What is Full Grain Leather?

Guides & Information

Full-grain leather is a luxury material, imparting strength, beauty and character. Different from top-grain leather, it is an untampered material that has not been put through any processes to take away from its appearance or durability. At Cheaney, we are proud to offer the deluxe full-grain across a variety of products, including smart shoes, boots and belts. Treating yourself to full-grain leather has its benefits, but for many, it can be a tough decision on whether it is worth the high price tag. Rest assured, we are here to answer all of your questions and highlight what makes full-grain leather so unique and valuable.

First and foremost, the pressing question that brought you here – what exactly is full-grain leather? 

The short answer would be that full-grain is the best leather you can get. Encompassing richness and depth, there is no higher grade available. However, there is more to the grain than that; it is useful information, such as how to properly care for the leather, that you ought to know. 

Read through our guide to full-grain leather today and find out everything there is to know about the luxury leather we offer at Cheaney.

Top or Full-Grain Leather? 

When shopping for full-grain leather shoes, it can be confusing to note the difference between the varieties available. More often than not, full-grain leather is confused with top-grain, and many retailers will even claim the two are the same. However, there is a major difference between full and top-grain. 

Full-grain leather refers to the full, unadulterated hide in its natural form. Whereas, top-grain leather goes through a process of alteration to sand away any impurities and imperfections that may be visible on the top layer of the cowhide. It is a personal choice to which you prefer, but the natural characteristics visible on full-grain leather are one of the many attractive qualities of the product.  

Beyond the appearance of the leather, the sanding process of top-grain also weakens the hide. This is important to consider when you are purchasing a pair of full-grain leather boots or shoes. At Cheaney, we make all of our products to last, so crafting our collections with the highest grade leather is what we are known for.

Is It Genuine Leather?

Most people consider genuine leather to be the ‘best’, however, it may be surprising to learn that it is a catchall term for anything that is technically leather. The government has officially changed the classification of genuine leather to spread beyond cowhide and include any animal’s hide. For example, some of the products you buy under the label of genuine leather could be pig leather or goat leather. In some instances, a product, for example, brogues, may be crafted from discarded pieces of leather which are sanded, embossed and then reformatted together. It can be deceiving if a customer is not aware of the differences, which is why so many people prefer the guaranteed quality of full-grain leather. 

Whilst full-grain leather technically falls under the umbrella of ‘genuine leather’, it’s unique qualities and untampered, thick hide make it a luxury and best-quality material. If you were unaware of the differences before now, you can rest assured that any full-grain leather you do own, will not have been mis-sold. No retailer would market full-grain leather as genuine, as they understand the huge difference between the two, which now so do you. 


If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes or boots, then you will be looking for a pair made to last. By choosing a full-grain leather product, you can guarantee a material that will stand the test of time. Although scratches may be inevitable with leather products, full-grain leather is a much stronger and resilient material.

With its thicker than average structure, full-grain leather is not put into the same sanding process as other leathers. This ensures its strong exterior is not weakened. 

The fibres of the leather are woven tightly together, ensuring a surface that is not easily damaged, which is why we manufacture high-quality shoes, boots and belts using full-grain. 

Waterproof or Water Resistant

Unfortunately, no leather is 100% waterproof as it is by nature a permeable material. However, it is water resistant and there are ways to help protect your full-grain leather goods as best you can. We recommend that you oil your full-grain leather products, as this can aid with waterproofing – similarly, beeswax or spray protectors can offer the same results. These products will create a barrier over the leather.

Before covering a product with any of these substances, it is always a best practice to do a ‘patch test’ on an inconspicuous area. Some protector sprays can alter the natural colour of the leather, so ensuring you are happy with the result is important before applying to the full shoe or belt. 

Caring for Full-Grain Leather

It is always important to remember that real leather acts as a second skin. It is a natural and raw material that depends on care to maintain its quality. Although this may sound like hard work and high-maintenance, it is beneficial to spare even a small amount of time into the proper care of full-grain leather to get the most out of your product. 

Keep your full-grain leather belt or shoes from Cheaney looking their best with our handy care guide. When storing your items, make sure to do so in a dry and ventilated room. By storing them in moist rooms or cars, the leather will be exposed to mould and discolouring. 

Similarly, no full-grain leather goods should be kept on heated floors or close to radiators, as the warm temperatures will quickly dry out the leather and damage its appearance. 

When cleaning full-grain leather boots or shoes, a simple dust-down with a cloth will suffice for a regular cleaning routine. In order to remove actual dirt, gently brush away any debris with a specialist brush and finish by polishing afterwards. 

Discover our collection of travel care kits and polishes today, and find the perfect kit to ensure you have all the tools you need to properly care for your full-grain leather. 

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Now you understand the full run-down of full-grain leather and whether it is suitable for you, why not explore our full range of classic men’s brogues, derby shoes and a wide variety of full-grain leather boots? We are sure you will fall in love with the high-quality and stylish silhouettes we offer, so explore our full-grain leather collection today.