How To Tell Real And Fake Leather Apart


Got that leather piece home after forking out a few hundred dollars for it, only to realise it’s not real leather? We’ve all been tricked by clothing one way or another, but don’t fret, I’m here to teach you the difference between the real and the fake so you can shop smarter next time.

I am a feeler. That comes off a little strange to some people and it’s probably not the opening line I would use to describe myself but when it comes to going through a clients wardrobe, shopping for them or myself, I must feel everything. If I can’t touch the fabric my client will be wearing, I can trust that it’s going to work for them. So when it comes to buying one of the most common staple pieces in a woman’s wardrobe, the leather jacket, it’s important to know what you’re actually paying for and it’s also helpful to be able to tell real leather apart from fake leather.

Polyurethane is great sometimes, when you’re after a quick statement piece for the season that you want to get to be trendy, but you don’t want to spend your rent on, it’s perfect. It looks like leather, to the untrained feeler, feels like leather and some stores even have it scented to make it smell like leather. Moo! But don’t be fooled by the brand or the price, many retailers will put leather look garments with a higher price tag to trick people into thinking it’s leather to make a higher profit.

DO: Turn the garment inside out and look for the fabric composition tag, it will read something like this: Polyester Lining, PU Outer. The PU, means Polyurethane.

DON’T: Think that just because it’s soft that it’s leather.

Tip: Other names for fake leather are: Leatherette, Vegan Leather and P Leather. 

Patent Leather: This can be a tricky one to tell apart, mainly because of it’s shinny appearance, but just to answer a question I’m commonly asked; Is patent leather real leather? Yes and no, there is real leather that has been treated with a smooth and glossy coating, this is common in footwear and small clutch bags. The fake stuff is also found in footwear and clutch bags but it also often in cheaper belts, jackets and skirts. The great thing about Patent Leather is that it can be wiped down easily if it gets a spill on it, the not so great thing about it is that it scuffs easily.

DO: Beware of the phrase ‘Patent Leather Finish’ on garments, this is often written to let the buyer think they’re buying real leather, so unless the garment actually has the animal type or ‘genuine leather’ written on its composition tag, ninety nine percent of the time, it’s not the real deal.

DON’T: Care for vinyl or faux patent leather the way you would with authentic patent leather. You’ll damage the surface and it will get a smudged look about it. Remember not to let the price dictate the idea of what type of quality it is, check the tag always.

how to tell if leather is real or fakeLeather can feel smooth or rough, that’s how it gets most of us confused. If it’s overly smooth or feels a little like plastic, chances are that it’s fake. Another great thing to try is to pull the fabric lightly between your hands, real leather shouldn’t stretch easily after one or two tugs, fake leather will.

DO: Look at the edges of the leather closely. Fake leather will be neat around the edges but real leather is often bumpy or jagged and a little more rough around the edges.

DON’T: Fall for faux leather with imprinted pores. Real leather will have inconsistent markings on it, but fake leather will have printed markings on it.

What can I expect to pay for a fake leather jacket, versus a real leather jacket?

It’s surprising how many big brand names attach a high price tag to a polyurethane jacket in the hopes that you’ll buy it just because of the brands reputation, or because you’ll think the price must mean it’s real leather. It’s always a good idea to consider what type of activities you’ll be doing in the jacket, if you know you can’t take care of a leather jacket then the PU fabric is a much smarter, more cost effective choice and you shouldn’t spend more than $200 on it.

If, on the other hand, you’re like me and would cry at the site of cracked, poorly cared for leather and you’ll treat your jacket like a baby and love it with all your heart than you can usually expect to pay between $500 and $1200 for a great leather jacket. Just remember when forking out that much to pick a style you can see yourself loving in at least five years time.


Check the imprint: Many fake leather bags have been embossed to look like leather, meaning it has been pressed and indented in a particular way to mimmic the natural markings of real leather, have a good look at the leather and see if you notice the pattern repeating, if it is, it’s more than likely faux leather.

Did you find this post helpful? Have a tricky question you want answered? Sound off in the comments below!



Owner / Blogger / Stylist

Alarna Hope is a Fashion Stylist and Writer based in Sydney, she's considered an expert in her field as a Personal Stylist and is also quite good at writing about herself in the third person. She cries during movie makeover scenes, has a jar of Nutella under her bed for safety, and can tell you the synopsis of every Kath & Kim episode ever. She currently resides in Sydney with her Oscar worthy cat, Meryl Streep.


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