Is Fake Leather Ever Worth It?

On Saturday I bought some new little leather booties. They were fake leather, yes, but they were also $60, which is not $0, which made me think they still must be of some quality. I’ve worn them for one week and they are totally trashed and terrible. I am never buying fake leather shoes again — that was my $60 lesson. I asked some friends about their thoughts and feelings about leather and fake leather. Is it ever worth it?

Lauren Rodrigue says, No.
Logan: What was your first leather jacket? Did you have a fake one before this good one?

Lauren: No, never.

Logan: So you never buy fake leather.

Lauren: No. Well if it was a skirt I would. Belts, yes. Um sandals, yes, because faux leather sandals are so cheap and so trendy they don’t have to last longer than a summer or two anyway.

Logan: So for you the thing about buying real leather is really about quality, not about feeling like you’re cheap or fake.

Lauren: Correct. And also if you wear closed faux leather shoes without socks they make your feet smell. Like faux ballet flats are like walking around with like 2-liter Coke bottles as shoes. Not breathable. And plastic leather doesn’t break in like leather does. It hurts. Smells.

Logan: I feel like when we were younger, “nice” stores always had real leather shoes and fake leather was just for cheap and trendy, like at Payless or Old Navy or whatever. But now I feel like fake leather is everywhere and I’ve been duped more than once because the price point is in my mind, too high to be fake so it must be real.

Lauren: I think IN MY MIND anyway that in our generation, and the one below us, there’s just less a concern for quality overall. Whereas when my middle class parents were young, my dad got ONE nice pair of leather shoes, and when they wore out he would get another, and thats it. There isn’t that premium on quality anymore and the more you see fake leather at Urban Outitters where expensive shit lives and status lives, the more it becomes OK to buy. When it was just Payless and Walmart that had pleather, forget it, but now it’s everywhere cool that we shop. IDK about the generational thing. It just seems real to me. It’s not a dissimilar concept to like, crazy preservatives and chemicals in food compared to more authentic food like 40 years ago.

Logan: Do you think it’s different for men and women?

Lauren: Same thing, if not more strange, since men generally have fewer shoes than women. They have less shoe options for sure. There’s no REASON not to buy 1–2 NICE pairs of leather shoes that will last a long time and look handsome. I don’t even know that faux is as available in men’s. Women’s shoes are so trendy they just beg to be made cheaply.

Logan: I bought these boots for $60, little chelsea-style boots, you know the ones. I have had them a week and they are trashed. They look terrible. The uppers has basically crumpled like paper. So basically what you are saying is, I should have known that would happen and never bought them and instead bought real proper leather shoes.

Lauren: Well, not known better. If you’re not REALLY taught that from someone else, you need to experience it yourself in order to learn. When I saw those sweet little red boots of yours ALREADY falling apart the other night at the bar, I just wanted to unsee. There are few things more devastating than the weird paper-towel facade beginning to flake off the slab of polyurethane it covers.

Logan: So even the cutout boots you bought recently, which are so so trendy, they are real leather? Even for such a trend?

Lauren: Yesssss. I could have bought faux ones; they had them for $50 at DSW. I tried them on while feeling really stressed about even trying them, but they made me bummed. They didn’t wear correctly. They weren’t stiff or glossy like the ones I wanted, and I knew I wouldn’t love them. And that’s 50 bucks wasted as opposed to $140 and I’ve already worn them 20 times and felt DISPROPORTIONATELY PROUD AND SATISFIED WITH MYSELF while wearing them.

Logan: So better to have no new shoes than new fake leather shoes, is what you’re saying.

Lauren: Yes. Faux ones seem like a failure. You know they’ll fall apart, they won’t age well, they won’t smell nice, they’ll LOOK floppy and bad. Buying faux instead of leather, but spending less money at that moment, is something you do just to satisfy a jones. It’s like buying a clearance rack T-shirt you don’t care about when you really want a nice thick sweater folded up on a table in the front-center of the store. We all know how that bodes.

Nozlee Samadzadeh says, you be you.
Logan: Do you have any thoughts or feelings on fake leather? The consensus seems to be that real is always better than fake, but there are some occasions when it makes sense to buy fake leather.

Nozlee: I would add that I love fake leather when it LOOKS like fake leather, but not when it’s trying to be too fancy. I mean, a fake leather jacket is essentially like wearing a thick plastic trashbag, you know? So as long as I’m owning that I’m cool with it (note: I don’t own any fake leather jackets). I am TOTALLY DOWN with cute fake leather shoes because they’re going to get destroyed in a few months anyway so who cares. What I certainly don’t want to do is pay $$ for fake leather a la Stella McCartney no matter the vegan/ethical thoughts involved.

Megan says, Never for shoes, okay for other stuff if you can’t afford the real thing.

Logan: Do you buy fake leather?

Megan: I just bought a fake leather jacket on Sunday!


Megan: Well it all started last year, with the Man Repeller’s Rebecca Minkoff leather studded jacket. I wanted it soooooo bad. But it was over $1,000. Bonkers. So I’ve just been looking around. I have an ebay alert for the Rebecca Minkhoff one, but found this one on Sunday for $35! It was at the good TJ Maxx. Instead of saying fake leather, the label said vegan leather. You can’t trick me — still man-made material. But for $35 bucks, why not.

