Suede Shoes

Did you know that leather has been around since the Paleolithic times? It’s the oldest fabric you can find.

It has been worn across centuries in all manner of styles, long before cloth fabrics became a thing.

Perhaps the reason it has become so popular at major U.S stores is the fact that leather is highly versatile, and once processed, it can take many forms, including suede, which is leather with a nappy finish. 

The nap of suede is the nubuck's or suede's velvety-like surface and texture that one can feel at the touch, a sensation caused by the raised fibers.

The fine fibers on suede you feel standing up is what is referred to as a nap.  It is soft and has visible fibers that can go in either direction when brushed gently.

The name ‘suede’ is French and translates to 'gloves from Sweden'. Over time, the term has become the generic name for all kinds of napped leather materials.

Suede can therefore qualify to be called an exotic or premium material.

Is Suede Different From Leather?

leather vs suede

Yes, suede is different from what we know as a traditional leather material in terms of how it’s made, and how it looks and feels to the touch; even though they both start as animal hide.

Suede is made specifically from the underside of the animal’s skin or from the hides of very young animals.

The kind of hide is important for the finishing to be just right; suede needs to be more flexible, thinner, and way softer than regular genuine leather. 

Leather material is tanned in many places worldwide, but suede is more specialized, and fewer leather processing plants produce it.

While regular leather is tough, water-resistant, and more durable, suede is more delicate, not water-resistant, and requires high maintenance for it to last long. 

Is Suede Organic?

Suede can be said to be organic because it comes from a natural raw material. But it requires the use of various chemicals to process it.

The end product, even though processed using chemicals, is natural and retains its organic characteristics. The chemicals used to tan or process the hide into suede material must not be hazardous or toxic. 

What Are the Various Types of Suede?

different kinds of suede

The suede material is different in quality, look and feel because of the part of the animal hide it comes from.

This is what differentiates it from other leathers. Suede has varying types categorized by the texture of the nap, the weight, and the animal from where the hide was harvested.

Here are three of the most common types of suede:

1. Suede from sheep and lamb skin

Sheepskin results in the most delicate and softest suede. The nap of suede from these animals has a smooth texture, smoother than other types.

It is also very lightweight. It is also the most expensive and is only used to make luxury custom items. 

2. Suede from cow hide 

This is the most common hide that suede is made from. The resulting suede is rough, thick, and slightly heavy.

The older the cow, the rougher the nap will be and the heavier the suede. Cowskin suede is also referred to as bush coat, calfskin, split suede, or rough out.

3. Suede from Pigskin

Suede from pigs is thick and slightly heavy. The texture of the nap is rough and the fibers are short.

Pigskin suede is durable and, with care and maintenance, can last years. Suede leather is the most commonly used in the textile industry. 

What Is Suede Used For?

Uses of Suede

Suede is useful in many ways. Here are some of the most common uses of suede leather.  

  • Suede is used to make footwear. The smooth nap of suede is what gives slides, boots, and loafers their unique appeal and structure. Suede ankle boots have become some of the most styled shoes in magazines and blogs recently. Suede is lighter than regular leather, making it a good material for all kinds of footwear. 

  • Suede clothing accessories such as belts, bags, and gloves are popular in high fashion streets. Suede can be colored with ease, which explains its versatility and preference by fashion designers. 

  • Outerwear such as western fringe coats is always made from suede. In Texas, most people own a pair of fringed boots and a fringed jacket. It is a fashion staple. As well, sued has been used in Kane trench coats, blazers, and bomber jackets, thanks to its texture and durability. 

  • Home accessories such as cushion covers, sofa covers, jewelry boxes, etc have also been made using suede. 

What Are the Advantages of Using Suede?

  1. Suede is a durable material. With care and proper maintenance, it can last years. Compared to cloth fabrics, it is heat-resistant, can withstand wear and tear, and sustains its quality and color even after countless cleaning episodes. 

  2. Its thin drapey look and smooth appearance give it a premium appearance. The different textures of the nap of suede make it an appealing fabric for many people. 

  3. Suede is a pliable type of leather, making it super easy to use on an array of items. The thicker suede types make bags, purses, sofa covers, and shoes, while the thinnest lightweight ones can be used to sew dresses. 

What Are the Disadvantages of Suede?

  1. Compared to standard leather, suede is thin and delicate and can easily get damaged by the elements, chemicals, and even water. 

  2. Suede is high maintenance. It requires unique cleaning accessories, such as suede brushes and suede cleaners. Because it can also be easily damaged, it cannot be used daily. 

