Types and Identification of Leather

With the improvement of living standards, people’s requirements for beauty become higher and higher. Today leather materials have the most choices and styles. They are used most frequently and represent advanced materials. Yet, the vast majority of people are still ignorant of the knowledge. The level of the leather market is not the same. There are all kinds of products on the leather market. There is a wide variety of leather on the market. Customers may mix the spurious with the genuine due to their negligence. So we’d better master the skill in identification so as not to cause a loss.

The leather currently on the market is distinct. The surface of some leather feels excellent when being touched and is very wear-resistant. But most of us can’t tell genuine leather from false one. Leather products are an important part of our lives, such as wallets, belts, backpacks, leather shoes, etc. And identifying the truth and falsehood of leather goods often bothers us.

The article aims to offer information on the types and identification of leather.


Classification of Leather

Leather is classified into natural leather (genuine leather), recycled leather, artificial leather (PU/PVC). Genuine Leather is the raw skin peeled off cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, deer, or other animals. After being processed by the leather factory, They can be made into leather materials of various characteristics, strength, hand feeling, colors, patterns. It’s the necessary material for modern leather products. The genuine leather is generally composed of the epidermal layer(removed), corium, reticular, and subcutaneous layer(removed). Among them, cowhide, sheepskin, and pigskin are the three skins used in processing hides.  

The Characteristics and Differences of The Leather Material

Genuine Leather

Genuine leather is a common term in the leather products market. And it is a familiar name to distinguish synthetic leather from natural one. It is mainly made from animal skins. There is lots of genuine leather of different kinds, structures, quality, prices. Therefore, leather is the generic term for all-natural leather and a vague symbol in the commodity market.

Physiologically speaking, any animal skin has hair, epidermis, and genuine leather parts. Because genuine leather contains a reticular small fiber bundle, it is pretty robust and breathable. The epidermis is located under the hair, attached to the dermis, and consists of different shapes of epidermis cells arranged. The thickness of the epidermis varies from animal to animal. For example, the thickness of the cowhide epidermis is 0.5% to 1.5% of the total thickness. Sheepskin and goatskin are 2% to 3%. And pigskin is 2% to 5%. The dermis is located under the epidermis, between the epidermis and subcutaneous tissue. It is the main part of the raw skin. Its weight or thickness accounts for more than 90% of the raw skin.  

The genuine leather is distinguished by top grain and split leather. According to the layer of leather, there are top layers and split leather. Top grain has grain leather, corrected grain, embossed leather, special effect leather. Split leather is classified into pig split leather and cow split leather.

Top grain refers to cattle, sheep, pigskin, etc., with grain side (corium layer). The surface of the leather has a natural special pattern effect. Imported skins may also be branded. We can distinguish full-grain skins of certain animals by pore thickness and density.

There are many kinds of cowhide, such as cattle hide (meat cowhide, bull skin, and castrated bull skin), buffalo hide, yak hide, and dzo hide.

Cattle leather of the best quality is in Shandong, Henan provinces, and central China. But China’s leather resources are insufficient (the United States, Brazil, and other beef exporters have the most abundant leather resources). The pores of cattle hide are thinner and denser than the ones of buffalo skin. The grain of cattle hide is small and flat.

The pores of buffalo leather are coarser and sparser. They are single with a strong sense of concavo-convex of grain side. Buffalo leather from Sichuan and Jiangxi are better. But the resources are also relatively insufficient (more in India, Egypt, and other regions)

Sheepskin mainly includes sheepskin, goatskin, and mixed sheepskin. Sheepskin pores are thinner and denser. Its pattern looks like copper coins. Goats are mostly used in producing shoes while sheep are in clothing. There is the best sheepskin in Sichuan and Hubei(Australia has the most abundant sheepskin that is big and thick).

Pigskin is very easy to distinguish. Generally, more artificial pigskin is used than wild boar skin.

In addition, ostrich, crocodile, short-nosed crocodile, lizard, snake, bullfrog, sea fish (sharks, cod, mackerel, eel, pearlfish, etc.), and freshwater fish (grass carp, carp, and other scaly fish) are also raw materials for skin making. There are also skins used as high-end clothing with fur. Professionally known as furs such as fox skin (silver fox skin, blue fox skin, etc.), wolf skin, dog skin, rabbit skin, expensive mink skin, and other rare animal skin.

Grain leather: Among many leather varieties, full-grain leather tops the list because it is made from superior raw material leather, which is less damaged. The leather surface remains in an intact natural state. A thin coating. Grain leather can show the natural pattern beauty of animal skin. It is not only wear-resistant but also very breathable.

