Why Is Leather So Expensive? [Cheap Alternatives]

Our ancestors founded man’s most useful discoveries when they used leather to protect themselves from harsh weather and other elements. In the past, men hunted wild animals as a food source and afterward used the skin to create clothing of all kinds, including shoes.

Today, about half of the leather produced is used for shoes and 25% for various clothing items such as leather jackets. Leather is expensive because of the cost of the animal’s upkeep, the rarity of the animal, and the manufacturing process.

For example, Italian leather goes through a long vegetable tanning process that produces a super-soft wearable product that is one of the most in-demand and expensive leathers in the world. Below, I will talk in more detail about the reasons why leather is so expensive.  

Why Are Leather Goods So Expensive? 

The cost of leather is determined by the upkeep of the cow or animal it comes from. For example, a cow needs to grow and become a large size to produce skin that can be used as a panel instead of sewing small pieces together.


Raising a cow until a specific size involves spending money to provide them with food, water, shelter, and other living expenses. In addition, the leather needs to be treated with various chemicals and go through a manufacturing process with little room for error which adds to the cost.

What Type Of Leather Is Most Expensive? 

Currently, the most expensive type of leather available on the market today is Nappa leather. This lightweight, supple material is used to make luggage, shoes, gloves, luxury handbags, accessories, and various clothing items.

Nappa leather is known to originate from a prime cut of animal hide, which increases the price and makes it the most expensive leather known today.

Why Is Crocodile Leather So Expensive?

There are a total of 23 crocodile species known in the world, and only one is used to create leather. The only legal source of crocodiles is located in the southeast of the United States. Today, these crocodiles produce leather available on the world market. 

1. Distinguished Feature

The most distinguishing feature of this leather is the integumentary sensory organ pore. This pore has sensory hair that allows the crocodile to feel their surroundings.

During the hide tanning process, the hair is removed and the scale remains resulting in a unique pattern. This distinctive material makes up less than 1% of the leather industry worldwide. 

2. Craftmanship

Crocodile leather requires a high level of craftsmanship to create luxury items. If it’s not handled properly, it can be destroyed.

In addition, the small size of the animal itself combined with the limited amount of farms and tanning facilities to process the leather make this leather highly unique and sought after by luxury goods manufacturers.  

Why Is Hermes Leather So Expensive? 

Since 1837, Hermes has produced premium leather goods, including bridles, saddles, harnesses, bags, and luggage. 

3. Various Leathers

Hermes uses various leathers to make their luxury items, including lambskin, crocodile, pigskin, ostrich, and crocodile. 

4. Unique Coloring

The leather used to make Hermes products feature a unique coloring and grain size. The leather also has variances that make it a unique and distinct hide that is resistant to scratches. 

Why Is Cordovan Leather So Expensive?

Cordovan leather originates from the rear quarters of the horse and is often referred to as the butt or shell. 

5. Treated With Oils

Cordovan leather is treated with oils and goes through a vegetable tanning process that creates a slightly spongy soft flexible leather.

6. Low Supply

The high cost of cordovan is due to the low supply of hides combined with a complex tanning process and the high demand for the product. Cordovan is considered a unique material that sometimes costs about $100 or more per square foot. 

Why Is Italian Leather So Expensive? 

Italian leather is known as the best of the best in the industry. Its superior feature is the unique soft-to-the-touch surface that originates from full-grain hides. 

7. Traditional Methods

The traditional methods used to create this unique high in-demand leather involve the vegetable tanning process that creates a soft finished product that is comfortable to wear and tote. 

8. Labor Intensive

The labor-intensive process is why you pay a high price for this extravagant leather. 

Why Is Alligator Leather So Expensive? 

Alligator skin has a thick, smooth appearance that is well balanced in design. 

9. Umbilical Scar

The unique feature of alligator leather is the umbilical scar that designers use to prove the authenticity of the leather. As a result, alligator leather from the United States is a sought-after material for luxury designers and brands. 

10. Natural Rare Skin Design

The beauty of the skin and the rarity of the design make alligator leather high in demand among luxury brands and consumers.

Why Is Vegan Leather So Expensive? 

Do you remember the word “pleather” being thrown around in the 1990s? Many consumers wouldn’t touch the stuff and focused their attention on genuine leather goods.

Fast Forward to today, the term “pleather” is obsolete, and “vegan” is now the replacement term. The only difference is vegan leather is more expensive than what used to be called pleather back in the day. 

11. Eco-Friendly

The special feature of vegan leather is the soft-to-the-touch flexible material that is sourced from plants. It looks like high-quality leather while never harming an animal.

