Suede most commonly refers to a type of leather with a soft, 'napped' finish; however, it can also refer to a similar napped or brushed finish on many kinds of fabrics. Commonly used to make boots, gloves and other fashion accessories, the term was originally used in France to indicate a particular type of soft gloves imported from Sweden. From gants de Suède, first advertised in 1884, literally 'gloves of Sweden,' in French Suède (Sweden). Over time, the word came to refer to any leather material with a smooth nap finish.
Suede leather is made from the inner splits of a side of leather, usually cow, although doe suede and pig suede are available. The leather is made by holding the interior side of the tanned animal hide against a buffing wheel. The rough surface of the wheel raises the nap. Because suede does not include the tough exterior skin layer, suede is less durable but softer than standard ('full-grain') leather. Sueded leather may also be brushed or napped to create the characteristic brushed texture. Its softness, thinness, and pliability make it suitable for clothing and delicate uses. Suede leather is also popular in upholstery, shoes, hats, bags, and other accessories, and as a lining for other leather products. Due to its textured nature and open pores, suede becomes dirty quickly and is especially susceptible to stains. As it is not washable, but must instead be cleaned carefully with special suede cleaners, it is not recommended for daily-wear items. When suede gets wet, it turns a darker color and can become damaged easily, as water drives out the essential oils that keep suede leathers supple. It is difficult to waterproof or stain-proof suede leather.
Ultrasuede is a trademarked term for a microfibre plush with a hand resembling the softest suede, but which is more durable, and can be made resistant to liquid, stains, and crushing. It is commonly used in upholstery and fine accessories, or in clothing and shoes. Persons who enjoy suede's texture but who prefer a non-animal product, or an easier-care fabric, find Ultrasuede an expensive but luxurious alternative. Microsuede is a newly popular microfibre knit blend fabric; it has a soft finish, but is easily distinguishable from actual suede leather. It has a great deal of stretch, and is very popular in upholstery as well as garments. Microsuede is less durable than suede leather and is rarely found in accessories or shoes.
Sueded silk, sueded cotton and similar sueded fabrics are brushed, sanded or chemically treated for extra softness. 'Suede' yarns are generally thick and plush, intending to resemble suede leather cord. Suede leather cord is a popular trim, lacing, and jewellery material.