Before we get into the why’s, let’s review the what’s that are involved when it comes to buying real versus synthetic leather.
What are the different types of leather?
By definition, leather is a material made from an animal hide/skin by tanning or a similar process. Yet, there are many types of materials that are marketed as leather. Real leather is the highest grade of leather. Bonded leather is made from scraps and fibers leftover from manufacturing genuine leather, mixed with a polyurethane binder. Most of these leathers only contain about 10 to 20 percent real leather. And then there’s faux or synthetic leather which has the appearance of leather, but is not made from animal skin or hide.
“The big problem with most materials made to replace leather is that these synthetic leathers are petroleum-based and made from non-renewable resources,” says Braydan Shaw, Burns’ president. “Leather is a by-product of the meat industry and if the skins aren’t used they end up in the land fill.”
Shaw says that the U.S. does a great job of ensuring that the majority of these skins are processed and can be made into fine leather goods.
“In fact, about 90 percent of the animal hides that are harvested in the U.S. are recycled and made into leather,” he says.
Why choose the real deal?
There are many reasons to choose real leather over synthetic leather. Here’s why:
Durability: Since most items that are made out of real leather are high quality and more durable, real leather is going to last over time because it won’t crack or peel. Faux or synthetic leather also isn’t breathable and can easily puncture and crack. Real leather can last lifetimes and get passed down from one generation to the next. So, those treasured cowboy boots will have some colorful stories to tell if they could talk, can continue to create lasting memories – the stuff that makes for legends.
Eye-candy: Real leather just looks good! It has the most natural appearance with a smooth, soft texture that’s unlike artificial leathers. And, instead of wearing out, real leather will develop a patina on its natural surface. Genuine leather also features inconsistent pores and marks, which means it’s original and distinctive. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind, so shouldn’t you own a unique handbag or belt to reflect that? Faux leather is more uniform in its appearance.
Sustainability: Managed properly and tanned responsibly, leather is a renewable resource that is sustainable and has a relatively low impact on the environment compared to its counterparts. Synthetic leather often includes plastics which do not decompose and are not eco-friendly.
“The majority of the leather we use at Burns is veg tanned leather, which means it’s tanned using natural tannins such as tree bark which makes it environmentally friendly,” Shaw explains.
Overall, real leather will stand the test of time while being a responsible environmental partner. Burns strives to make heirloom quality products that won’t end up in the land fill and that families can enjoy for generations.