Usually you can tell from the tag on the product but if you are in a market in Mexico they may not tell you. A way you can tell for yourself is by looking at the backing of the leather. Try and find a place that is a little loose and pull it up to reveal the back of the leather. If it looks like a fabric on the underside of the leather it is a vinyl. Or you can try the old “if it smells like leather it is leather” approach.
Check to see what animal it came from. They rank in order from cow, sheep, goat, and pig as far as quality. After you determine what animal it is then you can start considering the quality of leather. Check for the natural markings on the leather, the fewer the markings the more expensive the hide for full grain. The larger the pieces of leather in the pattern the more costly it is to make the item. You have to consider each part of the product. Is the lining leather or only the outside? How thick is the leather? After you determine all this it should give a pretty good idea how the quality compares to other types of items.
Another deciding factor is the quality of the stitching and the hardware. Imperfections in nature are unique, but imperfections in the manufacturing are just plain bad. Look for the same number of stitches in each inch and that they are straight. Do you see any threads that are loose or glue streaks sticking out? It doesn’t matter how good the leather is if the bag falls apart because of bad stitching. Check and see if all the hardware works properly. Do the zippers work smoothly? All of these are considerations when determining the quality of the product.
Feel the wallet in your pocket. Put your computer in the briefcase and onto your shoulder. You don’t want to use a product if it doesn’t suit your needs.
Look in the mirror. Is it you? I ask some of my customer what color watch they usually wear. Would you want brass hardware on your briefcase if you have a silver watch? Does this matter to you? These questions can narrow down a selection to the one piece that really fits you.
Are you going to be using it everyday? Do you want to keep it forever and pass it down to your kids or are you just using it occasionally? These will determine how much you should spend on any piece of leather. Remember Full Grain Leather is worth the extra money but are you going to use it.
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