MCV GRADEā„¢ with Associated Leather Type

The MCV Grade™ breaks down various types of leathers into categories. We feel this helps riders understand more about leather types and leather quality.


Premium leathers

  • Platinum Naked Cowhide
  • Naked Cowhide
  • Soft Milled Cowhide (only thick top of the line soft milled leathers)


High end leathers, common throughout the motorcycle community.

  • Soft Milled Cowhide
  • Naked Buffalo Hide


Average leathers, common throughout the motorcycle community.

  • Plain Milled Cowhide
  • Buffalo Hide


Thin/stiff low end leathers found at many bike events, bike rallies & swap meets; made to be affordable.

  • Split Skin Cowhide
  • Economy / Rally Grade Leathers - Cowhide vs Buffalo Hide


Leather Types

This section will discuss the various types of leathers that are used in making motorcycle vests. The two leathers we will talk about are cowhide and buffalo hide. Both are riding grade leathers because of their durability and strength, but cowhide is the more common material used in making motorcycle vests, jackets, chaps, etc.

Naked Cowhide Leather

Naked cowhide leather is valued highest by consumers. It is a very nice soft leather that feels natural to the touch. It has been dyed, but no other treatments or finishes are applied (hence the word “naked”). Other leathers are corrected by sanding etc to remove the imperfections. But not Naked leathers. Naked leathers are hand selected for uniformity as only the highest quality hides can be used to make naked leather. However, they are not defect-free; they just have fewer imperfections. Naked vests are made from full grain leather hides which have not needed to be grain corrected. Thus they still have their natural markings. This is why it is the most expensive leather. There is a new term being used called, "Platinum Naked". This term is used to describe a thicker naked cowhide vest. All naked cowhide vests are a thick, soft, premium quality cowhide, but platinum refers to an even thicker and slightly softer vest.

Milled Cowhide Leather (Soft and Plain)

Milled cowhide leather is a nice top grain quality leather. We can separate milled leather into two categories, (1) Soft Milled, and (2) Plain Milled. The soft milled leather would be the better quality of the two leathers as it is softer and thicker than the plain milled cowhide leather. Milled cowhide is a more available and therefore affordable leather as the cowhide that is used to make milled leather does not need to be perfect. These milled cowhides are corrected via processes (such as sanding etc) and have a more uniform appearance. The term Milled is just a way to separate nicer cowhide from cheaper cowhide leathers (such as split skin). Milled actually refers to the part of production where the leather is put into a milling machine and rotated. Basically like a large clothes dryer (minus the air and heat). This tumbling process softens the leather and allows the natural fine lines in the leather to intensify. **NOTE: Milled is a very common leather type for motorcycle vests. Plain Milled is a fairly average basic vest, whereas the soft milled is slightly thicker and much softer to the touch.

Naked Buffalo Hide Leather

Naked Buffalo is a soft leather that is considered by many to be a quality leather. However the grain (or surface) is very different looking than cowhide: Buffalo leather has a non-uniform pattern of lines and streaks (see the comparison photo on this page). Some like the pattern; others do not. Some websites are inaccurately listing buffalo hide vests as cowhide vests, but the terms should not be interchangeable. Naked buffalo is really up to the individual rider; if the lines & streaks don't bother you, than you will like this leather. It is important to note that Buffalo refers to the Water Buffalo native to Pakistan & India; NOT the American Bison which was a very popular leather long ago.

Plain Buffalo Hide Leather

Plain Buffalo is a step down from Naked Buffalo (Read about Naked Buffalo above to learn more about Buffalo in general). Plain Buffalo quality is just slightly above Split Skin Cowhide, and only because it is slightly softer. However, if you do not like the look of Buffalo hide (see images on this page), than split skin cowhide may be more appealing even though it is not as soft.

Split Skin Cowhide Leather

Split skin is found below the top layer and is less durable but very affordable. I would not consider a split skin vest to be a quality leather vest, but it is a nice vest for the price. It is thinner, and not as soft as milled leather. However, if you want a popular style vest, but are on a budget than split skin is a great alternative because this type of leather allows us to keep the retail pricing very low. We try to offer a few of our popular selling vests in a split skin version to make it affordable to those that do not want to spend the extra money on the naked leather, but still want the popular style vest. Sometimes split skin is actually preferred; like during the summer when the split skin chaps will not be as heavy and hot as the cowhide chaps. Split leather is created from the fibrous part of the hide once the top grain has been separated from the hide. Split has an artificial layer added to the surface and is embossed with a leather grain. It is a much tougher feeling leather than that of a naked skin. You can find this split skin in our ECONOMY line of vests and they are CLEARLY marked “split skin”.


Thickness of Leather

In the most basic terms; the larger the number = the thicker the vest.
Example: A 0.5mm vest is a light weight leather, while a 0.9mm vest is a middle weight leather, and of course a 1.3mm vest is a heavy weight leather.

However in actuality, the “mm” has nothing to do with ruler measurements. Leather is measured by weight. 1 ounce of leather = 1/64 inch = 0.4mm. In theory, this measurement is based on the assumption that one square foot of leather will weigh a certain number of ounces and will be a certain uniform thickness.

I hope this page has helped your understanding of leather.


Why Use Our MCV GRADE™?

There are various types of leather, and when shopping online it can be difficult to determine the quality of a vest by the website pictures. Many sites will have a picture of a thick naked cowhide looking vest, but when you receive the vest you find that it is a very thin, hard, split-skin vest. Keep in mind that many sites will use the same image for a particular style vest regardless of what the vest is made of. Therefore if the manufacturer supplies two versions of the same vest (i.e., a premium and a rally version), there is usually only one picture used for both vests. So how can you determine the difference between vests online?... By using our grading system. :)

I'm a rider myself and before starting this business I recall how difficult it was to get exactly what I was looking for online. So I set up this MCV Grading System for all of the vests/jackets on our site to help riders make better decisions on their purchases. You can find the MCV Grade on the product page as well as when using the compare products feature. If you have any additional questions, please contact us and we can help. Thank you for visiting our site.