Logan:W hat a deal. The good TJ Maxx really lives up to its name sometime.

Megan: I was wrong, this all started two years ago with Rachel Zoe. I think it’s the same jacket actually, but I think she had it first. No it’s different. Definitely different. Anyway so I’ve been obsessed with this jacket for two years and now everyone has studs on everything and I look like a trend follower, so. God maybe it was three years ago. I’ve been pining after that jacket for a long time.

Logan: It is a good jacket. And I feel like that must happen to you a lot. You’re always ahead of the current.

Megan: But I can’t afford above the current so I have to wait! Anyway the one I found looks pretty good, not too shiny. You have a real one, right?

Logan: I don’t know. I think it’s fake. I can’t tell and someone took the tag out, which makes me think it’s fake. But it’s also The Gap red label, you know the one that fights AIDS or whatever, so maybe that means it’s more high quality? I have no idea. I spent $40 on it at Buffalo Exchange. The one I had before, also from Buffalo Exchange, was $11 and definitely fake and I loved it. It wasn’t fronting. While I feel like this one is fronting a little bit. But I lost that one so now I have this one because I spent an entire Saturday going to every resale store in the city and then just gave up and bought this one.

Megan: This is the that you had last time I was there? The black one? I thought it was real. It looks good.

Logan: It looks okay unzipped. Zipped up it looks stupid. Also it has these vent things in the back that are just so ugly. Like, they look like vaginas. In my coat. Okay one more question: fake leather shoes?

Megan: No. Fake leather rubs blisters and doesn’t wear as well.

Logan: So It’s a quality thing and not a status thing.

Megan: My feet sweat too much for fake shoes. That’s it.

“Beth” says, sure, why not, except if you’re a dude.

Logan: Do you buy fake leather?

“Beth”: Is my name going to be associated with answering these questions?

Logan: No.

“Beth”: Well then, yes, I do buy fake leather.

Logan: So there is some shame associated with that.

“Beth”: I think there is general society shame for buying fake anything, mostly associated with not being able to afford the “real deal.”

Logan: Have people ever asked you if your shit is real? I feel like that’s the first thing anyone says about my fake leather jacket — is it real?

“Beth”: I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that! I would say though, that I’ve wondered to myself about whether or not something is real on other people. But always more about jackets and clothing items than purses and wallets. I also automatically assume all leather looking man things are real leather.

Logan: Oh yes I hadn’t even considered that before. I do the same thing. Do they make fake leather for men?

“Beth”: Sure?! I bet H&M has fake man leather jackets.

Logan: See, this is interesting because now I’m thinking that if guy I knew was wearing fake leather I’d be like, that’s gross, get a real jacket, what’s wrong with you. But I’m fine with my fake leather jacket and other girls’ fake leather jackets. Well, I’d rather mine be real leather. And everyone’s be real leather. Leather for the people. But, you know. I’m fine with it enough to buy it.

“Beth”: I think I’d think the same thing!

Logan: But I guess I feel it’s ok for women because we have so many clothes and things are in season and stuff.

“Beth”: Right. And we’re not expected to pick quality/classic items. We have much more room for trendy.

Shannon Palus says, Never, get that fake trash away from me.

Logan: Do you ever buy fake leather?

Shannon: I hate fake leather.

Logan: Tell me more.

Shannon: I used to buy purses and things a lot from H&M (like, as a teenager), and then one day I got sick of it all and threw it all out because I don’t like how it feels. This is not a judgement on anyone who has stuff that’s fake leather, I can’t even tell/don’t bother to tell if its not physically in my hands. But if I have to touch it, I want it to be real. So now I have exactly three purses, all leather, all bought at thrift and vintage stores for under $30 each. Basically, fake leather never, cheap recycled leather always. I guess it’s also more cruelty free, which I feel like should be important to me.

Logan: The cruelty part is interesting. Leather doesn’t really get shamed like fur does, even though it’s still like, the skin of an animal. And while I would never wear fur, or rather, haven’t worn fur and feel icky about it, never say never, I covet leather.

Shannon: I think at least leather is really practical for some things. I was vegetarian for 10 years because I like(d) animals. But I never really checked if shoes and things were leather.

Logan: Me either. That contributed to me eating meat again actually, after 12 years. There were a lot of reasons, but one of them was, okay, I say I’m doing this for animal rights but I still wear leather and covet leather, so I must be at least a little bit full of shit.

Shannon: I think moderation across the board is key. “Key,” as though I could own 100+ pairs of gucci leather gloves if I wanted to.

Heather Yamada-Hosley says, Always, only.

Logan: Do you ever buy fake leather?

Heather: I only buy vegan leather because I’m a vegan. I also don’t buy anything else that uses animal products when I can help it (some are unavoidable such as cars). In terms of clothing items, I always check to make sure they’re vegan (including anything leather-like). This is especially tricky with shoes because sometimes only the interior lining is leather and everything else is man made. Luckily, many manufacturers include a sticker on the sole of the shoe with what materials are used (an animal pelt/fur rug shape indicates leather).

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