If you’re looking for a new leather jacket or any other type of leather goods, you’re probably wondering whether you should invest in real leather or opt for the cheaper alternative, faux leather. Although faux leather and real leather have some similarities in terms of appearance and functionality, there are actually some key differences. Read our blog What’s The Difference: Faux Leather vs Real and discover the different types of faux leather and real leather, how to spot fake leather and the difference between real and faux leather.
What Is Faux Leather?
Faux leather, also known as artificial or synthetic leather is a manmade material designed to imitate real leather. Typically much more affordable than real leather, faux leather can be used for clothing, furniture, upholstery, accessories and much more.
Types Of Faux Leather
There are three main types of faux leather including PU leather (polyurethane), PVC leather (polyvinyl chloride) and silicone leather.
- PU Leather ((polyurethane): PU leather is made by applying a cover of plastic polyurethane or a polyurethane coating to a polyester fibre base. It has a similar texture to real leather but doesn’t contain any animal bi-products. As such 100% PU leather is considered vegan.
- PVC leather (polyvinyl chloride): PVC leather, also known as vinyl, is made out of a fabric leather backing, topped with a foam layer, skin layer and then a plastic-based surface coating.
- Silicone leather: Silicone leather, also known as silicone rubber leather is made from a base of silica gel combined with a base of ultra fine fibres and non-woven fabrics. Organic silicone leather is considered to be vegan as well as more sustainable.
What Is Real Leather?
Real leather is a natural material made from real animal skin that has been tanned or treated. Real leather is incredibly strong, flexible and durable and no two types of leather will ever be identical. The most common types of leather are derived from cattle, sheep, lamb, goats and pigs.
Types Of Real Leather
There are several types of leather including full grain leather, top grain leather, genuine leather and bonded leather.
- Full Grain Leather: Full grain leather is the highest quality leather you can purchase as it is taken from the strongest and most durable part of the hide. It is created from the outermost layer of the hide which just below the hair. Leather made from this part of the hide is incredibly long lasting and durable.
- Top Grain Leather: Top grade leather is the second highest quality leather. It is called ‘top’ grain leather simply because this is the area it is taken from. The very top layer of the hide is then sanded, buffed or shaved off. As a result, a fresh surface can be applied for a variety of finishes to create the desired final look.
- Genuine Leather: Genuine leather is considered a lower quality leather in comparison to full grain and top grain leather. Although it has a similar feel and look to real leather, genuine leather doesn’t have the same great quality and won’t last as long as top grain or full grain leather. Genuine leather is made by bonding several layers of lower quality leather together with glue. It is typically made from the left overs of other higher quality leathers and is usually used to make accessories such as belts and shoes.
- Bonded leather: Bonded leather is the lowest grade leather, as it is made using leather scraps and then manufactured to give a higher quality appearance. The durability of bonded leather is therefore the least superior grade on the market, has a shorter lifespan and is highly prone to peeling or cracking. Though it does have a considerably cheaper price tag because of its lesser quality and longevity.
For more information on the different types of leather, read our blog post What Are The Different Types Of Leather.
How To Tell Real Leather From Fake Leather
With so many leather imitations on the market it can be a challenge to tell the difference between real and faux leather. To ensure that you don’t end up with any lower quality leather alternatives, we’ve put together our top tips how to tell real leather from fake leather:
Faux Leather vs Real Leather: What Are The Differences?
You can tell the difference between real leather and faux leather by considering the appearance, durability, cost, sustainability, smell and fit.
1. Appearance and Texture
The appearance of real leather is more natural, grainy and has a matte finish. Faux leather, on the other hand, can have a variety of different textures and finishes that mimic the look of real leather but is generally much smoother and thinner.
Real leather is usually more prone to patina, which is the self-aging process that results in your leather becoming darker over time as it absorbs oils from your body and gets scuffed up by everyday use.
Faux leather will not patina as much because it doesn't absorb oil or get scuffed up as real leather does. However, you can use conditioning oil on faux-leather to give them a similar look to genuine-leather bags that have aged naturally over time!
One of the biggest differences between real leather and faux leather is the durability of both materials. Real leather is often used as a material for high-end shoes, jackets, and handbags because it's known to last longer than its synthetic counterpart.
While there isn't an exact lifespan for each type of material, experts agree that real leather typically lasts longer than faux leather. This can be attributed to its thickness, which allows it to withstand daily wear and tear more effectively than thinner pieces made from synthetic materials such as vinyl or plastic.
The difference in longevity also has something to do with the different chemicals used in their production processes. Unlike synthetic materials like vinyl, which can have a plastic feel when touched (but are still durable), real animal hides come from hides that are already incredibly tough so no extra work needs to be done before being turned into jackets or bags.
3. Cost Differences
As you can imagine, the cost of real leather is significantly higher than that of faux leather. The difference in cost also extends to other materials. For example, cotton and polyester are less expensive than real leather but more expensive than faux leather.
In general, if you're on a budget and want something that looks great but won't break the bank, faux leather will be your best bet. However, if you would prefer to invest in something that will last for years without fading or tearing, then going with real leather may be your best option!
Real leather is a by product of the meat industry. It's in the same category as vegans, who don't eat animal products for ethical reasons. Faux leather, on the other hand, is made from synthetic materials and is not a by product of any specific industry (although it's often derived from petroleum products).
Real leather tends to be more expensive than faux leather because it takes more time and skill to make it look good. Real leather also lasts longer than faux leather-which means if you're making an investment in your jacket or bag, you want them to last as long as possible!
Real leather has a distinct smell. The most obvious clue is the distinct scent of chemicals you'll notice when you walk into a furniture store or department store, but it's more than that. It smells like what it is: animal skin. And if you're buying real leather products, this scent should never be overwhelming or unappealing-it should just be there, in the background.
If you ever get the feeling that your new leather jacket is like an old cowhide rug (and not in a good way), don't worry - you aren't alone. In fact, many people who buy faux leather jackets are under the impression that they're buying real leather until they notice that it doesn't have quite as much character as they had hoped for.
Real leather is more comfortable than faux leather. This is because real leather is made from the hide of an animal, while faux leather isn't. The animal skin has a soft texture that feels good on your skin, even if it's a little warm in summer or cold in winter (depending on which country you're in).
It also absorbs sweat and moisture better than synthetic materials like vinyl and plastic-which means your shoes won't get wet or smelly as quickly. And because they feel good to wear, they'll last longer too! Not only do you get what you pay for when it comes to the quality and durability of leather, but you also get what you pay for when it comes to comfort and style.
Should You Buy Genuine Or Faux Leather?
While faux leather may be more affordable and easy to clean, it doesn't have the same durability or comfort as real leather. Real leather is sturdier, giving you the option of using it in areas where you need durability like your purse, jacket or shoes.
It also lasts longer than faux leather, so if you're looking for something that will last years instead of months, then go with a good quality real leather product.
The other benefit is that many manufacturers use recycled materials in their products so they are environmentally friendly as well! If getting your money's worth is more important to you, we highly suggest going with genuine leather as this material will last you years before you have to replace it again - unlike faux leather.