Bonded Leather vs. Genuine Leather

Published on 01/09/2015

There’s something to be said for authenticity. We seek out upright politicians, honorable mates, transparent companies and reliable co-workers because we value honesty and authenticity over imitation. We look for the same types of qualities when we purchase goods for ourselves and our families. Have you ever intentionally sought out the most expensive pair of polyurethane boots you could find? Do you remember the last time you spent a weekend trying to find a car of low value with subpar tires? Highly unlikely, right?

Leather, like all materials, has many imitators. Today we’re going to shine some light on the differences between bonded leather and genuine leather.

Just what is bonded leather?

Bonded leather is a man-made substance constructed of shredded leather scraps and fibers, vinyl or polyurethane and fabric. According to Nick Cory from the Leather Research Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati, bonded leather can best be described this way: "On the outside, it's polyurethane embossed to look like leather. Then, to complete the effect, the manufacturer has glued on fibers to look like leather."

Cory says that bonded leather is "deceptive because it does not represent its true nature. It's a vinyl, or a polyurethane laminate or a composite, but it's not leather. If you tar and feather someone, does that make them a chicken?"

In other words, bonded leather is similar to particleboard, the engineered wood made from wood shavings, sawdust and synthetics that's found its way into the furniture making business. Particleboard furniture may be cheaper in price, but it doesn't have the look and feel of real wood, nor does it have the longevity and durability of the real deal. And the same is true of bonded leather versus genuine leather.

bonded leather google search

A quick Google search turns up more than 165,000 complaints by customers who purchased bonded leather goods that later fell apart, began flaking, or didn’t outlive their warranty.

Why bonded leather is not a real value

Photo credit: fsse8info

The above is a blended image of a bonded leather belt. The belt on left is brand new and the belt shown on the right has seen two months of average use. As you can clearly see, not much real leather was used in the manufacturing process here, and it shows. How much would you be willing to pay for a product with a lifespan of less than two months?

Differences between genuine and bonded leather

As the image above shows, faux leather and real leather wear differently. While real leather takes on unique characteristics and tends to get better looking with age, counterfeit leather falls apart and becomes useless. Those aren’t the only differences between the two products though.

Authentic leatherBonded leather
  • Authentic leather 
  • Easy to clean 
  • Becomes more comfortable with age 
  • Durable, pliable and strong 
  • Comfortable to use and wear 
  • Gets better looking with time 
  • Bonded leather
  • Impossible to repair, difficult to clean
  • Falls apart with time
  • Punctures and scratches easily
  • Hot and vinyl feeling
  • Prone to cracking, peeling and crumbling 

There was a time when genuine leather was considered a luxury good due to its high cost and difficulty in acquiring. Today it’s relatively easy to find authentic leather items, and the price has come down considerably because of its availability. Sure, you’ll pay a little more for all-natural leather goods, but with that price also comes the assurance that, unlike the man-made belt shown above, your unadulterated leather good will last a lifetime.

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