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Your Position: Home - Luggage, Bags & Cases - 5 Must-Have Features in a leather products material

5 Must-Have Features in a leather products material

Leather is a material that has been around for ages and is really durable. It can be used to make all kinds of cool stuff look stylish and fancy. There are many different types of leather, and it can be hard to choose the right one for your needs. In this blog, we will talk about different types of leather goods and give you tips on how to take care of them. Lastly, we will help you identify genuine leather so that you don't get duped by fake products in the market. So let's dive into Leather 101!

Introduction to Leather Goods | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

Leather goods have been around for centuries and are known for their durability and versatility. However, with so many options available, it can be challenging to understand the different types of leather goods. From leather bags to pet accessories, leather items serve various purposes and have unique characteristics. Understanding the types of leather goods available can help you choose the right one for your needs. In this section, we will explore the different types of leather goods available in the market and their distinct features.

What is Leather? | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

People use leather, a durable material, to make furniture, bags, and other items. It comes in different types with different features. Different types of leather are used for these products. Other types of leather include corrected-grain leather, bonded leather, and suede. Understanding the different types of leather can help you make informed purchasing decisions. For example, if you're looking for a long-lasting high-quality product, full-grain leather would be the best choice. If you don't have a lot of money but still want something that will last, split leather could be a great choice.

Source of Leather

The source of leather is an essential factor that determines the leather quality. The most commonly used animal skins for leather production include cowhide, sheepskin, and goatskin. Each type of animal hide produces a different type of leather with unique characteristics and properties. For instance, cowhide is thicker and more durable, making it suitable for products like furniture or jackets. In contrast, goatskin produces lighter and softer leather that is ideal for gloves or shoes. Some kinds of leather, like alligator, ostrich, and snake, are used in special products because of their unique look and feel. Understanding the source of leather can help buyers make informed decisions about what they're purchasing.

Tanning Process

The tanning process is a crucial step in creating high-quality leather goods. This process involves treating the animal hides with various chemicals to strengthen them and prevent decay. The type of tanning used, whether vegetable, chrome, or aldehyde, determines the resulting texture and finish. Chrome tanning is softer and more flexible. It's used in making clothes and accessories. Aldehyde tanning creates lightweight and water-resistant leather perfect for outdoor protective gear. Understanding the differences between these processes can help you make an informed purchase decision when choosing leather goods.

Types of Leather Goods | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to leather goods, there are various types to choose from depending on your needs. Leather bags are a popular choice because they are durable and versatile. They can be used for work or casual wear. Leather shoes and boots are also a common choice that adds style and comfort, making them an ideal option for any outfit. Leather items such as belts, wallets, and phone cases are special accessories that give your daily necessities a bit of style and class. Other types of leather goods include accessories for animals, music and entertainment, travel, defense and protection, sport, religious or magical items, home and office items, and containers and holders. Whatever your preferences may be, there's a type of leather good that can suit your lifestyle.

Leather Bags | Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to leather bags, there are numerous styles and types to choose from. Whether you need a spacious tote or a sleek shoulder bag, leather is the go-to material for durability and style. Full-grain leather bags are the best and longest-lasting. They are made from strong materials. Sometimes, they have a smooth finish. Genuine leather bags are also available, but they may not last as long as their higher-quality counterparts. Consider factors such as size, functionality, and overall style when selecting a leather bag that best meets your needs.

Leather Shoes | Types of Leather Goods

Leather shoes are a timeless fashion staple that can elevate any outfit. When shopping for leather shoes, it's essential to consider the use of leather in their construction. Full-grain leather is the most durable and luxurious option and tends to last longer than top-grain or genuine leather shoes. Top-grain leather is another popular choice that offers a smooth finish and affordability. Genuine leather shoes may be less expensive, but they tend to be of lower quality and less durable. Suede leather shoes have a soft texture but require special care to maintain their appearance. Consider these factors when shopping for your next pair of leather shoes to ensure you choose the right type for your needs.

Pets Accessories | Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to choosing accessories for your furry friend, leather is an excellent choice. Leather pet accessories, such as collars and leashes, are durable, long-lasting, and can withstand wear and tear. Opting for full-grain leather is the best leather choice as it is strong and can develop a beautiful patina over time. Leather pet accessories come in various colors and styles to fit your pet's personality. However, it's essential to choose the correct size collar or leash to ensure your pet's comfort and safety. Remember that regular cleaning and conditioning can help prolong the life of your leather pet accessories.

