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What is top grain leather, and should you buy top grain leather jackets?

June 07, 2020

What is top grain leather, and should you buy top grain leather jackets?

by Joanna Smykowski

Joanna does quite a few things in life, but writing has been her favorite by far. She is a city girl who has moved to a beach town, and second to writing, will never tire of music, travel, and the friendships she makes as a result of both.


Buying a leather jacket is an investment that those of us at Independence Brothers say is an extension of yourself. Choosing a leather jacket, therefore, is a multi-faceted decision. What kind of style do you want? What color do you want? And most importantly, what kind of leather do you want?

Whether you are new to the world of leather jackets or you are a seasoned buyer, you likely know that there are various types of leather. However, you may or may not realize the many subcategory options that exist in identifying and describing the leather.

Leather can be separated into two major categories: the type of animal it comes from and the quality of the leather itself, which is determined by how it is treated. Both are factors that you, as the consumer, want to consider before purchasing. In this blog post, we are diving into the quality of leather. If you have read our blog before, you know that we have already given attention to full grain leather. So today, we are going to go specifically into more detail about top grain leather so that you can see if it is the quality of leather that you should consider when buying your jacket.

What is top grain leather?

There are a few leather qualities that are available when you purchase a leather jacket:

  • Top grain
  • Full grain
  • Corrected
  • Genuine

The quality of leather refers to the leather itself, and how altered or close it is to its natural setting. It has an effect on how the leather feels as well. We will chat about what distinguishes top grain from the rest. Ultimately, we want you to be able to decide whether or not you should get a top grain leather jacket when you finally make that purchase.

The quality of a leather jacket is determined by how the leather has been handled before being turned into a jacket. We mentioned the qualities before, but let’s take this opportunity to go into it in more detail:

Genuine leather is the lowest quality leather. When full grain leather is split, genuine leather is the bottom half, while the top half becomes top grain. Genuine leather is the catchall term for anything that is leather, but not high quality. It essentially just means it is technically leather, and can even mean scraps of leather bonded together to make the product (bag, jacket, belt, etc.)

Correctedleather is leather that has been sanded down to remove any imperfections. As a result of the sanding, the original grain is gone. A faux animal skin grain is then put on the leather by a mechanical pressing, and the leather is treated. Corrected leather gets treated with a few different products, including oils, treatments, and dye. This makes it more appealing and customizable to consumers. It also results in a uniform grain with extremely smooth leather, albeit a more plastic feel. Corrected leather is always made from top grain leather, but not all top grain leather is corrected.

Full grain leather is, conversely, leather that has not been split. It is the full hide. Not only has it not been split, but it has not been sanded, buffed, or had any other alterations done to remove any natural marks of the hide or imperfections on the surface. This type of leather retains the natural grain and skin pattern of the animal. Full-grain has some breathability due to the natural pores. It also has natural oils, making it a very soft leather. During prolonged contact, there is less moisture. Full grain also develops a patina during its lifetime. A patina on leather is a gloss or sheen on a surface that results from aging. It is the highest quality leather out of all of them, and if you are buying a product that is full grain leather, the seller will be sure to make it known that it is full grain. Full grain leather is likely more expensive, as it is higher quality and will last you much longer.

Top grain leather refers to leather that is split from the bottom layers of the leather. Top grain is the process of sanding away the natural grain from the top surface of the leather. Imitation grain gets stamped into the leather to give a more uniform look. However, no genuine grain remains. This results in a leather jacket that is thinner in material and weight. Leather is heavy and that can sometimes be uncomfortable for people. Many times top grain leather is preferred for that reason – it leads to more comfortable jackets. The bottom half of the leather is used to make suede, while the top layer is used for the jacket. Top grain leather is the most common type of leather in high-end leather products, but it is the second-highest quality, although the name suggests otherwise. The surface gets sanded and a finish coat is added. This results in a colder, more plastic feel of the leather with less breathability, even though it is thinner and more comfortable. The coat does not develop a natural patina, and it is more pliable than full grain leather. It is less expensive and is more stain-resistant, making it the most common type of leather in a leather jacket.

Top Grain leather

How do I identify a top grain leather jacket?

Now that we have touched upon the different qualities of leather, how can you identify what is a top grain leather jacket while shopping?

In so far as looks, top grain has a more uniform look than the other leather qualities. It is also a more comfortable and thinner type of leather jacket.

Because top grain is one of the more common leather qualities used for leather jackets, it is easy to find. Here are a few places where you can purchase top grain leather jackets:

