You have spotted that perfect pure leather handbag in the boutique window. It looks so amazingly chic from across the glass pane that you can’t help but open the door and walk in to have a closer look. The shop assistant obligingly takes it down from the display to let you have a dekko. And here the doubts begin.

It still looks good but you aren’t sure if it is, in fact, real leather. Naturally you don’t wish to waste your good money on a wannabe fake leather bag. It would be as sacrilegious as paying for diamonds and taking home cubic zirconium! So how do you know if the bag in your hands is indeed a genuine leather bag, and not a close imitation of the real thing? Here are some tips on differentiating the real from the faux.

1 – See the bag up close

Check the label. If the label says pleather or rexine or synthetic or manmade material or any set of words to similar effect, you know it is not fit to be your arm candy.

What if it says ‘100% real leather’? Do you then take it face value? Well, this is the point where all this information that we are bringing to you will come in handy.

Check the price tag. If it is too reasonable, it cannot be the genuine article. Real leather does not come at bargain bottom rates and no seller sells to make a loss, period.
Take a close look at the geometric pebble-like surface pattern. Is it too uniform or is it random? As real leather is basically natural animal skin, it has minor imperfections (like with real emeralds, that tiny hint of imperfection is actually the most important factor!). Real leather will have semi-random surface structure and unevenly spread pores (minute holes where animal hide had hair) like you have on your own skin. Fake leather lookalikes have too even a texture with monotonously spread pores that just scream fake.

Check the seams next; especially where two cut edges are coming together. Manmade material is thinner and usually has fibres or threads at its exposed edges; or it feels like a sharp plastic edge. Real leather, on the other hand, is thicker with grainy rough edges. Also check the needle holes.Real leather is inherently stretchable so holes in it are a little uneven and seem to close in on the thread. Fake leather has no suppleness so needle holes are circular and distinct.

Bags usually come fully lined but do check if the back of the leather is visible anywhere? If it has a suede finish, it is real leather. Many brands attach a piece of purse’s leather to the tag, do look for it. Fake leather is usually backed by cloth or plastic, a dead giveaway.

2 – Feel the bag.

Run your fingers and palm over the bag’s surface. Fake leather is too artificially smooth. Real leather can come in varying degrees of coarseness or smoothness but being natural, it is always a little uneven, somewhat irregular yet pleasantly warm to touch, like skin. I must talk here of real Italian leather bags, by far the best in the world. Real Italian leather is full grain cowhide, has a smooth buttery sheen and is simply luxurious to touch. The real thing is so above the fake, that once you have used the genuine article, you will not touch fake ones even with a barge pole.

Real leather is supple and stretches in both directions. Stretch the material and you will see the pebble-like patterns disappear and come back when you release the material. Dig in your finger and run your fingernail over it, real leather scratches, wrinkles and regains original form slowly, like your own skin does under such treatment. Fake leather stays unaffected.

Weigh the bag in your hand. Discounting buckles, zippers and studs, real leather is heavier than fake leather. A decent sized real leather bag will never be a feather weight.

3 – Smell the bag.

Pick up the bag and sniff it. Fake leather is made from synthetic material and has a smell reminiscent of glue or plastic. Real leather on the other hand is real skin albeit treated and it has a distinctive ‘leathery’ scent

4 – Flame and saliva tests

As you can understand for obvious reason, we do not recommend that you conduct these tests to check a leather bag on display. However, since we are discussing key differentiators, you ought to know about these two parameters as well.

If you were to hold a lighter flame or a lit matchstick close to real leather, it will resist burning up to a point. However if flame is applied consistently, real leather will burn but without a flame and emit a flesh burning type of odour. On the other hand, fake leather will catch fire in seconds, burn with a flame, bubble up and smell like burning plastic.

Next, the saliva test. Real leather is absorbent, fake is not. If you were to rub a bit of saliva onto real leather, it will get absorbed. On fake leather, it will simply stay afloat.

5 – Your best bet to buy a real leather bag? Buy it from a reputed seller.

It takes years of practice to tell real leather from fake in a glance. Unfortunately not all of us are connoisseurs or have the time to get that kind of practice. If in doubt; buy your real leather bag from a reputed seller only. One who values his/her brand and has a proven track record. That’s your best bet to get a genuine real leather bag.

Famous last words

The high appeal of real leather comes out in its sophisticated looks and hardy durability which imitations cannot even begin to match. In many ways, real leather is like gold (doesn’t tarnish), diamonds (don’t chip or crack) and great wine (gets better with age). Like these other objects of desire, real leather does come with an upmarket price tag (a genuine real Italian leather bag can cost upwards of $250). But then again, it is worth every cent, every dollar you pay for it. So if you are a person of good taste, add to your elegance with a carefully selected real leather bag.