How to Tell Between Real and Fake Leather

How to Tell Between Real and Fake Leather

 Summary: Want to know if the leather you're looking at is real or fake? Read on. 

How Can You Tell Between Real and Fake Leather? 

In a world of cheap but clever imitations, how can you know if a leather is real or fake? Follow these tips to understand what you're looking for more fully.

Fake leather is also called faux leather, or man-made leather. It sits on the lowest tier of the pyramid. The types of leather that exist (there are five of them) are ranked hierarchically. 

5 Types of Leather

To know: The quality of the product goes down as you go down this list, with full grain leather being the best, and bonded leather being the worst: 1. Full Grain 2. Top Grain 3. Genuine Leather 4. Vegetable Leather 5. Bonded Leather

"If full grain is filet mignon steak, then bonded leather is a processed hot dog." 

The five types of leather leather care supply

 1. Full Grain 

The highest quality leather you can buy is called full grain leather and is made from the top layer of hide. If you look closely you should be able to see unique lines and crevices, since it is the skin of an animal and not uniformly made by a machine.

Full grain give the "full cut" of the animal, meaning you get the surface "outer hide" of the animal as well as the "inner hide." Unlike lower quality leathers, full grain leather doesn't go through the sanding or buffing process, leaving the hide in tact as much as possible. 

 2. Top Grain 

Top grain leather is basically full grain leather with the top layer of hide sanded away. This gives the leather a more uniform look than full grain leather, which can make it look similar to fake leather. However, you can still tell the difference by putting a drop of water on it. Real leather is porous and will quickly absorb the water, unlike fake leather.

real leather is porous and absorbs water fake leather does not absorb water

 3. Genuine Leather 

Genuine leather is made from the inner, lower quality layers of hide and sometimes blended with other leather scraps and bonding materials. Genuine leather is less durable than full grain or top grain, but it should still bend and stretch without cracking or breaking, unlike fake leather. The wrinkles in real leather, no matter the quality, should also shift and change color if you press them, while fake leather will remain unchanged.

 real leather shows skin wrinkles

 4. Vegetable Leather 

Vegetable leather is made from a blend of cotton and rubber. One of the best ways to tell if your item is made from fake leather is by smelling it. Real leather has a warm, musty, "leathery" smell, while fake leather will always smell a bit like the rubber and plastic that was used to produce it. In the case of vegetable leather, it is made from plant fibers, so don't count on a smell being there. 

 faux leather has no smell

Faux leather (or fake leather, as it's commonly called) has no smell. It smells like the rubber or plastic that was used to produce it. 

 5. Bonded Leather

We saved the worst for last.

Bonded leather is made from leather scraps that were ground into tiny pieces and attached to the back of a piece of fake leather, usually made from polyurethane. This creates a material that is mostly plastic and much less durable than real leather. One of the disadvantages of bonded is that it feels colder to the touch than real leather, which warms up easily

real leather heats up

Real leather should take on the temperature of your body.

Is it fake really? 

These days, manufacturing has gotten so good that even to the trained eye it can be hard to distinguish between real and fake leather. 


"You get what you pay for"

Generally, "you get what you pay for." And it only takes one look at a chic store to see that full grain and top grain leathers are the best; this is due to their resistance, look, flexibility, and tensile strength. They also smell like the real thing. 

How can you know if a leather is real or fake?

1. Look for imperfections; the more it looks perfectly even all throughout, the less natural. Animals, like humans, have flaws in their skin. 

is the leather real or fake

2. Press down on it to see if it wrinkles. If it wrinkles that's a good sign. 

3. Real leather absorbs water.

4. Does it smell like leather or plastic?

5. See if it warms up to your skin temperature; it should if it's genuine. 

Learn more about leather on our blog

> History of Leather

> Difference between suede and nubuck leather

> What is the best leather conditioner

> How to care for patent leather shoes


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  • Alex Pop
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