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Patent Leather vs Leather: 10 Pros, Cons & Which Is Better

Patent leather vs leather

Patent leather-made items are not only fashionable but also highly functional and in some cases, it’s going to be a viable option than the regular leather material. But when it really comes down to it, which is the ultimate best.

In this article, I’m going to juxtapose patent leather and leather, share their pros, cons, and help you phantom which is better in a solid 10 rounds battle!

So let me get the basic question answered first! Which is better: Patent Leather or Leather? 

In terms of water resistance, ease of maintenance, scratch resistance, and a wide variety of color options, patent leather is a lot better than leather. But when it comes to overall durability, breathability, natural smell, clean luxurious look, crease, and crack resistant, your regular leather would be the absolute best.

Honestly, it’s a bit hard to have a general answer to this question as there are different patent leather and different “regular” leather qualities. But generally, both are great leather materials and a bag or jacket made from either material can be categorized as durable, classic, or trendy. 

But hey, some materials will definitely be better for some specific thing than the other so in order to learn more about the pros and cons of each of these leather types and which is better, keep reading the remaining parts of this article!

1. Breathability 

Patent Leather

Pro: Can still absorb moisture

Con: It’s not breathable

Leather

Pro: Leather is a highly breathable material

Con: None

Leather is a highly breathable material. It has a unique property that allows it to absorb moisture from the air around it.

The moisture then goes deeply into the leather fibers and draws out old or stale oils that have lost their substance onto the surface of the leather to be expelled.

This then opens up the leather pores so it’s able to receive fresh conditioning oils and also allows air to pass through easily.

Breathability is one of leathers very special qualities. It’s very hard to imitated the breathable quality of natural leather. This feature can be essential, especially for shoes, jackets, gloves, and virtually any kind of leather item that has close contact with the skin.

The breathability of leather will allow it to absorb sweat and humidity, and then dispense it. This can also be greatly beneficial to leather car seats and leather furniture.

While the breathability of leather will be varied depending on the the type of leather, leather will always be more breathable than patent leather. This is because patent leather has its surface completely sealed off leaving no where for perspiration to go.

The Verdict: Leather wins!

2. Look

Patent Leather

Pro: Very attractive shinny look  

Con: The look of patent leather might simple appear wrong

Leather

Pro: Natural leathery classic look

Con: Will will usually come with some natural blemishes on the grain surface

With regards to the look of patent leather and leather, both are significantly different in appearance. Patent leather is natural leather that is highly coated and so has a high-glassy finish.

This makes patent leather the more dressy and eye-catching leather material. This is a chief characteristic of patent leather that sets it apart from your regular leather. 

Generally, leather has natural grains, blemishes, and very tiny visible pores that shows forth after the animal has been dehaired (a process that removes the fur or hair of the animal). 

Depending on what the leather is intended for, the manufacturers will either leave the leather as it is (full-grain leather) or correct the blemishes on the grain surface so that the leather has a consistent look and feel.

This is what is often called corrected leather or semi-aniline leather (leather with minimal correction). 

Although corrected leather will sometimes come with a fair amount of shine to its finished layer, it’s shine will still be distinctive when compared to the glass-like finish on patent leather.   

The Verdict: On the level of looks, I would say, It’s a tie between these two types of leather materials. Simply because it will ultimately come down to the individual’s preference.

If you would love a slick glossy leather, then patent leather is your go-to otherwise leather will furnish you with its rich natural grains.

3. Stain and Water Resistance 

Patent Leather

Pro: Highly Water and Stain resistant

Con: Easily gets color transfer which remains permanent

Leather

Pro: Water and stains can be removed

Con: Highly susceptible to water and stains

Water and stain resistance are two big issues when it comes to the leather materials in general. However, different leathers respond differently to water and stains.

Patent leather particularly will hold up better than your regular leather would when it comes into a head-to-head battle with water and stains. The glossy finish given to patent leather makes it more resistant to all forms of liquid stains. 

So you wouldn’t have to ever worry about getting stuck in the rain with your most cherish leather jacket or shoes. Any kind of moisture, whether water, milk, or drinks will just splash right off or you will usually have water droplets on the patent leather which you can simply wipe it off with a damp or dry cloth. 

Although patent leather has a solid protective surface against liquid stains, one of its biggest vulnerabilities is how easy colors from other material gets transferred onto them.