Corrected Grain: Use a buffing machine to paint the surface after rubbing lightly. And then make it by pressing the corresponding pattern. In effect, a “facelift” was performed on a natural leather surface that is incomplete or rough. The leather almost lost its original surface state.

Full-grain leather characteristics: Classified into the soft leather, wrinkled leather, grain leather, and so on. Completely reserved grain surface. The pores are clear, petite, tight, and irregularly arranged. The surface is plump and delicate, full of elasticity and good breathability. It is a kind of high-grade leather. Leather products made of this kind of cowhide are comfortable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing.

Half-grain leather characteristics: In the production process, being ground into only half of the grain surface by equipment processing. So it’s called half-grain cowhide. It maintains part of the style of natural leather. The pores are flat, oval, and irregularly arranged. The hand feeling is hard. Generally a poor grade of raw material skin is applied. So it’s middle-grade leather. Because of the particularity of the process, its surface is free of mutilation and scars. Its utilization rate is high. Its manufactured products are not easy to deform. So it is generally used in large document box products with a large area.  

Corrected Cowhide: Also known as “glossy cowhide.” In the market, it is also known as mist or glossy cowhide. It has a flat smooth surface without pores and a leather pattern. In the production, surface grain is ground slightly. Sprayed by a layer of colored resin on the leather to cover the pattern of the leather surface. And then sprayed by water-based light-through resin. So it is high-grade leather. The glossy cowhide has a bright, noble, and gorgeous style. The glossy cowhide is the popular leather of fashionable dress and leather products.

The split-leather has no corium layer. It is the fiber tissue (reticular layer). It is made by chemical material spraying or being coated with PVC, PU film. Therefore, the effective method of distinguishing between top grain and split leather is to observe the density of the vertical section fiber of the skin.

Recycled Leather

After crushing scraps of genuine leather of various animals, the chemical raw materials are mixed and processed. Its surface processing technic is the same as that of corrected grain and embossed skin of genuine leather. Its characteristics are neater edge, high utilization rate, and low price. But the skin is generally thicker, less intense, and only suitable for the production of affordable briefcases, trolley bags, club sets, and other craft products or affordable belts. The fiber tissue of its vertical section is even and uniform. We can succeed in identifying the solidification effect of fluid-mixed fibers.

Artificial Leather

It is also called imitation leather or glue. It is a generic term for PVC and PU. It is made by a variety of different formulations of PVC and PU foaming or coating processing in the textile cloth base or nonwoven cloth base. It can be made according to different strengths, wear resistance, cold resistance, color, gloss, floral pattern, and other processing requirements. It has a wide variety of colors, good waterproof performance, neat edges, high utilization rate, and relatively lower price than genuine leather. But the hand feeling and elasticity of the vast majority of artificial leather can not achieve the effect of genuine leather. Its vertical section allows you to see tiny bubble holes, cloth base or surface films, and dry artificial fibers. It has been a prevalent type of material since many years ago. It is widely used to make a variety of leather products or parts of genuine leather material. Its increasingly advanced craftsmanship is being widely applied by the processing of split leather. Today, artificial leather, which is very similar to genuine leather is on the market. Its surface technic is fiber tissue, which almost achieves the effect of genuine leather. Its price is similar to that of genuine leather. But genuine leather is worse than imitation leather (recycled leather and artificial leather) in unique hygiene (natural pores and fibers) and durability.

The Solutions to Mildew From Leather and Leather Maintenance Common Sense

When placed in unventilated places or water, mildew will grow on the leather. The mold phenomenon mainly has two situations. Doesn’t matter if mildew grows only on the surface. First, wipe the surface clean with a clean cloth. Second, wipe it again with a highly stable maintenance agent. Third, place it in ventilated places. If there is still a mold phenomenon, mildew may be from the interior of leather. It’s possibly unmanageable. We’d better entrust professionals with it. In fact, skincare should be performed habitually. Leather must be immediately wiped dry as soon as it touches water. And then place it in ventilated places to dry. This will minimize mold.

Simple daily care can make leather products stay new, have a longer life, and be improved. Leather is highly absorbent. We should pay attention to preventing dirt, especially high-grade nubuck leather.