Music and Entertainment Items | Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to music and entertainment items, leather is a popular choice for its durability and style. From guitar straps to drumstick bags to record sleeves, leather products offer both protection and aesthetic appeal. Leather straps and bags are good for keeping your guitar and drumsticks safe while you play them for a long time. . Leather record sleeves not only safeguard your vinyl but also add a touch of sophistication to any collection. Choosing the right kind of leather for your bags and accessories is important because they need to be tough and last a long time. The best choice is full-grain or top-grade leather.

Travel Items | Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to travelling, having the right gear can make all the difference. Leather travel gear, like luggage or passport holders, are fashionable and durable. Full-grain leather is strong, while top-grain is both affordable and long-lasting. Genuine leather may be cheaper but may not provide the same level of durability as full or top-grain leather. When deciding what to bring on your next trip, think about size, style, and function to make sure they fit your needs and preferences.

Defense and Protective Items | Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to protecting ourselves from harm, it's essential to choose the right gear.
Due to its durability and resistance to wear and tear, leather is a popular material for defense and protective items. Leather gloves, leather jackets, and leather boots all offer protection from sharp objects, high temperatures, and weather. Additionally, leather helmets provide vital head protection in sports like football or motorcycle riding. When choosing a leather product for your needs, consider quality, durability, and use to make sure it is the best option.

Sport Leather Items | Types of Leather Goods

Sports leather goods are designed to last and help you perform your best when playing sports. Baseball gloves, footballs, boxing gloves and golf bags are all made of tough leather so they can handle all the rough stuff you do while playing. These items require special care such as conditioning to maintain their quality over time. Choosing the right type of leather for your sports goods can enhance your performance and provide long-lasting value. Additionally, investing in high-quality sport leather products can lead to a more enjoyable experience while participating in your favorite activities.

Leather Religious or Magical Items | Types of Leather Goods

Leather religious or magical items are a popular choice among collectors and enthusiasts of different faiths and traditions. Designers often add intricate embellishments to these items, which increase their symbolic value. Leather prayer books, rosary cases, and talisman pouches are some examples of these unique leather goods. They make great gifts for those who appreciate the beauty and symbolism of such pieces. It is important to take care of leather things to make them last long and keep their look and feel good. Preventing damage from heat or sunlight involves keeping them in a dry, cool place.

Leather Home and Office Items | Types of Leather Goods

Leather is a versatile material that can be used to make a variety of home and office items. From sofas and chairs to desk chairs and portfolios, leather provides a classic look that never goes out of style. One advantage of choosing leather for your home or office is its durability; high-quality leather items can last for years with proper care. When selecting a leather home or office items, consider factors such as style, functionality, and maintenance requirements. To keep leather supple and avoid cracking, you'll need to follow the manufacturer's care instructions on a regular basis.

Leather Containers and Holders | Types of Leather Goods

Leather containers and holders are really useful things that can do a lot of different jobs. For example, you can use them to store coins, keys, phones or even tablets. They come in all shapes and sizes, like pouches, wallets or cases. You can even use them for carrying drinks like wine bottles or coffee cups. Think about the intended use and choose a high-quality leather holder while shopping. It'll last longer and look better as time goes on!

Understanding the Different Types of Leather | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

When buying leather products, it's important to know the different types of leather so you can choose the best option for your needs. Full-grain leather is durable and strong. Top-grain and corrected-grain are also strong but are usually less expensive.

Bonded leather is made by joining scraps of leather together to make a cheaper option. Exotic leathers like alligator and ostrich are hard to find, and people want them for their unique texture and look. Each type of leather has its own benefits and drawbacks, so deciding what you need and what you want can help you pick the right one for you.

Full Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is the best when it comes to leather stuff. This type of leather is made from the outer layer of an animal's skin and still has all the original markings and texture. It's really strong and can be used in fancy furniture, awesome backpacks, shoes, belts, and other luxury items. If you take good care of full-grain leather, it will get better with age and look even more awesome! Though it may be more expensive than other types of leather, investing in a full-grain product will last you forever and always look great.

Top Grain Leather

When it comes to durability and quality, top-grain leather is one of the best options out there. Tanners make this type of tough leather from the top layer of animal hide and use it to craft high-quality furniture, bags, and other items for special occasions. Not only is it durable, but it also develops a unique patina over time that adds character to the leather. Keep in mind that these benefits come at a higher price point compared to other types of leather goods. When shopping for top-grain leather products, be sure to look for quality stitching and finishing details for maximum longevity.

