In recent years, leather has turned out to be the absolute signature of class and fashion. Almost all fashion accessories from premium brands are offered with a certain class of leather. Whether you are looking for a fashion accessory like belts, shoes, jackets, or even general items like chairs or showcasing items like furniture, you will find leather to be on the top in all categories.
In most cases, you will not be able to tell whether the leather used on the material you are looking at is the more premium or the most durable one. Generally, the leather is polished to give a nice look to the product. The leather used on various products can be between real leather, a mixture of real and artificial leather, or a complete man made artificial leather.
There are 3 major types that you will find listed with a variety of leather items that are real leather, bonded leather, and faux leather. While most options look similar from the outside, you need to understand key differences within each type and then decide which option should you prefer regarding your choice. Today we will talk about these three types of leather in detail so make sure you do not miss any part of this article.
What is Real Leather?
You can trace back the origin of real leather all the way to the stone age as this leather is derived from real animal hide. Today, real leather is made out of the cow, horse deer, or sheep hides. The only difference is it is refined a lot before it is converted into a commercial product. Other than that, the most exotic leather in the world right now is derived from alligator, elephant, hippo, ostrich, and python’s hide.
Basically, real leather is quite similar to the natural skin of the animal. The refining procedure includes complete removal of moisture from the skin and then the addition of a tanning agent that keeps it flexible and makes it last a really long time without any degradation.
Advantages of Real Leather
1. Great for long term use
Unlike any other leather in the world, real leather actually gets better as time passes. When you purchase a real leather item, you will get the best look and feel out of it once it is 3 to 4o years old. However, this depends upon the refining method used in the production.
2. Biodegradable leather
Made from real skin, there are no added preservatives or synthetic parts in real leather. Hence, it does not pose any threat to the environment. Real leather is completely degradable as well as recyclable. Upon its complete degradation, real leather turns out to be a great natural composite that helps in the growth of plants.
3. Great durability and strength
The durability and strength of real leather should be out of the question as it is set by nature itself. The strength of real leather is similar to the strength of the skin of the animal from which it is extracted. If you manage to maintain this leather properly, you might be able to use the leather for a decade without any problem.
Disadvantages of Real Leather
1. Very expensive option
As expected, quality comes at a cost. Production of real leather requires an expensive raw material as well as the refining method is also very expensive. Thus, it ends up to be the most premium option out of all.
2. Difficult to clean and maintain
No matter how much you care about your leather product, it is destined to get stained someday. On the contrary to other leathers, real leather absorbs fluid much faster and in high quantity. Thus, getting a stain out of real leather is not a very easy task.
What is Bonded Leather?
Next up, we will discuss the bonded leather type. As we mentioned earlier, real leather is completely biodegradable as well as recyclable. The bonded leather is generally the most affordable leather you can find in the market as it is recycled out of used real leather. The leftover hide of real leather along with the residue parts of the manufacturing procedure is glued together to form bonded leather.
It is not 100% natural material as it is mixed with a polyurethane coating or other similar plastic material coating in order to get a high finish on the surface. While bonded leather might look and feel like real leather, it cannot be compared with the real thing in terms of quality and endurance.
Advantages of Bonded Leather
1. Budget friendly option
Due to the added plastic material, the requirement of real animal hide for the same size of the bonded leather product is reduced to 10 or 20% as compared to real leather. Thus, the added expanse of the raw material is remarkably reduced. This makes the bonded leather most cost effective.
2. Easy to maintain
As the top surface of the bonded leather product is majorly plastic, it does not absorb any kind of liquid easily. Therefore, you can wipe out almost any stain from the bonded leather with a single wipe. This makes it very easy to clean and preferable for versatile use.
3. A lot of options available
The pattern and colors available in bonded leather are quite diverse thanks to the added synthetic material. The plastic portion of the mixture can be printed with any color, design, and style depending on the manufacturer. Thus, a lot of variety can be seen here.
Disadvantages of Bonded Leather
1. Not suitable for all skins
Bonded leather is not as breathable as real leather. Hence, if you have a certain type of allergy to plastic material, you should probably avoid buying bonded leather products. Also, it gets really uncomfortable in hot environments because of its structure.
2. Comparatively thinner and weaker
Plastic material with the real animal hide in bonded leather is much weaker in comparison to real leather. Therefore, it can easily tear even by little force. Also, it is non-elastic in nature. So, its lifespan is limited to a couple of months or at most a year even if proper care is taken.
What is Faux Leather?
Faux leather is completely synthetic and manufactured in an industry with almost zero organic materials. Still, faux leather manages to display the look and feel as seen in real leather. While it is called leather, it actually does not include any leather based product in it whatsoever. The PVC or Polyurethane plastic is one of the largely used synthetic materials in crafting or faux leather.
The synthetic layer of the faux leather is specially designed and curated in such a way that it resembles the look of real leather from the outside. Apart from being affordable and quite strong, it does not require organic material that makes its manufacturing highly environment friendly.
Advantages of Faux Leather
1. Looks and feels like real leather
Even though faux leather is available at a much lower price tag as compared to real leather, it offers almost an identical look and feels like real leather. It is so similar in appearance that most buyers get confused between the two at the time of purchase.
2. Comparatively durable
Faux leather offers more durability as compared to the bonded leather as it is completely synthetic where bonded leather is a combination of different materials and adhesives. Naturally, you will find a much better resistance to cracking and tearing with faux leather.
3. Ideal choice for vegan buyers
Most people are now choosing a vegan lifestyle and prefer products that do not contribute to animal cruelty. Faux leather is completely manufactured in a synthetic manner and does not deal with any organic product at any step. So, it is a preferable option for vegan buyers.
Disadvantages of Faux Leather
1. Loses its shine quickly
As there is no original leather involved in faux leather, it loses its shine as fast as any other regular clothing item. Rather than getting better with time, it gets bitter and weaker as time passes, making its lifespan very short.
2. Non Breathable material
Similar to bonded leather, it also lacks the breathability of real leather. But, as the structure of faux leather is even denser, it gets unbearably hot in the summer season.
Real Vs Bonded Vs Faux: Differences with the Comparison table
|Important Parameters||Real Leather||Bonded Leather||Faux Leather|
|Cost||Most expensive||Most affordable||Slightly expensive|
|Organic material||100% organic||10% to 20% organic||No organic materials used|
|Strength and durability||Best in class||Poor durability||Resistant to cracks and tearing|
|Maintenance||Difficult to clean and maintain||Comparatively easy cleaning||Very easy to clean|
|Lifespan||At least a decade||2 to 4 years||A couple of months to a year|
|Thickness||A stiffer and thicker leather||Very thin||Varies with manufacturer|
|Environmental effect||Completely biodegradable||Partially biodegradable||Non biodegradable|
Choosing a perfect leather product is surely a difficult task. Most of the time, buyers get deceived while purchasing a leather product and end up with the lower quality material while paying a large price. To make sure this does not happen to you, we have presented a complete guide to many different types of leather and their key differences. You will also find pros and cons for each type mentioned above.
For best results and getting the most value out of your investment, we will strongly recommend you to buy real leather made products. These products last almost a decade or even more in some cases which justifies their high price tag. Also, the real leather based products look better as they get old and thus, increase their value over time.