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Suede leather jackets & coats

What is suede leather jackets & coats

What is a suede leather jacket or coat? What type of hide or animal does suede leather come from? Is suede real leather? Where are my blue suede shoes? Sorry, couldn’t resist that last one! Most people have NO idea what suede really is. So, I’m going to tell you right now! Unfortunately that word has been mangled so much that you can go to 10 different sites and find 10 different meanings.

Suede is real leather; that is, it comes from animal hide. Anything made from the hide of any animal is leather. Rawhide bones are leather, so is bindings on a snowshoe. So the name suede refers to the TYPE of leather it is. Now if you read my other post on how leather hides are split, you know that good quality leather is the top part.

A cows hide, or most any animal’s, is so thick that they split the hide, making a top grain, which is the part the hair was on, and has the natural leather grain pattern in it. The bottom part is called the split leather. If a hide is really thick they may make 2 or 3 split layers. Suede leather is ALWAYS made from split leather.

Suede leather can be from any animal, just like leather can. But most often suede leather is from cows, pigs, sheep and goats. It can be thick or thin, it depends on how thick they split the layer. Now you may notice that often a suede leather jacket or coat is very smooth on the front side, then fuzzy or rough on the other side.

That’s because once they split the leather, they sand one side of it smooth. That will be the top, or outside part of the suede leather. Have you ever heard of Nappa leather, or Nappa-finished, or Nappa soft leather? All the word “Nappa” means is the process of sanding the leather smooth. It sounds better than “sanded smooth leather”!

So a jacket that is advertised as “quality Nappa soft leather jacket” is just a jacket made from split leather. Now suede leather is very soft; why is that you may ask? It’s because it’s the split layer, not the top layer. Think about a tree. If you peel off the outer bark, that layer is rough, tough, stiff and hard. But if you peel off the inside layer it’s smooth and soft.

So the top layer from an animal hide is tough, with the natural leather texture rough and stiff. Once they treat it and work it, it becomes the top quality leather found in the best leather jackets. The bottom, or split part has no natural leather grain, so it’s much more smoother. After they treat it and work with it they make it even more softer and flexible.

That also means it’s not as strong as top grain leather. But if it’s just going to be a fashion jacket, fancy outfit, purse or whatever else, that is fine. Most all fashion jackets are made from split leather. Now, what’s the difference between a split leather jacket and a suede jacket or coat?

The difference is in how they treat the leather. If they are going to make a leather jacket from the split layer, they sand both sides, color it and treat it as leather. Often they also use a press that embosses a leather grain, fake alligator grain or some other type of grain into the top part to make it look more like leather.

If it’s going to be suede leather, they sand just one side, use very little treatment in it, don’t color it and leave the top smooth with no design. You notice most suede leather is a light brown. That is because they don’t dye it, the color you see is the natural color of the hide.

Most suede jackets and coats are much cheaper than leather jackets. Again, it’s because it’s the cheaper split layer, not treated much, not dyed so there is less work to make it. Also a lot of suede jackets and coats are made from pigskin. Pigskin hides are cheaper than cow or buffalo hides, so they can make a cheaper selling suede jacket.

Now, I know you don’t like to think that your wearing a pigskin jacket, but actually there is nothing wrong with pigskin leather. It is about the same strength as cowhide and last about as long. Think about how tough the old pigskin footballs are!

Because suede is not colored, or often not, and has very little treatment, it can discolor very easy. In fact just getting it wet can leave water marks on it. You can apply conditioner and treatment to it like leather, but keep in mind that it will almost surely change the color, often more darker.

You can use suede leather for lots of different things. You know that fuzzy string that ties a suede shirt or outfit together at the collar or waist? That’s just the suede leather cut in strips. So is that fuzzy fringe that is popular for trim on suede jackets or even leather jackets. You can use it for bags, liners, hats, gloves and yes, blue suede shoes!

So, suede leather is just the split part of an animal hide, from any animal, sanded on one side, often not colored or treated much. Suede does make a very attractive looking suede jacket or coat, as the top picture shows. A suede jacket or coat often has fur or wool lining, trim, designs and other colorful decorations on it.

