The Ultimate Guide:Leather Types & Grades

Leather comes in a vast array of types and grades, each with its own signature texture and character. Our helpful guide will navigate you through the many nuances of leather, whether you're searching for an aviator jacket, leather blazer, a leather bomber jacket, or any other style.

Types of Leather

Generally speaking, cowhide, bison, deerskin, goatskin, lambskin, and calfskin are the most commonly used leathers. Let's explore the unique character of each one, and then we'll discuss leather grades.


Cowhide is the most impervious leather available, and the most commonly used. Strong, thick, and durable, it has been the material of choice for classic motorcycle jackets since the 1920s. Both water- and dirt-resistant, cowhide also offers excellent weather protection. Once you break it in with a little wear, your cowhide leather jacket will feel like a second skin. Explore now.


Similar to cowhide, bison leather is strong, durable, and an excellent material for moto jackets and protective gear. Unlike most cowhide, bison has a distinctive pebbled grain that lends a rugged beauty to any leather jacket. Artisans choose bison leather both for its distinctive look and strength. Explore now.


Deerskin offers the strength and durability of cowhide with a softer, lighter feel. Supple and smooth, deerskin is used not only in women's and men's leather coats and jackets, but also in handbags and gloves. Exceptionally comfortable to wear, deerskin contours to your form and grows softer with each wear. Explore now.


The US Navy and Air Force use goatskin for their G-1 and A-2 aviator jackets because it's softer and lighter than cowhide, but also very durable. Like deerskin, goatskin is smooth, supple, and feels like an old favorite from the first wear. It also has a characteristic pebble grain. Explore now.


When it comes to leather, lambskin is as soft as it gets. Lightweight and extremely smooth, lambskin is much thinner than cowhide and other leathers, and it offers a flattering drape. Many of the finest leather jackets, shoes, and high-end furnishings are crafted from lambskin. Explore now.


Calfskin pairs the strength and durability of cowhide with the soft, lightweight feel of lambskin. Generally thicker and heavier than lambskin, calfskin is at once supple and smooth, striking a superb balance between functional and fashionable. Explore now.

Leather Grades Explained

The term "leather grades" refers to the manner in which the hide has been cut and finished. Leather artisans prepare leather in a variety of different grades, depending on how they plan to use the finished product.


Full-grain leather hasn't been sanded or buffed, which means it retains its natural markings and personality. Over time, this type of leather will develop a beautiful patina—a soft sheen that only enhances its character. Full-grain leather coats and jackets are also extremely strong and durable, as they are crafted from the full thickness of the original hide.


Thinner and more workable than full-grain leather, top-grain leather is sanded to remove any imperfections. The end result is a more even look and feel, though artisans may choose to imprint the leather with a more consistent pebbled pattern. The name "top-grain" simply refers to the portion of the hide that is used in this beautiful leather, which has a stain-repellent finish.


Suede is renowned for its signature napped surface. Crafted from leather that has been split and had the rawhide removed, suede has more of a lightweight drape than the previous two types of leather. It's also more porous and absorbent—not the best choice for rainy days.

Leather comes in a vast array of types and grades — each with its own signature texture and character. Often, finding the right leather has a lot to do with what you're looking for in a jacket: lightweight or heavy, smooth or pebbled, weather resistance or an elegant drape.


With its distinctive, velvety texture, nubuck is crafted from top-grain leather that has been sanded or buffed. It's similar to suede in that it has a very short nap, but it's stronger and more durable. Just as with suede, nubuck is not ideal for rainy weather.


Genuine leather is thinner than full-grain and top-grain leather, but it's strong, supple, and used in everything from leather jackets to handbags, belts, and wallets. Artisans typically imprint genuine leather with a handsome grain pattern and stain it for a natural finish.

Timeless Styles, Enduring Quality

For more than four decades, we've been working with the world's finest leather tanneries, artisans, and manufacturers. We invite you to explore our leather jacket collection online and in stores. And, if you have any questions whatsoever, our experienced experts will be happy to assist you seven days a week at (800) 683-7526.

Leather Favorites

Azura Leather Jacket

Azura Leather Jacket

Retro Leather Moto Jacket

Retro Leather Moto Jacket

Georgia Leather Coat

Georgia Leather Coat

Marcus Leather Jacket

Marcus Leather Jacket

Jessica Leather Jacket

Jessica Leather Jacket


Mon-Fri: 8am – 6pm Central

Sat-Sun: 9am – 5pm Central

(800) 683-7526

Live Chat

Email Us