FYI- DWF on Suede from the John Lobb appreciation thread. This guy is a freakin genius/oracle.
Originally Posted by DWFII
I doubt that there are many leathers better suited for suede than calf. Maybe horse but other than that, none that I know of. The fibers in a young animal, such as a calf, are closer together and shorter than on an older animal. This applies across the board, whether it be calf or cow, kid or goat, alligator or dinosaur.
IMO, cow is too old and too coarse to make a good suede.
Kid and goat is too delicate although sueded womens shoes are made of kid) .
No other leathers (except maybe horse as prev. mentioned) are fine enough to be a suitable suede.
But the main issue...and I wonder if this is just a matter of terminology...is that usually, at least lately, when a suede is marketed as "calf suede" it is actually a full grain calf skin that has been finished for use with the flesh side out, but with the grain side still intact. That last bit is the important part.
Most "suedes" in commercial use...esp. on shoes in the sub $1000.00 range...are actually "splits" from cow hides. The flesh is coarser, but more importantly, the grain side is missing. So all the strength in the hide is also missing.
It is my understanding that sometimes a tanner/currier can get two splits and a top grain off of one hide. The top grain is relatively premium...the splits are borderline offal.
I've avoided making suede shoes for many years because here in the US real calf suede (with the grain intact) is not readily available, only splits. Although I have turned high end French calf flesh side out. And if I select and cut the hide carefully, it makes a very successful suede.
Happily, I recently found a source in England for bona fide grain suede.
DWFII is a lot of fun to engage in conversation with. I certainly haven't come across anyone with more knowledge than him on shoes, their components, and their history. He founded the Crispin Colloquy, which is a forum similar to SF but it is only for bespoke shoe makers. It has lots of great reading.