Too often, tanneries sell poor skins at high prices. If you’re shopping around, you should know the difference between a solid purchase and scams. Some manufacturers use cheap, low-paid labor to make leather products—regardless of the end product’s quality.
If you’re browsing leather wallets, leather shoes or even leather jackets, you should have a firm knowledge-base about leather quality. By knowing what good quality leather goods look like, you can save yourself plenty of shopping time. You’ll also spare yourself unnecessary expenses. Check out our seven-step guide below.
If you’re eyeing a leather product, you should check its leather grade. Goods marked as genuine leather have various leather grades. A product’s grade determines how the leather has been bonded. Look for high-grade leather, as lower grades can be bonded with glue, painted and sold to deceive customers.
As a rule of thumb: Look for top-grain leather or full-grain leather. Full-grain leather is the best grade, and it lasts quite a long time. Most top-grain leather products, meanwhile, have middle-of-the-road quality. Top-grain leather is found in most wallets, and it’s used in well-known designer brands.
European leather, often, is the best. European leather is made with care, and it’s made in environmentally conscious ways. Countries like Brazil and India, meanwhile, often use cheap hides to make leather. They don’t have environmental protection regulations, resulting in sometimes “dirty” products.
Real leather will smell like leather. Fake leather, meanwhile, smells like plastic, chemically-treated material. Don’t settle for leather which doesn’t smell legitimate. Low-quality leathers will also carry a lighter leather smell, as it's used hide is of lower quality. Fine leather, on the other hand, will have a rich, pungent smell.
Does the leather feel like plastic? If it does, it might be split leather covered with a PU coating. Any leather product which looks machine-made should be avoided. Also, avoid any products which have a lot of blemishes. Avoid bonded leather, which is made from various leather straps. Overall, a good leather product will have a fine texture.
The leather product should have straight-line stitches. Machine-made leather sewing is clear, and hand-made stitching is visible. Hand-made leather products are far more durable, and they often have superior styles. If a product is machine-sewn, make sure its bottom thread looks decent. Sometimes, cheaply made leather goods have messy stitching on the bottom.
If the edging is blue, the tannery didn’t let the leather tan properly. Sometimes, a leather edge is painted to hide any blemishes. Skilled leather craftsmen, however, make perfect edges. To make sure the leather is durable, gently run your thumbnail across the edging. Make sure the paint isn’t lifted, and double-check the product’s durability.
Leather wallets and jackets should have thin pockets. Thin designs are indicative of skilled craftsmanship. If a product was crafted with great skill, the craftsman would have reduced bulky areas.
Make sure your leather product can carry a lot. If you’re not looking for a carry-centric product, like a purse or wallet, you should still care about your leather’s quality. High-quality leather is long-lasting, and it’ll look great as the years go by. Remember to take care of your leather, and don’t hesitate to ask a shop owner about a product’s leather source!