By simply placing a patent leather bag or purse close to another colored item, colored can get transferred onto them. The patent leather need not be wet, or have any kind of temperature to cause this to happen and 9 out of 10 this will be irreversible.

While the water and stain resistance of leather is no way comparable to the resistance patent leather offers, leather is more forgiving when it gets stained. You will be able to remove almost any kind of stain from leather using natural or homemade cleaners or products.

The Verdict: All in all, we can conclude patent leather won this by a slight margin on the premise that you cannot always be too careful with your leather items and a robust surface protection will go a long way to ensure you item holds up whether rain or shine.

4. Maintenance 

Patent Leather

Pro: It’s pretty much low maintenance 

Con: It eventually deteriorates and it’s irreversible  

Leather

Pro: Fairly easy to maintain and if properly maintained it will last a lifetime

Con: High maintenance

Leather as a material will require regular cleaning and conditioning to keep it looking new and healthy all the time. There are special leather cleaners used to remove dirt, grime, or dust leather takes on. These special cleaners contain mild cleaning agents that help to safely remove dirt from your leather. 

These products in most cases require special procedures to safely ensure the leather is not ruined during its cleaning process.

On a day-to-day basis, leather wipes can be used to clean leather but this usually, doesn’t give leather the deep cleaning requires. Leather depending on how regularly it’s used will be cleaned about twice or thrice every year.

Conditioning the leather would have to follow almost immediately after the leather is cleaned. Generally, during the leather cleaning process, the leather will lose some of its essential natural oils.

The natural oils found in leather is what makes leather supple, soft and flexible. The conditioning process replaces the lost oils of the leather to ensure the leather doesn’t dry up, crack, and peel after it’s cleaned.

But when it comes patent leather, you would not have to deal with or keep up with leather cleaning and conditioning routines. Patent leather will only require little to no maintenance. 

A simple damp cloth cleaning or dusting off with a brush or vacuum will be all you need to keep your patent leather bags, shoes, garment, or jackets looking fresh all the time. No special cleaning products, no conditioners, Nadda! 

The Verdict: It’s pretty obvious the winner here is patent leather. Cleaning-up is simply the best with patent leather.

5. Hues

Patent Leather

Pro: Wide variety of colors

Con: none

Leather 

Pro: Comes in a beautiful array of natural earth colors

Con: Limited range of colors with little to no bright colors

Regular leather comes in beautiful natural earth colors. These colors are synonymous to the rich luxurious colors of real leather. However, regular leather is highly limited in terms of the vibrant and enthusiastic fun colors that tend to be trendy with most garments, shoes, bags, jackets, and other leather fashion items.

With patent leather, the sky is the limit when it comes to the range of colors you can have. You would be able to own leather items in colors you never dreamed of having because of the kind of lifestyle you live. 

You might be a parent kids or have pets who have sticky fingers and are always over you, playing with and clutching onto your items. And because of this, in as much as you may love your leather bags or shoes in white, khaki, or other light-colored leather, you might never want to get them because they might get ruined.

This can be a huge drawback when comes to choosing those fun colored leather bags, shoes, jackets but patent leather offers you a gateway into the world of leather goods you would otherwise not thought of having.

The Verdict: It’s no denying that patent leather goods will come in a wide array of colors that you wouldn’t usually find with regular dyed leather. And the winner is Patent leather!

6. Smell

Patent Leather 

Pro: Doesn’t take up any smells from its environment

Con: Chemical Smell

Leather

Pro: Priceless fresh natural leathery smell

Con: Absorbs smells easily

The smell of leather is simply priceless and incomparable to no other material. Leather, especially, those that are vegetable-tanned, gets its natural leathery fragrance from the natural tanning agents used.

These tanning agents includes special plant extracts that leaves behind the natural leather smell we all love and enjoy. You can also give leather your preferred fragrance and it will assimilate and linger on beautifully for weeks if not months. 

Related: Why Does Leather Smell So Good?

Patent leather on the other hand, will usually have a chemical smell which may often range from a mild chemical smell to nauseating levels. This is because although patent leather will be 100% natural leather on the inside, its entire surface coating will be 100% a synthetic chemical material.

The Verdict: On the level of smell, Leather is the clear winner.

7. Scratch Resistance

Patent Leather

Pro: Doesn’t mark, scratch, or scuff too easily 

Con: Crease lines and fingerprints are more obvious on patent leather when it happens.

