Leather Facts on Top Grain Cowhide

By Dan Antony
Top-grain cowhide would be wasted on leather athletic shoes.

Chances are, your expensive leather goods are top-grain cowhide, and made of what are called “splits.” An inexpensive pair of leather shoes may look rich, but, there is a significant difference in the quality of the leather.

Definition

Top-grain cowhide is the outermost, smoothest part of the hide, from which the hair is removed.

Splits

Tanners “split” the leather into layers, so that one full hide appears to yield three hides.

First Split

The first-split layer is just under the top grain. This may be buffed, treated or painted to look like top grain; or it may be embossed with a grain, like alligator. Top grain is seldom embossed.

Second Split

The second-split is the bottom layer of the cowhide. It is often discarded as waste, but may be sueded for upholstery.

Properties

The top grain is more durable and flexible than the first and second splits.

Uses

Only top-grain cowhide can be tooled and crafted. Splits are economical for sewing clothing, particularly informal clothing like chaps, moccasins and vests. Splits are good for grains like alligator and ostrich, but in steer hide sizes.

About the Author

Dan Antony began his career in the sciences (biotech and materials science) before moving on to business and technology, including a stint as the international marketing manager of an ERP provider. His writing experience includes books on project management, engineering and construction, and the "Internet of Things."