Often when shopping you will come across a shoe, bag or belt marked "Genuine Leather." You check the price and it seems pretty reasonable for a leather good. Sounds like a deal right? Sadly it isn't.
The truth is that the term 'genuine leather' is marketing speak for "several-layers-of-low-grade-leather-glued-together." While the term 'genuine leather' represents a product that is made of leather, it isn't the type of leather you want in your life as it won't look as good or, more importantly, last as long other types of leather.
If quality is what you're after, full-grain leather is the way to go. Using the entire grain of the hide (not just the top half as with top-grain leathers, or multiple layers as described above) full-grain leather is more durable and develops a beautiful patina as it ages. It is generally considered the best leather money can buy. Luxury leather goods companies only use full-grain leathers - then they take it an extra step further by only selecting hides free of scratches or other imperfections.
The middle road when it comes to leather is known as 'top-grain.' Top-grain leathers can be still be high quality, however they are thinner because the hide has been split creating top-grain leather from the top half and split-suede from the bottom half. The result is a leather that still looks nice, but won't be as durable as a full grain leather. The picture below illustrates the difference between two. Can you tell which is which?
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