Corrected Grain (Bottom Cut/Split) Leather

The manufacturers process Corrected grain leather, also known as a bottom cut or split leather, by sanding down the lower layers of the hide to eliminate imperfections and provide a more uniform appearance. They separate the fibrous lower layers from the top-grain layer before the sanding process. To give it a smooth, shiny finish, corrected grain leather often has a coating of resin or pigment on it.

While corrected-grain leather is durable and affordable, it lacks the natural leather characteristics and texture of full-grain or top-grain leather. People commonly use corrected grain leather in furniture upholstery, shoes, and handbags due to its low cost and uniform appearance. However, if you're looking for high-quality leather with natural texture and markings, full-grain or top-grain may be a better choice.

Bonded Leather

If you're trying to buy leather goods on a budget, bonded leather is a good option. But it's not as strong or long-lasting as real leather. If it gets too hot or too much sun, it can start to crack and peel. You'll also need special cleaning products for bonded leather - not the same ones you use for genuine leather. It might be cheaper to go with bonded leather but remember that it won't last as long and won't be as good quality.

How to Choose the Right Type of Leather for Your Needs | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

When it comes to choosing the right type of leather for your needs, there are several factors to consider. Full-grain leather makes really nice stuff because it has a natural look and is exceptionally tough. Top-grain leather isn't as strong but it's cheaper, and you can usually find it in furniture and accessories. Split leather, made from the lower part of raw hides, is cheaper and less durable than full or top-grain leather. It is also made from pieces of different leather that are not as good quality and fit into a smaller budget. Choose the type of leather that best suits your needs based on these factors.

How To Care for Your Leather Goods

Maintaining the appearance and quality of your leather goods is essential to ensure they last for years to come. Regular cleaning and conditioning are crucial in preventing the cracking or drying of the leather. Using specialized cleaners and conditioners designed specifically for leather is important to avoid causing damage. When storing your leather goods, keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to prevent fading or discoloration. Additionally, avoid exposing them to water or other liquids that may cause staining or damage. Recommend seeking professional help for deep stains or major damage to properly care for leather goods.

Cleaning Leather

Cleaning leather goods regularly is essential to maintain their appearance and prolong their lifespan. Before cleaning, it's important to identify the type of leather and choose appropriate cleaning products. A gentle, pH-neutral cleaner should be used on a damp cloth or sponge to clean the leather. Avoid using harsh chemicals or scrubbing too vigorously, as this can damage the leather. After cleaning, allow the leather to dry naturally and apply a leather conditioner to keep it soft and supple. Regular conditioning will help to prevent cracking and drying of the leather.

Taking good care of your leather stuff is really important to make sure it looks great and lasts. Use products that are safe for leather, avoid harsh chemicals, and give your items some TLC regularly. If you have any deep stains or major damage on your leather goods, it's best to get help from a professional.

Conditioning Leather

Maintaining the suppleness and softness of your leather goods requires regular conditioning. Conditioning helps restore the natural oils of the leather, keeping it from drying out and cracking. There are various types of leather conditioners available, including creams, oils, and sprays. It's crucial to choose a conditioner that is compatible with the type of leather you have. After identifying the right conditioner, use a soft cloth or sponge to rub it evenly into the surface of the leather. Conditioning should be done every three to six months depending on how often you use your leather goods.

Protecting Leather from Water Damage

Leather goods can be easily damaged by water, resulting in stains and discoloration. Protecting your leather goods from water damage is essential to maintain their longevity. To do this, use a waterproofing spray or wax on your leather items. Make sure to apply the product evenly and allow it to dry completely before using the item. It's also important to avoid submerging leather goods in water or exposing them to heavy rain or snow. If your leather products get wet, gently wipe them off with a clean cloth and let them dry away from direct heat. By taking these small precautions, you can keep your leather goods looking great for longer.

Storing Leather Goods

Storing your leather goods the right way is key to making them last a long time. Don't put them in places with too much sun or humidity since that can cause fading, cracking, and mold. Keep them in a cool, dry spot with good airflow so they don't get too moist. Put a dust bag or cover over them when you store them to keep off dirt and dust. And don't stack or bend the leather items - it can cause creases that won't go away! Following these tips will help your leather stay looking great for years.

