SLW Leather & Quality

SLW Leather & Quality

Leather 101: Your Guide To Leather Terminology

Rugged and timeless, leather has been one of the most popular materials for clothing and accessories for centuries. It’s favored for its sleek appearance and durability, but shopping for leather can be a bit confusing. The industry is filled with terminology that sounds like a foreign language to the average shopper. Salvo Leather Works products are made with high quality, premium leathers, but what exactly does that entail? Below we’ll be sharing some essential leather terminology so that you can shop with confidence.

Full Grain vs Top Grain Leather

You’ll often see these terms when shopping for premium quality leather, including our own products.


Full grain leather signifies the top layer of the hide. This type of leather is of the highest caliber, as it’s the strongest and most durable part of the hide. It also has the best ability to hold its shape. Full grain leather tends to have a more natural appearance because it doesn’t require much buffing. This means that it needs to come from a blemish-free hide that will result in a smooth appearance.


Top grain leather also comes from the top layer of the hide, but has been treated with additional buffing to remove any imperfections. It’s just as durable as full grain leather, and is often better suited for everyday use than full grain leather. Most of our products are made with top grain leather to ensure longevity and quality.

A Note About Genuine Leather

This is a term you’ll come across a lot when shopping for leather. It may seem like an indicator of quality; after all, genuine is another way of saying real. But it’s important to remember that not all leathers are made equally. Although genuine leather is real, it may come from lower quality layers or areas of hide. That’s why it’s best to seek out full or top grain leather if quality is truly your top priority.

Chrome Tanning vs Vegetable Tanning

Tanning is the process that turns a raw hide into leather. It’s essentially the act of preservation; tanning prevents decomposition while adding flexibility and that buttery soft handfeel we all love.

 The process of tanning involves putting hides into a specialized drum filled with a solution. Vegetable tanning uses a solution derived from - you guessed it - vegetables, while chrome tanning involves a chromium salt mix

Vegetable tanned leather tends to have a more natural appearance, which helps it age beautifully. The downsides are that it generally produces a stiffer type of leather, and the process uses more water and energy than chrome tanning does.

Chrome tanned leather results in a softer leather that maintains its fresh appearance for a longer duration. The process can be less environmentally-friendly when done incorrectly, as it can generate the toxic compound chrome VI. But when done right, it can be just as sustainable as vegetable tanning.

The Different Types Of Leather

When browsing our catalog, you’ll notice a few different types of leather: nappa, montana, calf, ostrich, crocodile … Some of these are pretty easy to decipher, as they’re simply named after their animal of origin. Others have deeper meanings, which we’ll discuss below.

Nappa (or napa) leather is a term for leather with an exceptionally soft and smooth texture. Nappa leather has a reputation for being high quality, but be mindful when shopping: it’s a term that’s often misused in the industry. You won’t ever have to worry about Salvo Leather Works being disingenuous. Our nappa leather products come from premium quality hides, and are handmade in the USA.

 Montana leather has a sturdier feel than nappa leather, perfect for accessories and small goods. It’s known for its grainy, eye-catching texture that gives a rugged and natural appearance.

 Aniline leather is finished with soluble dyes that display the natural texture of the hide. This creates a more organic appearance, similar to montana leather. Aniline leathers are usually made of high quality hides that have smooth, unblemished surfaces.

 Antique grain leather is treated to instantly have the appearance of gently worn leather. It allows wearers to instantly enjoy leather with a vintage, or antique, look, even if their product is brand new.

 Nubuck leather is renowned for its velvety texture and soft handfeel. It’s a special type of top grain leather that has been left with a short nap of protein fibers, which give it its unique characteristics.

 Now that you’re well-versed in the world of leather terminology, browsing our catalog of high quality leather accessories will be a breeze. We’re dedicated to creating premium leather goods using the highest quality leathers. Our minimal designs are timeless and made using meticulous crafting techniques, as we prioritize timeless designs over trends. Leather enthusiasts will love our selection!

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