leather is known for its soft, supple texture. It’s typically made from full-grain or top-grain hides and is often used in high-quality products like luxury car interiors and fine garments.

Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is dyed exclusively with soluble dyes, without any top-coating of pigments. This means it retains the hide’s natural surface, including visible pores and markings, making it soft and luxurious but more susceptible to staining.

Vegan Leather

Vegan leather is an animal-free alternative to traditional leather, made from synthetic materials like polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or from sustainable materials like cork or pineapple leaves (Piñatex).

Split Leather

Split leather is made from the lower layers of the hide that have been split away from the top grain. It’s often used for suede or finished with a polyurethane layer to mimic the look of higher-quality leathers.

Air Leather

Air leather, also known as leather gel, combines leather fibers with polyurethane to create a material that looks and feels like leather but is more affordable. It’s often used in furniture.

PU Leather

PU leather, or polyurethane leather, is a type of synthetic leather made by coating a fabric base with a polyurethane finish. It’s an affordable and animal-friendly alternative to genuine leather.

Cordovan Leather

Cordovan leather comes from the fibrous flat muscle (or shell) beneath the hide on the rump of a horse. It’s known for its durability, smooth finish, and is often used in high-end shoes and wallets.

Microfiber Leather

Microfiber leather is a type of synthetic leather made from microfiber fabric, which mimics the structure of natural leather. It’s durable, water-resistant, and often used in automotive interiors and furniture.

Bovine Leather

Bovine leather is a type of leather made from the hides of cows. Renowned for its durability and versatility, bovine leather is commonly used in a variety of products including furniture, shoes, bags, and jackets. It has a robust texture and can be processed to have different finishes, making it a popular choice for both practical and luxury items.

Corinthian Leather

Corinthian Leather is a marketing term popularized by Chrysler in the 1970s to describe the leather used in their luxury vehicles. Despite its exotic name, it refers to standard automotive leather, often enhanced for better texture and durability.

Pebble Leather

Pebble leather is a type of leather that has a distinctive texture characterized by small, rounded bumps or grains on the surface. These bumps resemble pebbles, hence the name. Pebble leather is valued for its durability, as the texture helps to mask scratches and wear over time. It is commonly used in fashion accessories such as handbags, wallets, and belts, providing both a stylish appearance and practicality due to its resilience and unique texture.

Epi Leather

Epi leather is a type of textured leather created by Louis Vuitton, known for its distinctive raised grain pattern and durability. It is characterized by a rigid, structured appearance that holds its shape well over time. Epi leather is often used in luxury handbags, wallets, and accessories, prized for its resilience and ability to resist scratching and water damage. The name “Epi” refers to the texture resembling the grain of wheat or rice, giving it a unique and elegant aesthetic favored by fashion enthusiasts worldwide.

Tooling Leather

Tooling leather refers to a specific type of leather that is suitable for carving, stamping, and creating intricate designs on its surface. It is typically vegetable-tanned leather, which means it is processed using natural tannins found in plants. Tooling leather is chosen for its ability to retain impressions made by tools, allowing artisans and crafters to create detailed patterns and designs through techniques such as carving, embossing, and stamping. This type of leather is commonly used in crafting leather goods such as belts, wallets, saddles, and decorative items where intricate designs and personalization are desired. The smooth surface and firmness of tooling leather make it ideal for showcasing craftsmanship and creating unique, personalized leather products.

Gel Leather

Gel leather refers to a synthetic material made by combining leather fibers or fragments with a gel-like substance, often polyurethane or silicone. It mimics the texture and appearance of genuine leather but is more affordable and easier to maintain.

Calf Leather

Calf leather is a type of leather that comes from the skin of young calves. It is known for its softness, fine grain, and durability, making it a popular choice for high-quality leather goods such as shoes, wallets, and gloves.

Protein Leather

>Protein leather, also known as protein-based leather or bioleather, is a type of synthetic leather alternative made from proteins derived from renewable biological sources such as plants or microorganisms. It aims to replicate the look and feel of traditional leather while offering a more sustainable and cruelty-free option.

Cabretta leather

Cabretta leather is a type of soft, supple leather made from the skins of sheep, specifically from the hair sheep breeds. It is known for its fine grain and strength, often used in gloves, jackets, and other leather goods where flexibility and durability are essential.

Latigo Leather:

Latigo leather is a type of cowhide leather that is usually chrome-tanned and often infused with oils or waxes during tanning. It is known for its durability, flexibility, and ability to resist water, making it suitable for a variety of leather goods such as belts, saddles, and straps.

Burnished Leather:

Burnished leather refers to a finishing technique where friction, heat, or pressure is applied to the leather surface to create a smooth and glossy finish. This process enhances the leather’s natural grain and color, giving it a polished appearance.

Bicast Leather:

Bicast leather is a type of split leather that has been laminated with a polyurethane (PU) or vinyl layer. This layer gives bicast leather a glossy or shiny appearance and makes it more resistant to wear and tear compared to traditional leather. Bicast leather is commonly used in furniture upholstery and fashion accessories.

Cross Grain Leather:

Cross grain leather refers to leather where the grain pattern runs perpendicular to the traditional direction. This can be achieved by cutting the leather at a different angle or by using a different section of the hide. Cross grain leather can create unique visual effects and textures in leather goods such as wallets, bags, and accessories.



We hope you’ve enjoyed exploring our Leather Dictionary and found it helpful in understanding the diverse world of leather types. Each type of leather has its own unique qualities and uses, making it a truly versatile material. At LeatherDiscover, we’re committed to providing you with the knowledge and resources to make informed decisions about your leather purchases. If you have any questions or need further assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out. Happy leather shopping, and remember, the right leather choice can make all the difference!