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Bonded Leather vs. Genuine Leather: What’s the Difference?

BY Buffalo Jackson Insight
BY Alex Via

Revised 9/25

Genuine leather (a.k.a. Corrected Grain leather) and Bonded leather (a.k.a. Reconstituted leather or Blended leather) are the lowest grades of leather available. However, there are still a couple of distinctions between the two.  

1. Production

Genuine leather is produced from the layers of the hide that remain after the top layers are split off for the higher grades of leather (Full-Grain and Top-Grain).  

Full and top grain leather pieces are a great, lasting alternative to genuine leather bags.

To make Bonded leather, the manufacturer takes leftover scraps of leather, shreds and grinds them to a near pulp, and then bonds it all together on a fiber sheet using polyurethane or latex.  

2. Actual Leather Content

While Genuine leather is made from the lower quality layers of the hide, it is leather nonetheless. The surface is refinished with an artificial grain, and the durability of the leather is nothing compared to higher quality leather, but this is still a step above Bonded leather. Sincegenuine leather doesn’t last as long and doesn’t have as much lustre, it’s typically set at a lower price point and easy to find in malls, department stores, and other fast-fashion retail environments. Despite its shortcomings,genuine leather is still a step above Bonded leather. 

The varying degree of actual leather in the Bonded leather mix (versus chemicals) affects the smell, texture, and durability of the product. And yes, there can be a very high amount of chemicals versus leather in the mix. As long as some real leather is included, it can be called Bonded leather. Due to its low quality, Bonded leather is weak and degrades quickly. It is the cheapest to produce and is often resurfaced to look like higher quality types of leather.  

Without a doubt, bonded and genuine leather are not built to last—especially when compared to fine top grain and full grain leather. 

Top Grain Leather

This grade of leather is considered high-quality, and is used in many leather bags like our women’s Madison Collection, as well as smaller leather goods like wallets. Top grain leather is made by splitting full grain leather, sanding down any imperfections, stamping a grain on, and then treating and coloring it to round off the look. The finished product is beautiful, making it a great option for any leather fanatic.  

Full Grain Leather

What happens when you take the entire grain of the animal’s hide, imperfections and all, and create true, rugged, and durable leather pieces like our leather messenger bags or leather duffle bags? You get something that will last in both function and style. Since this type of leather is so heavy-duty, especially when compared to genuine leather, it’s great for utility belts, holsters, shoes, briefcases, and work boots. You're definitely making a good choice if you decide to invest in full grain leather pieces. 

Looking for higher quality leather that will actually last? Check out our collection of Full Grain and Top Grain rugged leather bags.    

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