So if your looking for a very soft leather coat that looks great and your not going to use it for rough stuff, a suede jacket or coat works great. Just make sure to take good care of it. But if you want a leather motorcycle jacket that protects you from the elements, can take a beating and maybe even save your hide from skidding down the pavement, get a quality top grain leather jacket.

9 thoughts on “Suede leather jackets & coats

  1. I purchased a red pigskin leather jacket. After wearing it through the winter, I took it to be clean at the dry cleaners, just to find out that the cleaning cost more than what I paid for the jacket!!! How can I clean it myself ??

    South Africa

  2. HI there. Yes it can cost a lot to clean a leather jacket. You can clean it yourself, it just takes time. I made a post about how to clean a leather jacket, you can find it HERE.

    If it has mildew on it, read my post on how to remove mildew HERE.

    It’s harder to clean a leather jacket any other color than black because most products will darken the leather. Go to a good leather dealer and get a bottle of leather cleaner, a bottle of conditioner, some soft rags and maybe a toothbrush. Try a very small area first to see if it discolors the leather or makes it darker. Then just follow the instructions on the bottle. You want to clean it first, then apply conditioner on it after. Hope that helps.

  3. Does anyone know where I can get a light brown duster jacket or a light brown suede duster.Thanks

  4. enjoyed reading the article….I have a question about a 20 year old suede coat my 5 year old got a stain on. I’d like to clean it and put it up and I’m not sure what to use on it. It’s dark brown and has alot of fringe. It’s label says; PYPSA genuine leather made in Mexico size 4 (a satin lining) and that’s all…any advise on cleaning and maybe it’s value , it’s old? thanks

  5. Cleaning suede leather is harder than other types of leather. Cleaning an old one is even harder. How to clean the stain depends on what the stain is. Is it ink? A water stain, juice, what?

    The PYPSA name is the company, they make lots of retro and western type leather wear. Go to Worth Point and see if you can find out the value of it, I have seen that brand of jacket sold there.

    You really should take it to a leather cleaner, especially since it’s old. Good luck.

  6. Hello! I was given an old…VERY old leather/suede jacket…I say leather/suede because it is so worn I really cant tell! It’s not falling apart completely, but in some places it rips almost like paper (around cuffs) is there any way to salvage this leather/suede? Perhaps to use as something else? Or is it too deteriorated to even worry about it? It looks beautiful and is durable is some places…but some other spots – I can run my fingernail over and it gets fuzzy and falls off! (shoulders) I have NO IDEA what to do about this! I appreciate any advice or helpful hints you might have for me!
    Thanks so much!

  7. Hi there. Sounds like the leather is completely dried out. If it has been handled too much the leather fibers have broken. Once that happens nothing you do will fix it, short of putting a glaze of plastic over it!

    However some old leather jackets are worth money. I would take it to someone who knows about leather brands and see if it might be worth anything.

    You need to handle it very careful. Don’t roll it or fold it. Keep it flat or hanging. If you want to try to fix it, apply a lot of lightweight leather conditioner to it. Put a layer on, wipe off excess and let sit overnight.

    Repeat this several times. By then you should be able to see if it stays together. However with what you have said I think it’s too far gone to save. Thanks for asking,


  8. I just brought home a great looking jacket. The label reads “100% leather washable pig split”. The jacket is a bold fuchsia color and I wanted to dye it brown or black. I naturally thought of Rit fabric dye, but i have read that it will just wash out. Since the jacket was free, I don’t want to spend a lot of money on it. Can you give me any tips or advice? My question is will the rit dye do the job because the jacket is washable? I really just hope to tone down this overly vibrant color.
    Thanks for all of the information.


    1. Hi there Kim. So it sounds like you have a split grain pigskin leather jacket. That should hold up well and last a long time. It’s always hard to say what a jacket will look like after you dye it. How old it is, how dry it is, what other chemicals have been added to it all play a part in how it will look if you dye it. Normally you dye a leather jacket when it has not been colored yet, or dye it the same color. A bright fuchsia color is going to be hard to change.

      If you really hate the look of the color you can go ahead and try to dye it, but you may end up with different colored spots on it. Using a heavy leather conditioner on it may dull down the color, so you may want to try that first. The safest thing to do is,,,,, learn to like the color! 😀 Good luck.

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