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What is Nubuck Leather? All You Need to Know (Detailed Guide 2024)

What is Nubuck Leather?Nubuck is a type of leather with a surface that's been gently brushed and buffed. Unlike suede’s plush feel or smooth leather’s sheen, nubuck boasts a frosted, velvety texture reminiscent of peach fuzz.

  • Its matte finish and slight nap make it at once tough yet tender.
  • Most nubuck hails from the hides of calves, goats, or deer.
  • The rawhide is set atop a wheel dotted with bristles or sandpaper. As the wheel spins round and round, the hide below gets gracefully scuffed. The friction coaxes out a soft, feathered patina, almost like it got caught in a gentle storm. And this tempest in leather translates beautifully.
  • Nubuck lends depth and dimension while still proving hardy, earning its place on boots, bags, coats, and couches across the globe.


If you are a fan of leather shoes and are a little bit confused about what Nubuck is, this article has all the answers.

Nubuck leather shoes are classified as high-quality footwear due to its glamorous history.

Nubuck material is durable and soft leather which comes from the top grain of the hide and is used to make different products.

How and What Nubuck Leather is Made of


Nubuck leather is almost the same thing as traditional leather. This is because the visible surface is outside of the hide which is outside the shoe. When making Nubuck leather, you make use of the top grain (outer) layer of animal skin (cowhide or calfskin).  

This outer layer is the full grain or top grain layer as seen above. It is a high-quality material and is a lot tougher than the inner layer. This is why Nubuck leather is more durable and expensive than suede.

Nubuck is created when you sand the hide and give it a napped finish to complete the process. The top grain layer of the animal skin is a lot stronger than the inner layer. The inner layer is what is used to make suede which is often mistaken for Nubuck.

The top grain layer usually has visible imperfections and markings which is why it needs to be buffed and sanded on the outside. This will help to make a consistent appearance on the outside. The sanding process is essential because it gives the leather a velvet-like finish.

nubuck leather structure

Then, to remove any further visible defect on the leather Nubuck surface, it is dyed or stained. Nubuck was originally made from buckskin. But these days, modern Nubuck is usually made from calfskin.

Nubuck is a lot more durable than suede so if you have a suede shoe, do not use a Nubuck brush on it. For Nubuck brushed leather, the brushes are stronger and stiffer. So, it will only damage your suede instead of cleaning it.

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Appearance and Quality


When it comes to the quality of Nubuck leather, top-notch quality is guaranteed. It is made from top-grain leather which makes it stronger and more durable than suede.

Nubuck material is also more durable than bonded or bicast leather.

Those two types of leather do not make use of the top grain-portion of the hide. Unfortunately, since Nubuck leather has a rough surface, it is more susceptible to staining and soiling than other leather types.

When it comes to appearance, one can use the look and feel of suede to know what Nubuck is like. Nubuck leather has a velvet-like and/or fuzzy texture which is gotten from the sanding or brushing process.

Nubuck leather also has a smooth surface which is referred to as the protein fiber naps. One can easily notice the Nubuck and feel through boots (hiking boots), unlike suede. Nubuck scratches easily and too much rubbing of the surface can cause the color to change.

Sometimes, Nubuck leather develops a patina after using it for an extended period. But, it does not develop its patina properly. Reviews show that one would have to take proper care of their Nubuck material – shoes, bags, and boots – to look good over time.



nubuck leather durability

If you are confused about choosing between Nubuck and suede, you should know that the former is more durable than the latter.

Nubuck is a lot more durable than suede because it is top-grain leather. This means it is gotten from the outer layer.

Nubuck is able to withstand the daily wear and tear without looking worn out. Since it is made from the outer layer, it is stronger and tougher.

Even though it gets scratched easily, you can be certain it will be in good condition for a long time.

Advantages of Nubuck Leather

There are so many qualities of Nubuck leather that make it a better choice when you want to select options. It is made from top-grain leather making it long-lasting, comfortable and durable. It does not require frequent maintenance like other leather types due to its velvet-like surface.

Also, it is a lot more breathable than artificial (synthetic) leathers and looks fantastic with every product. Other advantages of Nubuck leather include:

advantages of nubuck leather


  • Softness: Nubuck leather is so soft which it makes it very comfortable. The softness is achieved through the manufacturing process and the calfskin used. Short protein fibers are created after the hide is sanded creating protein fibers which allows for durability and softness. Nubuck shoes are always very comfortable to wear.