  3. Suede tends to stain easily. It also quickly collects dust and dirt and it is not easy to simply wipe it off. 

What Is the Difference Between Nubuck Leather and Suede?

Both suede and nubuck are soft versions of leather, but nubuck is created using the top grain of animal skin, just like regular leather.

The animal's skin is sanded down to achieve its smooth finish. The nubuck is also mostly made from cow skin, while most suedes are from sheep and young calves.

Suede is cheaper than nubuck leather. Nubuck leather is thicker, stronger, and heavier than suede.

Both suede and nubuck are not waterproof materials, but they can be sprayed with special chemicals to enhance their water-repellent capacity.

Is Napped Leather Suede?

Yes. Suede is leather, only it is napped. Napping means that right after the leather is woven, it is made to go through a thorough wash, fulling, raising, and trimming.

These processes are what achieve the unique characteristic appearance of suede. Not all leathers can create a great suede finish, so manufacturers use only animal skins that are soft and lightweight. 

What are the Differences Between Real and Faux Suede?

Suede boots

It is not easy to spot the differences between faux and real suede because, unlike popular belief, knock-off suede does not look cheap at all. In fact, in terms of appearance, it is made to look more ‘perfect’ and even. Besides the obvious fact, that genuine suede is made from animal skins, and faux suede is created from synthetic matter.  Here are several important differences between them:

  • Genuine suede tends to be more durable than the imitation versions. 

  • Faux suede is cheaper than real suede.

  • Real suede is delicate and stains easily. Faux suede is stain-resistant and not as delicate.

  • Faux suede is easier to clean and maintain than genuine suede, which is extremely high maintenance.

  • Natural suede is not water-resistant. The imitation is resistant to water and staining.

  • Faux suede looks perfect but genuine suede has color variations and shades, patterns, and is uneven.

  • Genuine suede never peels, while faux leather begins to peel after a short time of usage. 

  • Faux suede can be ironed to get rid of wrinkles. This is not the case for real suedes. 

  • Faux leather is made entirely from polyester and is therefore not breathable. Real suede is breathable. 

  • Genuine suede is not vegan because it comes from animals. Faux suede, however, is an appropriate choice for vegans.

How To Take Care of Your Nap of Suede?

Your suede item should be cleaned by a professional who specializes in leather cleaning. This will reduce any chances of unnecessary damage to your items. Here are some tricks for you to ensure your suede stays in good condition in between the professional cleaning days:

  • Keep your suede away from water. A little water can stain your suede permanently. Suede is absorbent and will quickly get ruined. If you accidentally spill water on your suede item, quickly blot it out with another absorbent material and try your best to get most of the water out. Then air-dry the material. Do not apply heat or try to blow them dry. You can also use special treatments or sprays to improve water resistance. 

  • To rid your suede material of loose dirt and dust, purchase a specialized suede brush that is made of soft brass or nylon bristles. Use this on the nap of the suede, brushing gently. The nap will stay fresh and new looking. For small items, a toothbrush with soft bristles will work just the same. A suede eraser is also handy for removing surface stains.

  • For greasy stains, use talc powder or cornstarch. Apply a thick layer to make sure all the grease or oil has been absorbed. Leave it overnight and then brush it off to reveal a clean patch. If the grease has already dried, dab the stain with a cloth soaked with white vinegar. 

How To Reset The Nap on Suede Shoes

Due to wear and tear, suede shoes can become worn and tired looking, adopting a shiny look in different areas, especially the toe and heel areas. The shine comes from the nap of suede losing its lift and luster. If you want to restore them at home, here is how to do it; brush them back and forth using a suede brush to remove any dust and dirt. 

Do this repeatedly but gently until the nap’s fibers are upright and you can feel them when you run your fingers on the surface of the shoes. This way, you will have cleaned and restored your suede shoes. If perhaps there are stains on your shoes, dab them lightly with white vinegar, let them dry and repeat the brushing.

Avoid wiping, scrubbing, or rubbing your suede shoes vigorously, especially when wet. The little fibers on the nap tend to become more brittle when the fabric is wet and can come off, causing irreparable damage to your shoes. 

Are Suede and Velvet the same?

No. Suede and velvet are completely different materials, even though they are both characterized by a soft nappy surface. While suede is a type of leather from animal hide, velvet is a woven tufted fabric that comprises a host of threads evenly distributed in a short dense pile format. This is what gives it that luxurious feel. 


Suede is a versatile material and is popular all over the world. Outside the US, the most available suede is faux, as genuine suede is considered premium. The nap of genuine suede is more delicate and complex to make and maintain.