What is Suede Leather?

A guide on what suede leather is, how it is made, the visual appearance and tactile feel of suede leather, differences with other types of leather etc.

suede leather
Suede is a type of leather with a fuzzy, velvety surface. It is a type of processed and tanned animal hide. The soft, napped surface is quite different from the rest of the leather skins that are smooth on the surface. Suede leather is 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 hard wearing and durable enough to be made into work clothes.

Suede is generally made of the skins of small animals like lamb, goat, pig, and deer. But, it is primarily made of cowhide and lambskin; Lambskin is soft in texture. Cowhide will be tougher than the other hides, so typically 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 makes clothing and accessories like purses, gloves, belts, hats, furniture, and other items. It is also used as lining for other leather products. Suede leather is thinner than other varieties of leather so it is lighter-weight and malleable.

It is considered 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.

shoe made of suede leather.

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 you buy. Lamb and goat suede is 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 suede. Since suede is thin, it gets damaged easily.

But there is an advantage too. Since it is thinner, it is more pliable and 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 may become heavier, darker and less soft when exposed to water. It has to be treated to make it more water-resistant. 

Differences between Suede and Nubuck

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

Genuine suede can be identified out of all the sueded materials which look very similar to suede by two methods. The 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.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.
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