  • Maintenance: Nubuck does not require regular maintenance like most leather types do. It does not always require polishing to look great.

  • Breathability: Nubuck shoes are always comfortable to wear. This is because Nubuck is breathable compared to most synthetic materials.


Disadvantages of Nubuck Leather

disadvantages of nubuck leather

Nubuck leather has some drawbacks but luckily, the advantages of this leather material outweigh the disadvantages. Grime, oil and grit tend to leave stains on Nubuck leather so it is not suitable for applications where it will be exposed to dirt and mud.

This means that Nubuck needs to be treated with extra care when being worn outside as it can get easily stained. This goes for Nubuck shoes which are not advisable to be worn in muddy parks or local nature reserves.

Also, Nubuck material darkens when it becomes wet but will go back to its original color when it dries. This is not really a disadvantage but some may see it as one.


How to Care for Nubuck Leather

Nubuck leather is easy to take care of but also needs extra attention once in a while. This will help to keep it clean and makes it last longer. A proper cleaning technique and the right tools are needed for taking care of Nubuck leather.

To care for your Nubuck leather, all you need is a cleaning brush – one that matches your type of Nubuck – could be suede or soft bristled. First, clean the dirt on the surface using a damp cloth and once dried, brush the surface thoroughly.

If your Nubuck leather gets wet, allow to dry in a dry and cool place. But make sure to avoid humidity and water as best as you can. When your leather is not in use, also store in a cool dry place. Exposing it to specific elements might damage the leather over an extended period.

To keep your Nubuck leather looking supple and soft for a long time, you should consider using a leather conditioner at certain times. This will help to revitalize the leather and prevent it from peeling or tearing off.

Two major things you should do when caring for Nubuck is to condition it and protect it from elements dangerous to it.

Nubuck vs Suede


Most people often mistaken Nubuck leather for suede because they might look and feel familiar and similar. They are both sanded during their manufacturing process and they do not do well with after coming in contact with water.

Both Nubuck and suede do not need constant maintenance and are usually made from animal skin like calfskin or sometimes sheep. Even with all these similarities, they are not the same. They have a couple of differences like price, materials and texture.

Regarding the sanding process, Nubuck is sanded from the outside layer while suede is sanded from the inside layer. Also, Nubuck is more durable than suede even though they are both gotten from the top grain layer. This is because Nubuck uses the hide’s outer layer.

Nubuck is a lot more expensive than suede. There is a wide price range between both options even though they have similar look and feel.  


What is Suede?

what is suede

Suede is similar to Nubuck leather as it also goes through a sanding process which gives it a unique feel. The difference is that suede comes from the calfskin’s inner layer and is sanded from the leather’s inner side. Hence, the reason why it has a smoother finished product than Nubuck.

Both suede and Nubuck are gotten from the top-grain layer of the calfskin but the former is not so resistant. The inside of suede is usually softer but not as durable. It is used to make more delicate items like gloves.

Leather vs Nubuck

nubuck vs leather

Nubuck leather is a type of suede and both of them are made from leather. They are usually made from calfskin and sometimes the hide of a goat, deer, cow or lamb. All types of leather, including Nubuck, undergo a similar manufacturing process which is known as tanning.

Tanning occurs when a hide is removed from the preferred animal and taken for processing. Then it undergoes a series of lengthy steps which changes its protein structure. Each leather type undergoes a specific tanning method to get the desired finished product.

Nubuck vs Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather is the type of leather that does not get sanded during the tanning process. It is usually seen as premium leather and does not need to be sanded because it comes with zero to no defects or scars.

Nubuck, on the other hand, is gotten from the top grain of the hide which is more durable and needs to be sanded during the tanning process. It is sanded from the outside and usually has imperfections and defects.


Is Nubuck Leather Real Leather?

Yes, it is. It is a luxury and durable type of leather which is similar to suede. It is known for making high-quality products and has a velvet-like surface.

Is Nubuck Leather Durable?

Nubuck leather is a lot more durable than suede. This is because it is gotten from the top grain of the hide.

What Happens if Nubuck Gets Wet?

When Nubuck gets wet, the color darkens. But, it will return to its original color once it dries.

What are the Cons of Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck leather does do not do well when it comes in contact with water as the color darkens. Also, it is susceptible to stains and should not come in contact with dirt.


Nubuck leather is a durable type of suede which is known for its glamour and luxury. It comes with a lot of qualities making it more costly than suede but surely worth it.

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