Top Grain Leather
Contrary to the way it sounds, top grain is the second best quality leather found on the market. Sometimes called corrected leather, it is taken from the top of the hide, thus preserving the grain to a certain extent.
However, because the life of a cow or buffalo can sometimes be environmentally harsh, the top few millimeters are sanded down to hide any blemishes that might be there like scars from barbed wire, brandings, insect bites, coyote bites, well, you get the picture.
A finish coat is then sprayed or plastered onto the hide giving it a stiff, sort of plastic look. In the case of corrected leather, as with splits, a pattern is stamped on the finish to mimic the natural grain.
Top grain leather motorcycle gear is the most common leather found, and is perfectly suitable for riding grade leather. Because of the way it is finished it is resistant to stains (as long as the finish remains intact) but it does requires a breaking in period before it becomes pliable and soft to the touch. This breaking in period can be expedited at the tannery by a process called soft milling.
Without embellishment, naked leather has nothing added to the hide other than the dye. The hides are hand-picked for uniformity and lack of blemishes, accounting for less than 10% of the world’s leather supply. Only the best hides are used to produce true naked leather motorcycle apparel.
The terms naked and full grain leather are sometimes used interchangeably, however full grain implies that the entire hide is used, a practice common in the furniture industry. A cow can be thick skinned, up to 5 or 6 mm thick! That would be a very heavy jacket, so both top grain and naked leather often have the bottom split off to achieve the desired thickness.
Because it is the least processed, naked leather is soft, supple, and pliable from the beginning and does not require a breaking in period. Over time it will develop a patina giving it a warm comfortable worn in look. Needless to say, naked leather is the most expensive grade, and can reach well into the $500 range for a jacket at a well branded retail store.
Riding Grade Leather – the Thicker the Better
True riding grade leather motorcycle apparel is most commonly made from top grain or naked buffalo or cowhide (or Kangaroo if you can get it). The next question is how thick should it be? From a protection standpoint, the thicker the better, however, the choice is yours. Top grain buffalo and cowhide leather typically start around 1.2 millimeters thick, with the real heavy naked leather jackets reaching up to 1.6 mm.
The climate you live in may be the determining factor for you, but if you stay within the 1.2-6 mm range, you will have found a perfectly good riding grade set of leathers.
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