Faux & PU Leather vs Real Leather - What is the Difference?

Can you spot the difference between a faux or PU leather bag vs a real leather bag?

Real vs Faux Leather The Real Leather Company

Here at The Real Leather Company, we believe deeply in using only the finest real leather to make premium leather bags. We're of the opinion that there is no substitute for quality. The best materials produce the best items.

With production improvements in recent years, 'fake', 'faux' or 'PU' leather has seen a rise in usage.

Whilst we think it's great that more people are choosing the leather look, we believe the quality, durability and look of a real premium leather bag means a fake is still no substitute for the real thing.

Real vs Faux Leather The Real Leather Company


Here are our top 5 ways to spot the difference between a faux or PU leather bag and a real leather bag.

1. The Look

Take a look at the surface of the skin. Real leather is made from animal skins and will have regular blemishes and imperfections, especially if full grain leather is used - find our full guide to the types of real leather here.

Hints of nonuniformity are actually a good sign in leather. Real leather is unique, as no two animal hides are exactly the same (just like our human skin - none of us are identical either). Machine-made leather like PU leather will have no imperfections and will feel unnaturally even.

2. The Smell

Real leather smells like real leather. If you have ever smelled a real leather jacket or a real leather car seat, your nose should know what to look for. A natural, organic, skin scent is a sure-fire way to know if you're looking at real leather.

The smell can be quite strong in a new leather bag. Some love this smell, some are not so keen. Either way, the smell does fade with time - especially if you air a bag our for a couple of days.

Fake leather often has a plastic, chemical odour. The real leather scent cannot be effectively replicated in faux leather goods.

3. The Feel

When you press real leather, you will feel it stretch and wrinkle a little (just like your skin!). Synthetic or fake leather will not act like skin and will go back to its original shape after you apply the pressure of your finger.

Real leather will feel almost warm to the touch as it is the skin of an animal.

Faux leather will be cold.

4. The Durability

Real leather will last longer than PU leather. Quality leather is built for long term endurance in harsh conditions. Faux leather is not built for rugged conditions and will give out sooner.

In addition, real leather develops character over time. As the original hide is not designed to be a perfect or uniform pattern, additional wear and tear only adds to the value and desirability of a leather bag. With proper care, a real leather bag looks better the more you use it. Fake leather does not age gracefully.

5. The Price

With leather, you really get what you pay for. Real leather will generally be more expensive than fake leather, so you should weigh up the pros and cons before buying.

At The Real Leather Company, we think of a real leather bag as an investment. Yes, it might be a little more expensive, but a real leather bag is a quality piece, that only gets better with age and will be with you for the long haul.

6. The Leather Description

Perhaps the simplest way to check is to examine at the listing of the leather item you're looking at. What does the description say about the leather that is being used?

What you're really looking for is a reference to either Full Grain Leather or Top Grain Leather. If these are declared, you can be sure that real premium leather is used.

Ready to look more closely at our leather bags?

Check out our collection of Real Leather Bags Here.

Updated 02/16/2022.

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