Leather is a classic look that combines tough and cool, but when you don't want the rugged part of that equation, the soft feel of men's suede jackets is perfect.
A suede jacket rounds out most men's fashion collections and completes a smart casual look. From blazers and sport coats to bombers and dusters, nearly every style of jacket a man would wear is available in suede.
The first obvious difference between suede jackets and leather jackets is that suede jackets are napped. Suede is the treated interior or flesh side of the animal's hide. Hides are split, shaved down, washed, and brushed, leaving the shaggy nap finish. Splitting and napping leaves it soft, porous, and pliable. That pliability and softness is what makes suede jackets a desirable fashion accessory.
Suede jackets are thinner and more pliable because they lack the tough exterior skin layer of full-grain leather jackets. Suede jackets are cooler and breathe better than full-grain leather jackets due to their porous nature. They are also more easily manipulated into fashionable shapes and cuts than their thicker counterparts are. Treated suede jackets can be dyed in colors that are more vibrant and can be cut and sewn like fabric. Suede jackets, therefore, are generally more colorful, lighter, and more fashionable than full-grain ones.
The Problem with Suede Jackets
Suede jackets are leather in that they are made from the hide of an animal, usually a cow, but they don't have any of the advantages of full-grain leather.
- They absorb liquids and stain easily because they are porous. Sometimes, men's suede jackets aren't even waterproof. Full-grain leather jackets require double stitching and are usually made from large single pieces of leather whereas suede jackets are often made from several smaller pieces of hide to achieve a more fashionable look. All the tiny holes made by all those stitches give water more chances to leak through to your body.
- They are not durable because of their thinness. This might seem like a no-brainer: the thinner the leather, the less durable it is, but everyone has seen a biker on his motorcycle wearing a suede jacket. Suede jackets do not even come close to the protection a full-grain leather jacket provides when it meets asphalt. That goes for horseback riding cowboys, too. Buffalo Bill might have worn suede jackets, but he needed fancy colors and pretty tassels and cuts for show business cowboy stunts. A real cowboy who's familiar with the appetite of gravel and dirt for his gear knows suede just won't cut it.
- Suede jackets absorb odors. No one likes a stinky man, and no man likes stinky clothes. The more porous or napped a leather gets, the better it is at absorbing the smell of whatever it comes into contact with.
- Suede jackets require more care. The only way to clean a suede jacket is to take it to the cleaners and have it professionally washed. If your favorite jacket is your suede jacket, cleaning bills can get astronomical quickly, especially if you are prone to blood or ink stains.
- The more leather is treated, the more expensive it gets. Suede jackets are expensive due to the combined labor involved in napping the leather and the procedures to create patterns that are more complicated.
More and more people who are uncomfortable wearing leather but want the fashionable look and feel of suede are turning to alternatives.
- Natural alternatives (napped traditional fabric)
- Sueded cotton
- Sueded silk
- Synthetic alternatives
- Ultrasuede: a machine-washable, liquid-resistant microfiber alternative by Toray Industries that feels like suede. An ultrasuede jacket looks just like a real suede jacket, but its resistance to stains and the fact that it's easy to care for makes it ideal.
- Microsuede: feels like suede but is less durable and stretches more than real suede. Microsuede is popular in fashion and upholstery.