Leatherette or leather? Which one should you use? Which one will serve you best? And the most important question, how do you identify genuine leather?
You see, it’s very easy to get stuck, confused even when trying to decide which material to pick for your upholstery, clothes, car seat covers, and even handbags.
This, of course, is due to the striking similarity between both fabrics. The thing is if you were not told or not experienced, it is quite easy to mistake one for the other.
Perhaps, that’s precisely where you are at right now. Probably, you are at the point where you need to decide between them, but somehow, you can’t seem to make up your mind.
I’ve got you covered. So, regardless of what you know about leatherette or leather, in this article, I’m going to take you by the hand and walk you through everything you need to know about these two materials.
My goal is to ensure you have all the information you need to make an informed buying decision.
So, if you are ready, let’s dive in.
What is Leatherette?
Also called faux material, leatherette is a synthetic, chemically made fabric that is often used as a substitute for the real leather.
It is made from either polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC or Vinyl) – a type of plastic discovered in the 1940s, often used in the construction of different items such as product covers, clothing, and upholstery.
However, each one – that is PU and Vinyl – lend themselves more to a specific use. For instance, the PU-based fabric is more flexible, breathable, and softer, hence, it is often used in making high beat products like upholstery and clothing.
Vinyl, on the other hand, is not as breathable as PU. But, it has the ability to repel moisture which makes it suitable to use in products that need to be waterproofed such as in electronics and book bindings.
That said these faux materials are treated to mimic, as closely as possible, the look, texture, grain, and feel of the authentic leather.
Now, there are several things going on for leatherette that has positioned it as the material of choice for most leather-based products. We’ll get to those in a bit, though.
Let’s talk about the real thing now. Leather, the authentic one is a natural fabric made from raw animal skin hides.
A piece of high-quality leather fabric has a distinct luxury and a series of high-end characteristics that make it appealing to individuals who are after the premium feel of a great product. It’s often a symbol of status and class.
So, is Leatherette Real Leather?
Well, if the answer isn’t apparent already, leatherette is not real leather. It is an artificial fabric produced through a series of chemical processes.
Apart from the synthetic origin, leatherette can easily be confused with leather, especially to the uninitiated.
Here’s a great article on the subject: Genuine vs Faux vs Bonded Leather.
Leatherette vs. Leather
So, before we look at the pros and cons of both faux and real types, let’s first recap everything that has been said so far.
Leatherette is a synthetic fabric which after precise processing is made to look and feel like it’s real leather. So, in a sense, it is not authentic but can adequately serve as a substitute.
In most cases, these faux materials could even pass except if examined closely – they have recently become so realistic that you can’t easily tell one from the other – thus, they are used in most items that would usually need binding.
Finally, leatherette, as we stated earlier, is made from two types of materials – Vinyl and PU. Each fabric has unique attributes that make it suitable for specific purposes.
Take, for instance, vinyl, which is soft, making it an ideal material for products that often come in contact with the skin.
On the other hand, PU is tougher and ideally used in protecting delicate parts of electronics and any other products that are expected to repel water.
Now, we know what leatherette is and what is made of. Let’s now look at how it measures up to the real thing.
Leather products are significantly priced higher even if it is an animal by-product. This, of course, is unsurprising, as leather is associated with premium, high-end products.
So, if you’re in the market for a leather-bound product, get ready to cough out large sums of money.
However, if you are cost conscious and would instead go for a less expensive product, then you may want to consider faux material.
This marked difference in cost is glaringly obvious in the automobile industry where it is normal to see cars with leather bound interior going for a higher price than ones with leatherette.
The leather is undoubtedly longer-lasting than leatherette plus it has a higher resale value which can come in handy if you plan to resell.
Hence, in the long term, you can recoup the initial money spent, provided, however, that it is well maintained.
Though not as durable as leather, you are sure to get at least ten years of use out of leatherette. And considering that it doesn’t take much to care for the material, you can rest easy knowing it’d serve you well.
You should know upfront that cleaning, caring, and maintaining leather is quite hard work. It requires dedicated, constant care to maintain its quality if not well taken care of, it’d degenerate pretty fast.
Leather absorbs spills and smells easy and is really hard to get rid of once absorbed. And while at it, ensure that it’s not exposed to sunlight for an extended period as it tends to fade.
Faux leather is easy to clean. It is a regular washable material. Plus, you can easily get rid of stains and spills by just wiping it. Also, it has a higher scratch resistance and does not fade under the sunlight.
Some swear by leather as being more supple, softer, and comfortable than leatherette. Now throw in the signature aroma and it becomes obvious why it is a premium product.
Now, leather is also breathable, so it will maintain a relatively stable temperature during the cold winter months while also keeping it cool during the hot summer.
Leatherette, on the other hand, is not as soft and comfortable. Also, it tends to fluctuate with the weather. It can get unbearably hot and rubbery on sunny days.
Unfortunately, leather is pretty much restricted to three color options: black, muddy brown, and white.
You can, however, make your choice of color with leatherette. There are vast arrays of colors you can choose from – mainly because as a synthetic fabric, it is easy to dye.
There’s a bit of dilemma here – you are faced with either going for products that are often not animal-friendly or opting for ones that from an eco-friendly point of view is not kind to our planet.
The Earth is what we all have in common.
For the sustainability-conscious individual, vinyl and polyurethane are not really a good option as they are not biodegradable.
If on the other hand, you are an animal rights advocate, then opting for leather products is a no-no.
So, for this point, deciding which fabric to go for boils down to individual preferences and core values.
There you have it. If you have ever wondered what leatherette or the difference between faux and authentic leather is, I hope this article answered those questions for you.