The main difference between leather and suede is that leather is from the exterior side of the animal skin, whereas suede is from the inside or fleshy side of the animal skin. Therefore, suede is not durable or strong as leather.
Leather and suede are two materials we make from animal skin. Both are popular in making clothing and accessories like handbags, wristwatch straps, gloves, and shoes. However, leather is smooth and butter, while suede is matty.
Key Areas Covered
Leather, Suede, Animal Skin
What is Leather
Leather is a strong, durable, and flexible natural product taken from the skin of animals. It is commonly made using cattle hide; however, you can use the skin of almost any animal like reptiles, mammals, and amphibians to make leather. In addition, leather manufacturers sometimes also use the skin of exotic animals like pythons, kangaroos, ostriches, and camels. Some popular leather products are handbags, purses, footwear, gloves, hats, belts, wristwatch straps, and clothing. Pure leather is comfortable to wear since it regulates body temperature and transports moisture.
Leather manufacturing involves tanning and processing the skin of animals. Hide (skin) taken from various body parts of animals have different qualities. But, not all hides taken from animal bodies are tanned and used to make leather. Tanning is changing the protein layers/collagen fibres on the skin to an imputrescible state. It also involves chemically treating the skin to prevent decay. Leather-makers do this in a tannery using tannin, which is a chemical from oak trees. Tanning also removes the hair on the outer surface of the animal skin, making it smooth, flexible, and durable. This is a very old process and is common in making accessories for men and women.
Types of Leather
- Top grain – Leather is corrected in any way.
- Full grain – Leather with the entire grain. This is more sought after and more expensive because of its durability and longevity.
(We call top grain and full grain leather as grain leather. There are three sections: aniline, semi-aniline, and protected)
- Split leather – Skin is divided into several layers. Not much durable.
- Bonded leather – It is not actual leather since it includes shredded leather scraps with embossed polyurethane coating. These are very cheap and are present in bookbinding and low-end furniture.
Moreover, there are other types of leather. We can categorize them according to the production process; for example, vegetable tanned, brain tanned, synthetic tanned, chamois, chrome tanned, alum tanned, rose tanned, formaldehyde leather, aldehyde leather, and rawhide.
What is Suede
A suede is a type of leather taken from the underside of the animal skin. Suede manufacturers mainly use lamb skin, but some manufacturers also use cattle, pig, deer, and goat skins. It is very soft, pliable, and supple; therefore, we often use suede to make gloves and other accessories for women. It is also useful in making upholstery, shoes, and as a lining for other leather products. Since it does not have the original protective layer, it tends to get dirty easily. Therefore, if you don’t take care of the product properly, it will get damaged easily.
The suede is thin and not strong or durable as leather. In suede production, manufacturers separate the fleshy side or the underside of the animal skin from the upper side. Since it does not have a rough exterior side, it is not durable.
Types of Suede
- Cowhide suede – The roughest form of suede.
- Sheepskin suede – The softest form of suede (usually sheep and lamb skin).
- Pigskin suede – It is thick, durable, and also heavy.
Difference Between Leather and Suede
Leather is a strong, durable, and flexible natural product taken from the skin of animals, while suede is a type of leather taken from the underside of the animal skin.
Leather originates from the exterior side of the skin, while suede originates from the flesh side or the underside of the skin.
Leather is smooth, buttery, and has a sheen, but suede is textured and matty.
While leather is expensive, suede is less expensive.
Leather is more durable than suede.
Leather is a strong, durable, and flexible natural product taken from the exterior side of the animal skin. It has a smooth, buttery texture. Moreover, leather is expensive and comes in various types like top grain, full grain, split leather, and bonded leather. Suede, on the other hand, is a type of material we make from the underside of animal skin. It is less expensive and less durable. Thus, this is the main difference between leather and suede.
1. “Leather tools” By Scott Bauer – This image was released by the Agricultural Research Service, the research agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “George-Boot Carson (Grenson)” By Rainer Ersfeld – Firma/Company Freyersfeld (CC BY-SA 2.5) via Commons Wikimedia