Vegan leather is now a status symbol that has impacted the leather industry and proven a true competitor. Many consumers prefer not to wear or tote animal hide and are running in droves to the up-and-coming vegan brands that produce beautiful handbags, wallets, luggage, and more.

12. Source from Plants

Vegan leather is an eco-friendly option made from various materials, including polyurethane, cork, pineapple leaves, recycled plastic, apple peels, and more.

The reason vegan leather is expensive is due to the natural materials used to make the material as well as the desire for many consumers to use eco-friendly products and clothing as part of their wardrobe. 

Why Are Leather Jackets So Expensive? 

Leather jackets have been in fashion for decades! The most common leather used to produce jackets is top-grain sheep leather or cowhide.

These animal skins undergo a rigorous process that includes a vegetable tanning method that takes up to 40 days to complete. The result is comfortable, beautiful leather that costs a hefty price. 

Why Is Leather Furniture So Expensive? 

Have you ever gone to a furniture store and fallen in love with a leather sofa only to find out it was way out of your price range? Leather furniture has a variety of benefits, such as comfort, durability, and appearance.

Remember earlier when the cost of leather depended on the amount of money it took to care for the animal until it reached a specific size? Well, as you know, furniture is quite large, and that means the leather used to upholster the furniture needs to be quite large and of the best quality.

This is what drives the price of leather furniture up at many furniture stores. In addition, the demand for specific leather furniture designs makes the cost increase as well. 

There are various factors involved with furniture stores determining prices for their pieces that are not known to the public. However, you can be sure it all begins with the cost of the leather material they choose to use for their furniture. 

Leather Price Ranges

While prices vary worldwide, the following information gives you an idea of the most expensive leathers in the world compared to alternatives that look just as great at a lower price. 

Italian Leather Small Handbag$400 to $30,000
Crocodile Small Handbag$900 to $23,000
Alligator Small Handbag$300 to $30,000
Vegan Leather Small Handbag$50 to $2,000
Leaf Leather Small Handbag$50 to $2,500
Cork Leather Small Handbag$100 to $300
Apple Leather Small Handbag$50 to $200

The prices shown above are based on a small leather handbag to give you a basic idea of the price range. Many online deals can get you an authentic leather designer bag at a great cost but expect it to be in the price ranges mentioned above.

If you are looking for a statement piece for your wardrobe and have your heart set on an Italian leather, crocodile, or alligator handbag, the high cost is considered an investment. Remember, you can keep high-quality leather items for a long time, and they will still look like new when taken care of properly.

You can also consider reselling the item through an online platform that sells second-hand items and make a small profit.

Top 5 Alternative Leather Options That Suit Your Budget

If luxury leather brands are out of your budget, check out these affordable alternatives.

13. Shop Second Hand

There are numerous online second-hand stores that have leather treasures just waiting for you to discover.

The best online consignment sites you need to check out are Vestiaire Collective, Subrina Heyink Vintage, What Goes Around comes Around, and Rebag. You can also visit any local vintage shops in your area. 

14. Faux Leather

Faux leather is made out of a variety of materials including recycled polyester. You can find unique leather handbags, clothing, and shoes at your local mall, retail stores, and online. 

15. Pinatex Vegan Leather

This natural textile is created from pineapple leaf fiber. The already existing leaves are sustainably sourced and cruelty-free.

The production process to make this material has a low environmental impact and creates a durable leather alternative. 

16. Cork Vegan Leather

This waterproof, lightweight durable leather is sustainable and chemical-free. Cork leather is extremely soft to the touch and unique due to its natural source.

You can be sure no two items will look alike. This affordable option is long-lasting, looks like leather, and is available in various styles and colors. 

17. Apple Vegan Leather

This affordable luxurious leather is created from apple fiber. It’s soft to the touch, durable, and long-lasting. Designers and manufacturers create numerous styles, designs, and use a variety of hardware and colors so you have plenty of options to choose from. 


Final Words

The leather used for clothing, handbags, saddles, horse reins, and other life necessities dates back in history. Today, you have the choice to purchase genuine, high-quality leather products as well as eco-friendly leather alternatives. Both options are available in a variety of colors and styles. 

Use the information discussed here to determine which is the best option for you. Begin by asking yourself one easy question, “Do I want an eco-friendly alternative or the real deal?” If you follow a vegan and eco-friendly lifestyle, chances are you will lean towards the beautiful alternatives.

However, if you prefer genuine leather and want to add key pieces to your existing collection, go for the animal leather options. Don’t forget, everyone needs a little crocodile or alligator in their wardrobe, but it’s up to you to choose the faux or real version! 

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