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Suede vs. Leather: What are the Differences

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Suede is a kind of leather, but not the kind that comes to mind when we normally think of when we talk about leather goods. When you shop products that come in both leather and suede, you’ll want to know the pros and cons of both so you can make the smartest choice.

In general, suede is softer and rougher. It’s also easier to damage. Traditional leather is smoother and can withstand punishment better.

There’s a bit more to it, of course, which is why we put together this article. Hopefully, it helps you figure out what you’re looking for when you go shopping.

Suede vs. Leather – Key Points

leather suede

Both leather and suede are made from animal skin, just different parts of it. When the skin is processed, the top layers are peeled back to make what is generally considered to be leather. What is left, along the bottom, is used for other things. That includes suede.

If you think about what your own skin is, the differences between leather and suede make a lot of sense. Both are processed to create their finished product.

Because the outer layers are an important layer of protection against disease and insects, leather made from the outermost layers is more durable and harder to cut. Suede, never exposed to air, is easier to damage and is more supple.

While both can be used to make the same products, leather is used for things where a harder, smoother surface is desired. Suede is favored in things where a softer surface is preferable.

Is Suede or Leather Better?

Interior Leather

The question of whether suede is better than leather really depends on what you are looking for. Because both are from different parts of an animal’s skin and are processed differently, both have different qualities.

You need to know which of those qualities you’re looking for to judge which is superior.

On paper, leather is probably the better of the two. It’s more difficult to damage and is harder to stain. It also lasts longer than suede, which makes it an overall better value, and comes in a variety of styles.

Suede is processed and brushed to have a softer, more supple feel to it. It’s easier to stain and isn’t nearly as durable. Because of that, it will probably not last as long as traditional leather.

For some products, that soft, supple quality is important. If, say, you’re looking for women’s gloves, suede is probably more desirable than regular leather. But for furniture, while you can find suede upholstery, probably you’ll want leather.

Unless, of course, you really want suede.

Is Suede More Expensive Than Leather?

leather couch

There are a couple of ways to approach the question of whether suede is more expensive than leather.

The first is pretty straightforward… is suede more expensive than leather?

That question is complicated by the fact that there are several grades of leather. The highest quality leather — top grain — is more expensive than suede.

On the bottom of the scale is bonded leather, which isn’t really leather but scraps of leather pressed together and coated with polyurethane. Suede, especially high-quality suede, is more expensive than bonded leather.

So the answer to that question is that it depends on what grade leather you’re comparing suede to.

Another way to approach the question is to ask whether suede is a better value than leather. That is, what is the general return on investment of a dollar for leather versus a dollar for suede.

It’s important to note that this is also a matter of grade of leather. Top grain leather is more expensive than suede, but it will probably also last much longer. Therefore, its relative value is higher than that of suede.

On the flip side, suede is more expensive than bonded leather. Bonded leather will also peel and come apartment much more quickly than suede. So, while it might be more expensive, suede is a better value than bonded leather.

The bottom line is that no matter the product, you’ll pay for quality. It just depends on how much you want of each.

Which is Warmer Suede or Leather?

Suede couch

Neither leather nor suede is particularly well suited for cold weather. Both are porous and thin and have very little natural lining.

On top of that, suede is terrible in precipitation. Not only does it provide poor protection from it, but water easily stains suede.

One thing you can do to make both perform better in cold weather is to treat the outside with some kind of water sealant. It won’t cut down on a biting wind, but it will keep a freezing rain off you.

The answer to the question of whether suede is warmer than leather is that it depends on what you’re wearing underneath it.

How Durable is Suede Compared to Leather?

Interior Suede

Leather comes in a variety of grades, so the question of which is more durable comes down not to a product-to-product comparison but a product-to-product grade comparison.

Suede comes from the underlying layers of animal skin, which means it’s never exposed to air. So, it doesn’t act like traditional skin to help seal up the skin to keep the body safe.

Top-grain and full-grain leathers, on the other hand, come from the top layers of skin, which does seal to protect the body. They are harder and more difficult to damage than suede and therefore more durable.

At the lowest end of the leather spectrum, however, are lower quality leathers that are much less durable. These include bonded leather, which is leather scraps pressed together and held in place by a layer of polyurethane. Suede is more durable than bonded leather.


Suede and leather both come from animal skin, and products made from them can cost a lot of money. So, it’s helpful to know a little about both when shopping for products made from them.

Both have their pros and cons and the question isn’t which one is superior. The question is which is the right one for you. Knowing how to compare and contrast the two will help you best in deciding how to invest your money.

We hope you found this guide helpful in understanding each. If you did, we’d invite you to leave a comment down below. You can also share it on your social media networks. There’s no knowing who else might be wondering whether they want leather or suede.

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