In the realms of fashion and craftsmanship, the choice between suede and leather isn’t always straightforward. Both materials originate from animal hides but offer unique properties that cater to diverse preferences and needs.

Understanding the distinctions between the two goes beyond the surface, delving into aspects of quality, sustainability, durability, style, and strength. In this article, we explore suede vs leather by looking at these characteristics and discussing how these materials compare. 

Suede vs leather

What is suede?

Suede is a type of leather that's made from the underside of animal hides such as lamb, goat and deer. This gives it a velvety texture that differs from other types of leather.


Both suede and leather are derived from animal hides, but their quality can be interpreted in different ways. Leather is generally considered high quality due to its durability and versatility. It's often used for products requiring strength and longevity, such as shoes, bags, and jackets.

Suede, on the other hand, is a thinner, more delicate material, prized for its velvety texture. While both materials can be of high quality, leather is often chosen for its robustness, while suede is revered for its pliability and softness


Leather production can involve significant resource consumption and the use of chemical treatments during the tanning processes, which can contribute to pollution. Suede, being a type of leather, shares these concerns. However, alternatives like vegetable-tanned leather, which is what we produce here at Billy Tannery, do reduce the environmental impact.

The sustainability of eco-leather vs real leather is also often debated but we consider our deer suede and goat leather to be eco-conscious. Our hides are sourced from the meat industry and would otherwise go to waste. Plus, all our production takes place within a small radius in the UK to reduce transport miles. You can find out more in our deerskin leather guide and goat leather guide.


When it comes to durability, leather is a bit more durable than suede. Its dense and tight grain structure makes it resistant to abrasion, moisture, and general wear over time. This means that when it comes to shoes, for example, leather is suitable for any occasion or environment. Suede has a softer, more supple surface and is, therefore, more susceptible to damage. Water can stain it, and its texture may wear down with frequent use. To enhance the lifespan of suede items, extra care and maintenance are essential. However, if looked after properly, suede items can still last for many, many years.



Suede and leather cater to different style preferences. Suede's luxurious and velvety appearance can offer a casual, relaxed vibe. It's often chosen for softer, more laid-back fashion items such as suede sneakers or tasseled bags but that’s not to say it can’t be sophisticated too; we think our suede pouch and brown suede backpack are testament to this. Leather also suits a wide range of styles, from formal to edgy. Leather items exude a sense of timelessness and can easily transition from day to night looks. Ultimately, the choice between suede and leather depends on the statement you want to make with your style.


Is suede stronger than leather? In general, yes but it does depend on the type of leather. Bonded leather, for example, which is the lowest grade of leather, is less durable than suede. Leather is created by tanning and treating animal hides to increase durability, resulting in a sturdy and tough material. Its fibres are tightly bound, granting leather products remarkable strength and resistance to tearing or stretching. Suede is also made from animal hides but undergoes a different finishing process, resulting in a softer and less resilient texture.

What are the disadvantages of suede?

The main challenges of suede are its susceptibility to stains, water damage and wear due to its delicate, napped, and porous surface. Suede can also be prone to shrinkage. During the production process, the animal hide is stretched to achieve a uniform thickness and texture. Over time, the material can start to slowly contract. However, these factors can be mitigated with proper care and shouldn't deter you from owning suede products.

Introducing our Parkland Deer range

Our best-selling bags and accessories are now available in our Parkland deer suede and leather range. The range includes classic desert boots, multifunctional tote bags and premium leather aprons. Made in England, every product in the range is distinct for its high-quality, rich dark brown finish.

So, which is better, leather or suede? We don’t think there’s a clear winner as they are both appealing for different reasons and have unique properties that make them so special. If you want to learn more about suede, check out our guide to suede leather. We have written about lots of other leathers too so if you’re interested in goat vs sheep leather, cow vs goat leather or deer vs goat leather, give them a read too. 

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.