Dating back to the Roman Empire, fine leather goods and products have been in wide use. From its humble beginnings as sails on boats to tents, furniture, body armor, and weapons, and ultimately into the wardrobes of the most fashionable of Egyptian women, leather has had a long and varied role in mankind’s history. Today, it makes up four items in the average consumers outfit at any given time.
If you’ve ever shopped for fine leather goods, you’ve probably asked yourself at one point or other if what you were holding was top quality leather or an imitation knockoff. Perhaps you’ve seen those stamped brands – - genuine leather, top-grain leather, or full-grain leather – - inside your bags or on the undersides of your belts and wondered just what they meant. Whatever your interest in fine leather goods, we’re here to answer your leather quality questions and teach you how to spot a knockoff before you’ve been ripped off.
First: a lesson in the grades of fine leather goods and not-so-fine leather goods
Remember those stamps inside your leather belts and leather briefcases? They refer to the grade of leather used to make the product. Obviously knock-off leather totes won’t be stamped with “Cheap, low-quality leather,” but knowing the different grades will help you in ferreting out a knock-off.
Most leather goods are made up of one of four types of leather: full-grain, top-grain, corrected-grain, and split leather. The only two you’ll want in your fine leather goods are the first, full-grain and top-grain. These are made from the top layers of the hide. Full-grain leather comes from the layer just below the hair. As such, it’ll have natural imperfections in it. With top-grain leather, they’ve sanded off the top couple millimeters to smooth out these imperfections.
If you’ve done the math, that means you should pass on the belt stamped “genuine leather.” While such a stamp does indicate you’re holding real leather, it’s the lowest in terms of quality.
How to spot a knockoff leather bag
Now for the fun part of today’s lesson: how to spot a knockoff. Here are four tips to help you determine if the fine leather goods you’re holding are as fine as they claim to be.
- Authenticity labels
Knock-off manufacturers have mastered the art of mimicking the exterior of fine leather goods, so you often have to look inside for clues. Genuine designer handbags will come with authenticity labels. Word to the wise: Fake producers can make knock-off authenticity labels, too. In truth, the only place you can rely on an authenticity card is in the brand’s store.
That said, by familiarizing yourself with a designer’s style of authenticity card, you may be able to spot one that isn’t genuine. Learn the font type and size used, if symbols are used and where they’re placed. Is there a holographic element to it or is the design flat?
- Brand labels
Another place to check is the inside label. Designers put as much meticulousness into their brand label as they do the rest of their design. A label whose font is slightly off-center or askew is a sure sign you’re holding knock-off fine leather goods.
- Identification stamps
Identification stamps can be a huge indicator of a genuine or fake leather bag. An identification stamp will tell you the country and when a bag was made. Designers have gotten as creative as counterfeiters where identification stamps are involved.
For instance, Louis Vuitton realized it was too easy to use a numeric code of month followed by year of manufacture, so they started using the week and year. What’s more, they alternated: the first and third numbers on a stamp would indicate the week of the year, while the second and fourth numbers stood for the year. Of course, if we know this, chances are the counterfeiters do, too. Even if the stamp looks genuine, it’s best to keep looking for other clues.
Another easy way to spot a sloppy counterfeit job is with shoddy stitching. Crooked stitches or stitching that presses too tightly into the bag’s material are sure signs you’re holding imitation fine leather goods. You may have to peer close to find poor stitching as counterfeiters will try to hide sloppy work.
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