A good pair of shoes is made out of first-rate materials, has good arch support, fits comfortably, looks great and will last a lifetime. It’s these factors that determine whether you’re buying a quality pair of shoes.
But how do you determine whether that pair of shoes, or say a field notes leather wallet, is made out of real, quality leather? Fake leather is thriving in the retail world, and marketers are getting better and better at making fake leather products seem like the real deal by using certain phrases, like “made with genuine leather.”
Don’t be fooled into spending your hard-earned money on second-rate or fake leather goods. Here’s how to examine whether that leather product you want is made out of real, quality leather.
Inspect the Leather
Real leather’s grain is dense, meaning its fibers are compact. You can see the fiber structures on any exposed edges or on the underside of the product. Real leather products are of course made from animal skins, so each piece should have unique blemishes from where the skin has been marked by insect bites, scratches, etc. Unique patterns and minor imperfections are a good thing; they signal real leather.
Study the Stitching
Each stitch should be straight and flat. The highest-quality, most durable leather products are hand stitched. Saddle stitching is the most common type of hand stitch, mainly because it’s the strongest and most aesthetically pleasing of them all. Some machine stitching is viable, but this type of stitching is more likely to lose its stitching strength, even after just one thread breaks. With hand stitching, only one side of the stitch loosens when it breaks, which rarely happens, so the entire thread won’t unravel like machine stitched thread does.
As far as the thread used, you want one stitched with linen threads. These naturally-made threads are more flexible and durable than nylon threads.
Handle the Leather
When you run your hands across the leather, it should feel soft and natural. No matter it’s texture, real leather doesn’t feel rough. Another thing you shouldn’t feel is any kind of clear coat on top of the leather. Avoid any leather item that’s painted with a glossy plastic finishing.
The product also shouldn’t break or tear if you hold and bend it. It should, however, be slightly elastic when bending and naturally wrinkle up. A quality leather good will also be heavier because of its fibers high density. Lighter-weight leather products mean poor quality.
Breathe it in
Take a big whiff and be prepared to inhale a natural, musty skin smell. Leather smells like skin, because it’s made out of animal skin, while fake leather smells like plastic. The real deal won’t smell like plastic or chemicals. If it does, you know you’ve got a low-grade or fake leather good.
Do the Water Test
Real leather absorbs water, while water puddles up on top of fake leather. If you can, drop a few water droplets onto the leather good, and you’ll see within a few seconds if the item is really made of quality leather or not.
Check the Price
Quality leather products aren’t cheap—even when there’s a good sale. Like anything, you get what you pay for. So if you see a sale for a leather wallet made from genuine leather that’s only $20, don’t fall for it. If you want real leather, be ready and willing to spend more money.