How is Real Leather Different from Genuine Leather?

Many will agree, leather is a fascinating subject that serves as an opportunity for great learning. Whether this be; regarding the different types of leather or processes involved in achieving a certain finish, look and quality of leather product, best suited to the purpose it serves.

As with all subjects, leather too has its fair share of misconceptions that give rise to confusion. Especially for people looking to make a smart purchase, but have no idea what to look for or expect to find within potential purchases, what with all the mislabeling and misinformation lurking around. Here we bust a few of these misconceptions and clear any kind of doubt there may be. So let’s get started.

Real Leather vs Genuine Leather

While real leather is self-explanatory i.e. actual rawhide and skin, made into leather products. Genuine leather has many confused, starting from its name ‘genuine’ which not only means that it is also real leather, but more importantly is the lowest grade or quality of real leather. This means that one of the major differences between real and genuine leather is initially based on choice. Yes that’s right! Genuine leather is based on selection and is totally up to the consumer on whether this type of leather suits the utility of the product or not. For instance, it would be okay to have a belt made of genuine leather as you wouldn’t mind replacing it after some time as it is inexpensive and not something you’d expect to have long-term. A bag or jacket on the other hand, would be considered an investment, hence the quality would need to be top-notch which is where real leather steps in.

Real leather in its purest form shows grain, scratches or any imperfections found in any real skin or hide.
A closeup of a real leather jacket available at The Jacket Maker

This brings us to another difference between real leather and genuine leather and that is the price points for each. While real leather would be found pricier always and often in quality conscious department stores you will find them at fixed prices, genuine leather is a lot cheaper regardless where it is being purchased from. On a much more substantial level, goods marked as genuine leather will always be identified by the several layers of low quality leather pieces bonded together with glue and then painted to look like a better-quality leather. It’s what is leftover when the other, higher grades of leather are stripped away. It is key to note that all big brands focused on selling high-end products, yes; luxe included, all use real leather or the highest grade of real leather which is full grain or even top grain which are the top two.

Real leather being the purest form which very often if not always, includes imperfections as in scars, grain, scratches and yes even hair. After all, hide and skin of animals aren’t different from any skin; humans included. Hence it can be identified even by smell. Many may cringe at the thought of imperfections and wrinkles or even grain and hair let alone smell, when dealing with say custom leather jackets or apparel, however wrinkles and scars are actually what you want to have, these are good and help you identify the leather that is used so you know it is not genuine leather or even faux. Due to this being rawhide or skin, real leather also has a rigid quality that makes working with this type, more time consuming and at times difficult. A fun fact is that real leather has a tendency to age well. Much like wine, the older it gets the better it looks. Over time a distinct patina is visible that gives the product a very rich and luxurious look.

Genuine leather is the third type of finish that indicates a rough and unattractive surface.
Genuine leather is the third grade of leather

Did you know?

Genuine leather is also called corrected grain which cues in our next point. Usually found being used in belts, bags and shoes, genuine leather aka corrected grain gets its name from the ‘correction’ that the leather undergoes to achieve a particular look that is reserved to the genuine leather family. The grain on genuine leather is artificially applied to the surface and all imperfections that once existed are sanded away or corrected which ultimately gives the artificial grain a more embossed look. Corrected grain leathers can be bought in either semi-aniline or pigmented finishes.

Try to Remember

As much as there is misinformation circulating around the web, so too will you find many products being passed off as real leather when in fact they are not. Also be warned of labeling. If the label says man-made that means it’s faux, if there is no label indicating leather type, this could mean the manufacturer wants to conceal possible facts about the leather being genuine instead of real. In which case it is best to ask before you purchase. Sometimes a label or two is often lost and is indeed real leather, which makes this next tip all the more interesting. Most manufacturers have gotten so skilled that several products can be found to mimic real leather, which makes any kind of online purchase, solely based on imagery a potential walk in the dark.

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