What Is Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck leather is a kind of leather made from the top grain of the hide. This part of the cowhide is tougher than the inner layer, and it is why it is a better material for shoes and other projects.

When people make nubuck leather, they need to sand the outer layer of the skin to give it a smooth and consistent appearance.

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How do you care for nubuck leather?

It is easy to care for nubuck leather. You can use waterproofing spray to protect your nubuck bag or shoes.

While the waterproofing material will not damage the leather’s durability, it may darken it. You can also brush the leather to remove dirt. To clean your nubuck leather, please use a certified nubuck leather cleaner, using other products may ruin the nap of the leather. The best value for money would be a leather care kit specifically made for nubuck leather.

Once done with brushing, you can now apply waterproofing spray. We do not recommend using sprays with animal by-products because they will clog the pores of the leather. If this happens, the leather is no longer breathable.

Where does nubuck come from?

In the old days, nubuck leather came from deer and other wild animals. It is why the word “buck” is part of the leather’s name. Over time, people started making nubuck leather from cowhide. It is much more environmentally friendly as people do not have to hunt deer anymore. Although there are deer farms in the world, it is much more practical to just raise cows since we humans eat cows every day anyway.

Here are some of the places where there are deer farms:

  • United States
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • China
  • UK
  • Sweden
  • Russia
  • Vietnam

In the US, there are even people who farm elk, reindeer, and antelopes. This industry faces a huge challenge because of chronic wasting disease or CWD, which is similar to mad cow disease. If one thinks about it, it is easier to farm deer because, on average, they only take three and a half years to mature. Cows, on the other hand, take four to five years.

However, cows have more meat to offer, which is why civilizations prefer to grow cattle. A mature cow weighs about 1,100 pounds, while a deer is only 300 pounds. The difference in length of time to mature is roughly only six months, yet cows yield more meat and leather. Today, it is highly likely that the nubuck leather you are buying is cowhide. If you are looking for deer hide, you need to ask the manufacturer where the hide came from. Sometimes, the store clerk may not know, so we suggest that you do your research prior to making a purchase.

Why even make nubuck leather?

Nubuck is durable and tough. It is a better material than other leather derivatives like bicast and bonded leather. The problem with nubuck leather is that it is more prone to soiling and staining. It has a smooth surface, too.

Apart from durability, nubuck has a velvety look, which makes it a perfect material for fashion items. It is also easy to dye, which means it can come in a variety of colors.

Is nubuck different from suede?

Yes, nubuck is different from suede. Suede is the sanded inside part of the leather hide. On the other hand, nubuck is the sanded outer side of the hide.

The outer side is thicker and, therefore more durable. It is the skin of the animal that protects it from outside elements. Suede is the inside of the skin that is connected to nerves and tissues.

Here are the characteristics of suede leather:

  • More supple than nubuck
  • Less durable
  • Water-resistant if waxed

Suede has a rugged look, and it is perfect for fashionable boots. However, it does not resist stain.

Here are the characteristics of nubuck leather;

  • Sanded down on the grain of the leather
  • Has protein fibers
  • More water-resistant than suede

Nubuck leather is smoother, and it is buffed. Because of this, it does not look like skin. Despite this, it can develop a patina over time, but not as the traditional leather products.

Apart from the differences in appearance, there is also a difference in their care. Suede traps more dirt, ad it needs regular brushing. Not all kinds of brush will work—you need a specific suede brush to clean the leather.

On the other hand, nubuck leather is not as complicated. You can use a nylon brush to clean nubuck leather. A toothbrush will also do. You can also apply wax if you want to protect it from water. For stains, there are products in the market called dry cleaning kit specifically made for nubuck leather.

Is nubuck leather real or fake?

Nubuck leather is real leather. It is not fake. Fake leathers are synthetic materials made from polyurethane (PU). Sometimes, manufacturers mix leather scraps with PU to make leather such as bonded leather.

Nubuck is the real deal. Most nubuck leather are made from full-grain leather. Many leather manufacturers, however, get only the top grain. Then, they use the underside of the leather for making suede leather.

So, what is leather? When people say leather, they can mean a lot of things. Since clothing is an art, leather has diversified into many types, and nubuck is one of them.

In essence, leather is an umbrella term for any material derived from the skin or hide of an animal. Anything else is just a type of leather. It does not matter if it is nubuck, suede, PU, or PVC. For as long as there is animal hide there, it is leather.

Is nubuck leather durable?

Yes, nubuck leather is durable but not full-grain leather. Compared to suede and many types of leather, nubuck will last longer. The top grain of the main material gives nubuck its strength. It is made of strong fibers and, therefore, stronger.

The thing is, nubuck is not as strong as pure leather. Nubuck has its own shortcomings. Remember, while nubuck does not have synthetic material, it is almost always just the top grain of the leather. Plus, it was sanded down.

Can nubuck leather get wet?

No, nubuck should not get wet. If it does, it gets dark. While it has some resistance to water, it is not waterproof. It is why many people who own nubuck leather boots use wax to protect them.

The good news is that nubuck leather will return to its original color once it gets dry. The bad news is that it is susceptible to absorbing stains.

Our suggestion is to avoid mud and dirt. Do not wear nubuck leather if you will visit a park. Nubuck is best used indoors or on a bright sunny day on dry land.

Consistent exposure to water will damage the leather, so make sure to keep them dry before you wear them again.

Summary: what is nubuck leather?

Nubuck leather is pure leather, albeit most manufacturers only use the top grain of the hide. The rest they turn into other types of leather, like suede. Scraps, on the other hand, become PU or PVC leather.

Nubuck leather used to be made out of deer or elk hide. However, most nubuck leathers today are made of cowhide. It is much more practical to raise cows than deers. It does not mean that all nubuck leathers are made from cows—there are deer farms around the world, but we expect deer leather to be much more expensive.