How to Tell the Difference Between Real and Faux Leather
  • Vote Up0Vote Down jasonchenjasonchen May 1
    Posts: 1,322

    If you're not a fan of leather goods, most of the time you can't tell the difference between a real and a fake leather.
    In general, fake leather (or synthetic, artificial, human-made leather) is made of plastic compound and its identity is naturally reflected in the price tag.
    You may have already known this:                             Genuine Leather is never cheap.
    However, there are times when a premium priced leather good may appear dubious.
    For example, a new or a relatively unknown label that claims to use genuine leather in their bags. A "Made in Italy" or a "Genuine Leather" tag inside the bag can't really guarantee their statement.
    Before you seek for the advice of experts, here are a few quick tips you can try:
    Real Leather Doesn't Smell Like Plastic
    Real leather is made of real animal skin. It should smell like a skin, and it never smell like a plastic, even when it's still a new bag.

    Real Leather looks like Skin
    Scrutinize the leather and if you see uneven pattern on the leather, it's most likely a real leather. Real skin is not perfect.
    Real skin has pores, and the texture varies on different spot of the fabric, just like your skin.
    A fake leather will look "too perfect" in comparison. You should be able to notice almost identical pattern and texture across the surface.
    Real Leather feels like Skin
    Touch and feel the leather with your hands. The smoothness should be very pleasant, as if you're touching a skin.
    Related to the previous point, the texture on the leather should feel natural, not "bumpy".

    Real Leather Wrinkles
    Try to flex or pinch the leather. Real leather should wrinkle according to your pressure, while fake leather will stay the same. Fake leather is similar to Botox-injected faces: they won't wrinkle naturally when they smile.

    Real Leather vs. Faux Leather Wallets

    While faux or artificial leather wallets have a glossy finish, and in some instances the soft texture of genuine leather, they do not have the durability of real leather. However, faux is less expensive and with careful usage can last a long time. Genuine leather develops a soft sheen, referred to as patina, with constant usage. Genuine leather is more pliable and can withstand more folding but faux leather is easier to maintain. The sheen on genuine leather increases with age while faux leather may strip or peel. Owing to its poly exterior, faux is not easily stained but does not possess the scope for refurbishing. Genuine leather stains easily, but can be refurbished. The chart below discusses several of these.

    Leather Type



    Real Leather

    All natural fibres

    Develops its own protective sheen (patina) with constant handling

    Durable and breathable

    More pliable



    Animal by-product


    Difficult to clean


    May crack if not properly maintained

    Faux leather

    Animal friendly (man made material)

    Easier to clean

    Less expensive

    Available in more colours


    UV resistant

    Does not fade easily

    Not durable

    Strips or peels with age

    Cannot withstand rough handling

    Flammable, melts in heat

    Less breathable

    Difficult or impossible to refurbish

    Easily pierced

    The chart above provides a comparison of both faux and genuine leather to help buyers choose the type of material they need for the item they want. Depending on the use, appearance, and strength requirements, either real or faux leather might be more appropriate.

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