What is Suede Leather?

suede leather
Suede is a type of leather with a fuzzy, velvety surface. The soft napped surface is quite different from the rest of the leather skins available which are smooth on the surface. Suede leather is really leather but it is made of the underside of the animal skin (the flesh side). 
Once upon a time, leather skins with imperfections were used from the inside out. This may be the beginning of suede. The underside of the animal skin was subsequently, deliberately buffed to make the textured material. 

The underside skin is separated from the top layer of animal skin with the help of a leather splitting machine and this creates a thin softer leather which is then buffed and used as suede. Suede is available in many weights – from very fine suede which is used to make clothes, to thick suede, which is hardwearing and durable enough to be made into work clothes.

It is generally made of the skins of small animals like lamb, goat, pig, and deer. It is primarily made of lambskin. Cowhide will be tougher than the other hides, so normally calfskin is used for making suede.

The suede can be used in its natural color or can be dyed to any desired color. Since suede is not water-resistant and gets sodden and stains easily, products made from this material are not used for the rainy season or snowy conditions.

Uses of Suede leather

Suede has a rough’n’tough, masculine and natural look which makes it a favorite for backpacks, boots, coats and even elbow patches of jackets and shirts. Suede is used to make clothing and accessories like purses, gloves, belts, hats, furniture, and other items. It is also used as lining for other leather products. It is considered as an insulating material suitable for cold weather.

Suede loafers in medium or light brown shade – this is a staple in the wardrobe of many men who love outdoors.

How to buy better suede leather?

The animal that it comes from and the age of the animal are two important determinants of the quality of suede that you buy. Lamb and goat suede are considered more premium and expensive than cow or pig suede. The least desirable suede is that made from cowhide as it is tougher and less pliable.

There are two types of suede – split suede and full suede. Split suede is made out of the underside portion after the skin is split into two layers. Some manufacturers do not split leather-making suede. Instead, they turn the leather hide in such a way that the underside is outside and the topside is inside. Such suedes are more durable than split suedes.

How is suede different from other leather?

The soft, fine feel of suede has an appealing texture.The surface of the suede is evenly fuzzy throughout. Leather has a more glossy surface. 

Standard leather is thicker than the suede. Since suede is thin, it gets damaged easily. But there is an advantage too. Since it is thinner, it is more pliable and it can be molded easily to make nice looking clothing and accessories.

Leather is tougher than suede. Suede is not as durable as other more sturdy leathers. It can be damaged by weight, moisture and abrasion.

The napped surface of the suede collects dust and dirt easily and makes it look dirty.

Suede is not generally a waterproof material. It has to be treated to make it more water-resistant.

Difference between Suede and Nubuck

Suede, and nubuck are all different varieties of leather with a similar napped surface. But the difference is that nubuck is made from grain side of leather (top side) which is treated to have the napped finish.

Suede is made of the inner layer of the animal skin, whereas leather and nubuck are made of the outer layer. Nubuck is made from the top grain of animal skin. It’s sanded down to give it a smooth finish.  Both leather and nubuck are more durable than suede. Nubuck is the most expensive, followed by suede and then leather.

While suede’s texture is fuzzy and pliable, texture of leather is smooth and stiff and that of nubuck is fuzzy and stiff.

How to distinguish between Suede and faux suede? 

The genuine suede can be identified out of all the sueded materials which look very similar to suede by two methods. First method is to wet your hand and touch the surface. If the water is absorbed it is genuine suede. If it doesn’t and beads up on the surface, it’s faux suede. Suede as a natural material absorbs water.

Another method is to look at the underside. The real suede won’t have a backing. If it has a knit backing, it is a man-made suede.

Updated on October 5, 2022 by Sarina Tariq

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