Suede is a type of leather with a napped finish. However, it can also refer to a similar napped or brushed finish on many kinds of fabrics. The term comes from the French "gants de Suède", which literally means "gloves of Sweden".
Suede leather is made from the under side of the skin, primarily lamb, although goat, pig, calf and deer are commonly used. Splits from thick hides of cow and deer are also sueded but due to the fiber nature have a shaggy nap. Because suede does not include the tough exterior skin layer, suede is less durable but softer than standard ("full-grain") leather. Its softness, thinness, and pliability make it suitable for clothing and delicate uses; suede was originally used for women's gloves. Suede leather is also popular in upholstery, shoes, bags, and other accessories, and as a lining for other leather products. Due to its textured nature and open pores, suede may become dirty and absorb liquids quickly. Suede should be cleaned as per manufacturer's directions.
Fabrics are often manufactured with a brushed or napped finish to resemble suede leather. These products often provide a similar look and feel to suede, but have advantages such as increased liquid or stain resistance, and may appeal to consumers who prefer a non-animal product.
Sueded silk, sueded cotton and similar sueded fabrics are brushed, sanded or chemically treated for extra softness. 'Suede' yarns are generally thick and plush.
Ultrasuede is a trademarked term for a microfiber plush with a hand resembling the soft suede, but more durable, resistant to liquid, stains and crushing and can be used in upholstery, accessories, clothing or shoes.
Microsuede is a microfiber knit blend fabric with 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.