Distinguishing Leather Types
Leather is a material created through tanning the hides and skins of animals. The tanning process preserves the fiber structure of the animal skin.
Leather has many unique Material Properties:
It is breathable
Releases Water Vapor
Has tensile strength, elasticity and resiliency
Adjusts optimally to the foot
Resumes original shape when air-dried on properly fitting wooden shoe trees
The Objective of Leather Care is to maintain these natural material properties of leather using cleansers, shoe polish, and other products.
In order to ensure Proper Leather Care, one must know the type of leather to be treated. The electric shoe shine device you use for one pair of shoes may damage another. Below each leather type are a couple of pictures of products designed to care for that type of leather.
1. Smooth Leather (Full-Grain and Corrected-Grain Leather)
Smooth Leather is made from the outer side of the skin.
Full-Grain Leather indicates that only the hair has been removed from the skin of the animal hide. The grain remains in its natural state.
Corrected-Grain Leather indicates that the hair has been removed from the skin, the natural grain has been sanded, and an artificial grain has been applied.
The look of this leather type may be grained, structured, smooth, mat, or shiny.
2. Suede and Nubuck Leather
Suede and Nubuck Leather are both abraided leathers that are "fuzzy" in appearance.
Suede is the interior split of the hide. It clearly shows individual soft and relient fibers.
Nubuck is the sanded outer side of the hide. It has fine, velvety, and short fibers.
3. Reptile/Exotic Leather
Reptile/Exotic Leather is made from exotic skins like alligator, snake, lizard, ostrich, eel, etc.
Note: It is extremely important NOT to use products intended for mammal leather on Reptile/Exotic Leather. The scales and skin of Reptile/Exotic Leather are held together by membranes, and if the wrong product is used, it will greatly damage the leather. Products designed specifically for Reptile/Exotic Leather should be the only products used for this leather type.
4. Fashion and Patent Leather
Patent Leather is leather or synthetic material with a special varnish dressing. Such leather is smooth, embossed, or has visible metallic pigments under the varnish layer.
Fashion Leather is creatively designed, for example, with patent leather layers, plushed up fibers, foils or films, metallic pigments or material combinations.
5. Synthetic Leather
Synthetic Leather is the term used for synthetically manufactured upper materials in various looks, such as smooth or reptile leather or elastic materials (stretch nappa, nappa elastic).
Textiles or Fabrics such as silk, satin, cotton - also knitted, refined or elastic fibers.
I hope this guide has helped you to identify different leather types. For further information, please check out our leather-specific guides, which go into more depth on each type of leather.