The suede jacket: certainly the most impractical form of outerwear, yet one of our favourites. The soft nap of the fabric, so pleasant to the touch, evokes a feeling of indulgence in what would otherwise be an inconspicuous garment. A cotton overshirt is a cotton overshirt. But swap the fabric for brushed cowhide and it becomes a low-key luxury.
That’s the beauty of a suede jacket. It has a way of giving even simple outfits a touch of luxury, but does so without raising eyebrows. It is reserved and understated, yet sophisticated and stylish; the perfect way to cap off a simple outfit with a tactile bloom.
This is why we believe that a suede jacket is the type of garment every style conscious man should have at some point in his life. But there are a few things you should know before taking the plunge. From how to keep the fabric looking as good as new to which brands make the best versions, below are all the details you need to know.
Buying a suede jacket: what should you pay attention to?
It’s a mainstay of screen style icons from James Bond to Jerry Seinfeld, who devoted an entire episode to an admittedly beautiful suede jacket. However, if you want to follow suit, you need to find the style that suits you. These are the most important factors to consider.
In the aforementioned Seinfeld episode, Jerry struggles with a lovely suede jacket with a not-so-good price tag. We’ve all experienced it. You can easily drop a mortgage payment or more on a luxury suede jacket, but it’s one of those garments where you really get what you pay for.
If you want to break the bank, look for exceptional softness in the nap and barely believable softness to the touch. Cheap suede feels rougher.
A related point is the type of suede you buy. Lambskin and goatskin are often said to be the softest, while cowhide and pigskin are thicker, rougher and more durable. You might also consider nubuck. This feels the same, but is actually made from the top grain of an animal skin, like regular leather, and sanded.
If you want to go animal-free, microsuede is one of the better faux suede options. Made from polyester to mimic the softness of the real thing, it’s plastic based so you won’t be saving the planet, just your wallet.
The color of your coat is not as simple as you might think. The classic cowboy-friendly suede jacket is available in brown or brown. It’s timeless. It goes with everything. It is hardly predictable. Black is more modern, but doesn’t blend as well. Ink blue, concrete gray and forest green are all more versatile and probably a better fit for a large purchase than the more focused pastels out there. But we are not here to judge. You do you.
Buying a suede jacket involves many of the same considerations as buying any other jacket. Think of the fit, the length, the details. Think about what else is in your wardrobe, because it won’t come cheap. Most suede jackets come in shorter styles, but if they don’t work for you, check out jackets, overshirts, or the occasional longer blouson or field jacket. See below for inspiration.
Types of suede jackets
Technically, any outerwear can be made from suede, but there are a few tried-and-true silhouettes that always look good. If you want a suede jacket that fits seamlessly into your wardrobe and won’t go out easily, these are the types to look at.
The overshirt is our suede jacket of choice. It’s simple, versatile, stylish and about as timeless as it gets. A classic overshirt usually has a button or zip fastening on the front, two chest pockets and a collar. These details may vary slightly from piece to piece, but in general it is any piece of clothing that sits at the intersection between shirt and jacket.
The combination of the military roots of the bomber jacket with the luscious texture of suede makes for a great piece of outerwear. A good suede bomber should be a cropped fit with an elasticated hem and cuffs, have no collar, and have a zipper in the front. We love the way this piece brings smart and casual together, resulting in a garment that can be easily dressed up or down.
Contrary to popular belief, biker jackets do not have to be black and made of smooth leather. A suede version has the same rock ‘n’ roll attitude, but with an extra touch of sophistication. If you like the idea of a biker jacket, but find the classic leather variant a bit too Guns ‘N’ Roses, then the same style in suede might be the perfect solution.
Like its leathery counterpart, a suede biker jacket features a cropped fit, epaulettes, oversized lapels and an asymmetric zip. Some may also have a belt at the waist and zippers on the cuffs.
For something more casual and understated, a suede trucker jacket is the way to go. This classic blue-collar Americana piece is perfect in suede, especially when finished in a rich colorway like maroon or navy. It should have a cropped fit, button pockets on the chest and button closure on the front.
The best brands of suede jackets
If you’re ready to add a suede jacket to your arsenal, these are the brands that really excel when it comes to this luxurious type of outerwear.
The leather jacket has been an important feature of the French label Saint Lauren since the 1960s. The biker silhouette in particular is something of a Saint Laurent trademark and might look even better in soft velvety suede than in the signature soft black leather.
Not cheap, but if you want the Rolls Royce of suede jackets, this historic fashion house should be your first port of call.
East London-based AllSaints is another brand that has made leather jackets its signature, but the suede options are just as good. For the quality on offer, AllSaints’ prices are extremely reasonable, and while they may not be the lowest, it’s worth remembering that these are suede jackets we’re talking about; not exactly the most affordable outerwear option on the market.
With that in mind, AllSaints is an excellent value option for anyone looking for a well-made garment that won’t completely empty the bank account.
Founded in Milan in the early 1900s, Valstar has built a reputation for making some of Italy’s finest outerwear. Leather aviator jackets have been the flagship of the label since the 1930s and in our humble opinion it remains the best brand there is for suede bombers and pilots.
A well-known name with an emphasis on luxury, Reiss is a brand known for providing high-quality suede jackets that won’t let you go bankrupt. Bombers and truckers are the two silhouettes we think the British brand excels at, while a classic, muted color palette ensures optimum versatility from each of them.
Luxurious, contemporary basics are what Todd Synder does best and it’s hard to think of a piece that fits that description better than a suede jacket. The American brand’s offerings vary from season to season, but usually come in the form of coats, trucker jackets and overshirts, all with Synder’s signature attention to detail and craftsmanship.
The British royal family of menswear (with the price tags to prove it), Dunhill walks a fine line between forward-looking fashion and old-fashioned traditionalism. The suede jackets fit that approach nicely, offering the quality of material and execution you would expect from a reliable old brand with details that make them fresh.
Mr Porter’s own label has mastered the art of lightly worn luxury in just a few short seasons. So it’s no surprise that the suede jackets are no-nonsense and elegant in an everyday way. The brand offers overshirts, blousons and truckers in muted colors that work all year round.
Belstaff speaks of surly adventure and uncomplicated masculinity with jacket styles that belong in or around an airplane hangar or motorcycle garage. Another British British label, its suede bombers and bikers that look and feel expensive and have a timeless, worn quality that will last for years.
How do you clean a suede jacket?
It’s the elephant in the room. Of course, suede jackets look great, but in terms of functionality, they leave a lot to be desired. Still, much of this can be mitigated by understanding how to clean and care for suede, so here are a few ways to do just that.
With a suede brush you loosen dirt and dust, making the fabric look fresh and clean. It is absolutely essential to the care of suede and if you don’t already use one for your shoes, you should. One thing to keep in mind when using one is not to brush overly aggressively. The fine fibers of the nap are delicate and can be damaged if you scrub too vigorously.
A suede brush is great for light cleaning, but for stains or more stubborn dirt, you’ll need a suede squeegee. Use it the same way you would a pencil eraser and follow up with the suede brush to finish the job.
Prevention is better than cure. That’s why the most important weapon you have against dirty suede is a bottle of protector spray. This prevents the worst damage from dirt and water, keeping your suede jacket looking cleaner and newer for longer.