Most genuine leather products will be labeled as such. Even items no longer in their original packaging will often contain a label stating that they are genuine leather.
These labels are often sewn into the inside of jackets or stamped on the bottom of a case. A label is probably the easiest thing to fake for a counterfeiter, but doing so is illegal in most jurisdictions.
This means a product being labeled as genuine leather will protect you from legitimate businesses that are just trying to market their product as nicer than it actually is.
Looks Real to Me
The pores on genuine leather will have a semi-random pattern based on the animal the leather was taken from. There may even be slight wrinkles and blemishes, just like real skin. Fake leather is often too even in appearance and too free of blemishes, with pores that follow a set pattern. The watch case to the left is genuine Italian leather (click on the picture for a better view). You can see the pores in the leather do not follow a set pattern. There are even some slight imperfections if you look closely.
A product that is labeled as ‘real leather’ might actually be made of reconstituted/bonded leather. Reconstituted leather is made from bits of leather that are left over when making something else. The leather is then bonded to other pieces using a bonding agent, such as glue. Sometimes called bonded leather, the resulting product is made of leather. Mostly. I’d honestly rather have a quality fake leather over the reconstituted kind. The easiest way to tell reconstituted leather is to smell it, which brings us to our next point.
The Nose Knows
Reconstituted leather will very likely smell like the real deal. Scientists have gotten very good at making things smell like other things, so the genuine leather smell is easily faked. However, smell is still one of the easiest ways to identify reconstituted leather. This is because in addition to smelling like leather, fake leather will often smell like glue or plastic.
The Fire Test
Genuine leather is much more resistant to fire than a petroleum based fake leather, but even genuine leather can be ruined easily if you aren’t careful. We do not recommend this method, but if you do decide to risk it, a quick 2 seconds over an open flame will start to melt an acrylic or plastic product while leaving a genuine leather product undamaged.
On the Edge
Real leather does not cut as smoothly as an artificial leather. Find an edge where the leather has been cut and examine it. Real leather will have a rough appearance to the cut, while a plastic knockoff will be smooth.
Practice Makes Perfect
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably already thinking of all kinds of leather things around the house to sniff. Go for it! The best way to avoid accidentally buying a fake leather product is to familiarize yourself with different kinds of leather.
Main Photo: GuySie