Leather

Pro: Corrected grained leather will hold up quite well to abrasion

Con: Full-grained leather scratches easily

One of the most common wear leather suffers, in general, is the abrasion it endures. The constant rubbing and friction it takes on during its use can cause scratch marks over its surface. But all in all, some leathers will be a lot more resistant to scratch marks than others. 

When it comes to patent leather and regular leather on the level of scratch resistance, patent leather will be a bit more resistant to scratches than your full-grained leather. 

However, it’s important to add that leather that have been coated or with some level of protection on it otherwise known as corrected grained leather will hold up a lot better than full-grained leather.

But still, it will be no match to the scratch resistance of patent leather. Patent leather although pretty tough to scratches when it happens will be very obvious due to its shiny surface.

The Verdict: Patent Leather wins by a knockout!

8. Feel

Patent Leather

Pro: Has a glassy slick feel to touch

Con: Patent feels too plastic and easily becomes sticky

Leather

Pro: Has a soft rich luxurious feel to them

Con: Generally less consistent in its surface texture

Leather has one of the best feels when touched than patent leather. The feel of leather, I mean real leather, will generally vary depending on the quality and type.

But overall, leather will have a gratifying soft yet strong hefty feel. It may feel coarse, soft, or smooth and will probably be one of the very first things you will fall in love with among the several other characteristics of leather. 

While some do enjoy the smooth and glossy feel on patent leather, it will just feel off, knowing patent leather, a natural leather on the inside is buried up with layers upon layers of chemical coating to render it slick. Highly unnatural! And the worse part is that the plastic feel easily becomes sticky and gummy.  

Related: 7 Simple Ways To Fix Sticky Patent Leather

The Verdict: Regular leather has the best feel to touch. Leather wins this one!

9. Crease And Crack Resistance

Patent Leather

Pro: Creases and cracks takes time to occur

Con: Creases and Cracks are irreversible when they happen

Leather

Pro: Easy to smooth out and reverse creases and fix cracks 

Con: Creases occurs quite easily

Generally, the appearance of creases on any kind of leather will be considered normal. But with time, if not properly managed it can develop into deep cracks and then the leather begins to peel.

In many cases, creases in regular leather can be easily managed with constant and routine cleaning and conditioning. And even if creases do occur, it’s usually very easy to reverse.

Patent leather on the other hand, will not initially crease usually as fast as leather would but will inevitably happen.

The unfortunate news is that when patent leather creases it’s oftentimes irreversible and would mean your cherished patent leather item is going to eventually suffer some deep cracks you will not be able to do much about it.

The Verdict: Another win for Leather!

10. Price

Patent Leather

Pro: Generally cheaper

Con: Low-quality hides are used thus the markdown in price  

Leather

Pro: Value for money

Con: Generally pricey

Leather as material comes at a hefty price. Processes involved in its production is simply absurd but the yields and wields animal hides into one of the toughest and widely used materials in the entire world.

Since patent leather is usually covered up with several coats and layers of lacquer, plastic, varnish, urethane, or vinyl, only inexpensive splits of animal hides are used.

Quality animal hides are virtually never made into patent leather. What patent leather gets is the bottom portions of thick cowhides which are downright inexpensive. This intern makes patent leather less expensive than leather. 

This actually makes a lot of sense that cheap inexpensive splits are used for patent leather because even if premium quality hides are used, the manufactures will still have to buff off almost all of the entire surface of the hide anyway and replace it with plastic coats.  

The Verdict: Depends on which angle you view this from. If you don’t mind paying a premium price for a premium material then the leather wins with all of its glory.

But if you want an inexpensive material then patent leather has this one. So let’s call this another tie since is highly subjective and depends on the budget of each individual.   

Conclusion

After this 10 rounds battle, I know you now have a clear idea as to what these two leather materials are capable of and the weaknesses it both presents.

You would at this point, without a doubt, taking into consideration the pros and the cons, decipher which of the two is the absolute best as a material and more importantly, more suitable for you and your lifestyle.

I hope you found this article very useful. Thanks for sticking around and see you in the next one! Cheers!

Macwilliam K. Appianing

Hi! I’m Macwilliam, the owner and founder of Favored Leather. I’m a huge Leatherwork enthusiast and I’ve been that for almost 13 years now. I'm excited to share my experiences and all the new stuff I learn each day!

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