What is Nubuck leather and how is Nubuck leather different from suede?

4 mins read

While it can be hard to tell Nubuck Leather and Suede apart, there really is quite a big difference between the two, but what exactly is the difference? Is the prohibitively high price of Nubuck leather worth the cost?

Nubuck leather is a form of leather made from top-of-the-line rawhide leather and can be used to make shoes, handbags and other leather goods. It has a soft, velvety surface, which can be mistaken for suede at first glance. Made from the outer side of the hide (as opposed to suede, which is made from the inside of the hide), Nubuck is thicker than suede, is far stronger, and decidedly more durable overall.

It takes a special buffing process on the grain side (outside) of the rawhide to produce the slight nap that gives Nubuck its velvety texture, which is a process that is quite time-consuming. The process also seriously damages the aesthetics of the leather itself, meaning that Nubuck has to be colored or heavily dyed in order to mask the buffing process. This processing (both buffing and dying) combined with the top-quality rawhide leather used to create the leather makes Nubuck generally a considerable bit more expensive than suede and can even be more expensive than regular leather.

You can identify Nubuck leather (as compared to suede) by touch; it is incredibly soft, far softer than suede; scratches quite easily and the leather darkens briefly if it gets wet, though it will dry back to its normal shade. This sensitivity means that there are special steps that need to be taken in order to clean Nubuck and protect it from the elements.

Before you wear or use something made of Nubuck Leather, you should protect the leather with special stain and water repellant made especially for Nubuck and suede. Simply spray the whole surface of the leather with a light, even coating of the repellant, let it dry and then reapply the product. You will need to re-apply the protectant if the Nubuck gets exposed to water (though you should let the leather dry completely first).

If you soil Nubuck leather shoes or leather items, they should be cleaned carefully to prevent permanent damage. First you should remove any loose dirt with a soft brush or cloth designed to clean suede or Nubuck. Next you need to use the Nubuck stain eraser and use it to rub out any stains (yes, they make Nubuck stain erasers). Once you have treated any stains, you can then clean the items with Nubuck leather cleaner.

While the amount of work that it takes to protect Nubuck leather items and to clean them should they get dirty, you would think that it would not be worth it. If truth be told, Nubuck leather mens shoes and purses are some of the most beautiful items available for fashion wear, and are very much worth the effort.

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