Just about everyone has seen it. There, on a billboard, commercial, or tag is a big “Genuine Leather” or “100% Leather” or I’ve even seen a “Yeah…It’s Leather”. Advertisers know that leather is valuable and sought after, so they are willing to stretch that definition as far as they can to justify jacking up their prices even higher. It is a lot like how Taco Bell and McDonalds advertise saying their products are “100% Beef”.
Technically, they are telling the truth, but by those standards, if I ground up a bunch of cow tongue and intestine and put it in a taco, that would be 100% beef too! While we’re at it, I could feed you my leather wallet and it would be 100% beef!
Advertisers do this all the time. It is the reason that you can see something that claims to be “All Natural” and then one that is “Organic” and they are two totally different things. Advertisers have phrases that they are and aren’t allowed to use.
The first thing you need to understand is that Genuine Leather is really a phrase that can be used to identify anything from some of the lowest quality leathers to some of the very best.
So It’s Bad?
I should point out that this term is not necessarily always used to describe inferior leather, as is often rumored. I have seen ads saying “Genuine Leather” that are from wonderful leather companies that I have written positive reviews on. The term Genuine Leather can be used to identify anything that is actually made out of 100% leather, such as bicast leather, which is helpful in differentiating it from its synthetic counterparts.
What I refer to as the real deal, or full grain leather, can accurately be described as Genuine Leather, because it is leather. There are many very skilled leather workers that advertise their quality leather as Genuine Leather, not knowing that there is a lot of potential misunderstanding with that term because of the way advertisers have twisted it.
Can you see how confusing this gets? How on earth are you supposed to actually know what your product is made out of? For the sake of clarity, in this article, and throughout my site, I may sometimes refer to “Genuine Leather”. Odds are if I don’t follow this up with some kind of clarification about the actual quality of the leather, it is referring to the broad category of different kinds of mediocre leather.
Don’t get me wrong. Genuine Leather is leather. But that doesn’t mean that it is good. Buying leather and thinking it will be high quality just because it says “genuine leather” is like assuming anything labeled pasta is fine Italian cuisine. However, “pasta” can also be used to label Ramen Noodles.
So…What Do They Do To It?
They take a cowhide, which is very thick and tough, and split it, usually many times. Then they take the thin sheet of material they have split off and sand it smooth, paint it, and print a pattern on it to make it look like it has all of the wrinkles and markings of high quality leather. What it ends up being is a frail imitation, like putting a latex mask over a scarecrow and calling it an NFL Quarterback. They have made it look that part, but it can’t perform.
Moral of the Story: Don’t trust advertisers claiming that their products are “leather”. With a little research and help, you can get the product you want while actually understanding what you are getting for the price you are paying.
Is “Genuine Leather” Ever a Good Idea?
If you are on a very tight budget, and you are buying something that won’t see a whole lot of wear and tear, and you can get it really, really cheap, then maybe you can justify not looking into it and just getting whatever comes. It is a gamble. Maybe it really is a higher quality leather. Or maybe it is the bicast leather we just talked about.
Most of the time that you are going to be purchasing just about anything, you can find a grade of leather higher than the bicast leather for the same if not a lower price. If you are shopping for something and can’t find a good price on something that is quality leather, then let me know. I will find one for you.
Let’s Get A Visual
I thought it might be good to see it instead of just reading it. If you really want to see what is inside the Genuine Leather you buy, check out the video below.
As for the close ups I promised:
I hope you can see what I was talking about when I refer to cheaply tanned leather. The stuff that is in there isn’t even good, and there isn’t much of it to begin with.