The True Cost of Cheap Leather

Leather production has a rich history. According to Britannica, humans have practiced leather making “for over 7,000 years,” and tanning -- treating animal hides to produce leather -- originated with the Egyptians. Today, the leather market is more complex than ever, and even fake leather alternatives made through modern chemical processes exist. 

It’s understandable that shopping for leather can be overwhelming, since such a range of qualities are now available. Low-quality leathers can be tempting purchases since they are so cheap and convenient. But, like most products with cheaper alternatives, low-quality leathers are ultimately not worth the money they save.  

The Real Cost of Cheap Leather Is It’s Worse Quality and Bigger Environmental Impact.

Cheap leather is, without a doubt, a lower-quality product. But how does that lower quality translate into a larger true cost? Compared to quality leather, cheap alternatives:

  • Have a Much Shorter Lifespan. And significantly so. Full-grain leathers are amazingly durable and last for years without damage, whereas alternatives like bonded leathers crack and peel easily, and their non-leather layers are easily worn away. One piece of full-grain, quality leather can outlast many, many cheaper pieces.   
  • Lose Their Look Quickly. Whereas high-quality leathers can a unique, beautiful patina as they age and their colors subtly change, cheap leathers age much less gracefully. Aside from being damaged, cheaper leathers lose their original look quickly as their colors and patterns fade.   
  • Release Chemicals Over Time. As bonded leathers -- a kind of cheaper mixture of real leather and non-leather material -- age, they can release some of the chemicals used to bond their fibers together.

  • More importantly, cheap leathers have a much bigger environmental impact than high-quality ones. Cheap leathers:

  • Clog Landfills. Most cheap alternatives aren’t biodegradable like high-quality leathers are, and the chemical processes and plastics used to make them can continue to hurt the environment long after they are discarded. And they are discarded much more readily, since they aren’t nearly as durable as types like full-grain leather.  
  • Require Dangerous Chemicals to Produce. Certain types of faux leathers, like PU and PVC leathers, are made with chemicals like chlorine. Cheaper leathers like these use processes that are dangerous to the workers producing them, and can have long-lasting environmental drawbacks.

  • Low-quality leathers are only cheaper the moment you buy them. It costs less, in the long run, to invest in a high-quality product that won’t wear out easily and then languish in a landfill. REady to own a piece you’ll use and love for years? Check out CASUPO’s of all full-grain leather products.