What Is Nubuck Leather?
Posted on March 18 2020
Anyone looking for a pair of high-quality shoes will have come across nubuck, but we’d understand if you’re confused - it sounds more like the latest cryptocurrency than a material for shoes. So what is nubuck leather and why is it such a popular option for footwear?
What is nubuck?
Nubuck is a soft and durable luxury leather that’s very similar to suede. It has a history of glamour and aristocracy, but these days is most commonly associated with high quality footwear. Nubuck is soft, with a velvety texture, and is very durable. A lot of our Yogi Footwear shoes are made in Nubuck including our new Elba Sandal in our Heritage range, our Rufus styles in Stone and Blue from our Contemporary range plus our Lawson in Sage Green and Denim Blue in our Classic range.
Nubuck vs Suede
It’s easiest to understand nubuck when compared to suede. They’re very similar but with some key differences...
What is suede?
Suede is also a type of leather. All genuine leather is made from animal skin and suede is from the underside of the skin, which makes it soft and delicate. The original, French name for suede was gants de Suède, which literally translates to ‘gloves from Sweden’. It captures some of the original purpose of suede: for use with more delicate items, such as gloves, to provide a soft and comfortable feel. It’s thinner than other types of leather making it more lightweight.
Suede’s delicate nature means it can be easily damaged and is often considered one of the least durable forms of leather. Although, it’s worth noting that a lot of suede is waxed to give extra protection and durability, so many suede items today still have long lifespans. Suede is now used for a massive range of different purposes including gloves, shoes, bags and furniture.
Nubuck, in contrast to suede, is made from the outer side of the animal skin. This means that it shares a lot of the same properties of suede, but it’s naturally slightly thicker and therefore more durable and hardy.
Traditionally, nubuck was made from deer or elk, but these days most commonly is from calfskin - this gives it its super soft texture.
Because nubuck comes from the outer side of the skin, it usually has more natural imperfections which can give the material more character compared to suede. However, a lot of manufacturers stain the material to remove visible imperfections, creating a smooth and beautiful material. This means most nubuck shoes come out of the box looking flawless and ready to wear.
Advantages of Nubuck
As you explore different nubuck products, you might notice that this material often comes with a slightly higher price tag than suede, so what makes it worth that little bit extra?
The biggest advantage of choosing nubuck over suede in particular is its durability. Being top-grain leather, made from the outer side, it can withstand more action than normal suede without becoming scuffed.
It still gets scratched more easily than some materials, but is a better choice over suede for those that want to keep their shoes in top condition for a really long time.
Nubuck leather is extremely soft. This is partly due to the calfskin it’s made from, but is also produced through its manufacturing process. The hide is sanded or buffed, creating short protein fibres that give the leather durability, but also develop extreme softness.
Nubuck shoes are extremely comfortable to wear.
Compared to many synthetic materials, nubuck is much more breathable. This means that shoes made from this type of leather are more comfortable to wear over a long period of time and helps them to stay in good condition.
Upkeep and cleaning
While other types of leather can require polishing and shining to stay looking great over a long period of time, nubuck is much lower maintenance. All you need is a brush to get rid of the dirt that can get caught in the fibres.
Nubuck does darken if it gets wet, but while suede can be permanently damaged from even splashes of water, nubuck will return to its original colour as the water dries.
Disadvantages of Nubuck
While the advantages of nubuck far outweigh the disadvantages, it’s still worth noting the few drawbacks of this material.
Oil and grime can leave stains on nubuck leather, so it shouldn’t be worn in areas where it might get particularly muddy or come into contact with lots of dirt. This means that nubuck shoes are fantastic street shoes and work shoes, but might not be brilliant for walks in local nature reserves or muddy parks!
Nubuck and Patina
Patina is a soft sheen that develops on the surface of many leather products over time. This gives it extra character and makes it unique. Nubuck, being made from the external side of the skin, doesn’t develop a patina. For many people, this isn’t a particular disadvantage, but some people prefer leather products that do develop this sheen.
Taking Care of Nubuck Leather Shoes
Nubuck is fairly low maintenance so your shoes should look fantastic for a long time. All you need is a brush designed for your type of nubuck.
Use a damp cloth (not wet) to wipe off any dirt marks. Leave it to dry completely then brush the shoes.
Avoid getting your shoes wet where possible, but if it does happen allow them to dry in a cool place.
If the shoes become stiff, you can apply a conditioning product designed for nubuck to the shoes which will keep them supple.
If you’re looking for a soft and comfortable form of leather, then nubuck could be the perfect choice. It’s more durable than suede, but with the same velvety texture that looks fantastic!
Check out nubuck leather shoes from Yogi Footwear!
Read some common questions around nubuck leather.
Is nubuck leather durable?
Nubuck leather is reasonably durable - more so than suede, but less than some other types of harder leather material. It should be kept clean and dry, without exposing it to lots of mud and dirt to prevent stains. Well cared for, nubuck leather should last for years!
Is nubuck leather water resistant?
Nubuck is a buffed and sanded down version of full-grain leather, which means it retains slight water-resistant properties similar to full-grain leather, such as coping with small splashes. It should, however, be kept dry where possible as frequent or long exposure to water can cause permanent damage.
If your nubuck shoes or other product gets wet, leave them to dry out completely before wearing again.
Is nubuck hard to maintain?
No, just keep it clean with a brush to prevent dirt from staining the material. Avoid anything that could scratch it, as nubuck is softer than some varieties of leather - although it is more durable than suede.
How do you condition nubuck leather?
Buy a conditioner designed for use with nubuck. This will usually be a spray that can be applied finely over the material, such as a shoe, then brushed in.
Nubuck is a durable and soft luxury leather that is extremely popular for shoes. It’s comfortable and long-lasting - and, importantly, looks fantastic!