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Leather Material – Options and Choices for Great Projects

With so many fabric materials currently available, making the right choice for shoes, bags, and vehicle interiors is essential.  Leather material is the best fabric on the market, with many characteristics and options to consider.  I will discuss different leather materials and why they’re worth the investment.

Leather material is a durable and sustainable fabric made for upholstery, shoes, clothing, and more. Often made from animal hide or other natural or synthetic sources, each type of leather material varies in quality, resistance to spills and stains, and style.

Are you looking to purchase a new vehicle but can’t decide which leather material you like best?  Do you have an old couch you’d like to reupholster but are unsure which leather material will last and look nice? Let’s check out which leather materials are most popular for your project.

What is Leather Material?

Leather material is a fabric made from treated animal hides or other natural or synthetic sources to create vehicle interiors, upholstery, jackets, bags, shoes, and more.  Leather material is often made from cow and pig hides but can also come from crocodiles, sheep, and just about any other animal.

This fabric is durable, insulated, and can last a lifetime or more when cared for appropriately.  Each leather material has its own level of durability, resistance to spills and stains, and unique look.

Various Rolls of Leather Material - Leather Material - Liberty Leather Goods
Various Rolls of Leather Material

Characteristics of Leather Material

Leather material is a great choice for car interiors, furniture, accessories, and more because it looks luxurious and has many options.  There are several characteristics of leather material that set it apart from other fabrics.  Let’s take a look at a few:

  1. Can be made from sheep, cows, pigs, snakes, and more
  2. Can be made from non-animal sources, including polyurethane (PU), polyvinyl chloride, and fruit peels, and have the same look with a similar feel
  3. Is processed through two types of tanning — chromium salts or natural dye
  4. Different types include top or full grain, embossed grain, or bonded leather
  5. Highly durable and lasts a lifetime (or more)
  6. Never goes out of style
  7. Soft, supple, and comfortable
  8. Resists tears, punctures, and rips

Leather material production has advanced so much over time that, according to researchers Pringle, Barwood, and Rahimifard of Loughborough University, the scraps are recovered and recycled into new leather products. Producing leather material includes cutting the material, which used to be done completely by hand with knives or scissors.

Researchers Stepanov, Manninen, Parnanen, Hirvimaki, and Salminen have found that over time, new and more efficient ways have been discovered to cut leather while maintaining quality and increasing production, including laser cutting.  Now even the most complex designs can be created and cut without manual involvement.

Types of Leather Material

Many different types of leather material exist, from genuine leather to faux.  There are even leather materials made from plastics!  Let’s review the different types and where you can find them.

Chrome tanned leather material is durable from stabilizing collagen molecule bonds, making it a great choice for bags, sofas, vehicle interiors, and more.

Faux Leather Material

Faux leather material is made from different types of polymer plastics, including polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride coating, a reinforcement material.  It gives the feel, look, and even smell of the real thing, but there’s no animal involvement in production.  If you want to give your furniture a look that stands the test of time without guilt, faux leather material is an excellent and durable choice.

Vegetable Tanned Leather Material

Vegetable tanned leather material is animal hide that is processed or tanned with a natural dye produced from nuts or wood.  It is the more expensive and less chemical way of tanning leather material, which gives it its color, appearance, and durability.  It may not be the most comfortable to begin with, but the more it is used and ages, the more comfortable it becomes.

Chrome Tanned Leather Material

Chrome tanned leather material is genuine leather that is processed or tanned with chromium salts.  This is the tanning process most utilized for industrial applications and is a slightly more affordable process.  Chrome tanned leather material is durable from stabilizing collagen molecule bonds, making it a great choice for bags, sofas, vehicle interiors, and more.  Plus, it’s the softest!

Vegan Leather Material

Vegan leather material is for the sustainability-minded as it is made from polyurethane rather than plant or animal sources.  The most often used materials include fruit parts that are usually discarded (think apple peels), cork, and recycled plastics.  Vegan leather material is incredibly durable and cruelty-free.  This material resists scratches, fading, and punctures and is great for shoes, boots, bags, and gloves.

Leatherette Material

Leatherette is a synthetic material made of plastic or vinyl to simulate genuine leather.  This material is often used in vehicle interiors, and over time the process has improved so much it can actually be challenging to differentiate from genuine leather.  Leatherette material is super durable, easy to clean, and resists spills and moisture.

What is your car interior made of? Check out this helpful video discussion to learn more about the difference between leatherette and leather material.

PU Leather Material

PU leather material is artificial leather made from a polyurethane coating that looks like natural leather without a high price tag.  It may not be as durable or attractive as genuine leather, but it works well for shoes, bags, upholstery, and many other eco-friendly products.

The Most Popular Upholstery Material

In a recent survey, I asked friends and family which upholstery material they would purchase for a new couch or vehicle and why. Here is a table representing the percentages of their responses and what I learned from the survey about which leather material people prefer.

Upholstery Material PreferenceTimes Selected
Fabric is cheaper with more color/pattern choices13%
Genuine leather lasts longer and looks nicer27%
Faux leather is guilt-free and withstands pets and kids47%
Suede is soft and comfortable13%
Popular Upholstery Material

Popular Uses

Upholstery Leather Material

Leather material is a popular choice for upholstery.  It enhances automobile interiors, and there are so many choices to fit any taste.  Upholstery leather material is highly durable, comfortable, stain and tear-resistant, and is also easy to care for.  Upholstery leather material will last you a lifetime and will never go out of style.

Leather material is soft and luxurious to sit on, has many colors and finishes for any aesthetic, and is durable.

Leather Material for Shoes

Leather material is one of the best choices for making shoes because it is durable and lasts much longer than fabric or other material shoes.  It’s a much nicer look that fits in the office setting or even a night on the town.  Leather material shoes are comfortable and fashionable, low-maintenance and stylish.

Leather Material for Sofas

Leather material is also a great choice for sofas and loveseats.  It adds a certain flair to any room, is comfortable and supple, and stands the test of time.  Leather material is soft and luxurious to sit on, has many colors and finishes for any aesthetic, and is durable.  This material will resist spills, stains, rips, and punctures.

Leather Material for Clothing

Leather material for clothing is fashionable and rugged and will keep you warm on those cold days.  It works well to resist environmental factors, making it perfect for jackets.  Leather material for clothing can be found in vests, shirts, pants, skirts, and more.

A Woman Wearing a Jacket of Black Leather Material - Leather Material - Liberty Leather Goods
A Woman Wearing a Jacket of Black Leather Material

Leather Material Insights

What fabric is leather made of?

Leather is often made of tanned animal hides that are treated to be durable, long-lasting, soft, and supple, as well as other natural and synthetic materials.

What is leather fabric called?

Leather fabric can be referred to as faux, artificial, pleather, and synthetic.

Is leather a fabric?

Yes, leather can be considered a fabric, especially in clothing, bags, upholstery, and more. 

Is there a material better than leather?

No, there really is no better alternative to leather.  Its durability, feel, and look simply cannot be beaten.

Final Thoughts

Whether it’s for a new pair of shoes or a brand new car, it’s an investment that requires serious consideration for which material to use.  Leather material has many great qualities, and even though the price tag may make you hesitate, think of the long-term investment you’re making. 

Cheaper materials may look good now but don’t usually stand the test of time (and kids and pets).  Consider leather material, and you may never have to make that decision again!

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