Throughout the history of the world leather has been an important part of men’s & women’s journey through life. From keeping warm and protected from the elements, covering tents or using as a bag or leather carry all to keep things in.
Until as recently as 100 years ago you could be sure of buying and using leather that was real, genuine and would grow and change over time just like us. With advances in science and manufacturing artificial leathers are being made and sold in everything from bags, journals, seats and clothing.
How to spot real versus fake leather
The key to understanding whether the leather your looking to purchase is real leather or man made is in understanding the different types of leather available. Generally you will find leather products to be made up of one of three different qualities, full grain leather, top grain leather and genuine leather.
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is the made from the top layer of the animals hide and is considered the top quality of leather available. Full grain leather is beloved for its natural look, you will be able to see imperfections in the leather that naturally occurred to the animal throughout its life. It is also sought after because full grain leather ages and changes over time as it reacts to the environment around it and the use that you put it through.
Top Grain Leather
This is the type of leather you will see in most mid-range leather products. Top grain leather makes up many purses, wallets and clothing items that are made of leather. Unlike full grain leather, top grain is sanded down and has a ‘shinier’ look that is free of the scarring and imperfections found in full grain.
Top grain leather still ages well but will end with a different look than full grain leather. The fibres of top grain leather are weaker than full grain and will wear down more quickly with heavy use.
Products made with genuine leather are on the low end of leather goods. While they are still made of real leather it is made up of the bottom layer of the animal hide and so it is structurally weaker and less aesthetically pleasing than full and top grain leather.
Genuine leather is often refinished with a spray to achieve a look similar to full grain and top grain but will age very quickly and poorly. Think of cheap leather belts, shoes and bags as genuine leather.
HOW TO DETERMINE LEATHER QUALITY
This refers to how clean the leather is in line with the amount of natural marks or imperfections on the hide. Leather products are checked and graded based on the cleanliness of the hide and the overall health state of the animal’s skin.
This is a process where animal skins are being treated to produce leather. Tanning process can make leather products more durable and less vulnerable to decaying. Quality leather has a soft, supple touch and does not resemble synthetic material.
What to look out for with fake leather
First and foremost, follow the rule that high quality products, leather especially, will carry a higher price. Quality leather goods will age well and be durable for years, they will grow with you and are worth investing in. If you see a deal for leather bags that is too good to be true, it probably is.
Bonded leather is another type of leather but it is made from the dust and shavings of higher quality leather. It is glued and pressed together to create a leather imitation. While technically leather, steer clear and look for quality.
Artificial or synthetic leather is tacky and hard to the touch. Real leather is soft, supple and has character. If you see leather items that feel ‘off’ you can be sure it’s not real.
Leather is an investment so when you are looking to purchase a leather bag, journal, jacket or rock-star leather pants keep in mind that the piece will stay with you for years. Look for quality, a timeless style and something you will be happy to have and use for the next 10 years.