How to Shop for Leather and Suede

Leather Clad Woman
This leather-clad beauty takes her leather garments seriously.


Whether you’re in the market for a new take on the bomber jacket or a sensational new handbag or bustier sporting plenty of fringes, which will be big this spring 2018, you want to be sure of the leather or suede’s quality before plunking down your money.  Therefore, before planning to shop for leather or suede for a new spring jacket, coat, pants, skirt, handbag or shoes, here are some helpful tips to distinguish between luxe leather and lesser quality goods.

When You Shop for Leather Consider the Variety

Synthetic leathers are man-made to imitate the look of real leather.  They are less costly than actual leather and usually a sound option for those that prefer vegan material to an animal hide.

Nubuck leather is soft, top-grain leather that is carefully rubbed to achieve that satiny finish.  The appearance is similar to suede because of this process, but it is more durable.

Genuine leather is hardly all leather, but leather fragments attached with a glue to man-made cardboard like material to give it more substance.  Sometimes, genuine leather can use the split-grain layer of the animal’s hide, which are the worst fibers in the same sort of construction.

Suede leathers are sanded to give them their softness since they start out harder being from a bottom layer of the hide.

Top-grain leathers are full grain leathers that are sanded to rid the surface of any imperfections.  These are the soft leathers, usually the ones used for the best handbags and later colored.

Full-grain leathers are extremely fine quality leather without sanding or buffing to destroy the natural texture.  This is the best, strongest and most expensive leather you can buy.

The Feel of the Item Is an Indicator of the Quality When You Shop for Leather

The best leathers and suede are extremely soft when you run your hands along their surface.  The softer the feel, the higher grade the leather or suede.  On the other hand, an inferior leather or suede has some stiffness to it and a bit of an odor due to the tanning processing.

If you’re considering a suede piece, you need to carefully examine the coloring of the item.  Take it to a place in the store with the best light and look to see how even the color is all over.  Places on the piece that may appear blotchy, darker or lighter in sections is a sign of an inferior garment, which you don’t want.

The finest, buttery leathers usually are produced in Italy, Spain and France.

New Zealand excels in manufacturing the best quality suede.

The Color of the Leather Speaks Volumes When You Shop for Leather

Leather is colored by two different methods.  The first is through drum dying, the process given to fine leathers, which thoroughly penetrates the material.

Cheaper, more inferior leathers are spray-dyed on the outside.  The inside is usually covered with lining.  This is one clue to distinguish between the lower quality and higher quality leather.

Construction Is Another Indicator of Quality 

When considering a leather or suede garment, you want to inspect the piece for a satin lining.  If the item is unlined, it is a low quality garment that you should return to the rack.

Also, check the fringes for any missing leather or chips.

Examine how smooth the stitching is.

Pay Attention to Price When You Shop for Leather

Luxe leathers and suede garments can be high-priced due to the quality of material and construction over cheaper garments.  Keep price in mind because the better the item, the longer it can be expected to wear over a poorer-made piece.

You also might want to read my earlier post on how to shop for the best constructed leather handbag.


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