Ever wondered just what the difference is between suede vs leather? What about what makes them similar? Why are they so often spoken of in the same breath? And what can you do about it?
All this and more here today as we explore some of the central differences and similarities between suede and leather, enabling you to work out which might be better for you.
What is the Difference?
Leather is an incredibly versatile and durable material. Leather is, in fact, so versatile that certain archeological excavations have found leather items from many, many years ago.
This durability really cannot be over-emphasized, especially in comparison to the more sensitive and fragile suede. This is one of the key properties of leather. Suede shoes are going to have a harder time staying fresh than leather shoes, for example.
Leather and suede are, of course, made from animal hide, though they come from two different parts of the hide.
There is the grain side and the flesh side. This former side is what leather is made from and, thus, inherits all of those positive characteristics that make it so desirable. The fact that this is the side that is on the external of the animal and is more prone to the elements makes this one of the main reasons full-grain leather is so desirable.
Suede, on the other hand, is made from the other side, the flesh side. In coming from the underside, the tougher external layer is excluded, leading to a shoe that is altogether softer and less durable, though this is precisely the appeal for some.
Indeed, this softness makes suede incredibly supple, pliable, and a whole heap thinner. The finish of a pair of suede shoes will be, for instance, far more matted than that on a pair of leather boots.
Suede and nubuck shoes might not look very different but they are. Nubuck shoes seek to strike a balance between the two, assuming the desirable aspects of the matted suede look with the durability of leather.
Leather is simply taken and a suede eraser is used to give the appearance of suede. In this way, it is often referred to as suede leather, for it is both leather and suede in one.
Let us take a lot at some of the reasons you might want to invest in either leather or suede.
Leather, as aforementioned, is incredibly durable, a durability that cannot be overstated. Since it is made from the external part of an animal's hide it has grown and developed to withstand harsh elements and attacks from other creatures. For this reason, you will often see scars or blemishes in the hide of a leather item, something that many collectors deem desirable.
The finish for leather, too, is smooth and glossy at points. It is a glossiness that perhaps belies its water resistance. If the external of an animal's hide was no good at fending off water or rain, then it really would get nowhere. Even vegetable-tanned leather or faux leather is incredibly good at this. Can leather get wet? Indeed it can!
By comparison, suede is far softer and more supple than leather, perhaps better suited to more luxury garments intended for fashion. A suede jacket, unless constructed in a particular way, is not going to be the best for working in, especially not out in the elements.
The finish is one of the more desirable elements, matted and soft, though remarkably easy to clean with a simple suede brush. Suede is also less expensive despite being softer and more fashionable (and less common).
If you are looking for a garment that is going to better suit you in a warmer environment, then perhaps you will want to veer towards suede, for it is far more porous than leather. This will allow air and moisture to get in and out a little easier in a suede garment than in a leather garment, though not to any considerable degree.
Of course, for all their benefits, each has its own set of drawbacks, often matched by the other.
Leather has plenty of benefits, as we have seen, and for all these benefits it is considerably expensive, especially if we are talking about traditional leather from top-grain leather manufacturers. Seeing as it is built to last for so long, this added expense is to be expected, particularly when considering the length and depth of the manufacturing process.
Leather also boasts quite a high cost of maintenance, if you do intend to maintain it properly. The real joy with leather is to simply let it mature and grow of its own accord like the skin that it is.
Inversely and in direct opposition to suede, leather is a real retainer of heat, which can be both a good and bad thing. If, though, you are looking to wear leather to look cool in a hot climate, then think again buster! Unlike suede, leather is hot, hot, hot.
Suede, too, has its fair share of drawbacks when compared to leather. Despite being so easy to clean, it is more susceptible to dirt and water damage (nothing worse than wet suede), something that might not matter in the short term but that might trouble you in the long term. Over time, your patience might wear thin and the material might fade.
As already discussed, suede is famously less durable than leather, even though this often seems to be the selling point. For this reason, leather has a bit of a reputation as being the more rugged working man's material, while suede is the more fashionable option.
To split leather with suede is perhaps to limit the possibilities. Being less durable means that you can't do all that you might be able to do with a leather item. Still, no shoe trees are fit without a pair of pigskin suede shoes and cowhide leather boots.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you have now been able to make your mind up about which you prefer, or at the very least have been provided with enough information to make a decision between a choice of leather or suede garment this Christmas.
FAQs Suede Vs Leather
Which is stronger suede or leather?
Leather is quite famously stronger than suede. This is because leather is made from the grain side of a piece of hide, the side that is exposed to the elements on the outside and thus needs to be tougher. Suede, on the other hand, is made from the inner side and is, therefore, softer and more supple.
Is suede easier to clean than leather?
Arguably, yes. The upkeep and cleaning of leather can be quite an odyssey unto itself, hence why many either opt not to clean their leather or to not own any altogether. Suede, though, is believed by many to be easier to clean. It is, however, quicker to fade after protracted periods of cleaning.
Is suede real leather?
Suede and leather are separate entities made from the same part of an animal, the hide. Where suede is made from the inner part of the hide leather is made from the outer grain side, hence the former's softness and the latter's famous durability in comparison to the former.
Is suede leather waterproof?
Suede is considerably more susceptible to dirt and water damage than leather. Sure, suede is easier to clean in the short term, but after protracted and repeated cleans, suede is more likely to fade too. Leather, however, is far more able to withstand the impact and consequences of water. Heck, you can even stretch a leather item out by soaking it in water for a certain period of time and then wearing it in.