What is Faux Leather and How Does it Compare to Real Leather?

Posted by Nicholas Crusie on

Back in the 1990’s, we used the terms PVC, “pleather,” or simply fake leather to describe material that was supposed to be like leather in terms of feel and quality, but quite frankly, wasn’t anywhere near the real thing. Today, we use classier terminology and better quality materials. Faux leather, or “vegan leather,” is the term we use for a material that is used on items that would traditionally be crafted with leather. 

If the thought of faux leather scares you, we get it. We had PVC leather miniskirts and pants, too. We promise, the new faux leather isn’t anything like what the nineties offered us, in terms of comfort or lack of style. In fact, the new fabrics used for faux leather offer comfortability, craftmanship, durability, and style on par with real leather, and in some cases, offer better versatility that make many people opt for it in lieu of genuine leather. 

If you’re considering a new piece of furniture and wondering if faux leather is an option, let us help convince you. We’ll look at what faux leather is crafted from, the drawbacks of owning real leather pieces, and how faux leather holds up against its genuine leather cousin. You’ll be able to make a decision about owning a piece of faux leather furniture with confidence. You’ll also learn how some cowhide leather is lower quality than others but is marketed to look the same. 

At CordaRoy’s, we offer high quality furniture at prices that are affordable. We’re also pretty picky about the types of fabrics we use to create our pieces. In fact, when we decided we wanted to offer one of our convertible bean bag chairs in a leather or leather-like fabric, we took a lot of time to research both and consider the advantages and disadvantages that both would bring to the table. 

In the end, faux leather was simply a better option, and it’s why we offer it on all our chair sizes. We think you’ll agree, faux leather is a better fit for bean bag chairs, and possibly other pieces, too.

What is Faux Leather?

Faux leather is a material made to look and feel like real leather, but is not actual rawhide leather. There are a few different types of faux leather, including a special leather/faux leather blend called “bonded leather.” Bonded leather is made from scraps of real leather and bonded together with faux leather pieces to create a hybrid type of leather. 

A 100% vegan faux leather will not include any animal parts. While some people prefer bonded leather because it does contain some animal hide, we find there’s really no use in going half and half. Ultimately, a material that contains partial leather must still be cared for like real leather, but you don’t actually have the benefit of owning a piece of real leather furniture. Also, you will likely find the quality of the real leather it is crafted with is subpar.

Faux leather is essential polyurethane fabric. If you want to get real technical, it’s a synthetic fabric made of thermoplastic polymer. Sounds really scientific, but it isn’t. It’s essentially a polyurethane fabric coated in another type of polyurethane that gives it the look, feel, and sometimes the durability of real leather. 

Not all faux leather is created equally. Remember those PVC mini skirts and pants? That type of low-grade material is still around, so it’s important to find out what kind of faux leather your manufacturer uses in the production of their products. The true quality of vegan leather products comes down to the material the manufacture is using to produce it. 

What is Real Leather?

Real leather is made from cowhides. Cows are raised, skinned, and their hides are tanned and treated until the desired type of leather is developed from it. There are multiple different types of leather available. 

For instance, you’re probably familiar with tags that read “genuine leather.” This is the lowest grade of real leather available today. It’s made from several layers of low quality (read “scrap”) leather bonded and glued together and is typically not very long lasting compared to other leather products. In fact, genuine leather rarely holds up against faux leather.

If you really are determined to own something that is 100% leather in origin, you should opt for leather that is either top grain or full grain leather. These types of leather use more of the original piece of cowhide to craft one single item, instead of breaking it up into smaller pieces which are processed, bonded to one another, and glued together.  Kind of reminds you of particle board furniture, doesn’t it?

These types of premium leather ensure you get the best value and the most durable leather items you can own. However, they (obviously) come with a pretty steep price tag, which is why many resort back to genuine leather or opt for faux.

How is Faux Leather Similar to Real Leather?

Faux leather is similar to real leather in feel and texture, if you get a quality piece of faux leather furniture. For instance, some pieces of faux leather furniture are so leather-esque that it is very hard to determine which is which. A high quality piece of faux leather will be hardly distinguishable from genuine leather, but is much less expensive, which can make it a more viable option for many people. 

How is Faux Leather Different from Real Leather?

There are some key differences between faux leather and real leather, most of which in our opinion set faux leather apart as a better choice. 

  • Price. Obviously, faux leather is going to be more affordable. In fact, the cheaper you go, the cheaper the price tag. For a quality piece of faux leather, you’ll pay a fraction of what you’d pay for top grade or even genuine cowhide leather. The real reason cowhide leather is so expensive is because there’s a lot that goes into treating and tanning leather to make it usable for products. Production of faux leather is less expensive, which makes the final product less expensive. 

  • Durability. While many will argue that cowhide leather is indestructible, we disagree. In terms of durability, faux leather is a great option. It is well crafted and lasts for decades.  Additionally, faux leather doesn’t patina. While a patina might be desirable to some, many people would prefer their products to remain the same color as when they originally purchased them. 

  • Care. Faux leather differs greatly from cowhide leather in terms of ease of care. For instance, all of our faux leather bean bag chair covers can simply be removed and tossed in the washing machine and dryer when they are dirty. You can’t do that with leather. You’ll have to invest in some leather cleaners, and even then you may have to hire a professional if the stain is bad enough. 

  • Breathability. This is one of the main reasons why we at CordaRoy’s decided against real leather for our convertible bean bag chairs. Real leather doesn’t offer breathability. It simply can’t because of the fact it comes from an unbreathable animal hide. Faux leather is a fabric that isn’t as densely packed, so it allows the material to breathe. 

What does that mean for you? It means when you sit down on a faux leather CordaRoy’s bean bag chair, you won’t get up with your clothing stuck to you from sweat. It also means you won’t get too hot while you’re seated in our chairs. We do our absolute best to ensure every product we create keeps you comfortable, and real leather just didn’t fit into that equation.

  • Animal cruelty. If you do opt to purchase a genuine leather product, we’d suggest you read up on how leather is harvested from animals and determine if the leather you are using is worth the sacrifice the animal had to make to produce it. Even if you buy leather that is supposedly “cruelty free,” it never really is. Most animals used in the leather industry are raised in conditions that aren’t healthy for them. 

The choice to use real leather is yours, and we definitely understand the appeal, but we feel you can get the same quality from faux leather and also enjoy greater peace of mind. 

Which Material is Better?

Which fabric is better ultimately comes down to preference. If you’re looking for a new pair of shoes or a baseball glove, real cowhide leather might be the way to go. If you’re looking for pieces of furniture that are going to see a lot of use, we think you’d be well served to consider a faux leather option. 

For breathability, style, cost, and ease of care, we feel faux leather is the  hands down winner. Especially with so many high quality options of faux leather available, there’s really no reason to expend the cash for real leather unless you want to. 





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