3 min read

People always say that when purchasing a wallet, you should choose a leather wallet. But have you ever wondered what type of leather is the best of the best? Should you get a top-grain or full-grain wallet? What’s the difference between the two, anyway?

Below, we’re going to go over the differences between the two. That way, you’ll know what to look for if you’re in the market for a front pocket wallet.

What is full-grain leather?

Full-grain leather is considered top-quality leather because of its unique surface. Simply put, full-grain leather is hair-free hide. It’s a type of leather that is instantly tanned, in other words, it does not go through processes such as sanding. It also retains its natural textures, for example, its scars and pores.

renegade leather wallet

What is top-grain leather?

Top-grain leather comes second to full-grain leather. It is crafted by “splitting” the leather into thinner strips to make a canvas that’s easier to work with. This is because animal skin tends to be too thick to handle. Top-grain leather is also split in order to get rid of natural “scars” on the surface. This allows artisans to add leather finishes, such as aniline, semi-aniline, nappa, patent, and so on. An example of top-grain leather is Horween Leather, which is what the Contour and Element, which are leather money clip wallets, are crafted from.

What’s the difference between full-grain and top-grain leather?

Full-grain and top-grain leather are worthy options when it comes to choosing a men’s leather bi-fold wallet. If you’re picky, let’s take a look at their key differences, so you can make an informed choice:

#1 Hide

Full-grain leather is crafted from the top layer of the hide. On the other hand, top-grain leather is crafted from ‘split’ hide. ‘Splitting’ refers to the process of getting rid of the top layer of the hide. Both types of leather can come from animals such as sheep, goats, pigs, cows, horses, and so on.

#2 Price

Full-grain leather is the best type of leather that you can buy. Crafting full-grain leather can be a challenge to work with because of the thickness of the hide, hence, the hefty price tag. Full-grain leather also retains its natural toughness since it doesn’t go through sanding. From a customer’s point of view, investing in a slim minimalist wallet that’s crafted from full-grain leather offers more value.

element leather wallet

Top-grain leather’s price is cheaper because it has been split. Don’t get us wrong, through -- top-grain leather is still incredibly durable, such as our leather money clip wallets. 

#3 Appearance

You can’t recreate the appearance of full-grain leather. You can try, but there’s no chance that it’ll beat the real thing. This is because top-grain leather doesn’t go through sanding, so it keeps its natural markings. On the other hand, the top layer of top-grain leather is gone, so you won’t find natural “flaws” on its surface. Oftentimes, artisans finish top-grain leather with ‘fake’ grain so that it looks uniform.

#4 Patina

Have you ever noticed how some wallets change their “coat” over time? That’s called patina. Only full-grain leather offers patina. In other words, instead of “wearing out”, a full-grain leather wallet gains a natural shine that’s hard to recreate. It gets better and better with age.

Since top-grain leather is sanded down, it won’t be able to develop a natural patina over time. Top-grain leather looks like it develops a patina, but it’s actually covered with a finishing coat.

#5 Strength

Men’s leather bifold wallets crafted from full-grain leather are incredibly durable. As we earlier said, full-grain leather uses the entire top hide, making it thicker. Top-grain leather, on the other hand, is less strong, but it’s still a solid choice. Since you lose its top layer, you also lose the strong fibers that “hold together” the grain hide.

Although full-grain leather is tougher, it easily gets stained because of the absence of a protective coat. Consequently, due to the protective coat of top-grain leather, it is prone to scratching.

Should you buy full-grain or top-grain leather?

Between full-grain and top-grain leather, which of the two is the “winner”? The answer depends on what you want in a wallet. While full-grain is, arguably, the best type of leather, it’s not as affordable as top-grain leather. And even though top-grain leather requires little maintenance, it’s not as unique as full-grain leather.

Whatever type of leather wallet you choose, know that either kind of leather is better than other kinds of leather. And remember, if you’re buying a brand-new wallet, be careful of “genuine leather” wallets, because they’re probably not real leather at all.

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