Removing Stains from Leather

Leather is a durable and versatile material, but it requires proper care to maintain its quality. Removing stains from leather can be challenging, especially if you're dealing with delicate or expensive items. Fortunately, there are several safe and effective ways to clean leather without damaging its surface. Using a product designed for the type of leather you're working with can help keep your leather looking clean and fresh. Try it on a small, inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn't cause any problems.

Avoiding Sun Damage

Sun damage can be a serious issue when it comes to leather goods. Leather is a natural material that can be negatively impacted by the sun's harmful UV rays. Over time, exposure to sunlight can cause fading, discoloration, and even cracking of leather items. To keep your leather goods from getting sun damage, keep them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. If you have to put them in the sun, use a UV protector spray or cover them with a cloth. Additionally, regular conditioning with a leather conditioner can help maintain the suppleness and color of your leather goods.

How to Identify Genuine Leather | Leather 101: Understanding the Different Types of Leather Goods

When shopping for leather goods, it's important to know if you're getting the real deal so it'll last. Real leather looks more natural and feels better than alternatives like plastic or synthetic materials. To check if your leather goods are legit, look for visible pores and natural imperfections (which often aren't in fake stuff). Genuine leather also has a unique smell that sets it apart from fakes. It should also be soft and pliable when you touch it. Keep these tips in mind when buying new leather stuff so you know you're investing in something good quality!

The Feel Test

When it comes to identifying genuine leather, the feel test is a reliable method. Genuine leather has a unique texture that feels soft, supple, and warm to the touch. On the other hand, artificial leather may feel smooth or plasticky with a lack of warmth and suppleness. It's important to check the product carefully to make sure it is real leather. Use multiple ways to check if it is real leather to make sure you buy the right one.

If you're trying to figure out if something is real leather or not, one way to tell is by feeling it. You can distinguish genuine leather by observing its natural imperfections and visible pores. It also has a unique texture and warmth that you won't find in fake leather. To test it out, just run your fingers over the material and see what you notice!

Look for the Leather Mark

When shopping for leather goods, it's essential to know how to differentiate genuine leather from synthetic alternatives. One way to ensure that you're getting high-quality leather products is to look for the leather mark. This stamp or seal can tell you what animal skin was used, who made it, and where it was made.

A leather mark can be a good indicator of the quality of an item, but it's not always reliable. To make sure you're getting genuine leather, it's important to learn about different types of leather and their characteristics. Looking for things like texture, smell, flexibility, grain pattern, and pore structure will help you pick out items that are made to last!

Check for Pore Structure

When identifying genuine leather, checking the pore structure is a crucial step. Genuine leather has an irregular and uneven pore structure that gives it a natural appearance. By contrast, fake leather may have a repeating pattern or no pores at all. To check for pores, examine the surface of the leather closely under good lighting. Sliding your finger over the surface can also help you feel the texture and tell if the leather is real. Other factors like smell, flexibility, and durability can also help you decide if the leather is real.

Test the Smell

The smell of genuine leather is one of its most distinctive features. It has a rich, earthy scent that can't be replicated with synthetic materials. When identifying genuine leather, it's essential to use your sense of smell in combination with other tests. If the leather smells like plastic or has no scent at all, it is likely fake. However, some leather products may have a slight chemical smell due to the tanning finishing process. If you're not sure if a product is real or fake, take time to look closely and use your senses to make a decision.

Examine the Color

When looking at leather items, the color is super important. Real leather usually looks different from artificial leather because it has a natural pattern on it. Manufacturers dye or paint fake leather, giving it a solid color. Some high-end leather products color to achieve a particular shade, which looks awesome. It's important to remember that some items might be made to look old-fashioned, so make sure you check out the quality as well!

Inspect the Grain Pattern

Leather has a really cool pattern that makes it stand out from other materials. You can tell if the leather is real or fake by looking at the grain pattern. Genuine leather has an irregular and consistent look, while fake leather usually looks kind of artificial or repeated. It's important to check out the grain pattern carefully to make sure there aren't any marks or flaws which could mean it's not good quality leather.

Additionally, high-quality leather with a natural-looking grain pattern will be more durable and last longer than cheaper imitations. The grain pattern on a leather item makes it look more special and unique. When you are buying a high-quality leather item, check the grain pattern carefully.

