How to know good quality leather:
1) Full grain- also called Aniline- Thick, soft and smells great! Processed without any attempt to hide or cover the natural markings that occur during the animal's life, like bug bites or scratches. Full grain is soft and pliable between, 1.5-2.0 mm in thickness, and is the strongest top of the line material to use for premium quality motorcycle leathers.
2) Aniline or semi-aniline? Full or pure aniline- Only about 5% of the worlds hide supply is considered to be high enough quality to be aniline. This is the process of soaking the hides in transparent aniline dyes, which colors or shades the skins without obscuring the natural markings, or grain of the hide. They are dyed all the way through, without any pigmented topcoat. Often referred to as 'drum-dried' aniline; it has the wonderful soft touch and smell you would expect from quality leathers.
3) Semi-aniline- Is an extra step beyond pure aniline dyeing; this extra step is what adds a top coating of highly dispersed pigments and dyes to the surface of aniline-dyed hides.
4) Plated leather- When full grain has too many scratches, or defects on the surface, it is buffed or sanded to remove as many as possible. This also removes some of the natural grain. A pattern is then embossed ,or plated, into the surface and finished with a semi-aniline dye. Also considered to be top quality leathers often used for motorcycle apparel, though it is not as strong as full grain.
5) Top grain- To obtain a uniform thickness, the hides are fed through a splitting machine with the grain side up. This process yields a natural surface called 'Top-grain'. With a thickness of 1.2-1.3 mm, top grain is used in good quality -though less expensive- leather jackets, motorcycle vests and chaps. Top-grain is not as thick, or strong as full grain, and will not be able to protect you as well as full grain motorcycle leathers.
6) Split leather- After the top-grain has been removed, what is left is the split. Having no natural grain, it must be artificially added. Split is the least strong and is used in many low priced products, or where protection is not a big purchasing factor, like for use as a costume piece or as daily apparel. We recommend full grain, or at the very least top-grain, if you are going to be actually riding a motorcycle; as you will need all the protection you can get.
7) Leather types- Now that you know the difference in the types of quality, lets go over the different types of leathers used in motorcycle apparel. Better motorcycle clothing is from cow or buffalo hide. The good buffalo hide comes from American bison. Cheap and lower quality hides are pig, goat and water buffalo. The problem with water buffalo hide, is that it never seems to soften, and is stiff-feeling and wearing forever. Lamb skin is a beautiful, soft and expensive hide but is very thin, used for women’s tops purses and skirts, also a good choice to consider when purchasing a leather to use as daily apparel.