Real Leather vs PU Leather: What’s the Difference? - HIDES

Real Leather vs PU Leather: What’s the Difference?

There are two routes that you can take when purchasing a leather item whether it is a jacket, bag, or wallet - genuine leather vs a leather alternative. This post will discuss the characteristics of both genuine and PU leather and give tips on how to tell the difference between them. 

Real vs Faux Leather: Exploring Various Types of Leather

When you have been shopping for leather products either in furniture or clothing, you’ve undoubtedly been met with various types and grades of leather from top-grain leather to split-suede leather. However, another leather type that customers need to be aware of and that is faux leather (also referred to as PU leather). 
While genuine leather is often considered as the superior leather type in terms of durability and visual appearance, there are many leather products on the market that are in fact made of an artificial or synthetic material that reflects the look of real leather. 
As a buyer, it is important that you know the difference between choosing a product made from real leather vs faux leather. Below, we will look at each of these leather types in more detail and provide tips on how to identify between the two.
Woman walking with leather bag

What is PU Leather?

PU leather, also known as faux leather or synthetic leather, is made from an artificial material called polyurethane. Typically this type of faux leather is made by combining the fibrous part of cowhide leftover from genuine leather and adding a layer of polyurethane on top. Although, it is possible to get products made from 100% PU leather which is considered vegan-friendly.
While it imitates genuine leather, there are subtle differences in the texture and visual appearance of PU leather. Not to mention, the quality and durability of PU leather are slightly below par when comparing it to products made with real leather.
Having said that, PU leather may be a choice for those individuals who are looking for cost-effective leather alternatives that are vegan-friendly and easy to maintain.
Leather bag lying beside accessories

What is Genuine Leather?

Genuine leather, also referred to as full-grain leather, on the other hand, is crafted entirely out of animal skin and is known for being the highest grade of leather that you can find on the market. Full-grain leather uses the upper layer of a cow’s hide which then split into further layers. 
The thickness of genuine leather can vary depending on various factors but in all cases, the leather manufacturer will use colouring and protective measures to keep the natural imperfections of the leather as a core feature. Full-grain leather is praised for its high-quality texture which gets better as it ages and its outstanding durability. When cared for properly, real leather products can last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. 

5 Differences Between Real Leather and Faux Leather 

While at first glance it may be hard to compare genuine leather and faux leather products, there are several core differences that allow you to differentiate between these two types of leather. If you are on the fence as to which leather type is the best choice for you, these differences may help to sway you in the right direction. 

1) Cost

The most notable difference between these leather types is the price. Genuine leather is considerably more expensive than PU leather. Products made from real leather are harder to manufacture and are made to a higher standard, therefore, qualifying them as an investment item. 
Manufacturers typically are able to make PU leather products at nearly half of the price due to the materials being easily sourced and a less complicated manufacturing process. 
In saying that, when it comes to products such as leather handbags or leather jackets, if you are looking for something that is comfortable, high-quality, and durable then real leather is your best option by far. 

2) Durability

Although both of these types of leather may share a similar texture, their durability and strength are not comparable. PU leather tends to be thinner than genuine leather and is considered to be less breathable. As a result of this, it can be torn more easily and is known to crack and peel over time. 
When cared for, genuine leather will develop a patina on its surface over time which protects the integrity of the leather. While it will age, real leather will never lose its unique visual appearance nor will it begin to crack. 

3) Texture and Visual Appearance

In terms of appearance, genuine leather will look the most natural. While PU leather does a very good job at replicating the look of full-grain leather, it can often look slightly more synthetic especially when it comes to texture. Real leather puts the focus on the cowhide’s imperfections. PU leather, on the other hand, will often have a perfect, patterned textured look that wouldn’t be natural in the wild. 

4) Maintenance

Synthetic leather alternatives such as PU leather are considerably easier to maintain and clean. As they are made with polyurethane or plastic layers, they often just need a wipe of an occasional damp cloth. 
Full-grain leather requires extra care during the maintenance process, especially when preventing staining. As real leather can be prone to water damage, you need to be careful about how much water it gets into contact with. Additionally, regular conditioning is required to soften and break in leather items. For example, using a leather conditioner is ideal for breaking in a leather jacket or messenger bag. 

5) Smell

The last main difference between real leather and faux leather is their smell. As you will already know, the smell of leather is iconic. Ranging for earthy, rich, and slightly sweet its scent is often used in perfumes, colognes, and candles. The scent of real leather is purely natural. However, for PU leather, it is common to get a more chemical or plastic smell from the leather. 

Hides Canada: Proudly Using Top-Quality Genuine Leather 

At Hides Canada, we proudly use full-grain leather for all our products. We source our materials from the region of Punjab where the cattle can roam freely in vast meadows. Our products are then finished with the finest Italian hardware. 
Our leather bags, jackets, and accessories are built to last. We are committed to providing buyers with the best quality leather products that will stand the test of time. Shop our collections today!