Leather Wallet Types [Everything You Need To Know]

Even if two wallets are both made out of leather, they can still be very different from each other.

For example, one of the wallets could be made from cow leather and the other from pig leather.

There can also be differences in the leather quality, depending on the manufacturing process.

On top of all this, the wallets could have different designs, for example, one may be a bifold leather wallet and the other a trifold.

What makes leather wallets different from each other?

Bellroy Zip held in hand

If you take a look at the materials, manufacturing process, capacity, and design of leather wallets, you will notice a couple of differences between them.

Material

By material, I mean the type of animal which the leather for the wallet comes from. A lot of different animal leathers are used in the manufacturing process of wallets, such as:

  • Buffalo leather
  • Pig leather
  • Sheep leather
  • Cow leather
  • Deer leather
  • Goat leather
  • Kangaroo leather
  • Ostrich leather
  • Stingray leather
  • Crocodile leather
  • Eel leather
  • Snake leather

Manufacturing process

Specifically, what sets two leather wallets apart from each other the most is how the leather is processed. Depending on that, the leather will end up in one of the following hide grades:

  • Full-grain leather
  • Top-grain leather
  • Bonded leather
  • Suede leather
  • Genuine leather

Out of all of them, full-grain leather has the best quality since it doesn’t undergo a lot of change in the manufacturing process.

Capacity

Just like any other type of wallet, leather wallets are also built differently when it comes to their card and cash capacity. Some may be able to hold a large sum of money and many cards, while others are specifically made to hold a few.

Design

Leather wallets can even have a totally different design from one another. Designs can be trifold, bifold, card cases, or money clips.

Types of leather wallet designs

When it comes to the design of leather wallets, it can fall within one of the following categories.

Bifold leather wallet

empty bifold wallet

You probably already guessed it by the name, but a bifold leather wallet is one that is folded in half and has just two sections. This type of wallet doesn’t have as much room as a trifold one, but it is a slimmer alternative.

Trifold leather wallet

brown unfolded Fossil Trifold

Trifold wallets have two folds and a total of three sections. Because of this, they provide the most room for card and cash bills for users.

Even if a trifold wallet isn’t as slim as a bifold, if you use it properly there is a possibility that it won’t take up that much room.

Money clip

More and more people seem to go for leather wallets with a money clip.

Basically, they are a credit card holder that also has some sort of money clip attached to it. These wallets aren’t made to hold a lot of cash bills and are better suited for card users.

Card case

Coach Card Case cover

Leather cardcases are small flat cases that are designed to hold a couple of cards. Most frequently, they have an inverted design with some pockets.

Animal leather types of wallets

Animal leather

There are a lot of different animal leathers used to make wallets, all of which have their own unique traits.

Cow leather

Cowhide leather is one of the most frequently used leathers today. This is no surprise since cow leather is widely available and economical at the same time.

Compared to leathers such as ones from sheep, goats, or lambs, it’s much stronger but not as flexible. When leather isn’t flexible it basically means that it isn’t that resistant to scratching. Cow leather weighs more and isn’t soft as other leathers.

Pig leather

Pigskin comes from domestic pigs and it’s widely available, which is why this type of leather is one of the most used ones in leather production.

Leather from a pig is quite similar to one from a cow so it is very dense and durable. Some other properties of pig leather are:

  • thin
  • soft
  • oil, stain, and water repellant
  • flexible
  • easy to maintain

One of the biggest advantages of pigskin is that it is very pliable and it doesn’t stiffen after it gets wet.

Sheep leather

One interesting fact about sheep leather is that the quality of the leather will be worse if the wool is finer and denser.

A lot of things can affect the quality of sheep hide such as the environmental factors in which the sheep were raised, as well as the food they eat.

Sheep leather isn’t as durable as cow leather per se, since it isn’t that dense. On the other side, out of all the available commercial leathers, this one is the lightest. It also has a soft touch to it which makes it perfect for manufacturing apparel and accessories.

