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Real vs Fake Leather: Is the Real Thing Worth It

Precious little can even come close to the luxurious, timeless appeal of leather goods. Premium consumers want the best materials in any product that they buy, and leather is often associated as being just that, the best.

Due to the immense popularity of leather manufacturers have attempted to reproduce the look and texture of leather synthetically. Artificial leather or otherwise known as faux leather is made through several manufacturing methods.

Fake leather or pleather has gained popularity among consumers because of the almost identical look to real leather and the drastic reduction in cost from the real deal.

Real Leather

The production of leather goods started in ancient civilisations. Genuine leather is made from animal hides; usually, the skins of pigs, sheep, lambs, goats and even horses are used to make leather. Horse hides produce particularly durable leather.

The earliest recorded piece of leather footwear is intact to this day was dated to 3,500 B.C. Although there is archaeological evidence that indicated leather had been used by humans as far back as 84,000 years ago. There is also direct evidence of hide-working from as far back as 400,00 years ago.

Animal hides have proved to be essential in the growth and evolution of our species. The use of leather for clothing and protection against the elements has helped cement its place in our civilisation.

Today, real leather is regarded as a status symbol because of its high cost and timeless qualities such as its luxuriously soft feel.

In recent years there has been some backlash from animal rights organisations that have condemned the production of leather goods and have called for their boycott.

Aniline leather

This form of genuine leather has no protective treatment applied which makes it the most natural looking leather. Since there is no protective coating, this kind of leather is prone to stains and scratches. Aniline leather is also known as full grain leather.

Semi-Aniline leather

Semi-Aniline leather is still made from pure full grain leather, but it has a light coating of pigment and clear finish. This form of leather is more durable because of the protective coating, making it resistant to spills and stains. Since it is genuine leather the unique characteristics of the full grain will also present itself over time.

Pigmented leather

This form of genuine leather is thoroughly coated with pigment and protective coating as well. The reason people use dye in leather is to hide the skin’s natural blemishes. Pigmented leather has the maximum resistance to wear and tear.

The drawback with pigmented leather is that it will not develop a unique patina over time. Even genuine leather will crack or peel over time. Thankfully there are proven methods on how to repair peeling leather, meaning if it starts to peel, it’s not destined for the trash!

Pros

#1. Fantastic investment: Buying real leather furniture can be expensive, the amount of work that goes into acquiring, tanning and curing animal hides factor into the high cost of genuine leather items. It is a fantastic investment because real leather goods are known for their strength and durability.

They do not break down or get torn or cut easily. Real leather also holds its value over time. Genuine leather goods exude an aura of class and prestige.

#2. Stands the test of time: As time passes, real leather gets softer. The more real leather is used, the better it looks. The unique characteristics of full grain leather come out. Unlike faux leather which sort of feels like plastic, real leather becomes even more comfortable over time. Genuine leather is also known to lasts several decades if it is adequately maintained.

#3. Breathable: Since real leather is made from animal hides, the material is breathable. Animal skin is porous, so the airflow does not get too obstructed.

#4. Retains warmth: Genuine leather by itself is a fantastic tool to block the wind. If it is the middle of winter, you will need to use additional layers of insulation. You can add layers of clothing under the leather jacket to protect you even in the middle of winter.

#5. Genuine leather has a distinct smell: Real leather has a distinct, unique smell of processed animal hides. Some people like this smell because it adds to the air of authenticity to the product.

Cons

#1. Animal skin: Some people think using animal hides is a negative aspect of real leather. Usually, animal hides are a byproduct of the meat industry so when the meat of animals are harvested, the pelts are often sold to leather manufacturers to produce genuine leather goods.

Animal rights activists are sometimes ignorant of this fact and often call for the boycott of all leather products. These activists are likely to be non-meat eaters and want everyone to share their views on animal cruelty.

#2. May get stained: Certain types of real leather may be prone to staining. If you end up choosing Aniline or full grain leather, then you need to be extra careful with stains. Clean accidents or spills as they happen with soapy water and a sponge to help prevent the stain from setting.

#3. Limited colours: Genuine leather has an insufficient colour selection. Leather tanneries often only dye their products with favourite coloured pigments. You will rarely see real leather dyed in bright colours. Typical colours of genuine leather are black, brown, beige and maybe white.

Fake Leather

Artificial leather has become a cost-effective replacement to genuine leather. Faux leather is primarily manufactured using two synthetic materials to create vinyl.

Polyvinyl chloride

One of the most efficient methods to produce faux leather is by utilising Vinyl. Vinyl can be produced using a chemical compound called polyvinyl chloride otherwise known as PVC.

Polyurethane

The second options to make Faux leather is by using polyurethane also known as PU. The manufacturing of PU is by applying a polyurethane finish to various base materials such as cotton, polyester or nylon. An artificial grain pattern is then imprinted on the surface of the material to mimic the look of genuine leather.

Pros

  • Artificial leather is a cost-effective alternative: Since faux leather is manufactured in a factory using cheap human-made materials; then add to that the cost of factory labour which is also cheap, these factors combine for the overall affordability of faux leather.The cost to acquire expensive animal hides is non-existent. The production time for artificial leather also beats production time of real leather in leaps and bounds.
  • The use of animal hides: Since the production of artificial leather is made from synthetic materials, it is a favourite among people that think real leather is product through cruelty to animals. When in fact genuine leather is a byproduct of the meat industry.
  • Cleaning artificial leather is a breeze: One of most significant benefits to pleather is that it’s extremely easy to clean. One can only clean real leather with soapy water. While with pleather it is safe to use even bleach or any chemical cleaner making it extremely easy to keep clean.
  • Pleather can stand up to sunlight well: Unlike real leather which does not do well in direct sunlight because it will fade and end up damaged. Artificial leather does not get affected when exposed to direct ultraviolet light. Synthetic leather is a staple in car interiors because of this fact.
  • Artificial leather does not have a distinct smell: Real leather has a specific scent which some people do not like. Since pleather is synthetic, it does not have a distinct odour which is a plus for some consumers.
  • Faux leather can be manufactured in any colour: Artificial leather is produced by melting synthetic components together, dyes of any colour are added during the melting process which allows faux leather to be a whole range of colours that are not available in real leather.

Cons

  • Artificial leather isn’t breathable: The synthetic material pleather is made from is not at all breathable. Because of this fact, sweat does tend to accumulate, and it can get particularly uncomfortable in hot climates. However, this attribute could be a positive in cold weather, since it will help keep you warm.
  • If misused, Faux leather can be damaged: Since artificial leather is produced from vinyl, it can still get damaged if abused. It is durable up to a point but can tear and crack over time as well.
  • Artificial leather does not have unique grains like real leather: The grains seen on faux leather are imprinted on its surface producing a uniform, machine-like grain symmetry which is not present in natural leather. Needless to say artificial leather does not develop a patin which is one of the most coveted traits of real leather.
  • Faux leather is not as soft as real leather: Real leather wears in and gets softer over time while faux leather does not. Sure, provided the right amount of padding it can seem soft to the touch but without the help of foams and pads, faux leather can feel just like hard plastic.

Is Real Leather worth it?

The honest answer of most people to this question is Yes. Faux leather may be more affordable, but the timeless allure of leather are its innate qualities such as its breathability, grain pattern or patina and of course the softness that even gets better over time. These are some of the traits that are not present in faux leather which some people are willing to pay a premium for.

However, it depends on how you are going to use the leather. If it were just for office furniture or something impersonal, faux leather would be a fantastic choice compared to the less attractive options available.

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