CelticPrint

"Genuine" Leather

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Broke my old belt after 5 years of daily use. Wife found these new belts for sale at 4-5 bucks a piece, they say "Genuine Leather" but the cat quickly found something else underneath. After just a quick scratch I was able to pull a very thin ply of some synthetic black material off of what feels like some kind of press board, like what 30 pack beer cartons are made out of. At this point since I saved my old hardware I'm going to make a new belt for less than 10 bucks out of veg tan but I'm left wondering, what are these belts made out of?

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Edited by CelticPrint

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Interesting...you'll be better off with your own redo!

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Right, the hardware alone would have cost me the same but I'll save that for a future project. I have a different buckle off an old "Guess" belt that you can reverse the buckle to use both sides of the belt, I'll emboss one side of the belt and leave the other side gloss black. It's a cool option on a buckle, let's you get two belts out of one piece of hardware.

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This is a family friendly forum so i won't tell you what i think its made from, and you know what they say buy cheap buy twice.

 

Hope this helps

JCUK

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Cheese...I think they are made out of cheese!
They do indeed have genuine leather, but it's just a thin cosmetic layer to hide the cheese. 

Edited by DJole

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If its anything similar to stuff I was given about 20 years ago; its reconstituted compressed card spray coated with a PVC liquid. 

A factory in Belfast which made similar closed down about 20 years ago and I was given a van load of belts. They were all marked 'Genuine Leather'. I used a load on toy shields then had the remainder burnt on a bonfire

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1 minute ago, fredk said:

If its anything similar to stuff I was given about 20 years ago; its reconstituted compressed card spray coated with a PVC liquid. 

A factory in Belfast which made similar closed down about 20 years ago and I was given a van load of belts. They were all marked 'Genuine Leather'. I used a load on toy shields then had the remainder burnt on a bonfire

That's pretty much what these feel like. 

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1 hour ago, CelticPrint said:

Broke my old belt after 5 years of daily use. Wife found these new belts for sale at 4-5 bucks a piece, they say "Genuine Leather" but the cat quickly found something else underneath. After just a quick scratch I was able to pull a very thin ply of some synthetic black material off of what feels like some kind of press board, like what 30 pack beer cartons are made out of. At this point since I saved my old hardware I'm going to make a new belt for less than 10 bucks out of veg tan but I'm left wondering, what are these belts made out of?

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Does it t say "leather" anywhere on the belt itself? It may be that the dangler tag is the only piece that used to moo. I've found this myself, on very cheap shoes.

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49 minutes ago, Matt S said:

Does it t say "leather" anywhere on the belt itself? It may be that the dangler tag is the only piece that used to moo. I've found this myself, on very cheap shoes.

Ha! Good point!

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3 hours ago, CelticPrint said:

Broke my old belt after 5 years of daily use. Wife found these new belts for sale at 4-5 bucks a piece, they say "Genuine Leather" but the cat quickly found something else underneath. After just a quick scratch I was able to pull a very thin ply of some synthetic black material off of what feels like some kind of press board, like what 30 pack beer cartons are made out of. At this point since I saved my old hardware I'm going to make a new belt for less than 10 bucks out of veg tan but I'm left wondering, what are these belts made out of?

If you really want to know how these are made then I can lay it out for you but suffice it to say that there is absolutely NO leather elements on these belts at all.  Even though the thin top layer/cover feels, looks, and sometimes even smells like leather, it ain't and there is no changing that fact.  I would hazard a guess that even the "dangler" is made from an artificial material.  These types of belts are so cheap to buy that it makes it a bit tougher to try and get anyone to listen to you about the advantage of buying a belt that you make so I have several commercially produced belts, some leather but most not, that I have with me to every show and market that I attend and I have partially disassembled each one to show the buyer how they are made.  I even have big designer names on my example rack and they are not made as finely as one would believe.  Most of the time the example rack experience gets the point across and it is a great thing when you can finally see that "the lights are on and somebody is home" but there are also those who couldn't find the switch if you put their hand on it for them and these dimwits will continue to think that there is still value in replacing their belt that is made from recycled cereal boxes every few months.

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So legally genuine leather means it has to be actual leather or suede (and not bonded), so when they're being honest and using low quality leather it's a bad kind of leather called a finished split.  A finished split is actually suede covered in a thick layer of paint or PU to make it look like top/full grain.  This strategy makes for bad leather because it like trying to make a smooth dance floor by covering shag carpet with paint or a tarp...it looks ok but with use the fuzzy underlayer effects the top finish.