Even if it isn’t heavy, it’s still a durable leather material that offers great elasticity, making it more resistant to tears.

Buffalo leather

Buffalo leather, otherwise known as English Saddle leather has a very characteristic grain.

There are a couple of different categories of buffalo leather including top-grain buffalo leather, full-grain buffalo leather, genuine buffalo leather, pull-up buffalo leather, water buffalo leather, and Italian buffalo leather.

Usually, it is compared to cow leather which is more frequently used to make leather goods. Buffalo leather is tanned organically, while cow leather uses modern tanning techniques that include chemicals. Out of these two, buffalo leather is smaller and stronger.

This type of leather is quite durable and elastic which is why it’s resistant to tears and scratching.

Deer leather

Deer leather is easily one of the toughest leathers currently available. Not only is it crazy strong, it is also abrasion resistant.

Deerskin passes as a great leather material since it has a lot of great properties such as:

  • softness
  • a comfortable and spongy feel
  • high durability

This is one of the leather types that can effortlessly convert to its original form after getting wet.

Goat leather

Goat leather comes from a goat’s hide and it is economical and widely available.

People mainly choose goat leather because of its flexibility and soft feel. Apart from being flexible it also offers great durability and strength.

The vegetable tanning process makes this leather resistant to water.

On top of all this, goat leather is stronger and more tear resistant than cow leather.

Kangaroo leather

Kangaroo leather is among the strongest leathers that you can currently find.

When compared to cow and goat leather, it offers more flexibility and is lighter.

Because kangaroo leather has a thin grain layer and low-fat content, it doesn’t require splitting and shaving as other leathers do. Also, the elastin that is evenly distributed in its skin gives it great elasticity.

Ostrich leather

Ostrich leather has a distinct look because of its noticeable bumps on the surface. These bumps are actually quill follicles from where the feathers used to grow. The only part that has bumps like this is where the animal’s neck meets the body, so it’s hard to make ”full quill” leather items and they are considered a luxury product.

Not only is ostrich leather soft, but it offers moderate fire, weather, scratch, and chemical resistance too. It’s also renewable and doesn’t weigh that much compared to other leathers.

Stingray leather

Shagreen is another name for stingray leather. It consists of the upper part of some species of shark and ray that is used in crafting leather.

One of the best things about this leather is that it is exotic but widely available. It’s one of the most durable leathers currently available and it offers an amazing unique texture.

Crocodile leather

The quality of crocodile leather largely depends on the type of species of the crocodile. An elegant leather such as this has top quality, as well as a price that’s a bit higher than most other leathers.

Aligator and crocodile leather are superior due to their durability and pliability. As one of the finest leathers available, it is largely used in the fashion industry by designers.

Eel leather

Another amazing exotic leather is one that comes from an eel which is made from the hide of the pacific hagfish.

What really sets eel leather apart from others is the constitution of its skin. Its strength is two to three times more than other leather, yet it is still pretty lightweight. You can immediately recognize it due to its pinstripe pattern that has a sort of moist look. Best of all, it’s easy to clean and it has amazing water resistance.

Snake leather

Snakeskin leather is rare ad expensive, so it’s considered to be among the exotic types of leather. The most commonly used types of snake for making leather are cobra, python, and sea snake. Usually, snakeskin is used to make apparel and accessories.

Unlike some leather types, snakeskin is available in a variety of colors and patterns, it can also be finished off with many different finishes. Since it’s extremely strong and rare it comes at a higher price.

Different types of leather used in wallets

Crazy Horse Cardholder cover

Apart from differentiating the leather depending on the type of animal it comes from, you can see a difference in the leather quality depending on how the leather has been manufactured. In the leather industry, this is called grading the leather. The leather categories for grading that are most commonly used are full-grain leather, top-grain leather, bonded leather, suede leather, and genuine leather.

