Leather is comprised of two layers. The bottom layer of leather is called the split layer, and the upper layer is called the top grain. The top grain layer of leather previously contained the epidermis and hair follicles of the animal. Full grain leather has not had the top grain removed, as opposed to top grain or corrected leather, which has been sanded and buffed to appear smooth and without imperfections.
Full grain leather can be made from many different animal hides, but is usually made from the skin of cows. After being harvested, full grain leather does not undergo abrasive treatment and experiences minimal exposure to chemicals. Instead, full grain leather merely has the animal hair removed. Despite a rougher and more natural appearance, full grain leather can still be given an aesthetically appealing finish, and is one of the highest quality leathers available for purchase. Full grain leather can be given an aniline finish, in which it is dyed. This is the most common finish for full grain leather. It can also be given a semi-aniline finish, which manifests as a clear sheen on the leather.
Full grain leather is more durable than top grain or corrected leather. This is because the leather has not been thinned. Because full grain leather contains a layer that is removed in other types of leather, it is comprised of thicker and stronger fibers and can endure increased amounts of stress and pressure. You can recognize full grain leather because you can see that actual grains and imperfections that characterized the hide of the animal from which the leather was taken. Despite what may be considered imperfections, the presence of the leather's natural grain indicates a stronger and more durable material that has not been adversely treated or thinned.
Full grain leather has greater breath-ability than other types of leather because it contains the same layers as the skin of the animal from which it was harvested. When leather is sanded, buffed, or chemically treated it becomes more dense and compact, and the natural porous nature of the leather is obstructed. This is why lower quality leathers feel more like plastic or wood than a supple fabric. In full grain leather these pores remain intact, giving the leather added breath-ability.
Products made from full grain leather often include high quality furniture such as couches. Shoes such as cowboy boots, dress shoes and golf shoes can also be made from full grain leather. High-end bags are also commonly made from full grain leather. Designer products often utilize this type of leather for its durability, and because full grain leather has been cited to look better, feel better, and breathe better as it ages.
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- "Facts Worth Knowing About Leather, Boots and Shoes"; J.H. Walker; 2010