Check the Flexibility

When choosing leather goods, it's important to take flexibility into consideration. Genuine leather can easily bend and twist without cracking, while imitation leather or synthetic materials may not be as flexible. By testing the flexibility of a leather product, you can determine the quality of the leather used. High-quality leather will keep its shape and show minimal creasing after being bent or twisted. It is also more comfortable to wear or use. This is important when buying any type of leather item.

Consider the Price

When it comes to buying leather stuff, the cost is a big deal. It's easy to pick the cheaper option, but you gotta remember that the price can show how good and real it is. Genuine leather usually costs more than fake or faux leather, but just because it's expensive doesn't mean it's real.

Conclusion

Understanding the different types of leather and their uses is key to making informed decisions when buying leather goods. There are a lot of different types of leather products you can buy. It's important to choose the right one for you, whether it's full-grain, top-grain, corrected-grain, or bonded leather. Additionally, proper care and maintenance can extend the life of your leather goods. If you don't know how to tell if a piece of leather is real or need more info on what kind of leather to buy, download our guide to help you.

FAQs

What are the most common types of leather used for goods such as bags, shoes, and jackets?

The most common types of leather used for bags, shoes, and jackets are cowhide, sheepskin, and goatskin. Cowhide leather is known for its durability and is commonly used for jackets and bags. On the other hand, sheepskin leather is soft and often used for shoes and jackets. Lastly, goatskin leather is lightweight and commonly used for bags. Each type of leather has its unique characteristics that make it suitable for a variety of goods.

How can I care for and maintain my leather goods to ensure their longevity?

To keep your leather items in good condition, use a leather conditioner regularly to keep them moist and prevent cracking. Protect your leather goods from direct sunlight and heat sources, which can cause fading and drying out.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners on leather; instead, use a damp cloth and mild soap when necessary. It's really important to make sure you keep your leather stuff in a place that isn't too hot or humid and don't pile them on top of each other. That way you can help them last longer and look awesome for years!

What are the differences between full-grain leather, top-grain leather, and genuine leather?

There are significant differences between full-grain, top-grain, and genuine leather. Full-grain leather is the highest quality and most durable, made from the entire thickness of the animal hide. Top-grain leather is not as good quality as some other types, because it has been sanded and treated to get rid of any flaws. Genuine leather is the least good quality, and it's made from bits of hide stuck together.

The cost and how good it is can be really different between these leather products, so think about what you need and how much money you have before buying anything.

What are the benefits of using genuine leather products?

Using genuine leather products can offer several benefits. Leather is a durable and long-lasting material that improves with age, becoming softer and more comfortable over time. It has a timeless and classic look that never goes out of style.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, leather is also easy to clean and maintain, making it a practical choice for everyday use. Investing in high-quality leather products can be a great choice for those looking for lasting durability and style.

Suggested reading:
Which leather frameless phone case is best?

What are some common misconceptions about leather and leather products?

There are several common misconceptions about leather and leather products. One is that all leather products are of the same quality, which is not true. Another misconception is that real leather always looks and feels the same.

Many people believe that genuine leather is the best quality, but full-grain leather is often considered higher quality. Finally, some people think that synthetic leather is a cheaper and lower-quality alternative, but high-quality synthetic leather can be durable and sustainable.

I must confess that every time I go into a department store or discount store like Ross or TJ Maxx, I take a look at the wallets, just to see what else is out there.   Since I was born into this business, I’ve never carried a wallet that my dad or I didn’t make personally.  It’s interesting to see what’s out there and how they’re made.   All of those box-store wallets seem to be about the same, no matter the brand that’s stamped on the outside (Tommy, Kenneth Cole, Calvin Klein, etc).  I’d guess they’re all probably from the same few of leather factories pumping out the leather equivalent of  fast fashion in some developing country.    The prices are hard to beat.  Are they any good?  Will they last?

One of the questions I get asked most often is “How can I recognize a good leather product?”  I actually got a few complaints that my previous posts didn’t do much to tell you how to recognize “quality leather.”  While the leather that’s used is super-important, the leather aspect of quality is much harder to detect on something that’s brand new.  Usually “bad” leather is something that becomes much more apparent with time and use.

The fact is: I don’t use what I know about different kinds of leather to judge if a product is quality or not.