  1. The dust from the leather can be wiped off with a soft, dry sponge or cloth. Brush off the dust from the velvet leather.
  2. If there are stains on the leather, wipe them off with a clean, wet and warm detergent and let it dry naturally. Try it out in an inconspicuous corner before you use it.
  3. If you knock over the beverage on leather, immediately use a clean cloth or sponge to suck it dry. And wipe it with a damp cloth. Let it dry naturally. Do not use a hairdryer to dry.
  4. If stained with grease, use a cloth to wipe it clean. The rest will dissipate naturally. Or you can use detergent to clean. Not available for water scrub.
  5. If any holes are found, broken burning phenomenon, do not repair without authorization.
  6. Do not place furniture that stores leatherware in the sun. Or it will lead to cracking and fading of leather.
  7. If the leather product is wet or the leather parts accidentally get caught in the rain, the water droplets should be dried with a dry cloth and place it in a ventilated, cool place to dry. Or place it in the sun. Do not put wet leather products directly into the sun or blow them with a hair dryer. Do not use the air-conditioning to blow it. Avoid drying it with fire otherwise there will be the phenomenon of leather bursting.
  8. When the leather parts accidentally produce wrinkles, you can iron them across a cloth at wool temperature.
  9. The surface of high-quality leather can inevitably have fine scars. You can make the fine scars fade by hand temperature and grease.
  10. Painted leather generally only needs to be wiped with a soft cloth
  11. For maintenance of glossy leather, please use a little special leather maintenance oil on a soft cloth. And then slightly rub the leather. For maintenance of matte leather, we usually only need to use a cloth to wipe it lightly. If the dirt is serious, you can try to use rubber to wipe it gently.

Knowledge of Identifying Leather

How to Identify Genuine Leather

Visual identification

First of all, we can distinguish by the patterns and pores of the leather. On the surface of natural leather, there exist patterns and pores which are distributed unevenly. There are animal fibers on the opposite side. The layers are recognizable on the side section. There are animal fibers on the lower layer. Leather fiber will stand up when using fingernails to scrape lightly. There’s a feeling of fluff. A small amount of fiber can also fall. And we can see the fabric on the opposite side of synthetic leather. No animal fibers on the side. No pores on the epidermis. But some have artificial pores of imitation leather. There are no apparent pores. Some patterns are not obvious. Or there are regular artificial patterns. The pores are pretty consistent.

Hand Feeling Identification

The hand feeling of genuine leather is elastic. Genuine leather has a smooth, soft, plump and elastic feeling. And the surface of general artificial synthetic leather is unsmooth, rigid. Its softness is poor. Natural folds will appear when bending the front of the leather down 90 degrees. Respectively bending different parts results in uneven thickness and amount. In this situation, we can identify it as genuine leather. Because genuine leather is composed of naturally uneven fiber tissue, the wrinkles formed also have significant uneven performance. And synthetic leather feels like plastic. It’s less elastic. The thickness of the folds is similar when bending down.

Odor identification   

Natural leather has a powerful fur smell. Even after treatment, the smell is also obvious. And artificial leather products have a smell of plastic. It has no fur smell.

Burning to identify

Smell the scorched odor and check the state of ash. Natural leather will emit a smell of hair scorching when burning. Ash easily cracks into powder. And the flame is stronger after artificial leather burns. Shrink quickly. And there is a bad smell of plastic. After burning, it’s sticky. It will harden into a block after cooling.

Identify Artificial Leather and Synthetic Leather

The four basic identification methods above make it easier to compare and identify artificial leather and synthetic leather.

In addition, artificial leather and synthetic leather have the following characteristics:

When pressing the leather surface with your fingers, there are no apparent pores and wrinkles. If there are wrinkles after pressing, they will not disappear naturally.

The leather surface has no pores, which is an important feature to identify the authenticity of the leather.

Cut off the corner to burn. There is a smell of scorching.

How to distinguish cowhide, pig leather, horsehide, and sheep leather. Their characteristics and uses are also different.

For example, the surface of cow leather is fine. It has high strength. It’s most suitable for producing leather shoes.

Sheep leather is light, thin, and soft. It is the ideal fabric for leather clothing.

Pig leather: the pores on the surface of the leather are round and thick. And they tilt into the leather. 3 pores a group. There are many small triangular patterns.

Cow leather: Both cattle and buffalo leather are called cow leather. But there are some differences between the two. The pores on the surface of cow leather are round and extend straight into the leather. They are tight, even, and arranged irregularly like stars in the sky. The pores on the surface of buffalo leather are larger than those of cattle leather. The number of pores is less than cattle leather. The leather is a slacker and not as delicate and plump as cattle leather.

Horsehide: The hairs on the leather surface are also oval. The pores are slightly larger than those of cattle leather. And the arrangement is more regular.

Sheep leather: the pores of leather grain are oblate. The pores are clear. Several pores, in a group, are arranged like fish scales.

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Well, the article ends here. When planning to buy a pair of leather shoes, we should have the ability to identify the type of leather we need and confirm the authenticity. A good pair of cowhide shoes won’t stink on your feet. The more often you wear genuine leather, the more comfortable you feel.

As a leading shoe manufacturer factory, Our XIN DE SHENG SHOE FACTORY can easily help you find your best leather sneakers. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave us messages. Thanks!

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