Leather Muffin | Leather Grades Explained

Leather Grades Explained - Full-Grain, Top-Grain, Genuine Leather, and Split Suede

Tanner Leatherstein explains what the difference is between full-grain, top-grain, split suede, and genuine leather using a muffin analogy! In this video, we’ll answer the following questions:

  • What is the difference between full-grain and top-grain?
  • Which types of leather should you look for and which should you avoid?
  • Which between full-grain and top-grain uses more finish on the leather?

Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments section below. We always read your comments! We’ll see you again next time. A quick reminder to be authentic, be leather-savvy!


Hey, friends! Today, we’re going to explain the grades of leather using an analogy from something we all know and love: muffins. Similar to muffins, leather has depth and thickness in the raw cowhide right here. In the tannery, what we do is we split it into layers (sometimes two, sometimes three layers). And just like your muffin top (the best part), you can take it off and you still have the bottom.

In the tannery, once we split this hide into two (if it’s thick enough, up to three splits), we’ll have this. This is what we call the full-grain or top-grain. It is the top most valuable layer that compares to a muffin top (the original side). The bottom dropping is what we call a split suede. This is still leather but it’s just the fibers. There is no original organic grain on it. People make a lot of stuff out of this as well.

Genuine leather, which is the most tricky concept in the leather industry, is a plastic layer covered on top of it to make it look like the original grain again. So basically what they are trying to do is to have two skins out of one leather. It is tricky but you can compare it to getting a muffin bottom, putting a fake cover on top of it, and selling it to you as a full muffin again.

So, that’s why if you ever see a genuine leather name and if the vendor or salesperson has only genuine leather to qualify and tell you about the description of their product, then know that it is not a good sign. It’s the second little layer of leather. The bottom is still there but the top will be artificial. Probably, a lot of cream and sugars on top to make it look like a muffin again but you’re not even going to get the taste of the real muffin which you might be going for.

On the other hand, the full-grain and top-grain are your muffin top. That’s the originally delicious part that everybody loves. The difference between the full-grain and top-grain is how much of a sprinkle (or finish) was applied to that muffin top. If it’s a naturally beautiful flavor of leather, you don’t need to do much so you keep the full grain as it is. You don’t need to sand it down or correct it. You finish it with minimal transparent things so people enjoy that authentic muffin flavor (full-grain leather).

But if we’re talking about top-grain, which is done for the little lower qualities of the grain, you need to do some forms of correction for the imperfections so it can actually look a little bit better and more uniform. Some people like that and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s called top grain. So that’s your muffin top with a lot of sprinkles and a little bit of decoration on top. 

Hopefully, you will remember this the next time you’re shopping for leather goods. Whenever you see full-grain and top-grain, you remember your muffin top (the delicious top). Whenever you see the split suede or genuine leather, you know that that’s the second bottom layer of things. I hope this helps you become a better leather-savvy shopper and if you want to see more of this content, please don’t forget to subscribe to my channel and hit that bell button so every time we post new content, you get a notification. Enjoy leather!

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