From wallet to purse to belt to shoes, leather is a widely used material for both men and women’s fashion. Not only that, leather is also used for sofa and car seats.
The popularity of leather as a material of choice for various goods is easily explainable. Leather is durable, easy to maintain and when it is coated, it is usually stain-proof and waterproof as well. Leather also gives off classy and luxurious feels.
However, genuine leather is expensive, therefore many industries, both in fashion and furniture, like to compromise the use of genuine leather for the synthetic one.
Synthetic leather gives the same appearance and texture as genuine leather but in much cheaper price, therefore it is quite as popular as leather; although it still can’t offer the same durability and longevity of genuine leather.
Let’s find out the difference between genuine and synthetic leather.
What is Genuine Leather made of?
Genuine leather or simply real leather is made from animal skin, usually cow, sheep or goat. The skin will then undergo a process of preparation, tanning and crusting.
Sometimes, leather producers also add additional layer of coating after the leather is ready, and this process is called finishing.
There are different types of genuine leathers; they are aniline leather, semi-aniline leather and pigmented leather.
Aniline leather is the purest form of leather. It is usually not coated with any substance, so the marking on the surface will look very clear. As a result, aniline leather will be vulnerable to scratch, wetness, stain and sunlight.
Semi-aniline leather is the next purest form of leather. It has coating, but only a light one and usually it is for the purpose of protection, rather than decorative. Consequently, semi-aniline leather will show less marking compared to aniline leather, but it will be stronger against scratch, wetness, stain and sunlight.
Just like its name suggest, pigmented leather has a layer of pigment on its surface. The pigment can be both protective and decorative. When it is the latter, the pigment will give off shiny appearance or even colored. Therefore, it looks a lot less like leather, even if it is. However, pigmented leather will give more durability compared to the other two.
What is Synthetic or Faux Leather made of?
Faux leather or synthetic leather is a leather-like material made from fabric that is treated with dye, wax, or polyurethane. The end result will look a lot like real leather, only without the same quality.
Faux leather is utilized quite a lot to reduce the production cost for other goods that uses leather.
There are different types of faux leather as well, depending on what they are made of. However, there are two kinds of faux leather that are used the most:
PU Leather or Polyurethane Leather
PU leather is made of split leather (the fibrous part of the leather that has been separated from the hide) and polyurethane coating. However, the PU coating will be very thick and the split leather will be completely hidden from the surface. Due to this, PU leather has versatile uses, from clothing to furniture to accessories.
PVC Leather or Polyvinyl Chloride Leather
PVC leather is made from polyvinyl chloride, the same material that is used to make plastic for your plumbing pipes. PVC leather is light, stain-proof and waterproof as well. However, PVC leather is prone to tear compared to other type of leather. When used for clothing material, it is not breathable, so you will feel hot and sticky inside.
Difference between Genuine and Synthetic (faux) Leather
The difference between genuine leather and faux leather lies in the durability and longevity.
Genuine leather has protein from the raw skin that has been put through tanning process, so the end result is a stable yet flexible material that is suitable for various uses.
Faux leather is usually made with fabric-based material, so it won’t be as sturdy as genuine leather. Faux leather usually has 1/3 of genuine leather’s lifespan.
However, in term of appearance, genuine leather and faux leather look almost the same. This can be confusing when you want to purchase genuine leather and you don’t want to be scammed or confused into buying faux leather instead.
Therefore, being able to distinguish between genuine leather and faux leather becomes an important skill to have.
To be able to distinguish them, you will have to pay attention for small and minute details in the leather itself.
Before sniffing the leather to check of its genuineness, you may want to check the label first. Usually, label for good leather goods will give you information whether the leather is genuine or faux.
Usually, the label won’t plainly state “real leather” or “faux leather”, but rather on the specific type of the leather, like “top grain” or “PU”. However, if you can’t find any label or you simply don’t trust the label, check the other tips below.
Run your hand through the leather and feel the texture. Real leather will have varying texture from coarse to smooth, but usually it won’t be extra smooth. If you get a feeling like you’re running your hand through plastic, then it’s more likely a faux leather than genuine leather.
Because genuine leather is made from a once living creature, when you touch it your will get the feeling of touching something warm. Faux leather, on the other hand, will feel cold and lifeless under your touch.
Leather has a distinct smell – one that comes naturally from the material. Fabric, however, doesn’t have such natural scent. Sniff the leather to catch the smell and you can tell whether it’s genuine leather or not.
Genuine leather is a natural product therefore it is pretty rare to find two pieces of leather with the same pore patterns. Faux leather, however is mass-produced and therefore will have an evenly spaced pore patterns.
Faux leather stretch wider than genuine leather does. However, genuine leather has better elasticity. When you press your finger on genuine leather, it will spring back to its original shape easily. Faux leather, however, will retain the shape of your finger for some time.
Does real Leather burn?
There is this believe that real leather doesn’t burn. In fact, real leather does burn, just not as well as faux leather.
Faux leather responds easily to fire. Even when the flame barely touches it, faux leather will immediately curl, blacken and even start smelling like burned plastic.
Genuine leather burns in high intensity of fire; however with small flames it is usually resistant. It will take time for genuine leather to deform or blacken. When it burns, it will smell like your hair catching fire instead of burned plastic.
Men’s Leather goods and accessories
Now that you know how to differentiate genuine leather from the fake one, you’re ready to shop. What leather good should you purchase that will be useful? Check out our recommendation below.
Wallet is men’s fashion statement. You will feel really good about yourself if you can pull out your money from an incredibly stylish, elegant, expensive-looking wallet. Leather will enhance the feeling of these three characteristic in your wallet. That’s why leather wallet has always been popular for men.
Want to carry a backpack but doesn’t want to look like college student? Leather backpack is your answer. Carrying a leather backpack with simplistic design will make you look mature instead of boyish. Not only that, leather backpack will offer you extra protection for things you’ve stored inside.
For businessman, briefcase is a must have item. You will spend quite a lot of time with it, carrying it during commuting or when you’re meeting client. For the latter purpose, leather briefcase will give you an impression of classy, elegant and professional look.
Living in this era of digital technology, you will definitely have lots of gadget in hands. Whether it is a laptop, a tab, a smartphone, or other innovative newest gadgets, you will need a case for them. Gadgets are quite fragile, but it often cost a lot and are highly valuable. A leather case will offer your gadget, not only class and elegant appearance, but protection against scratch, stain and water as well.
If you feel leather pants are too uncomfortable but still want to look stylish, just add the leather element in your belt. Belts may look insignificant, but if it is a high quality one, it will still shine and enhance your overall appearance.
Are you a biker or a man with style, leather jackets doesn’t go out of fashion. You can wear it for your work or riding in long weekends. It is a classic piece of fashion which always adds to glamour and coolness.
This is a small guide which can help you to identify real and genuine leather. If you want to add any new tips, let us know through comments.