 

This isn't to say that the company didn't just outright lie and label a complete synthetic as "genuine leather."

 

One more side point...there's a bit of marketing out there that claims that "genuine leather" is a specific kind/grade of leather... this is false:  Both Red Wing Heritage and LL Bean have "genuine leather" stamped on some of their high quality full grain products.

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34 minutes ago, nstarleather said:

This isn't to say that the company didn't just outright lie and label a complete synthetic as "genuine leather."

This reminds me of something I've learned in advertising, that the seller could contend that it is a "printer's error."

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I once found a brand new harness made out of this stuff at an auction... black top was peeling off the compressed layers of leather straps(it was not supposed to be patent leather).It looked like  they had been covered in garbage bag material

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this is why putting "genuine leather" stamped into your goods will really screw you over. anything that has this on it, such as everything at walmart (belts, wallets and more) is made from this plastic coated faux-leather.  if it says genuine leather, don't buy it. that's my thoughts on it. doesn't matter how much it is.

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what a crap

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In the US (and I assume elsewhere is likely) they are also "sized" wrong.  Marked 38, might actually be a 41.  People actually will go back and buy another one after that junk falls apart, because they want the one that says 38 ... don't want to admit they are a 42.

Everybody should have this figured by now.  The REAL crime here is that apparently, 30 beers are already GONE ... ;)

 

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15 hours ago, Ragingstallion said:

this is why putting "genuine leather" stamped into your goods will really screw you over. anything that has this on it, such as everything at walmart (belts, wallets and more) is made from this plastic coated faux-leather.  if it says genuine leather, don't buy it. that's my thoughts on it. doesn't matter how much it is.

Unfortunately that's getting common but you'll lose out on a few "good products" if you make that a hard and fast rule.  I recently saw an LL Bean Full Grain belt stamped Genuine Leather.  Red Wing Heritage also stamps it on some pretty awesome boots....

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Full Grain leather is the top of the leather chain, the best leather you can buy, Genuine Leather is ALMOST the crapiest leather on the market, it is the worst of the good leather that they glue together and make it look great ( just  like a Full Grain belt ) but it is just layers of scraps that are glued together. Full grain leather is all 1 piece , nothing glued together, it is the purest leather you can buy it hasn't been altered or changed in any way but most people see the word GENUINE LEATHER and they think it is the good ( FULL GRAIN LEATHER ) stuff and then they see the price and that is what gets them. EVERYTHING IS ABOUT PRICE. The difference between GENUINE LEATHER and FULL GRAIN LEATHER is like the difference between a YUGO & a MERCEDES I'll spend the money and buy the mercedes. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING but QUALITY IS .

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uhhh.. I think you're referring to "bonded" leather

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nope, bonded leather is the worst you can buy, they are both crap

 

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13 hours ago, utah leather said:

Full Grain leather is the top of the leather chain, the best leather you can buy, Genuine Leather is ALMOST the crapiest leather on the market, it is the worst of the good leather that they glue together and make it look great ( just  like a Full Grain belt ) but it is just layers of scraps that are glued together. Full grain leather is all 1 piece , nothing glued together, it is the purest leather you can buy it hasn't been altered or changed in any way but most people see the word GENUINE LEATHER and they think it is the good ( FULL GRAIN LEATHER ) stuff and then they see the price and that is what gets them. EVERYTHING IS ABOUT PRICE. The difference between GENUINE LEATHER and FULL GRAIN LEATHER is like the difference between a YUGO & a MERCEDES I'll spend the money and buy the mercedes. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. PRICE ISN'T EVERYTHING but QUALITY IS .

Be careful man, you're repeating a lot of the misinformation that gets spread around these days about leather and leather quality!
 

"Genuine" is not nor has it ever been a specific kind/grade of leather.  You absolutely can not call up a tannery and try to order "genuine leather" and have them not laugh in your face...

 

There's absolutely not "authority" (leather trade group, government or other official body) that uses anything remotely close to that a grading system that grades leather by genuine, top grain and full grain.  In fact if you were to spend $300 plus on a pair of Red Wing Heritage shoes, they'd be stamped "genuine leather" and that "genuine leather" would be loads better quality than anything you buy on Alibaba called "full grain."   The tannery has much more to do with leather quality than these (at this point very misleading) buzzwords: Genuine vs Full Grain.

Just so you understand I'm leatherworker here who has purchased hundreds of thousands of square feet of leather.  My dad started this company in 1969 and I've been here my entire life.

