How To Tell if Leather Is Real

October 20, 2023 6 min read

fake and real leather

Leather is a timeless material that exudes a sense of luxury and craftsmanship. Whether you're shopping for a leather jacket, wallet, or sofa, it's essential to know how to distinguish real lambskin leather from its synthetic counterparts. The allure of genuine leather lies in its durability, unique texture, and the way it ages beautifully over time. To help you make informed choices and avoid getting fooled by faux leather, let's delve into the art of differentiating real from fake leather.

Identifying Real vs. Fake Leather

Press into the Leather, Looking for Creases and Wrinkles

Real Leather with Wrinkles

One of the first things you can do to determine if leather is real is to give it the touch test. Real leather has a unique suppleness and flexibility. When you gently press your fingers onto it, you'll notice creases and wrinkles forming. These natural imperfections are characteristic of genuine leather, as it comes from animal hides that have unique textures. In contrast, faux leather tends to remain smooth and uniform, lacking the natural variations found in real leather.

Carry Out a Smell Test

Smelling real leather

The smell of leather is unmistakable and one of its most distinctive features. Real leather emits a rich, earthy scent that is difficult to replicate. To perform a smell test, bring the leather item close to your nose and take a whiff. Authentic leather should have a genuine, pleasant aroma that is reminiscent of the animal hide it originated from. On the other hand, synthetic leather often gives off a chemical or plastic-like odor, which is a telltale sign that it's not the real deal.

Check the Grain

Examining the grain pattern is another effective method for determining the authenticity of leather. Real leather will have a distinct grain pattern that varies depending on the type of animal hide used. For example, cowhide typically features a coarse and pebbly grain, while lamb or goat leather may have a finer grain. Inspect the surface closely to identify these unique textures. Faux leather, on the other hand, tends to have a more uniform and artificial-looking surface, lacking the natural grain patterns found in genuine leather.

Perform a Flame Test

Flame test on leather jacket

This test should be conducted with caution and is best suited for small lambskin leather jackets scraps or inconspicuous areas of a leather item. To perform a flame test, use a small, inconspicuous piece of leather and hold it with a pair of metal tongs. Carefully ignite the edge of the leather with a flame. Real leather will not catch fire easily; instead, it will smolder and emit a distinctive odor of burnt hair or flesh. Synthetic leather, being made of plastic, will ignite quickly and produce a strong chemical odor.

Genuine Leather and Faux Leather Have Different Edges

Inspect the edges of the leather item closely. In real bomber leather jackets for men, the edges should exhibit a fibrous and slightly rough texture. This is because genuine leather is made from animal hides, and the edges typically consist of multiple layers that become visible when cut. Faux leather, on the other hand, often has clean and smooth edges, as it is manufactured from synthetic materials that can be precisely cut and sealed.

Look for it to Change Color Slightly in Real Leather

When you press your fingers into real leather and then release, you may notice a slight color change where you applied pressure. This phenomenon, known as "pull-up," occurs because genuine leather has a high oil content, which causes it to temporarily darken when stretched or compressed. Synthetic leather does not exhibit this characteristic color change, making it easier to distinguish from the real thing.

Drop a Small Amount of Water on the Good, as Real Leather Absorbs Moisture

Water can be a useful tool for identifying real leather. Real leather is porous and capable of absorbing moisture, while faux leather is not. To perform this test, place a small drop of water on an inconspicuous area of the leather item and observe how it reacts. If the water is absorbed, leaving a darkened spot, it's likely real leather. In contrast, if the water beads up and remains on the surface without being absorbed, it's probably synthetic.

Real Leather Goods are Rarely Ever Cheap

It's important to remember that real leather is a premium material, and its production involves significant costs. Therefore, if you come across a mens leather racer jackets product with an unusually low price tag, be cautious. While occasional sales or discounts can offer genuine leather goods at more affordable prices, extremely cheap leather items are often a red flag for faux leather. Quality leather craftsmanship comes at a price, so if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Ignore Color, as Even Colored Leathers Can Be Genuine

Contrary to popular belief, the color of leather does not necessarily indicate its authenticity. Leather can be dyed in a wide range of colors, and both real and faux leather can come in various shades. So, don't rely solely on color as a determining factor. Instead, focus on the other characteristics mentioned above to assess whether the leather is genuine or synthetic.

Knowing the Different Types of Real Leather

Identifying real leather is not just about confirming its authenticity but also understanding the various types of genuine leather available. Different animals' hides yield distinct types of leather, each with its own unique qualities.

Full-Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is the highest quality and most natural form of leather. It retains the complete grain pattern and imperfections of the animal hide, giving it a rich, textured appearance. Full-grain leather is incredibly durable and develops a beautiful patina over time, making it a popular choice for high-end products like leather jackets, belts, and furniture.

Top-Grain Leather

Top-grain leather is slightly lower in quality than full-grain but is still a high-quality option. It is obtained by sanding away the top layer of full-grain leather to remove imperfections. This results in a smoother surface but retains some of the natural grain patterns. Top-grain leather is often used for luxury leather goods, including wallets, handbags, and upholstery.

Genuine Leather

Genuine leather is a term that can be somewhat misleading. While it is indeed real leather, it is typically made from the lower layers of the hide, which may be less durable and have a less attractive appearance than full-grain or top-grain leather. Genuine leather is commonly used in less expensive products like inexpensive belts or mass-produced furniture.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is made from scraps of leather that are bonded together using adhesive. While it contains some real leather, it is predominantly composed of synthetic materials. Bonded leather is less durable and less authentic than other types of leather, often used in low-cost furniture or accessories.

Exotic Leathers

In addition to the common types of leather mentioned above, there are exotic leathers obtained from animals like alligators, crocodiles, snakes, and ostriches. These leathers have unique textures and are highly sought after for luxury products, but they come at a premium price.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can you tell if something is 100% leather?

To determine if an item is 100% leather, you can perform various tests, including the touch test, smell test, examining the grain, and conducting a water absorption test. Additionally, checking the label or asking the manufacturer for information about the material can provide confirmation.

How can you tell the quality of leather?

The quality of leather is often determined by factors like the type of leather (full-grain, top-grain, genuine, bonded), the tanning process, and the craftsmanship. High-quality leather typically has a natural grain pattern, is durable, and develops a patina over time.

Which leather is pure?

Full-grain leather is considered the purest form of leather, as it retains the complete grain pattern and imperfections of the animal hide. It is the most natural and highest-quality type of leather available.

Does 100% leather mean real leather?

Yes, 100% leather means that the item is made entirely of real leather. However, it's essential to distinguish between the different types of real leather, such as full-grain, top-grain, and genuine leather, as they vary in quality and characteristics.

In conclusion, being able to identify real leather is a valuable skill that can help you make informed purchasing decisions and ensure you're getting the quality you desire. By using a combination of touch, smell, visual examination, and simple tests, you can confidently differentiate between genuine leather and its synthetic counterparts. Additionally, understanding the various types of real leather available allows you to choose the right leather product to suit your needs and preferences. So, the next time you're shopping for leather goods, remember these tips and embrace the enduring allure of genuine leatther.