In the fashion world, the allure of a genuine leather belt is undeniable. The following adage rings true:
"Be not deceived with the first appearance of things, for show is not substance." - English Proverb
While a belt may look impressive, the authenticity of the leather determines its true value.
I blame the fashion industry for misleads caused by the promotion of flawlessness as a sign of quality. That anything "aged" in our wardrobes is not worth owning.
However, they forget that the genuine leather used to make belts was once a living thing and that living things aren't in any way perfect or flawless.
Additionally, they've forgotten that not everyone wants items that have a cookie-cutter sameness.
Leather's unique natural properties include flaws like scars and color differences. These allow for what I like to call "perfect imperfections".
Just like fine wine, a genuine leather belt matures beautifully over time, becoming more distinguished.
Today, I'm going to make you an informed shopper by not only taking on the myths surrounding the so-called “genuine leather” but also introducing you to our collection of leather belts.
Consequently, you'll make better buying decisions, as well as understand why we stand by our products in the ways that we do.
So, get set to learn the truth behind the falsehoods and myths of genuine leather.
Table of Contents
False Truth 1 - All Leather is Equal
There are three grades of quality when dealing in genuine leather used to make belts and other products.
In order of the best to the worst, they are:
Top grain, which includes
- Full grain
- Corrected grain
- Split grain or genuine leather
Here's a handy graphic that shows exactly where in the hide the various grades of leather originate.
As you can see, genuine leather is not top quality. In fact, it's what's left after the top-quality leather, is removed from the hide.
In fact, genuine leather is, in reality, leftovers.
Now as much as I love a good cold turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving, there's a limit to the amount and quality of the leftovers I enjoy. And leftover leather doesn't make the list.
Thus at Popov Leather, we only use top grain leather for our men's genuine leather belts and other products.
False Truth 2 - The More Perfect the Grain, the Better the Leather
A leather's natural grain is the outside of the hide.
It's what you see when you look at the animal, minus the hair, of course. It contains the hair pores and other natural elements of the hide.
In contrast, top grain leather contains the natural grain of the leather. You see the outside of whatever cow-type critter the leather is sourced from.
That means that if the cow got a scar from a brush with a fence barb or another cow's horn, it's there. If the cow had a freckle or other blemish, it's there.
Natural grain, by its very nature, is neither perfect nor uniform.
Genuine leather, on the other hand, is from the inside of the hide. There is no grain to be had.
So genuine leather belt manufacturers give it a fake grain, to simulate the natural grain of better quality leather.
The "perfection" of leather is an illusion. It's taking something of poorer quality and trying to make it appear as something it's not.
Although the leather we use to make our men's belts and other products may not be perfect, it's perfectly top grain, high-quality stuff.
False Truth 3 - If It's Genuine Leather, It's Strong and Durable
It's true that most genuine leather belts and other products can withstand years of moderate use.
Top grain leather, however, is the strongest and most durable leather on the market.
That's because it is the outside of the hide. The fibers that make up the upper levels of the hide are thicker and stronger, making them longer-lasting and more "breathable" too.
Breathability in leather is its ability to expel moisture.
Those pores in the top grain act just like your own skin's pores, allowing sweat and moisture to be wicked away to the outside.
Consequently, the wearer, and the leather itself, are kept dry.
In contrast, genuine leather doesn't have those pores or those thicker, stronger fibers.
That means it traps moisture inside. This trapped moisture breaks down the genuine leather belt over time and shortens its lifespan.
All that makes genuine leather weaker and certainly less longer-lasting than top grain leather.
Our men's leather belts and other items carry a lifetime guarantee because we make them from leather that could last several lifetimes.
False Truth 4 - Genuine Leather Isn't "Processed" Leather
Genuine leather is real leather.
It's made from the hide of a cow, or sheep, or other critter, just like top grain and full grain leather.
It's not glued or bonded in any way, so it is real leather.
Once the tanning, finishing, and smoothing of the inside of the hide are complete, top grain and full grain leathers are ready for use.
Genuine leather, on the other hand, takes a bit more work.
There's that synthetic grain we discussed. It has to be embossed on.
Sometimes, spray-painted effects are added, to give the appearance of a real grain or the color variations often found in top grain leather.
Because it's a part of the inside of the hide, genuine leather typically has to have some sort of coating added, too.
This is often some sort of plastic, like polyurethane to make it look shiny and polished. It can also make it look smoother and more "perfect".
Look at the inside of one of our full grain genuine leather belts. It's "fuzzy" like suede from the sanding it receives on the inside or underside of the hide.
The upper surface, however, is beautiful, natural, barely processed, high-quality full grain leather.
TLDR: A Quick, Visual Summary of Genuine Leather vs. Top Grain Leather
I know that some of you are more interested in buying a genuine leather belt rather than reading about leather.
Maybe your pants are falling down as we speak. Maybe you're not a leather geek like me.
Whatever your preference, here's a handy table with the bare facts about genuine leather.
|Top Grain Leather||Genuine Leather|
|Outermost layers of the hide||Inner layer, deeper in the hide|
|Stronger and longer lasting||Weaker and short-lived|
|Less processed||Highly processed|
|High quality and worth every penny||Overpriced and lower quality|
Why Care So Much About Top Grain Leather vs. Genuine?
You may be saying to yourself: Does it really matter? A belt's a belt. If it holds up my pants, who cares?
I started Popov Leather at my dining room table, as a hobby. Something to keep me busy and give me a creative outlet.
I have a personal stake in the quality of the products we make, and the materials we use to make them. I won't sell something I wouldn't buy.
The 20 some Popov Leather team members do.
My team is proud of what we do, proud of what we make, and proud to call our community home.
The fact that we make every order to order and answer questions personally, gives us an old-fashioned yet forward-thinking company culture.
What Our Customer Say
Lastly, our customers care.
They want long-lasting, good-looking, high-quality products. Sure, their belts just hold up their pants, but they also do it fashionably, and for years and years to come.
Here are a few reviews about the quality and looks of our top grain men's leather belts.
Here's Rory B., a high-quality leather belt convert.
"I've bought inexpensive belts my whole life. When I first handled this belt, the difference was immediately obvious. It feels and looks fantastic. Customer for life"
And here's Jim B, who couldn't stop at just one Popov Leather item.
"Great belt. I have it in Black as well Heritage Brown. Both fit exactly the same, which speaks to the QC at Popov."
Why not join these guys and hundreds others? Become a men's leather belt convert like Rory, or a repeat customer like Jim and many more.
We promise you, at Popov Leather, we're all about the substance and the style.
Written by Ryan Popoff
Ryan Popoff is the creative mind behind Popov Leather wallets, iPhone cases, belts, watch bands and journals since 2013. With a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts, my leatherworking journey began at home. I wanted to create a simple leather wallet that could fit into my front pocket and — to my delight — it was a hit with family and friends. Hopefully you love our honest, quality leather goods too! Reach out with questions.