So what’s a person to do?  Look for quality construction and techniques.  There are “tells” that can be seen right away that let me know if a wallet or ID case (or any other leather product) will last.  I’m going to break down a more or less “standard” 8-pocket bifold from a big box store vs one that I made using better techniques.  Full disclosure: for the most of the comparison shots, I’m using a bifold I made, not trying to self-promote here, but what else am I gonna use?  I’m most familiar with the designs I’ve made myself.  That being said, lots of other quality makers use pretty much the same design to make their wallets: It’s 10 pieces of leather: Front, inside panel, 2 hidden pocket panels, 4 tab pockets, and 2 full pockets:

Look at the edges:

 

“Turned edges” or edges that have been folded over, look great and give a product a finished look, however most quality makers don’t make their wallets with this method for a few reasons:

  • First of all, to do this process correctly, it takes time and skill, lots of it.  Every edge has to be neatly folded inwards and precisely creased.  This investment in labor is much more practical in countries where labor costs are minimal, but where cutting corners in other aspects of quality are common.    I have seen this method used in very few quality wallets but the price tag is considerably higher than the wallets you’re finding at your local big box store: Quality Turned Edge Wallet
  • The second reason you don’t see many makers using this technique is that it requires ultra-thin leather.  If you look at the above pictures you’ll see that the not only are the outside edges folded over but even the top of each pocket is folded over.  On a “quality” product could skive down (thin) the edges to make them less thick when folded and reduce bulk, but on these imported wallets they just use a leather that’s thinner all around.  Thin leather means less durability, I’ll hit this point again further down.

Edges that aren’t turned:

 

On a quality wallet you’ll usually see the edges done in just a few ways and all are a variation of stacking the pieces together.

  1. Stacked edges (raw or dyed): In the picture above all the pieces are dyed and stacked together, glued and sewn (in few separate sewing steps), it’s pretty simple and how I make most of my wallets.  It allows for the much thicker leather and a more durable product.  You’ll sometimes also see the edges left their natural color depending on the type of leather and the company making it.
  2. Burnished edges: You can find the same technique used on other high-end leather goods but the edges are sometimes sanded and the burnished, this gives a much cleaner look (almost as if it was one piece) than just a painted/dyed edge.  Quality burnishing takes lots of time, so you won’t find many wallets with nicely burnished edges at a low price point.

    3. Completely coated edges:  This is when you see that the edges have a rubbery looking coating around the entire edge that makes doesn’t let you see the individual layers of leather.   This technique is used by both high-end manufacturers and cheaper imports, so it can’t be used to judge quality one way or the other.

Crazy-thin materials:

Most leather workers like the outside/front of the wallet to be between 4oz-5oz (1.6mm-2mm) leather (and some even thicker).  For insides (the card section), even when split down, you’re usually talking 2.5oz-3oz (1mm-1.2mm) leather.  The leather used in both the front and insides of the wallet I’m using in this post is less than 2oz.  While leather is a tough material, when you start getting really thin, you start losing durability.   Add to that, the fact that this type of wallet is usually made with “lower than average” quality leather.

The worst problem with mass produced imported wallets: lots and lots of non-leather materials

The reason that cheap wallets are able to stay super-thin and still have folded edges has to do with the fact that everything except the front panel of the wallet is essentially not leather.  Sure, you look inside the wallet and all you see is leather, but if you look more closely, the parts that actually hold you stuff are all nylon.  This my #1 way to know if a product is going to last or not. be it a bag wallet or anything else.  Any component that’s not leather is going to limit the life of a product, nylon just won’t hold up over time; the edges ravel and/or it will rip after just a few years.

First, let’s take one of the card pockets and open it and look inside.   You’re going to see a thin strip of leather that is overlapped a little by the pocket below it, but nylon for the pocket itself.

With better quality wallets you’ll see all leather pockets, usually t-slots (see my Primer on Pockets to understand the different types of pockets found in leather goods.)

Along the same lines, the center section of the cheap wallet is also just for show; if you look deeper, you’ll see it’s only in the center and nylon is actually used as the inside of the “hidden” pockets and the interior section of the bill compartment.

With a quality wallet you can look and see that the entire center panel, which serves as the inside of the bill compartment goes all the way across under the pocket sections and is all leather.

Using methods that use less leather, the low quality makers save money and keep their wallets very thin as it’s essentially only 2 layers (4 when folded) of thin leather at the most, and several layers of nylon.

