Men's Leather Belt: 4 False Truths About Genuine Leather

Men's Leather Belt

In the fashion world, the allure of 'genuine leather belts for men' is undeniable. The following adage rings true: "Be not deceived with the first appearance of things, for show is not substance."

"Genuine" doesn't always mean that it's full-grain leather. Others in the fashion industry will describe their product as "genuine" as a term to denote quality, when it's anything but!

While a belt may look impressive, the quality of the leather determines its true value. I blame the fashion industry for misleading people in the promotion of flawlessness as a sign of quality. That anything "aged" in our wardrobes is not worth owning.

They've forgotten that not everyone wants fashion accessories that have a cookie-cutter sameness.

Leather's unique natural properties include flaws like scars and color differences and stylish patina. These allow for what I like to call "perfect imperfections". Just like fine wine, genuine leather belts for men mature beautifully over time, becoming more distinguished and individual as they age.

These Full-Grain Leather Belts for Men are Designed for Timeless Style

Best Black Belt

(Trousers and Jeans)

Best Dark Belt


Best Light Belt

(Jeans & Chinos)

Leather Belt - Black Leather Belt - Heritage Brown Leather Belt - English Tan
black leather belt
brown heritage leather belt
english tan leather belt
  • Classic black color for a classic look
  • Wear it to the boardroom, formal events, or meet-ups
  • Comfortable fit and decades of use
  • Handles everything life throws at it
  • Wear it to the golf course, sightseeing, or amusement park
  • The more you wear it, the better it looks
  • Rugged belt that pairs well with jeans
  • Perfect companion for everyday activities
  • Great for sitting around a fire or going on long trips

Today, I'm going to make you an informed shopper by not only taking on the myths surrounding so-called “genuine leather” but also introducing you to our collection of leather belts.

By reading this article you will learn:

  • All leather isn't equal. Quality depends on its hierarchy within the animal's hide
  • Perfection in leather is an illusion, true leather has scars and other imperfections
  • Genuine leather withstands moderate use, but full grain leather is the most durable and stylish
  • Full grain leather isn't processed with chemicals, it undergoes natural tanning

From the information you'll gain today, you'll make better buying decisions, as well as understand why we stand by our products in the ways that we do.

Get ready to learn the truth behind the falsehoods and myths of genuine leather.

False Truth 1 - All Leather is Equal

There are three grades of quality when dealing in leather used to make belts and other products.

In order of the best to the worst, they are:

  1. Top grain, which includes
    1. Full grain
    2. Corrected grain
  2. Split grain or "genuine leather"
  3. Bonded

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. 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 Colmen's turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving, there's a limit to the amount and quality of the leftovers I enjoy. And leftover turkey doesn't make the list.

Nor does leftover leather.

Thus at Popov Leather, we only use top-grain leather for men's leather belts and other products.

The design is simple and the materials are top shelf. Made by real people in Nelson, BC. I know because they hosted my wife and me at the factory last winter.

Tom Okany

What is so special about full-grain leather? Well, it's considered the best material for leatherwork due to its natural tanning process where it is soaked in tannins often made from tree bark. This ensures its durability and suppleness and gives it a gorgeous smell that those who appreciate the finer things really admire.
natural grain by its very nature

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 the other natural elements of the hide.

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.

That is what you get with top grain or full grain leather.

By its very nature, it is neither perfect nor uniform.

oxblood-colored leather belt resting on a leather surface
Popov Leather - Oxblood Leather Belt​

So-called "Genuine leather," on the other hand, is from the inside of the hide. There is no grain to be had. Manufacturers give it a fake grain, to simulate the natural grain of better-quality leather.

Due to this, it's easy for consumers to be deceived into purchasing lower-grade leather thinking it's full-grain leather. Therefore, there are guidelines in place to protect consumers from deception by manufacturers and marketers. (Source: Code of Federal Regulations)

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!

Our Black Leather Belt is incredibly popular with over 350 five-star reviews due to its excellent craftsmanship and lifetime guarantee. Get yours today for something you just won't find in a big box store.

