Hides have to be split in several layers before they can be used in products. The different layers of a hide are directly related to the differences in quality between types of leather.
What is full grain leather?
Full grain leather is the strongest and most durable leather available, as the natural grain contains the strongest fibers in the hide. Full grain leather is made from the part of the hide just below the hair. The full grain part of the hide is the highest in density and therefore it's naturally water resistant. As full grain leather ages, rather than wearing out, it burnishes and beautifies. It develops a much sought-after patina and unique character that cannot be easily duplicated. Really, the more you use it, the better it looks and feels.
What is top grain leather?
The second highest grade of leather is top grain leather. Top grain leather has the outermost layer of the hide removed. This difference makes the leather thinner and more workable for the manufacturer. This is reflected in the price compared to full grain leather. After sanding away the natural grain, top grain leather is imprinted with an imitation grain to give it a more uniform look. It is also know as corrected grain. The downside is, by sanding off the natural grain, they’ve sanded off the strongest fibers in the hide. Making top grain leather less strong and durable.