The suede jacket: surely the most impractical form of outerwear, but one of our favourites all the same. The soft nap of the fabric, so pleasing to the touch, evokes a sense of indulgence from what might otherwise be an unremarkable garment. A cotton overshirt is a cotton overshirt. But swap the cloth for brushed cowhide and it becomes a low-key luxury piece.
That’s the great thing about a suede jacket. It has a way of lending even simple outfits an air of luxury, but does so without raising eyebrows. It’s reserved and understated, yet refined and classy; the perfect way to sign a simple outfit off with a tactile flourish.
This is why we believe a suede jacket to be the type of garment every style-savvy man should own at some point in his life. But there are a few things to know before taking the plunge. From how to keep the fabric looking as good as new to which brands are making the best versions, below you’ll find all of the need-to-know details.
Buying A Suede Jacket: What To Consider
It’s a mainstay of screen style icons from James Bond to Jerry Seinfeld, who dedicated an entire episode to an admittedly fine suede jacket. If you’re going to follow suit, however, you need to find the style that works for you. These are the main factors to ponder.
In the aforementioned Seinfeld episode, Jerry agonises over a delicious suede jacket with a less-than-delicious price tag. We’ve all been there. You can easily drop a mortgage payment or more on a luxury suede jacket, but it is one of those garments where you truly get what you pay for.
If you’re going to break the bank, look for exceptional fineness in the nap and scarcely believable softness on the touch. Cheap suede feels rougher.
A related point is the kind of suede you’re buying. Lambskin and goatskin suede are often said to be the softest, while cowhide and pigskin suede are thicker, rougher and more durable. You might also consider nubuck. This has a similar feel but is actually made from the top grain of an animal’s hide, like regular leather, and sanded down.
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 colour of your jacket isn’t as straightforward as you might think. The classic, cowboy-friendly suede jacket comes in tan or brown. It’s timeless. It goes with everything. It’s little predictable. Black is more modern, but doesn’t mix quite as well. Ink blue, concrete grey and forest greens are all more versatile and probably make better sense for a big purchase than the more directional pastel tones out there. But we’re not here to judge. You do you.
Buying a suede jacket involves many of the same considerations as buying any other style of jacket. Think about the fit, the length, the details. Think about what else is in your wardrobe because this one won’t be cheap. The majority of suede jackets come in cropped styles, but if they don’t work for you, check out chore jackets, overshirts or occasionally a longer blouson or field jacket. See below for inspiration.
Types Of Suede Jacket
Technically, any outerwear can be made from suede but there are a few tried and tested silhouettes that always look the part. If you want a suede jacket that’ll slot seamlessly into your wardrobe and won’t date quickly, these are the types you should be looking at.
The overshirt is our suede jacket of choice. It’s simple, versatile, stylish and about as timeless as it gets. A classic overshirt will usually have a button or zip front, two chest pockets and a collar. These details can vary slightly from piece to piece, but generally it’s any garment that sits at the intersection between shirt and jacket.
The juxtaposition of the bomber jacket’s military roots with the indulgent texture of suede makes for a great piece of outerwear. A proper suede bomber should have a cropped fit with an elasticated hem and cuffs, be collarless and have a zip fastening to the front. We love the way this piece brings smart and casual together, resulting in a garment that can be dressed up or down with ease.
Contrary to popular belief, biker jackets don’t have to be black and rendered in smooth leather. A suede version boasts all the same rock ‘n’ roll attitude but with an added touch of refinement. If you like the idea of a biker jacket but find the classic leather variety a bit too Guns ‘N’ Roses, the same style in suede might be the perfect solution.
Like its leathery counterpart, a suede biker jacket will have a cropped fit, epaulets, oversized lapels and an asymmetric zipper. Some might also feature a belt to the waist and zips to the cuffs.
For something a bit more casual and understated, a suede trucker jacket is the way to go. This classic piece of blue-collar Americana is perfect in suede, particularly when finished in a rich colourway like chestnut brown or navy. It should have a cropped fit, button pockets to the chest and button fastening to the front.
The Best Suede Jacket Brands
If you’re ready to add a suede jacket to your arsenal, then these are the brands that really excel when it comes to this luxurious type of outerwear.
East London’s 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 might not be rock bottom 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 drain the bank account.
Based in East London, Percival specialises in small runs of thoughtfully designed pieces that walk the line between throwback and contemporary. Their ‘suede’ jackets are characteristic of their approach – classic worker and western-style cuts brought up to date with rich colours and details.
They’re made from vegan-friendly sueded cotton (brushed, sanded or chemically treated to get the the same softness as leather), the material saves you in the pocket without anyone, er, cottoning on.
A high-street name with an emphasis on luxury, Reiss (featured image, top) is a brand well known for delivering quality suede jackets that won’t leave you bankrupt. Bombers and truckers are the two silhouettes we feel the British brand excels at, while a classic, muted colour palette guarantees optimal versatility from each and every one.
Luxurious, contemporary basics are what Todd Synder does best and it’s difficult to think of any garment that fits that description better than a suede jacket. The American brand’s offering varies from season to season but tends to come in the form of chore coats, trucker jackets and overshirts, all boasting Synder’s trademark attention to detail and craftsmanship.
The leather jacket has been a key feature of French label Saint Lauren’s output since the 1960s. The biker silhouette, in particular, is something of a Saint Laurent trademark and looks arguably even better in soft velvety suede than it does in its 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.
Founded in Milan in the early 1900s, Valstar has built a reputation for making some of Italy’s finest outerwear. Since the 1930s, leather flight jackets have been the label’s bread and butter and, in our humble opinion, it remains the best brand out there for suede bombers and aviators.
British menswear royalty (with the price tags to prove it), Dunhill walks a fine line between forward-looking fashion and old-as-stones traditionalism. Its suede jackets fit nicely into that approach, boasting the quality of material and execution you’d expect of a trusty old marque with details that make them fresh.
Mr Porter’s in-house label has, in a few short seasons, mastered the art of lightly-worn luxury. So it’s no surprise that its suede jackets are unfussy and elegant in an everyday kind of way. The brand offers overshirts, blousons and truckers in muted colours that work all year long.
Belstaff speaks to gruff adventure and uncomplicated masculinity with jacket styles that belong in or around an aircraft hangar or motorcycle garage. Another heritage UK label, its suede bombers and bikers look and feel expensive and carry a timeless, worn-in quality that lasts for years.
How To Clean A Suede Jacket
It’s the elephant in the room. Sure, suede jackets look great, but in terms of practicality, they leave a lot to be desired. Still, plenty of that can be mitigated by properly understanding how to clean and care for suede, so here are a few ways to do just that.
A suede brush will enable you to loosen dirt and dust, leaving the fabric looking fresh and clean. It’s an absolute essential for suede care and if you’re not already using one on your shoes, you ought to be. One thing to bear in mind when using one is not to brush overly aggressively. The fine fibres 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 tougher spots of dirt, you’ll need a suede eraser. Use it in the same way you’d use a pencil eraser and follow up with the suede brush to finish the job off.
Prevention is better than cure. That’s why the most important weapon you have against dirty suede is a bottle of protector spray. This will prevent the worst of the damage from dirt and water, keeping your suede jacket looking cleaner and newer for longer.