A historical digression: leather and its development

Furs and animal skins were already used by the first humans, because it was quickly recognized that they could be used excellently. They offered protection from the cold in the form of a blanket or as clothing, while leather could protect the feet when used for boots or shoes. Leather could also prove useful for straps or tarpaulins, as walls for tents or as containers. Leather helped people to survive even in inhospitable regions and to face the weather. At that time, leather was made from all animals that were hunted for food. Today it is mainly the skin of cattle and sheep, pigs and goats that is most used for leather. In general, it is the livestock that accompany people most, from which the skin is also used.

Tanning of the hides

The skin of the animals must be tanned so that it does not rot but can be used for the respective purpose. Researchers now assume that people discovered tanning by chance and did not specifically look for such a possibility. At first, the skins were only cleaned of leftover meat and dried. Then people rubbed fats or oils on it to keep the skins durable and supple. Dried out animal skins became brittle and water permeable. Fat could prevent this effect. It is now believed that someone accidentally discovered that leather was preserved if it was left in water for a long time and certain plant residues were dissolved there. The tannins contained in the plants ensured that the bare, cleaned animal hide turned into leather. After this discovery, development continued rapidly and various tanning processes were tried out or some of them were further improved. As a result, processes were found that made the skins durable and a hard-wearing product.

Chrome tanning was discovered around the 19th century, which meant a significantly shorter production time for high-quality leather. This cleared the way for industrialization and thus for industrial leather production.


Today there is an increasing effort to replace chrome tanning with other processes that are as efficient as they are effective. The reason: This tanning process is highly toxic and the task now is to find more compatible processes that still meet the demands of industrialization.

Does it have to be real leather?

Certainly, opinions differ greatly on this question. Anyone who lives vegan and has completely renounced the use of animals will give a different answer than someone who only cares about the quality of their accessories or clothing. In general, however, leather is a very fine raw material that is extremely robust. Products made from real leather differ greatly from those made from synthetic leather in terms of their feel and, above all, their durability. If leather was used for the briefcase, it simply looks more elegant, of higher quality and more luxurious.

Leather also has several important advantages: The fact that it is warm may not be so important in the manufacture of leather accessories. But the fact that the fine fibers of the leather are very strongly interlinked is a great advantage. This means that leather has a high tear resistance, it can be bent, stretched and pulled. It can even absorb moisture: up to 30 percent of its own weight can be absorbed in water and the leather still does not feel wet. Anyone who gets into a downpour with their shopper will certainly appreciate this advantage! In addition, if properly cared for, leather is resistant to temperatures and aging. Overall, the result is that leather is of almost unrivaled quality. No artificial leather can achieve these advantages to the extent that it is noticeable with leather. If leather was used for the handbag, it doesn't just look good after purchase. The wallet or shoulder bag will also stay nice and soft for a long time. No wonder that leather is the first choice for women's accessories or a men's shoulder bag. At the same time, leather products are almost timeless to wear. Clutches made of leather look as modern today as they did yesterday, they can be perfectly combined with other accessories. Even a trendy mini bag will not only look good today but will also look good in the future. In addition, leather can be designed in many different designs. Whether grained, smooth, or perforated: the handle bag and shoulder bag can be adjusted differently and thus underline the personal style of the wearer.

A little material science: How to recognize "real leather"

We have all seen the print before: “Genuine leather” is emblazoned on some signs that are attached to the alleged leather bag or women's accessories. But is the mini bag really made of leather? Was leather used for the handbag? Or is the shoulder bag also made of synthetic leather?

The leather symbol is often found and presents itself as a schematic representation of an animal hide spread out. The symbol can usually be found on the back of bags and leather accessories. If it is not available, this is the surest indication that the product is made of synthetic leather. But even if it can be seen, the symbol is often used incorrectly or only refers to a part of the entire product.

With the help of the following tips, you can determine with certainty whether it is real leather or whether clutches, leather accessories and the like are only made of synthetic leather:


  1. Smell

Leather smells very characteristic. This smell cannot be imitated.

  1. Surface

If leather was used for the briefcase, the top may be smooth or profiled. But there are always small bumps that arose from previous insect bites, the smallest injuries or stretch marks. Artificial leather does not have this flaw because it has been machine-made. Small mistakes are therefore an indication of the quality of the product.

  1. Haptics

Leather always feels warm, even at low temperatures, and remains soft and supple. It has a good grip, while artificial leather becomes rigid and stiff in the cold. It is therefore worthwhile to feel the intended handle bag or shoulder bag at low temperatures!

  1. Edges

The edges of real leather are not completely smooth but show a slightly fibrous structure. Artificial leather, however, is cut smoothly and does not have these edges. But if the leather is well made, such a difference is difficult to see. In that case, the other criteria must be used to assess the authenticity.

  1. Water absorption

Real leather absorbs water and dark spots appear on the surface. Artificial leather, on the other hand, lets water roll off and it literally runs off.

The question arises again and again whether real leather cannot also be recognized by its price. Unfortunately, this is not the case, because if there is a well-known manufacturer's name behind the alleged leather bag, who still makes its products from artificial leather, the buyer must pay more than usual for artificial leather. This point can only be used for directly comparable products and is otherwise hardly meaningful.