Imagine yourself buying a trendy leather bag that costs a bomb, only to find out that three months in, the edges start peeling off. Oh boy, that’s a devastating feeling and we want to save you from having it. Read on, so that the next time you walk into a shop or order a leather bag online, you know the tricks to judge a good leather bag from a bad one and more importantly, a genuine leather bag from a fake one. We’re listing down all you need to know. Let’s dig deep and read them well so that you don’t have to come back to this blog again after a bad purchase.
What type of leather has been used to make the bag?
If you’re going to buy a leather messenger bag for work, go for a bag that looks better with age – just like wine.
How do you tell a leather product that has aged well?
Well, good leather will develop an attractive patina as it ages. Better the quality, the better the visual appeal of the patina. That’s why you must choose a bag that’s made of full grain leather. However, you can’t look at a leather bag and tell how the patina is going to be a couple of years from now. So use your nostrils! Smell the bag, and if you don’t get a distinctive leathery smell, don’t buy or return it if you have bought it online.
Save yourself from falling for bonded leather
Those cheeky deceivers look sometimes look even better than real. But. that’s not what you wanna pick. How do you know if it’s made of bonded leather? If it’s genuine, the bad will proudly say that it is ‘100% leather’. The look, the smell, the accessories are all important aspects to assess in this case.
If it is made of bonded leather – don’t buy, abort mission right there. Why? Because bonded leather is made of scrap pieces of leather that have been repurposed with chemicals and plastics – not genuine at all.
The tanning needs planning
Let’s have a look at this leather rucksack. It has a natural but imperfect texture and if you could smell it, you would your senses will tell you that it’s organic. The way this leather is made is not the same as that for a leather case for an iPhone. There’s something called leather tanning that makes a major difference between the good ones and the not so good ones. There are mainly two kinds of tanning – chrome tanning and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanned leather involves chemicals and chromium. It takes about two days to get done with tanning process, and it’s cheap. 90% of the products in the leather market are made of chrome tanned leather. Then there’s the vegetable tanned leather, which owes its name due to the natural products used in the tanning process. In this process, the hides go through a pre-tanning stage where they’re rehydrated with all their hair removed. The hides are cut in two pieces called ‘sides’ and dried out in a tanning liquor for several weeks. The long process in turn makes sure that the vegetable tanned leather products are thicker and stiffer. They have that classic leathery smell, are more durable and obviously look far better than the chrome tanned counterparts.
Durability, handwork and hardware
The quality of a leather bag is all about the durability of the leather. Making a perfect leather bag is not just about putting different parts together. There are two crucial aspects to it –
1) choosing the right kind of leather and
2) stitching with precision.
A durable bag made of full grain leather will be able to hold a good weight and be carried around with no signs of weakening. If you can’t afford full grain, go for top grain – that’s not a bad alternative at all. Also, a good leather bag will have the stitching done seamlessly, and without noticeable loose threads. Check the exterior as well as the interior for such consistency. If the bag has handles, they should be reinforced with leather or metal fixtures. If the handles are glued to the bag, that’s not for you. But it’s not always about the quality of the leather – the little parts that accessorize the bag are also important. Check the buckles, handles, locks metallic rings, zippers and shoulder strap fittings. If these things are of good quality, it goes on to show that the makers of the bag go by a certain standard and are not willing to compromise on that. For example, take a look at this raw leather duffle bag. Not only is it devoid of any chemical processing, the shoulder strap, sippers and chains have been chosen and fitted with extreme care. All the metal accessories are made of 100% rust-proof brass. That’s the mark of a genuine leather product.
Challenge to Burn the Damn thing
This isn’t something you can do in case of online purchase. But if you are at a storefront and you are not sure if the merchandize you like is made of genuine leather, challenge the shopkeeper to take the fire test. Psst… we are not asking you to actually set things on fire but this is a good way to test the confidence of the shopkeeper. You’d have your clue if he fumbles or gets nervous and uncomfortable.
There you go. You know more about leather bag than any of those shopkeepers who are trying to sell you faux goods. Shop better. Shop wiser.