  1. Shepler’s -Shepler’s is an American western wear company that began as a harness company in Wichita, Kansas back in 1899. The company has then expanded not only locations but products as well. They sell different types of western wear, including boots and leather jackets. Their jackets are reasonably priced, ranging as low as $160.
  2. MONT5 -MONT5 was created by Zia Ghafoor, a leather enthusiast with a tech background. The main purpose and business set up behind MONT5 is that leather enthusiasts are connected directly with the leather craftsmen who create what they love. The middleman is essentially cut out, allowing the business to avoid markups that make the product unaffordable, and putting the money directly into the craftsmen’s pockets. Everything at MONT5 is sourced locally, thereby helping local businesses and the economy as well as decreasing their carbon footprints. In addition to that, MONT5 has long-lasting products and all of their packaging is recycled and reusable, allowing consumers to have to buy less, which also helps the environment. Customers can buy handcrafted custom leather products at affordable prices. They use two types of top grain leather: sheep and calf.
  3. Lusso -Lusso Leather is a Canadian based company that specializes in custom leather jackets. All of their leather jackets are custom made, which is a favorite for us. They have different style jackets that you can choose to customize, and all are made with top grain lambskin leather. These are also at affordable prices, with their lowest jacket being in the $200 range and the highest being closer to $700.
  4. Amazon -Amazon as an online marketplace has most things that you could need. If you search for top grain leather jackets, you will get a few options to choose from.
  5. Overstock.com - Similar to Amazon, Overstock.com is an online retail site that has a range of things you might need, including clothing. If you search for top grain leather jackets, you will encounter various results to choose from.
  6. Film Jackets -Film Jackets is a renowned clothing brand that has a presence in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Initiated by a small team in 2013, they currently have more than 500 dedicated staff members that focus on delivering quality outfits all around the world without breaking the bank. They have a men and women’s jacket collection, of which top grain leather jackets are a part of. Their jackets are affordable, floating in the $150 - $200 range.
Top grain leather jacket

Should you purchase a top grain leather jacket

As you may have gathered, there are a few pros to getting a top grain leather jacket. The biggest one is the price point. Because top grain leather is not as high of a quality as full grain leather, it costs less money. How much you want to invest in your leather jacket depends on your own situation, but if you are looking to spend less money, top grain leather jackets have that as a bonus.

The con to that is what makes the price less expensive: the lesser quality of the jacket. As a result, the longevity of the jacket is compromised. When you invest in a full grain leather jacket, you know it is one that is going to last you a long time. Top grain does not have that durability. The thinner leather, while more pliable, will not last as long.

Another pro of top grain leather jackets is the comfortableness for some people. Full grain leather jackets, since the leather has not been separated, is a bit heavier. For some, that could be beneficial. For others, the thicker leather is important. Motorcycle riders, for example, wear leather jackets as a form of protection. If you are purchasing a motorcycle jacket, a thicker leather affords you more protection and therefore top grain leather may not be the best choice. If your jacket is more of a statement or outerwear piece, having more comfortable, thinner leather may work best.

Another pro to top grain leather is that it is more stain-resistant. While the jacket may not last as long because it is thinner, it will resist staining more. It also will not form a patina the way full grain leather does. A patina is the mark of high-quality leather, but some people like it, while others do not. Therefore, the lack of a patina could be seen as a positive or a negative.

The final distinct quality of top grain leather jackets could go as both a pro and a con as well. For a full grain leather jacket, you are able to see all imperfections of the leather that may have come about as a result of the life of the animal. In top grain leather, that is sanded and coated, giving it a more uniform look. Whether this aspect of top grain leather jackets is a pro or con is up to you and your sense of style.

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber

What about custom?

If you know our site, you know that here at Independence Brothers, we love a good custom leather jacket. It is the best of both worlds - having a leather jacket and being able to choose aspects about it that make it truly you. There are a variety of custom leather jacket companies out there. Most of these companies pride themselves on making custom full grain leather jackets. Because the jackets are full grain and because they are custom, this usually means a higher price tag.

Some places do make custom top grain leather jackets. Companies like MONT5 use top grain leather, and every jacket is bespoke. Because MONT5 connects you directly to the jacket maker and cuts out any middle man, the price of their jackets is affordable compared to most.

Independence Brothers, while we only use full grain leather, keeps our jackets at affordable prices. To us, it is an all-around win-win situation. You are able to get a custom leather jacket, it is the highest quality of leather, and the price is comparable to some top grain leather jackets.

Conclusion

While we fully campaign for the full grain, whether or not a top grain leather jacket appeals to you depends on your sense of style. Consider the usual factors:

  1. Style - Simply put, what do you like to wear? A leather jacket is an extension of yourself, and something that you will wear often, so it has to be something that you love. When it comes to style, going custom is helpful in maximizing how much the jacket reflects you.
  2. Budget - A leather jacket is an investment, and top grain leather jackets tend to be less expensive than full grain ones. Just because this is usually the case, however, doesn’t mean that it always is. Companies like Independence Brothers keep their jackets at affordable pricing, even for the highest quality bespoke leather jacket.
  3. Use - As we mentioned before, for those of us getting a motorcycle jacket for riding, top grain is probably not the leather you should be buying. You’ll need a heavier leather to protect you, and will want to go full grain. If you are using it for more general outerwear, than a top grain jacket may be a good option for you.
  4. Comfort - Top grain leather, in being thinner and more pliable, is less heavy and could be more comfortable.

After considering these factors, remember that with a top grain jacket, you’ll get a little bit less out of it. When it comes to style, you won’t have as many custom options. In addition to that, the jacket may not last as long, since it is lower quality leather. A leather jacket is always an investment and an investment that you want to last as long as possible.

Custom made leather jackets

At the end of the day, purchase the jacket the feels like the best fit for you. Be sure to read reviews and don’t be afraid to chat with someone who works for the company. They are usually knowledgeable about the world of leather jackets and can help you with your journey.

We hope this article has been informative and helpful for anyone who is considering purchasing a leather jacket or who wants to learn more about top grain leather. Remember that those of us at Independence Brothers are glad to help you with your leather jacket decision. We hope you are able to find a leather jacket that you love as much as we love leather jackets themselves. Feel free to click around our site to see the custom full grain options that are out there at affordable prices for you. Read our blog for more information about leather jackets, leather jacket companies, and the wide world of leather itself. Most importantly, happy shopping!

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