At Ox & Barley, most of our handmade products are crafted using full grain vegetable-tanned leather from Wickett & Craig tannery in PA. As fellow stewards of the planet, we respect their approach to natural, eco-friendly vegetable tanning of leathers. For 150 years, they have used this method to produce a notably superior end product without cutting corners or using harmful chemicals to save money or time. We dig that.
What is full grain leather?
Full grain leather is the highest quality leather available and comes from the top layer of the hide which contains all the natural grain. This natural grain contains the strongest fibers in the hide, yielding an extremely strong and durable product that remains extremely breathable against skin. In a nutshell, it is the pure unadulterated hide without edits, additions, or alterations.
The natural surface of full grain leather is a beautiful landscape revealing a story told with scars, scratches, marks, and light brands. We love these small imperfections and unapologetically use them in our products, provided they do not impact performance. Rather than wearing out, full grain leather will burnish and age with a beautiful patina that can only be created through use. Simply put, the more you use our products, the better they look.
Are full and top grain leathers the same?
Absolutely not. While top grain leather is not inherently bad, we feel it is an inferior product when compared to full grain. Top grain leather is basically leather that has been altered somehow. Usually, it's sanded down to remove any imperfections and create a more even surface in color and texture. These alterations do not allow the beautiful marbling of the natural surface colors and slight imperfections to show through in the final product. It also weakens the leather, which —let's be honest — is reason enough not to use it for products meant to last.
We make products that are intended to last a lifetime, so the leather we choose for them is the best in the world. We also have the luxury of being close enough to the tannery to drive over and hand pick our own hides.