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The Different Types of Leathers Explained

When considering a leather wallet it pays to understand the different types of leathers on the market and the distinct advantages and disadvantages each has. After all, leather is the skin of an animal, and not all animal skins are going to be the same in terms of its durability, distinctive look and feel.  Not only this but different leathers come in at different prices depending on its scarcity, popularity, and the general quality. 

Although this article is only going into the most common types, the huge variety of exotic animal leathers is also something that is worth mentioning. The chances are if you can name it someone somewhere is using it to make leather. If you’re interested in some of the most bizarre or unusual animal skin leathers on the market check out our full article here.


Cowhide Leather

Simply put, cowhide is leather derived from the hide (skin) of a cow. It’s thick. It’s tough. It’s coarse. Doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?

However, cowhide is one of the most commonly used materials to make fine leather goods. And not without good reasons. When cowhide is properly processed, it can be used to make some of the finest leather goods while retaining its most endearing property – its durability.

And that means your cowhide wallet will stay in shape for a long time. And did I forget to mention that cowhide also ages well with use over time? This is usually shown as a unique patina on the wallets surface the more you use the wallet.

Basically most leather wallets on the market are made from cowhide so your choice is rife. Just remember to make sure you consider the leather grade before you purchase. The higher the grade the better quality leather. For example, full-grain leather is considered one of the best qualities while I’d always recommend staying away from genuine leather which is the worst quality. 

The popular Sidecar collection by Dunhill is an example of fine leather goods that are made from cowhide. I like the fact that it is very scratch-resistant and the leather acquires a certain luster after you use it.


Calfskin Leather

Calfskin refers to leather made from the skin of young cows that have not been weaned. Since calfskin usually has fewer imperfections such as scars and bites, as compared to cowhide, it is often used to make full-grain leather.

Full-Grain leather is leather that displays the natural markings of the animal’s skin rather than undergoes a sanding process to remove the grain pattern of the skin. That’s why full-grain leather requires better quality skin with fewer imperfections. That makes calfskin a good choice.

Although some may argue that the skin of a young cow is too tender and hence not durable, my experiences with wallets and small leather goods made from calfskin have always been very pleased with a firm yet soft touch. I have used wallets, belts, and shoes made from calfskin and I find them as durable as those made from cowhide. I think durability depends a lot more on the workmanship rather than on whether calfskin or cowhide is used.

One of the standout brands that use Calfskin Leather as their material of choice is the Dun Wallet range. Founded through a successful Crowdfunding campaign the small range of innovative wallets is a fantastic choice for minimalist lovers. You can check out our full review of the Original Dun Wallet here.


Lambskin Leather

Lambskin, as the name implies, is leather derived from the skin of a young sheep. It is soft. It is supple. And it has a silky texture.

Because it’s expensive (hence considered luxurious), it’s usually reserved for making premium leather goods.

Unlike cowhide, lambskin is not such an easy material to work with. Because it’s soft, it doesn’t hold shapes well. Hence it’s usually used to make fabric-like products such as leather jackets or gloves.

Lambskin wallets are one of those things I hate to love. A lambskin wallet is really comfortable and feels great. But unfortunately, the leather looks quite dull. And lambskin’s rather high maintenance. It’s not as durable as cowhide and it scratches easily. So you’ll need to handle it with care.

Mont Blanc is one of those luxury brands that use lambskin quite extensively. Their Platinum line and the newer Eastside line are made of full-grain lambskin.


Pigskin Leather

Pigskin has always been regarded as the cheap alternative to cowhide and is commonly used to make bags, wallets, and shoes. Because of its low price, pigskin is also used as the inner linings for bags and shoes.

Pigskin has very distinctive and visible pores and this is one way to determine if a product is made of pigskin. You may be wondering what’s the fuss about distinguishing between cowhide and pigskin since they look quite the same.

First, it’s always good to know what you’re paying for. Second, Muslims do not carry or wear anything that’s made from pigskin. So knowing which leather product is made from pigskin is very important to them.

And it’s something you should be mindful of when you’re buying a leather product as a gift for your Muslim friends. You really don’t want to end up offending them when you’re actually trying to make them happy.

Pigskin’s status got elevated ever since Gucci used it extensively on its leather goods. Of course, when Gucci does it, they make sure it looks good. Afterall every Gucci sells for a few hundred bucks. The pores actually become like a pattern of the leather. And it’s very scratch resistant.


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