Full-grain leather

Full-grain leather refers to the part of the hide which is right below the hair. Since it hasn’t been buffed and sanded it still contains all its natural characteristics. This is the reason why top-grain leather is the strongest and most durable type out of all in this category.

Most frequently, you will see full-grain leather that has an aniline finish that dyes it but still allows the natural grain of the leather to show. This type of finish is subtle and more breathable compared to other finishes that include sanding and applying thicker coats of color. Over time, this leather develops a beautiful patina which is very beloved by anyone who appreciates good quality leather.

Because this type of leather hasn’t been treated much you can even notice tiny holes and pores on the surface, which indicate its top quality. The beautiful patina that develops on leather, basically means that the leather will change its color a bit, and this desired occurrence is faster if the leather is full-grain.

There are three stages to making full-grain leather:

  • preparation
  • taking
  • crusting

This type of leather is very durable and lasts about 5 times more than any fabric, but you still need to take care of it. It’s good to clean it and condition it so that it will maintain its natural oils and moisture that keep it supple.

Top-grain leather

Top-grain leather is right below full-grain leather when it comes to quality. Most frequently it is used to make handbags because of the pristine look it can achieve.

The name of this leather comes from the fact that the top layer of the leather is shaved off, sanded, or buffed. If the top layer has been shaved off, the leather might also be referred to as split leather.

The reasons why manufacturers do this have a lot to do with needing a fresh surface on which they can apply a lot of finishes too. For example, cowhide leather can be shaved off and a finish of an alligator texture stamp can be applied afterward. This type of leather may also be called corrected grain leather.

This leather still offers good enough quality for manufacturing luxury goods. Still, the fact that its topmost quality layer has been shaved off, along with the natural oils that reside in it, means that the future patina and durability of this leather have been compromised.

Bonded leather

The word bonded in itself means that two things have been joined together. In this case, bonded leather is a combination of both real and fake leather. Basically, it’s made from leftover scraps and fibers from processing leather. This leather is also mixed with a polyurethane binder. There are even some manufacturers that add an extra finish to the leather to make it look like real leather.

What’s good about bonded leather is that it’s so much cheaper than real leather since it only contains 20% of it. It comes in a lot of different varieties and colors. Compared to genuine leather it has a smooth and consistent texture.

Bonded leather also has a couple of cons. One of its major cons is its short lifespan as well as the low durability it offers. Unlike genuine leather that contains its form over time, it wears away and easily scratches, peels and flakes. This type of leather is also hard to clean and if some cleaners are rough they might strip away the leather over time.

Suede leather

You have probably already seen this soft leather in some boots or jackets that have a fuzzy finish. Suede is made from the underside of the animal skin, which is softer but not as durable as the outer skin.

Since it’s thin, soft, and pliable, it is more suited for some pieces of clothing, rather than items that need stronger leather in order to be more durable.

Suede is still a top-quality type of leather that has a luxurious and appealing look. The natural color it comes in is tanned, just like other leathers, but it can also be dyed, so you might notice a wide range of colors available for this type of leather.

Most of the time, it’s used to make items such as bags, gloves, shoes, curtains, coats, and some other accessories.

Genuine leather

The lowest quality type of leather in this category is genuine leather.

For starters, it doesn’t last as long and doesn’t look as good as top-quality leather.

Genuine leather is made out of several layers of lower-quality leather that are bonded together. It’s still an acceptable leather material if you want to make something cheaply.

Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t getting fake leather if you decide to go for genuine leather, it just won’t deliver all the great properties that top-grain or full-grain deliver.

Despite its inferior quality, it delivers a beautiful look and it’s most commonly used to make shoes, handbags, wallets, briefcases, and such accessories.


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I love all things tech, so I decided to make a blog about technology, electronics, gadgets, accessories, and all the various items we use every day that make our lives easier. I like doing a lot of research on various models and brands, looking for great value and performance, both through data and experience.