When searching for an office chair: fabric or leather, which should you choose? The answer depends on your needs and preferences. The office chair is a must when it comes to the layout of the workspace.
Regarding the upholstery of these seats, there are two main families: fabric and leather.
We immediately have differences that come to mind spontaneously: the fabric office chair intended for employees versus the leather armchair where the director sits.
We can also think of the vegan/non-vegan distinction, leather being traditional of animal origin.
In truth, the reality is now more nuanced, and several categories exist within each type.
Despite these nuances, when it comes time to choose an office chair, fabric and leather have their advantages and disadvantages, which we will try to present here.
Whether fabric or leather, office chairs remain part of the office furniture family.
In both cases, we find similar characteristics:
- adjustable height
- reclining seat
- swivel seat
However, as we will see, the upholstery influences other chair aspects.
Fabric chairs are the most common.
They generally have a low backrest, sometimes with a headrest.
They are quite light and convenient to use.
There are two main categories of fabric chairs: traditional chairs (with covers) and mesh chairs.
Traditional Fabric Chairs
These office chairs are the most common.
The backrest and seat are made of padding covered with a fabric cover.
These chairs offer good comfort from the first time you sit on them.
They do not need to “get used to” use.
However, the padding is destined to deteriorate over time.
Mesh Fabric Chairs
For several years, mesh chairs have been popular.
The backrest does not consist of upholstery with these chairs but a fabric mesh.
The seat is sometimes also meshed.
The big advantage of mesh chairs is that they are much more breathable than any other.
Advantages of Fabric Office Chairs:
Fabric chairs have a synthetic or plant-based covering.
It is, therefore, an excellent choice for vegans.
The fabric allows a wide variety of colors but also patterns.
There are fabric chairs at all prices, but they are generally less expensive: entry-level chairs are fabric chairs.
Fabric chairs are quite breathable, especially mesh ones.
Disadvantages of Fabric Office Chairs:
Even though waterproofing treatments exist, fabric chairs are, to begin with, quite messy.
In particular, liquid stains are a chore to clean.
It is a little less true for mesh chairs.
Comfort is destined to deteriorate over time.
They tend to be rather fragile.
The term “leather” has been popularized in furniture to designate coverings (especially for chairs) that, in truth, can be made of different materials.
The “real” Leather
This material is made of animal skin that has undergone several treatments to be used in leather goods.
There are several qualities, depending on the part of the leather sheet used.
The outer part, of superior quality, is called the “full flower” or “corrected flower.”
Items made from the lower layers are labeled “genuine leather” and may vary in quality.
Sometimes it can even be reconstituted leather.
Also called “faux leather,” this material looks much like leather at first glance.
It is not just a single material: several kinds of imitation leather exist.
In-office chairs, the most commonly used leatherette is PU leather.
Polyurethane (hence the abbreviation “PU”) is deposited on a textile layer.
PU leather has advantages over other imitation leathers: it is non-toxic, more flexible, and has several characteristics in common with leather.
The surface of PU leather is smooth where the leather has tiny pores: it is a way to distinguish them.
There are also imitation leathers made from plants, but they are rarer.
Advantages of Leather Office Chairs:
Leather still retains a criterion of elegance today.
Generally, a leather office chair will be more readily called an “office chair.”
On a company’s premises, this type of seat is generally reserved for senior executives or directors.
In short, a leather armchair is impressive!
Whether it is PU leather or genuine leather, it is a material that offers good waterproofing and cleans very well.
Well-maintained leather can last a very long time.
With use, the leather adapts to the user’s morphology, offering superior comfort.
Disadvantages of Leather Office Chairs:
Leather tends to be sensitive to temperature variations: it will be hot (even hot) if the environment is hot and cold if the environment is cold.
It is especially unpleasant for contact with bare skin (especially with short-sleeved or open-backed tops, shorts, skirts, etc.).
However, some imitation leathers are designed to reduce this effect.
Natural leather needs to be maintained: not just cleaned, but nourished; otherwise, it will end up cracking.
Feeding the leather gives it good resistance, but it must admit that this adds maintenance constraints.
For natural leather, the choice of colors is very limited.
A large palette exists, but rather in brown tones.
Synthetic leathers, however, offer more choices.
Leather chairs tend to be quite expensive.
In addition, since these seats are considered top-of-the-range seats, several features can be added and inflate the note.
Office Chair: Fabric or Leather: The Comparison
The leather seat is a notch above the level of the seat and the backrest.
Even if it is firmer initially, it will eventually adapt to your morphology for ideal and personalized comfort.
Cloth seats tend to be less firm at first and more immediately comfortable.
On the other hand, the seat of fabric seats may settle or even deteriorate over time, especially on the least expensive models.
Natural leather can become very hot or cold and make the person sitting on it hot.
It is less the case for certain leatherette chairs, which retain less heat.
Conversely, fabric chairs offer much better breathability, especially mesh models (it’s hard to get airier!).
If properly cared for, leather seats tend to be much more durable over time.
Mesh chairs are, relative to other types, the most fragile.
Removing a stain, and in particular a strain of liquid (coffee, for example) on a fabric armchair, will be a chore (but it is not impossible: see our article “How to clean an office chair“!).
On the other hand, cleaning a stain is much easier on leather, which is much more waterproof.
A fabric office chair requires minimal regular maintenance.
On the other hand, a chair in leather, especially in natural leather, needs to be “fed” regularly with suitable products to preserve it properly.
The Animal Cause:
It has become a criterion that can make you choose a fabric rather than a leather chair. However, there are now faux leather chairs that are vegan certified.
Manufacturers using artificial or vegetable leather make this very clear since it is a strong selling point.
The Appearance :
It depends on tastes and colors, but to simplify, leather brings great elegance, while fabric brings more customization possibilities.
The Price :
In general, the price of a leather seat is higher (or even much higher) than a fabric chair.
The Folder :
There are exceptions, but lovers of low backs had to find what they were looking for with a fabric chair, whereas most leather armchairs have a high back.
Again, there are ergonomic options for cloth and leather seats, especially to alleviate back problems.
However, the leather models being associated with the top of the range, it is in this category that we find the ergonomic chairs with the most advanced options.
Moreover, video game enthusiasts use gamer-type chairs, which often include advanced ergonomic options, belonging to the category of leather seats.
If not all employees have a leather chair, it’s not just a question of budget.
Indeed, leather armchairs are much bulkier.
This clutter is not a problem in a separate office or when working from home.
On the other hand, in an open space or other workspace shared by several employees, opting for fabric chairs, which are more manageable and less bulky, is generally a wise choice.
It is all the more true for a limited surface or if you want to keep some freedom to modulate the workspace over time.
Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of fabric and leather for an office chair, do not hesitate to look at our office chair buying guide to find your next seat!