Look for suede:

The back of leather is suede, when you find it, you’ll know you’re dealing with real leather and not a synthetic.  Also, if you see suede you’ll know that they used leather that was thick enough to give the wallet some body and they didn’t have to use cardboard or foam stiffeners (yes they use paper in cheap leather wallets!).    Lastly, and once again, anything that’s not leather, will wear out way before the leather.  I’ve seen lined purses that look great on the outside but have a liner that’s turned into a raveled mess with just a few years of use.   This is why I, generally, don’t line my products (only special requests and then I try to discourage it).   If you want a lining in a leather product, look for a leather lining; though, word of warning, this will add significant weight and bulk.

Thickness and size:

Nobody likes a really thick wallet, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a long-lasting wallet without some “body” to it.  Most quality wallets tend to be a little thicker than their throw-away counterparts (one of the biggest complaints we occasionally get).  Another thing you’ll notice is that quality wallets tend to have a little more space between the seam and the edge of the wallet and therefore they tend to have a bigger foot-print.  The reason for the wider seams has to do with the size of needle needed to penetrate thicker leather and the thicker thread that’s used in more durable products.  You can see in my pictures below that the thinner thread has broken in the cheap import.

Too many bells and whistles:

Another thing to watch out for are lots of features.  Because cheap wallets use thin leather and lots of nylon on the inside, they can add features that would make an all leather wallet much too thick.  You may have noticed that the wallet I’ve been using has 2 hidden pockets under the card banks (compared to only on in the wallet I made) and it also has a divider in the cash section.  While we all love features, many features add more thicknesses of leather: a divider adds 2 thicknesses when folded, the double hidden pockets another 2.  I’ve seen wallets with even more than that:  zippers, pull-out ID cases, coin pockets, etc…The more things like this you see, the more likely it is that you’re looking at a wallet that has less leather and more nylon.  Obviously the bigger the wallet, the more you can have; nothing wrong with a brass zipper and even space for a checkbook on a long trucker wallet, but it has no place in trifold or bifold.

Look for simplicity, there’s less to go wrong.  I say my favorite recipe for leather goods is only 2 ingredients: Leather and thread.  My trifold wallet is 5 pieces of leather stitched with bonded nylon thread.  My bifolds have 10 pieces also stitched with bonded nylon.  They are tough, very rarely do I ever get a wallet back that needs to be restitched.

Country of Origin:

I don’t want to come across as saying that “Made in USA” is always the best and we must buy American (though I personally like to when I can), but the country that a product is manufactured in does in many cases say something about quality.  Leather goods from the USA, Japan, Italy, France and other developed countries are more likely to be made using quality methods than products made in the developed world.  That being said, I’ve traveled to other countries in less developed areas of the world and seen goods produced using quality techniques and material by artisans who took great pride in the work they were doing.  I’ve also seen products sold by people in this country who absolutely didn’t know or care about making a quality product (though it’s not common).   Some brands care a lot about the quality of the goods that carry their name and make sure that their manufacturing partners (in whatever country), use quality techniques and materials (think about Apple and the iPhone made in China).   So, the bottom line is that you’ll have a higher hit/miss ratio buying from countries with a reputation for quality and craftsmanship.

Price:

Price doesn’t mean a ton, some brands of leather goods are way overpriced and some folks sell their products quite reasonably,  but price can tell you a little.  My cheapest wallets are around $25 and I’m lower than most other companies making leather products here in the USA using quality techniques (maybe one day I’ll do a post on how I keep costs down by getting deals on leather and a few production techniques if anyone is interested).  If you’re looking at something more artisanal: hand-stitched and fully burnished edges, you’re looking at at least $50 and probably closer to $100.  You’ll never find a quality wallet for $10.

The Company:

Lastly, and this isn’t about the product itself: look at the brand or the company.  See if they have a Facebook page, Instagram account, or blog that shows some of their setup.  How are they making their product?   Do they post about new ideas or designs their working on?  Maybe a custom job they’ve done or a show they’ve just went to.  You should see at least a little bit of the process, not just finished goods.  It should also read like a real person wrote it, not just “marketing speak.”    This lets you know that the people running the business are making the goods.  Yes, I answer emails, take pictures, manage our website, write this blog, do taxes and payroll;  I spend a part of my day in front of a computer, but I’ve got dried leather dye on my hands right now…there isn’t one person who works at our company that doesn’t do some part of the actual “making” of the products.

This post is, by far, incomplete as there are tons of other wallets and designs of both high and low quality.  There are tons of other things that can help determine quality or the lack there of, but I hope I’ve given you a place to start.

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