Just because a jacket sold at a local retail store looks like it’s made of leather doesn’t necessarily mean that it is. Some companies sell jackets, shirts, pants and fashion accessories that are made of fake leather. Also known as faux leather, it’s typically made of a synthetic man-made material that mimics the appearance of leather. But if you’ve ever worn or felt faux leather before, you probably know that it pales in comparison to the real thing. Nonetheless, many people struggle to differentiate the two, especially if they are unfamiliar with faux leather. So, how do you tell if a leather is genuine and real?
The Moisture Test
One of the easiest ways to tell if leather is genuine is to place a single drop of water on it. Known as the moisture test, this is intended to check and see if the leather absorbs or repels the water droplet. Assuming the leather is real and genuine, it should absorb the water droplet. Although you can’t see it, leather contains thousands of small pores — like wood — that absorb or release moisture depending on the surrounding environment. When directly exposed to moisture, it will absorb it into these pores. Therefore, you can usually tell if leather is real or fake by placing a single droplet of water on it. If it’s real, the water will quickly absorb into the leather. If it’s fake, the water droplet will repel and roll off the leather.
When performing the moisture test, only use a single droplet of water. You should never saturate genuine leather with excess moisture, as this may damage it. Faux leather, however, generally repels moisture instead of absorbing it. Of course, certain varieties of faux leather may absorb moisture to some degree, so you can’t rely strictly on this test to determine whether leather is real or fake. For a more complete and thorough identification, you’ll need to combine the moisture test with the other methods listed below.
You can also tell if leather is real by smelling it. Genuine leather has a distinct, natural odor that some people compare to wood chips. On the other hand, synthetic fake leather smells like synthetic plastic and chemicals. This makes sense considering the fact that synthetic leather is made using a variety of harsh chemicals, whereas genuine leather is natural. If you’re shopping for a leather jacket or any other leather item in person, take a few minutes to smell it. Does it smell natural and earthy? Or does it smell like it’s riddled with chemicals? If the latter is true, it’s probably made of fake leather, in which case you should skip it and move on to the next product.
As with most garments, leather jackets and other leather items usually contain a care label. You can typically find this label inside the back of the collar, where it reveals the manufacturer’s recommendations for cleaning and caring for the item. Additionally, however, the care label should reveal what fabric and materials the item is made of. Whether it’s genuine or faux leather, you should be able to find this information listed on the care label.
Unfortunately, however, you can’t rely on the care label to determine if leather is genuine with 100% accuracy. There are some companies out there that intentionally mislabel their products to deceive customers. Even if a leather jacket or product says “Made of 100% genuine leather” on the care label, it could actually be made of synthetic materials.
Inspect the Surface for ‘Grain’
There are a few other steps you can take to determine if leather is real or fake, including looking for the grain. Genuine leather has a natural grain texture on the surface that’s uneven and somewhat random. Faux leather also has a grain, though it’s usually even and symmetrical. When inspecting leather, look closely at the surface to determine if the grain is natural or artificial. An artificially created grain is a tall-tale sign of faux leather, whereas a natural grain indicates genuine leather. Keep in mind that some faux leather products do a pretty good job as replicating the appearance of a real grain, so look closely for imperfections. Natural imperfections are usually found in real leather but not faux.
No, that’s not a typo. You can further distinguish between real and faux leather by bending it. When holding the leather in your hand, try bending the fabric. If it’s real, it should change color and wrinkle naturally. If it’s fake, it will maintain its chemically altered color while keeping a harder and more crisp texture. Real leather is somewhat pliable, and because of this, it tends to bend more easily under pressure. The same cannot be said for faux leather, however, as it’s hard, stiff and difficult to bend.
To recap, you can usually tell if leather is genuine by performing several basic tests, including the moisture droplet test, the smell test, the bend test, inspecting the surface for natural leather grains, and reading the care label. Alternatively, you can rest assured knowing that you are getting 100% genuine leather by ordering your leather products here at LeatherCult. We offer only the highest quality genuine leather goods and accessories. Whether you’re looking for a leather jacket, shirt, pants, etc., we can help.
Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how to tell if leather is real or fake. It’s frustrating when you buy a new leather jacket or accessory, only to discover later that it’s made of fake/faux materials. To avoid this headache, use the testing methods listed above. Or when all else fails, order your leather products from the leather experts here at LeatherCult.