8 Ways to Identify Faux Leather

Identify Faux Leather

8 Ways to Identify Faux Leather

They say there’s no more originality. Everything’s derived from something else, a hodgepodge mishmash of other people’s ideas derived from other people’s ideas on top of them. The present is a mirror to the past. Or an embarrassing, old driver’s license photo from your years as a scruffy-faced teen. Ugh, don’t take me back.

I’m really not here to talk pithy existentialism. Today the big bad’s going to be imitation leather – more commonly known as “faux leather.”

Whether or not you’re in with the look (and I’m wagering you are if you’re reading this blog), leather’s caused quite a stir in the fashion biz. Although it was more of a practical thing way back, when Inuits wore wolf skins to survive frigid winter weather, leather’s place has evolved in society, becoming as much of a fashion statement as it is a material for clothing, sofas, handbags and the like. Whether you are looking at the classic biker jacket, the Native American moccasins, or the entire cowboy shebang, leather sends a message. People liked this message so much, in fact, they decided they’d imitate it.

Enter faux leather. Usually leather like this is made from a plastic material. Like a lot of plastic things, these imitation leathers were able to loosely mimic leather aesthetics in return for a cheaper buck. Until they fell apart, anyway. Fortunately, faux leather has come a long way, but it’s still far from competing with real leather in a broad sense. You’ll most likely encounter this kind of leather as the merchandise with the lower price tag. Remember this very simple rule: you get what you pay for. If you’re unsure how to discern between faux and authentic leather, we cooked up this nifty guide to help you out. Here are 8 different ways you can tell whether you are looking at faux leather.


This is probably the easiest way. Ask the vendor what material was used to put this beautiful piece of work together, and they’ll usually have an idea. In the event they’re in the black, we have plenty of other ways to make this animal talk.


Faux leather have a hard time shaking plastic off. No matter how much they can imitate the look of real leather, the texture is something a mite bit trickier. As such, if the leather you’re touching is smooth and plastic feeling to an excessive degree, the leather you are touching isn’t likely to be leather. You should be aware that many leathers come with a protective finish known as a pigment, which can feel similar to faux leather, and is often difficult to tell apart. In general, leather should feel a bit more supple, flexible and tough. If you’re still unsure, you can try looking at the…


Since faux leather is all about uniformity, the edges aren’t going to look terribly different from the rest of the surface. It’ll have an almost foamy touch, feel flat and plastic-like. Leather, on the other hand, will feel rougher, like animal hide. Naps (tiny fibers) should be felt, giving you a tickling, luxurious sensation.


The most common way to discern between authentic and artificial leather is to smell what you’ve got. Faux leathers have a difficult time shaking off their rubbery smell. When you sniff real leather, it should harken back to pastures, wilds and the peaceful bucolic life. It should smell like an animal. Some faux leather producers are starting to realize this is a problem, and try to artificial our noses as well. Don’t worry. It’ll wear out.


Leather doesn’t stretch. There’s a reason hide’s been such a versatile and invaluable tool to human civilizations for thousands of years. It’s a brazen material that’s stood the test of time and can take more hits than textiles can dream of taking. Go ahead and try pulling that leather in front of you apart. If it gives, you can be sure you aren’t holding real leather. Unless you’re Superman.


Leather remembers. The nice thing about full grain leather in particular is that they’ll keep all the scars and unique patterns they had when they were sitting on a living animal. Everything it picks up afterwards is a testament to the life you’ll live with it. Go ahead and try to leave an indentation with your fingernail. Unlike faux leather, it won’t be disappearing as soon as you pull your finger off. Do it too hard, and it might be sticking there a while longer.


Speaking of scars and patterns – what I just said above. Leather – at least full grain leather, has the nice advantage of individuality. It’s like Starfleet vs the Borg. Faux leather is efficient in its own way – but they’re all the same. When you pick up something made of real leather, know that you’re picking up something that’s unlike anything else in the world. Every strip has its own unique story, aesthetic and need that give you an experience you won’t see coming. Leather doesn’t just grow on you, see – it grows with you.


This is how leather breathes. You can read about that in detail here. Long story short, leather’s breathability is what sets it apart most from faux leather. Moisture passes through pores and back out through the surface, making it particularly useful for clothing. Don’t worry about sweat building up on a hot, summer day. Leather’s pores give moisture leeway to travel right through your jacket and back out the other side, keeping you comfy and cool even with a blazing fireball breathing down your neck. Leather notorious prowess in insulation means you won’t be struggling in winter weather either – Inuits wore this stuff in the Arctic to stay alive in temperatures under -30°F. So when you take a peak into these constellations of tunnels where all the magic happens, you’ll see they’re as sporadic and random as the night sky itself. For typical faux leather, it’s a little less interesting. Everything’s tidy and evenly aligned. Confounded factory production line. Fortunately, there are more and more pleasant exceptions these days.

Matter of Taste

All this aside, faux leather is still a decent material that can be quite popular. From the inexpensive PVC leather to the environmentally-conscious polyurethane, there are benefits any direction you go. However, if you want something with a soft touch, a sturdy build, personal flair and a distinguished style – go with legit leather. You won’t find a single friend that’ll run faster, climb higher and fly farther with you than a loyal leather companion. In fact, with good care, this pet will likely be going strong even after you’ve snuffed it. It’s a book without words, timeless, endlessly scribbling away a story that’s all about you.

Happy hunting!

Daniel Sutton