False Truth 3 - If It's Genuine Leather, It's Strong and Durable

It's true that most men's 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.

natural brown leather belt resting on a surface
Popov Leather -Natural Leather Belt​​

By 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 leather belts for men and other items carry a lifetime guarantee because we make them from leather that could last several lifetimes.

hand holding out an english tan leather belt

False Truth 4 - Genuine Leather Isn't "Processed" Leather

Genuine leather is real leather but there are some things you need to know first.

It's made from the hide of a cow, sheep, or other animal, just like top grain and full grain leather. Genuine leather, however, takes a bit more work. For example, there's that synthetic grain we discussed. It has to be embossed.

Sometimes, spray-painted effects are added, to give the appearance of a real grain or the belt 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.

lack leather belt resting on a surface​​
Popov Leather - Black Leather Belt​​

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".

On the other hand, look at the inside of one of our full-grain men's genuine leather belts. It's "fuzzy" like suede from the sanding it receives on the inside or underside of the hide. The upper surface is beautiful, natural, barely processed, high-quality full-grain leather.

The color of slate has an elegant style that never goes out of fashion. That is why we chose it for our unique Slate Leather Belt which gains an individual and elegant patina of its own with wear and time. Secure yours here.

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 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 vs top grain leather.

  ✅ Top Grain Leather ❌ "Genuine Leather"
Source It's the outermost layer of animal hide, with the surface intact and sanded/smoothed. Made from layers beneath the top grain, often with imperfections corrected.
Durability More durable and resistant to wear and tear compared to genuine leather. Less durable than top grain. May wear out more quickly over time.
Natural Appearance Retains natural markings and characteristics, providing a more authentic look. Has a more uniform appearance due to treatments and corrections.
Cost Generally more expensive due to higher quality and use in premium products. More affordable than top grain, making it a budget-friendly option.
Uses Used for high-end products like furniture, luxury goods, and high-quality accessories. Used for various products, including mid-range furniture, bags, and everyday items.
Overall Perception Viewed as a premium and luxury material. Seen as a good-quality leather but not as premium as top grain leather.

Full Grain Leather Insights - Full grain and top grain leather are considered premium materials among traditional leatherworkers. One of the reasons for this is that they age so stylishly with a vintage-looking patina that is unique to each piece.

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 do.

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 too.

My team is proud of what we do, proud of what we make, and proud to call our community home. 

"Favorite part about working at Popov Leather is working with my hands and being in a workshop with creative, hard-working, fun people."

Dave, Popov Leather team member

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 Customers Say

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 in timeless style, and for years and years to come.

Here are a few reviews about the quality and looks of our top grain leather belts for men.

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"

Rory B. | Leather Belt - Heritage Brown 34" ★★★★★ Verified Reviewer

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."

Jim B. | Leather Belt - Heritage Brown 28" ★★★★★ Verified Reviewer

Why not join these guys and hundreds of 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.

Quality of the leather is comparable to none. I’ve never felt leather of such thickness that was so supple and yet flexible. I purchased this same belt 2 months ago in a 38” and lost some weight. I loved my purchase so much that I bought the same one in a 36”. These guys have a customer for life!"

Lawrence Manganaro, Verified Customer

Frequently Asked Questions About Leather Belts for Men

Why choose full grain leather belts over genuine leather belts?

If quality and style are important to you then there is really no alternative in a belt than full grain leather or top grain. They surpass all others in quality and durability and they age beautifully as they develop a gorgeous and rich patina unique to your specific belt. These characteristics as well as the fewer manufacturing processes they go through set them apart from belts marked as "genuine leather."

Do Men's genuine leather belts require special care compared to full grain leather belts?

The issue with "genuine leather belts" is that they go through additional manufacturing processes that render them in need of additional special care as they age. That is why manufacturers of 'genuine leather' recommend so many maintenance processes for your belt as it ages.

By contrast, full grain leather belts like ours withstand harsher conditions and age with a natural patina that sets them apart as better quality.

How does the price of men's genuine leather belts compare to full grain leather belts?

The truth is that genuine leather is cheaper because it is of poorer quality. Top-grain leather and full-grain leather are quality products for those who value style, and practical use and know that things that are properly made are worth the investment.

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.

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1 comment

Rita McMillan

Rita McMillan

I’m looking for a man belt size 42

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