How to Know If Leather is Genuine

All things leather, like leather jackets, wallets, bags, accessories, and so on that are well-crafted and luxurious tend to be expensive. Therefore, you want to make sure that you are getting the genuine article and not faux leather.

The last thing you want is to pay genuine leather prices for a faux leather product. Learning how to identify whether leather is genuine or fake right on the spot can mean the difference between getting your money’s worth or getting ripped off.

It has gotten a lot harder in recent years as the manufacture of synthetic leather has seen advances and production improvements that make it a lot more similar to genuine leather. That synthetic leather has since flooded the market.

There’s nothing wrong with fake leather as long as you don’t have to pay the high price of a genuine leather product. Here are tips for learning how to tell the difference between genuine and fake leather.

Check the Label

This may be simplistic, but it can be your first step towards verifying whether the leather is genuine or fake. If it’s real, it’ll show on the leather that it’s “100% real leather,” or “genuine leather,” or “full/top grain leather.”

If it’s synthetic leather, the manufacturer is legally bound to state on the label that it’s made with “man-made material,” which is likely flexible polyvinyl chloride (PVC), even if it doesn’t explicitly state what material it is. It could also be some other synthetic polymer made to simulate leather.

Take note that if a product is made of genuine leather, the manufacturer will most likely be proud of that fact, thus they will say so on the label. Of course, that doesn’t mean fake leather products won’t do the scummy thing and try to pass themselves off as real leather. However, that’s also likely illegal and can land their manufacturers in deep trouble.

Take a Really Close Look

The next thing to do is to give it a closer visual inspection. Genuine leather is made of real animal skin, so it will have a distinct surface derived from the animal’s cellular structure. That’s something that synthetic polymers will never be able to replicate.

Since it’s a product from a natural material, it won’t have a completely uniform surface. That means it will have some blemishes and imperfections that are inherent with genuine leather. While that may sound bad for some people, those characteristics actually add character to the leather, thus making it more valuable as a result.

Meanwhile, fake leather looks a little too uniform and perfect. It will have a regular and even texture pattern through the entire surface, which means that it was likely created with a machine. Think of a faux grain pattern being applied to a synthetic surface, making it look close to genuine leather.

But upon closer inspection, it will actually look different from what’s real. Fake leather is mass produced, while genuine leather is hand-crafted, so you’re looking for signs that your leather was made with human hands and not a machine.

Another sign of real leather is that there are pores on it. As it comes from animal skin, it will still retain a lot of those characteristics, even if it has already been tanned and processed. If you see no pores whatsoever, it’s likely fake leather.

Feel the Leather

It’s not just about what you see, but also what you feel. Once again, since genuine leather is a natural product, it will feel very different from synthetic leather that has been processed by a machine. Just like with its visual features, genuine leather will have some minor inconsistencies that will indicate that it came from the skin of an animal.

Also, genuine leather has a bounce and stretchiness to it that synthetic materials will never be able to fully replicate. When you press your finger into genuine leather, you’ll see and feel it stretch and wrinkle a bit, much like skin, and it will bounce back when you let it go. 

Meanwhile, fake leather feels cold and unnatural to the touch. When you press on it, it doesn’t stretch or wrinkle. It just depresses under your finger while still retaining its shape, much like a soft plastic. Instead of feeling like a flexible material, it feels more like a wrapping.

Another sign is having two sides. Genuine leather has a shiny side and a suede side. After all, it came from skin, so there’s the outside portion and the inside portion. Meanwhile both sides of most fake leather tend to feel the same, even if they don’t look the same.

Smell the Leather

Incorporate another sense and smell the leather. If you’re familiar with genuine leather, you’d know that it has that signature leathery smell that synthetic leather will never get exactly right. Obviously, fake leather doesn’t have that. In fact, if you smell that familiar plastic factory smell you’d expect from new synthetic products, then that’s a dead giveaway.

That plasticky, chemical smell is from the synthetic polymers that are very similar to plastic. Even if it may look and feel like leather at first glance, it won’t be able to fool a sharp nose. On the other hand, when you smell genuine leather, you’ll know right away that it’s real.

It’s a smell that has drawn upon the primal instincts of human beings for thousands of years, so you’ll definitely know if it’s real.


There has always been an intangible value to genuine leather that’s hard to explain, but easy to understand. It’s a matter of “if you know, you know” that can only be truly comprehended when you’ve actually held a genuine leather product in your hand.

You can practice distinguishing between genuine leather and fake leather. Over time, you can get better at determining whether a leather product is genuine or fake in just a few seconds, but it will take some time to cultivate that skill.

It will require some practice and study in order to perfect. However, if leather products are truly important to you and you have a love for genuine leather, then it won’t take long before you become a master at identifying genuine leather.

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