It's always a nice feeling to be able to treat yourself to a real leather wallet, belt or even something more current like a real leather iPhone case or new wallet. The problem is that the counterfeit leather industry is always busy finding new ways to trick people into buying their fake leather products. What we'd like to share with you here today are our 5 best tips for spotting fake leather products.
1. The Smell Test
Almost everyone in the world can likely recognize the smell that comes from products made from leather. While this smell can be replicated, it's not an easy task to do so and most manufacturers of fake leather goods don't bother to go to that extreme as most of their focus is on creating low cost goods in high volumes. So, while it may seem a bit quirky, the first thing you can do to start deciding if your product is made from real leather is smell it. If it has a cheap plastic smell or smells of rubber or chemicals, it's likely fake.
2. Real Leather Sticker
This might sound like stating the obvious but unless there's a sticker or an imprint somewhere on the product, or perhaps guarantees included with the product you intend to buy that clearly states it's real leather then you already know you might dealing with a fake. Any product that carries the "Real Leather" sticker needs to be made up of at least 50% genuine leather. Granted a sticker can be faked but never overlook the obvious signs when you're trying to spot artificial leather products.
3. Check The Seams
Even the highest quality authentic leather products will have somewhat rough edges around the seams and you might even find some imperfections at these points too. This happens because real leather doesn't come with clean edges (due to the nature in which the hides are harvested and processed) so ideally you should be able to feel rough edges in or near the seams of the wallet, belt or boots themselves. Fake leather products are generally made from PVC and are printed in large sheets that stitch together with no imperfections - the more perfect the leather product seems to be the more likely it is to be fake.
4. Check the Texture
There are two ways to check the texture of the leather to ensure it's real. The first way is to check the surface of the product for skin pores - cows and other animals have skin pores in the same way that humans do, so these pores should be clearly visible on closer inspection. Again a real hide would also have some minor imperfections in the skin from the tanning process whereas fake leather will have a uniform and flawless texture throughout - this is impossible with genuine leather.
You'll also need to check the texture of the leather at the rear side but this is generally only possible where the product has a lining that you can separate with your fingers or an area where in the product's construction, the back of the leather was left exposed. If you can actually pull the lining away from the leather itself (without tearing it obviously) you should be able to feel a rough texture in the case of real leather. In the case of fake leather you'll feel either a smooth fabric texture or something that feels like plastic to the touch.
5. Too Good Of A Deal To Be True?
Producing genuine leather products takes the work of an artisan and many hours of actual work so if you're getting what are purported to be genuine leather products at 50% or less of what you'd expect to pay in any store then those same leather good are either stolen or fake. Use your common sense and gut instinct - they're part of your physiology for a reason. If it sounds too good to be true then you can be sure it is.
One last note is that real leather will not catch fire when exposed to a naked flame but hopefully you'll never have to take your testing that far!
Tom Barrington is a manufacturer and retailer of small leather goods and accessories with years of experience in many types of leathers.