Real & Fake Leather

How to Tell if Leather is Real or Fake?

How do you know if the item you just purchased, whether it’s a pair of designer shoes, a leather jacket, a leather handbag, or even a new car, contains real or fake leather? We have to admit; sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Real leather can be heavily corrected by buffing, pigmentation, and embossing to hide defects, while synthetic leather can be so technologically advanced that it can trick you into thinking it’s actually real leather.

Here are a few tests you can do yourself to help determine whether you are dealing with real leather or fake leather.

Is It Leather?

How To Identify Real and Fake Leather

This is a photo showing a authentic leather tag to show you how to spot fake leather and how you should look for the quality and type of leather such as top grain or full grain leather

Inspect the Tag

Check the tag/product information. If it is real, It may say “genuine leather” or “real leather." It may also identify the grain type, such as top grain or full grain leather. On the other hand, watch out for common faux leather products that use terms such as faux leather, vegan leather, PU leather, bonded leather, pleather, imitation leather, man-made leather, leatherette, and any confusing terms that appear to be fancy marketing.

Feel The Leather’s Surface

Feel The Leather’s Surface

Real leather and Faux leather are made to feel natural and should feel a bit bumpy and thick, have rough edges, and be high quality with some natural imperfections. It is not easy to tell the difference between real and faux leather.

Fake leather often feels artificial, stiff, and cold. When you apply pressure at the surface with your finger, natural leather will stretch and wrinkle, whereas your finger will depress the surface of synthetic leather, retaining its rigidity and shape. 

If you can, twist the leather gently. If the color changes slightly and you see wrinkles, it’s probably genuine. If no wrinkles appear and there is no change of color, it’s probably fake. Real leather is naturally flexible.

This is an image of the lighter test to check if leather is real of fake leather

Lighter Test

The lighter test is one of, the more effective ways to tell if leather is real or not. When held over a lighter’s flame real leather is resistant to burning. It may darken or damage the material but should not catch on fire quickly.

Synthetic leather, on the other hand, will likely catch fire quickly and may even burn a hole in the material when the lighter test is conducted.

Warning Disclaimer: Only try this test on products you are willing to damage and follow proper fire safety protocol possibly. is not responsible for any damages caused by irresponsible use.

This is a photo of a pinch test to check if leather is real or faux leather

Pinch Test

Real leather is typically heftier than synthetic materials, as it is the hide of an animal. It often measures 1.0-1.4 millimeters in thickness and should resist folding. Real leather is a more hearty and flexible material. When folded, it should return to its natural shape.

Fake leather, on the other hand, is likely to be thin, stiff, and have more of a plastic or cardboard feel to it. When folded, it is likely to create a temporary wrinkle or impression in the material.

This is a photo of checking the grain leather to see if its real or faux leather

Inspect the Backside

Viewing the backside of the material can be helpful for determining its authenticity. The backside of real leather has a rough, resistant, and suede like feel to it. It almost feels like a rug or shaved down carpet as it is resistant to run your fingers across it.

The backside of fake leather may be fabric or some other synthetic material that is glued as opposed to being a natural suede.

This is a close up photo of checking leather grain with a magnifying glass test spot fake leather

Magnifying Glass Test

If you have a handheld magnifying glass or a loupe, you can use it to inspect and help determine whether a material is real leather or synthetic. By closely examining the material, you should be more able to see imperfections and natural pores. Real leather and grain leather should have an inconsistent and imperfect look as it comes from the unique skin of an animal. The image attached is a close-up picture of real leather and helps to show what you want to look for. Fake leather, on the other hand, is likely to be suspiciously uniform and flat and should not be three-dimensional.

This is a photo on how to identify the pattern of real leather, bonded leather, full grain leather or top grain leather or made from real leather or split leather

Inspect The Pattern

Check the pattern of your material to help determine whether or not it is real leather. Real leather is unique, and no two hides are the same. This means that you can often spot irregularities and imperfections in leather that make it distinct. Its texture can vary from one hide to another, or even one part of a hide to another.

Fake leather, on the other hand, is often precisely uniform and has a consistent pattern to it. It is worth noting that technological advancements can make this test tough to tell.

This is a photo of identifying leather by the cross section

Inspect the Cross Section

If you are able, take a look at the edge of the leather. The edges of real leather are rough and uneven, and look like they are frayed, whereas the edges of man-made leather appear clean-cut and close to perfect. In addition, real leather should be dyed all the way through, so you should see a lighter version of the topcoat’s color throughout the cross section.

On the other hand, fake leather’s interior will appear layered, with a different color in the middle and bottom.

This is a photo showing smell differences of real leather versus man made material, fake, or PU leather

Smell Test

Real leather comes from animal hide and is often noted for its distinct “leather smell.” This test is not perfect but can sometimes help to determine authenticity. If the material has a unique natural and earthy smell to it, it is likely real leather.

Fake leather smells quite different and may have a less noticeable smell or it may smell more like chemicals depending on the materials used.

Trust your senses

Trust Your Senses

If it looks good, feels good and smells good, it’s probably real leather. If it looks and acts like plastic, it probably isn’t!


Poll Time!