How to Distinguish between Genuine and Synthetic Leather

October 15, 2018

Finding quality leather can be a cumbersome and often confusing process. The market is, after all, full of leather look-alikes – cheap and synthetic quality leather that’s undergone low quality craftsmanship standards but looks practically as good as the real thing.

Here’s what you can do to help distinguish fake leather from 100% genuine leather:

How to Spot a Fake

A genuine leather product will always boast natural quality that’s meant to last ages. Anything altered or “custom built” by man will never have the level of quality or timelessness real leather does.

Always look for the words “full grain vegetable tanned” on your leather products, which states that the surface has remained untouched in order to retain the natural hide markings.

You would generally want to avoid products with the “genuine leather” stamp as these typically feature leather splits borrowed from the underside of skins with an artificial grain pattern stamped on top, and finally a painted surface coated over to look remarkably similar to full grain leather.

This can be very misleading as you’d be tempted to buy such products based on the look alone – however, understand that the hides will never be as soft or durable as full grain vegetable tanned leather, particularly one that’s handcrafted in Spain.

How to Determine Leather Quality

There are two factors that, more or less, determine the quality of leather goods: the tanning process and hide selection. Let’s discuss hide selection first, since you may be able to relate to it right away.

Hide Selection

The hide selection is all about the “cleanliness” of a leather good; e.g. how many natural marks there are on the hide. Leather finishes are usually graded and priced according to this hide cleanliness level, as well as the overall condition of the animal’s skin.

Premium full grain vegetable tanned leather ages beautifully as it forms a unique patina over time. 
As any noble woods, you may be able to appreciate some natural marks that are not to be deemed as defects but rather, a true statement of natural quality. 

So when it comes to hide selection, 100% wool felt, a natural fibre harvested from sheep, boasts top quality. It is a renewable and eco-friendly material that provides you with traditional care and protection. Due to its properties, edges can be left raw but they won’t fray.

Full grain leather is a highly saturated non-woven material that cannot be pulled apart. In addition, it has anti static and moisture resisting properties. It is also self-extinguishing, naturally repels soiling and feels quite soft to the touch.

The Tanning Process

Tanning refers to a process where animal skin is treated to produce leather that’s durable and adequately resistant to decomposition. Ultimately, if your leather product has undergone the right tanning and hide selection process, it should feel very soft and supple to the touch. The material should never feel like it’s made from anything that feels like rubber or plastic.

Harber London offers quality leather products for men who settle for nothing less than 100% genuine, full grain vegetable tan leather. Check out our luxurious leather goods for men collection and satisfy your desire for fine quality leather goods. 




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