What is suede? Suede, pronounced as (swayd), is a fabric made of leather with a fine, soft finish. It is commonly used in fashion items such as shoes, shirts, bags, wallets, coats, and jackets. Suede is a fabric that’s more commonly known as the "fuzzy leather" or the "napped leather." It paved its way to the fashion scene in the early 20th century. Nowadays, it is known to the public as a status symbol. With that said, this article will discuss further what is suede and what its uses are.
What is Suede?
So, exactly what is suede? Suede is a fabric that’s derived from the underside of any animal skin. It is a high-quality leather that is popular for its smooth feel and surface.
What is Suede - History
Before delving in deeper into what is suede, let's first discuss its history. This fabric actually originated in France. The term “suede” came from the phrase “gants de Suede” which translates to “gloves from Sweden”. It was first used to refer to the specific fabric used in soft and smooth gloves that were imported from Sweden. After some time, the phrase “gants de Suede” became a reference to any leather fabric with a "napped" or smooth feel.
Nowadays, suede is often used in boots, coats, jackets, and sometimes hats. It can be used in rugs or carpets, covers for different types of furniture and appliances as well as home essentials.
What is Suede vs Leather?
Suede is different from any leather because it’s made of the animal hide's underside or the animal skin's lower surface. In contrast, most of the leather fabrics are made from an animal hide's top surface.
The most common animal hide used for suede production came from lambskin, goatskin, pigskin, calfskin, and sometimes deerskin. These types of animal hides affect the quality and thickness of the fabric.
Suppose a manufacturer uses a thick animal hide which usually comes from older animals. In that case, suede will most likely lose its napped texture. It will become hard and heavy instead of being soft and light, as many designers prefer.
As leather production goes way back to the Paleolithic era, it was not until the Industrial Revolution when suede was finally introduced to the market. Due to the different tanning chemicals discovered back then, the production of suede was up and running.
It paved its way to the fashion industry by becoming a status symbol or a luxurious item due to its smooth feel and texture. Brands such as Givenchy, Hermes, and Paquin started using the fabric suede in their catwalks and collections, which automatically made it a crowd favorite. Nowadays, suede is not just used in the fashion industry but also as curtains and essentials in the home furniture industry.
What is Suede - Types
Now that you know what is suede, let's discuss the different types of suede. Suede has different variations and can change its appearance based on the production's method or animal skin. There are three common types of suede fabric which are as follows:
The first type of suede made from a cow's hide. The cowhide suede is the roughest and thickest suede fabric. Most manufacturers prefer older cows in the production of this fabric. The cowhide suede is also commonly referred to as the "split cowhide," "bush coat," "calfskin," "roughout," and "rawhide."
The second type of suede fabric is the sheepskin suede. As its name implies, it is made of the skin of a sheep or lamb. It is the most delicate, smoothest, and softest type of suede fabric. Also, it has a smooth finish and is lighter compared to any other kind of suede.
The third type of suede is the pigskin suede. It is a thick, heavy, and rough kind of suede fabric that also has a rough finish.
What is Suede - Texture?
In terms of its texture, suede is commonly soft and smooth. If the material comes from light leather or is produced from young animals, then the suede will feel soft and smooth.
However, if the fabric comes from animals with thicker hides or skins such as cows, or if it comes from older animals, the suede will feel rougher. Its nap or the hairs of the material will feel rough and rugged.
What is Suede vs. Nubuck Leather vs. Microsuede
Nubuck is a fabric made of leather. However, it is made from the top surface of the animal hide. Like suede, it also has a smooth finish. On the other hand, Nubuck is also more expensive compared to suede.
Nubuck leather is commonly made from the cow's hide while suede can be made either from a cow's skin and hide. Nubuck leather is also stronger than suede. If this type of material is not processed, it initially has a tough texture and rough surface. Both Nubuck leather and suede are not waterproof.
On the other hand, microsuede is a fabric made up of polyester. It is a faux type of leather that has been "imitating" suede for years. Since it has a suede-like texture, it is commonly known as the most popular faux suede type. Microsuede is waterproof and water-resistant, unlike regular suede fabric.
As it is lightweight and usually stain-proof, microsuede is more popular for home essentials such as furniture and appliance covers. It is also durable and can be easily cleaned compared to suede fabric.
what is Suede - Advantages
There are several advantages when using suede as a material, namely:
- DURABILITY - First, suede is highly durable. It is a tough fabric with a very durable nature compared to cloth or other materials. It also has a fine and delicate drape due to its delicate nature. Suede is long-lasting and resistant. As long as it is carefully treated, it can last up to years.
- PLIABILITY - Second, suede leather is pliable. It can be easily made into different types of clothing depending on the need and trends. Since it is usually thin, a suede fabric can be sewn into dresses, shoes, coats, or covers easily.
- AESTHETICS - Third, it is appealing. Since suede has a smooth appearance, it tends to be appealing to the eyes and the different senses, such as the sense of touch.
What is Suede - Disadvantages
As with any other fabrics, suede also has its disadvantages. Some of them include:
- NAP - First, suede's appearance can easily be damaged. The suede's nap easily attracts dirt and dust, which harms its appearance. Once the fabric has this type of dirt, it ruins its appearance and sometimes its texture.
- THICKNESS - Suede is too thin. Who knew its most significant advantage is also its weakness? As suede is thin and not as durable as typical leather and as such it cannot be used to produce all types of clothing. For example, it cannot be used in a backpack. Suede can be used to make purses and wallets; however, it cannot be manufactured to become a satchel or a messenger bag, unlike leather due to its smooth and soft nature.
What is Suede Uses
Nowadays, suede is a fabric used in different kinds of apparel and essentials. However, it is not that useful in the industrial field due to its smooth and soft nature.
Suede can also be used as a material in footwear. Its smooth nap can be used for producing different types of footwear such as boots, loafers, sandals, and slides. Since it has a soft nature, it quickly guarantees comfort to whoever will wear the said footwear. However, suede can’t be used as a material to produce combat boots or shoes. It can be a material in footwear but can only be used to make dress shoes.
Suede can also be used in accessories. Before, it was only used for gloves but can now be used as belts, handbags, or purses. Needless to say, the fabric became a crowd favorite for accessories due to its appearance.
Lastly, suede can be used in outerwear such as coats and jackets. Due to its texture and durability, outerwear made up from suede guarantees both comfort and protection, with the most common outerwear produced from the fabric being the Western fringe jacket.
What is Suede – In Conclusion
Suede is made of animal skin or hide. It gives off that smooth and soft appearance and feel. It is commonly used for making coats and jackets, dress shoes such as boots and sandals, and home essentials. It is also known as a status symbol that completes that luxurious look one aspires to have in any fashion show.
Even if suede is different from leather, it is still a staple in the market. It has its place in the fashion industry as it provides both comfort and protection to whoever decides to wear it as boots or as outerwear. It also gives that elegant touch as an accessory. It might not be as durable, waterproof, or as tough as leather, yet it is still helpful for various apparel and homewares. Hopefully, this answers your question about what is suede.