Real leather products are beautiful and are great investment pieces. In the footwear world, a genuine leather shoe adapts to your foot over time, so the shoe will fit and feel better with more wear. This makes it more comfortable and also gives it unique characteristics. How great is that?!
But how can you guarantee that an item is made of genuine leather and not artificial? There are a few characteristics to look out for and some simple tests that will help guide you to be more assured that you are not being fooled. These may be applied to any type of product in question such shoes, bags or clothing.
A few tips and tests to guide you on how to identify real leather:
Read the Label
Simple enough, the simplest way to know what a product is made from is by checking the tag or label - manufacturers definitely want to share the information if products are made of real leather. If it is not on the actual product, it may be on an information card or leaflet that comes in the packaging of the item (just like with Rana Cheikha shoes!).
Notice the Weight
Leather shoes tend to be heavier in weight than synthetic shoes. The type of shoe makes a difference of course, so if you might be in a situation comparing two shoes, make sure they are the same type (a sandal versus a sandal, a boot versus a boot, etc.).
Natural leather products have a beautiful and unique ‘leather’ smell that cannot be mimicked on synthetic materials. Products such as leather smelling sprays do exist, but these tend to wear out over time. Boutiques that sell leather items usually have that beautiful and distinct smoky smell that you can sense right upon entering
Genuine leather is a beautiful and versatile material. There are many different types of leathers that differ in property, but a common characteristic of real leather is that it is smooth and supple to touch - almost silky. Artificial leather is either much stiffer or more elastic in comparison.
Closely Examine the Leather
A. Natural Marks
Scratches, creases and wrinkles are a quality that you usually want to avoid when purchasing a new product, but natural leathers tend to have distinguishable marks and imperfections on them. This is because leather comes from real animals of course, and scratches, stretch marks and veining are a few of the characteristics that you will expect to see on their skins. In saying that, marks will become less visible if a skin is treated (such as with dyes or coatings). A heavily treated natural leather is still real leather, although it will lose some of the natural qualities that may have been on the hide. The quality of life of the animal affects the amount of scarring to expect on the skin, and this is when leather grading comes into play. Leather grades A, B and C are used as an indicator to identify the amount of damage or defect on a skin (this is separate from the actual quality).
B. Color Change
The color of natural leathers will change over time and when exposed to light or when folded, while synthetic materials will remain more rigid and even.
The pores in natural leathers are distributed unevenly and have inconsistent patterns. Synthetic leathers, although may have pores (as manufacturers have found more ways to make them look more like real leather), will have a consistent repeating pattern. These pores, actually stamped onto the material, may look realistic but in fact are not.
The Scratch Test
If scratched gently, fine particles are removed from the surface of a natural leather product, while artificial leather will usually stay intact. If you want to use this technique to test a product, make sure you do so from an area that is hidden and that won’t be visible. If the scratch does end up being visible, you can always use one of our tips from the How To Fix Scratched Leather Shoes blog!
The Fire Test
A small fire test is a quick way to identity natural from artificial leather. If the leather loses shape when heated, it is not genuine leather as real leather will not deform under fire. It will also smell like burnt hair, versus the burning plastic smell of artificial leather (do this if there is a small unnoticeable area you can test on).
The Price Point
There is no doubt that real leather products will always be more expensive than synthetic ones - not only because of all the great qualities, but also because of the care and expertise needed when working with real leather. Genuine leather shoes are also a lot better for your feet, more comfortable and will definitely last a lot longer too!
Real leather products are unique in character and behavior. The more you can touch and feel the product, the easier it is to identify a product as being made of real versus artificial leather. At the end of it, if a product feels like plastic, it most likely is made of synthetic materials. But if it is smooth, feels and looks luxurious, it probably is the genuine leather product that deserves your attention.
So shop the Rana Cheikha and Wander Collections to invest in a pair of handmade shoes in genuine leather.
Signing-off: The Shoe Advisor