If you were to ask a tannery:

  • Genuine Just means real, it’s much to generic and confusing of a term to use for anything specific.
  • Top grain just means the part that's not suede ("the top" aka the part of the cow that was covered with hair). Technically full grain is a type of top grain leather. Generally when a furniture company says "top grain" and not "full grain", this is because they've altered the outer grain of the hide in some way: Usually by buffing to create a uniform surface and then embossing (sometimes just one of those two). You tend to see buffed or embossed leathers (top grain) a lot in furniture because full grain leather will have more visible defects (scars, bug bites, moles,brands, etc) and that doesn't work with every style of furniture: it's virtually impossible to cut a "clean" section if you have large cushions to cover, therefore, you tend to see more full grain in distressed leathers and pull up leathers.  You'll find that many solid companies that sell leather hides and not finished goods (Hide House and Maverick are good examples) that lump Full grain and top Grain together, check their leather glossaries if you don't believe me. 

 

As to Genuine being a grade:  You're 100%  correct  that lots of times products stamped genuine leather are complete junk quality leather, it's an incredibly widespread myth that it's always bad (or that genuine is a specific thing/grade). It's much more akin to saying "wood" furniture, which could be anything from particle board to high-end exotic woods. It’s not a statement of quality but of composition.

Awesome full grain is genuine leather. Crappy full grain leather is genuine leather. Suede is genuine leather. Embossed sanded corrected grain leather is genuine leather. Nubuck is genuine leather. Legally it just means real.

Though full grain, top grain and genuine are broad terms used to describe leather, they're not grades, they have specific meanings and one is not necessarily "better" than the other.

More often than not, when they don’t go into more detail about a leather (just say genuine), it’s not great quality, but the “grades” thing is completely made up, there is no specific grading system used by the leather industry or any government. We actually used to use it as a "positive term" back in the 70's and 80's (my tags from back then say "genuine leather and suede products."

Here are what the terms actually mean:

  • Genuine: Many times when you see "genuine" it's lower quality, but that's just because lower quality real/genuine leather is much more abundant than the good stuff. The lowest quality stuff (IMO) is actually called a "finished split" or a "PU split" both are suede with a layer of either thick paint or PU covering it to give the suede (normally fuzzy) a smooth look. This isn't always the case. Plenty of companies use "genuine leather" just as a statement to differentiate from synthetic: Red Wing Heritage for example, uses “genuine leather” to refer to some really high quality full grain or top grain leathers. I recently saw it stamped on a full grain LL Bean belt made in UK. Over on r/goodyearwelt on Reddit it's a bit of a running joke that "Oh no! It says genuine, it must be bad".
  • Top Grain: On a consumer level (not tannery level), Top grain usually means that something has been done to alter the outer layer. This can vary tremendously: Light buffing, heavy sanding,embossing, sanding then embossing, etc. Depending on what's done and the quality of the tannery, durability may not change at all from full grain.
  • Full Grain: This means leather that has had nothing done to alter the outer layer (besides removing the hair). This can make for some of the nicest leathers around, but lately it's becoming common for makers (both of finished goods and tanneries) to use "full grain" as an excuse to use hides with more scars and other defects claiming that they're natural part of the leather. Also a full grain leather from a low end tannery would be of lower quality and durability than a "not full grain leather" from one with higher quality standards. Another misconception is that full grain means "full thickness" as in it's the entire hide, this is absurdly false as a full thickness cow or bison hide could literally be 1/2" if not split multiple times during processing. There are some people who consider leathers that have just been embossed to be full grain and while from a durability standpoint, they are correct, I prefer not to, because it’s not the original grain.

 

Bonus facts:

 

Edited by nstarleather

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Hmm, very informative, thank you. On the inside of the belt it say's Made in China and I'm pretty sure it's just PVC sprayed over a press board filler. My wife and I usually avoid products from China because of them notoriously claiming one thing for another but she knew I needed a belt and 4 bucks was worth it to not to accidentally moon the neighbors while I shoveled us out of this past storm. I am going to re use the old hardware of the Guess belt and just make a real leather belt. Even the Guess belt was just two thin pieces of top grain glued over a nylon webbing but that at least lasted 5 years of solid abuse. I think I'll just reuse the hardware and make just a standard plain black leather belt. If I'm not entering a fashion contest and just using it to keep my pants up, would it be wrong to just cut a strap of 8oz leather 40 inches by 1 1/4 inches, attach the re purposed hardware and call it a day?

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