What Is Nubuck Leather

what is nubuck leather

What is Nubuck Leather? 

It is used in the making of jackets, bags and shoes among many other products that are daily items. We’ve all heard of Nubuck leather, so much so; many people have found themselves confused between Nubuck and Suede, all thanks to the striking resemblance they both have. In this article, we shall cover all there is to know about Nubuck resulting in a better understanding of what this globally popular material really is. 

Let’s start with its name, Nubuck is said to be coined from the word Buck as in male deer. Initially Buck skins and hides were used and this act of being made new through processing gives us ‘new’ which translates to ‘nu’ which makes up the word Nubuck. Although there is no concrete evidence to support this, many people do agree to it being true based on logic. Not to mention the fact that even today deer skin and hide are used, though relatively less now, to make Nubuck. 

Make and Origin of Nubuck Leather

It is a slight nap of short fibre or bristles that highlight a soft, velvety surface giving a unique texture. This is often confused with Suede which in fact is Nubuck. Traditionally made from deer, moose or elk, Nubuck is currently made of calfskin as well. This gives it a soft texture. As Nubuck comes from the outermost layer of skin or hide, that is; top-grain leather, or even full-grain leather for added durability, it almost always has a very natural look that includes such elements as birthmarks or imperfections of different kinds. It undergoes sanding and buffing on the grain side which is how it gets this particularly striking look and feel. 

Nubuck and Suede: A Misconception  

Nubuck Leather sample

Despite Nubuck looking and feeling quite similar to Suede, it is made from the outer side of a hide or skin. This adds further thickness and strength aside from the fine grain. Hence, Nubuck being a more durable alternative to Suede. Not to forget, that Nubuck is a bit more expensive than Suede, which is reflected by the heavily dyed colour that is crucial to conceal all the sanding that has been carried out. 

Based on durability among other factors, Nubuck is often used in furniture, shoes, purses, bags as well as clothing. Reason being, that these products can stand the test of time and will make perfect examples of long-lasting products. 

Nubuck Leather vs Full-Grain Leather

Once we understand that Nubuck leather is traditionally top-grain leather that has been buffed and treated from the outermost layer of the animal, only then will we be able to recognize that full-grain leather can also be used to make Nubuck, despite the fact that it would be the second layer of skin. In-fact, full-grain leather used in making Nubuck will be higher in durability than that which is made using top-grain leather. 

Nubuck Leather vs Suede Leather 

Quite simply put, Nubuck is made by sanding and treating the outermost layer of the animal skin which is also durable due to it’s sturdy and thick nature. Suede on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. Made by sanding and treating the inner layer i.e. turning the skin inside out. This is why Suede is not as sturdy and durable as Nubuck. This also explains why Nubuck is more expensive than Suede. 

How to Clean Nubuck Leather?

It is said that you should start by using a good quality dry brush to remove loose sand or dust from the surface, use a suede eraser next; to gently erase any blotches or stains from the surface. Just like Suede, Nubuck also should not be cleaned by using liquids. Unless being cleaned by a professional. 

What is Nubuck Leather Made of?

What is Nubuck leathher made of

Nubuck is made by sanding and treating the outer layer of animal skin, top-grain; which is one of the strongest layers of any skin or hide. It is not uncommon to find Nubuck made of full-grain leather as well. 

Why is Nubuck Made of Top-Grain Leather?

Traditionally, the layers of skin or hide closest to the outer surface of an animal are also the densest, toughest and yet also carry original grain and marks of the animal. As this layer was once exposed to sunlight, wind, rain and injuries from time to time, makes this layer all the more durable. This doesn’t by any means indicate that Nubuck can only be made using top-grain alone, as full-grain leather can also be used. Though results in the end product may not be exactly the same for both. 

Is Nubuck Leather Durable?

Yes, Nubuck leather is very durable. 

Is Nubuck Better than Leather?

Although there is no evidence to prove that Nubuck is better than leather, the only difference between the two is the feel and appearance. While Nubuck and leather both share a softness, especially involving full-grain leather, Nubuck carries a unique, striking quality of a velvety texture that separates it from leather. This texture is due to the soft bristles that add to this uniqueness. 

Is Nubuck Leather Expensive? 

Yes, Nubuck is expensive, even more expensive than Suede. 

Can You use a Leather Conditioner on Nubuck?

Yes, a leather mist conditioner may be used on Nubuck and should be brushed until dry, using a good quality brush that is clean. 

Is Nubuck Genuine Leather?

Nubuck is real leather that can be made of top-grain or full-grain. Originally, Nubuck was made of deer or elk skin. 

What Happens if Nubuck gets Wet?

Bristle surface of nubuck leather

Nubuck has a unique bristle surface which gives it that striking texture. Once these soft bristles get wet, or dry after getting wet; lead to brittle or fragile bristles that can easily break. Once this happens, the Nubuck is damaged forever. 

What is Embossed Nubuck Leather?

While Nubuck is known for its soft feel and velvety texture, to keep with design aesthetics, Nubuck can also be embossed. This can be anything from a random pattern, geometric, or even a design that has been repeated all over the surface. This is not uncommon among big brands seeking to stand-out with their assortments. Embossed Nubuck also, is available in different colours as would regular Nubuck, Suede or any other type of leather

What Products are Made of Nubuck? 

Nubuck is used to make handbags, briefcases, travel bags, pouches, jackets, boots, shoes and sandals, furniture and automobile upholstery, belts, wallets, gloves, notebook covers, covers for electronics and mobile phones, keychains and a host of other products where durability plays a key factor. 

Is Nubuck Water Resistant?

No, Nubuck is not water resistant. The bristles that give it that unique texture actually attract as well as retrain any amount of water. This results in damage that is impossible to undo. Having said that, it is however possible to water-proof Nubuck by means of finishes that can be applied that will protect it from permanent damage. This does also have a disadvantage that the surface will no longer carry its original feel and appearance once the water-proofing is carried out. 

How is Nubuck Water-proofed?

It is said that once Nubuck is cleaned and conditioned, a wax protectant can be added to help water-proof it. The wax is then buffed out which leaves the Nubuck surface smooth with a pleasant shine. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nubuck 

Nubuck is long-lasting, durable and breathable. Three positive signs that encourage Nubuck purchases. It is also comfortable not to mention how good it looks and feels. Giving a luxe appearance to the wearer. It is perhaps one type of leather that doesn’t need any complex maintenance, polishing or shining, as many types of leathers usually do. Cleaning Nubuck is also occasional unless an unforeseen accident calls for major cleaning. On the downside, Nubuck is subject to spoil, stain or ruin if it’s exposed to harsh elements such as excessive mud, dirt or dust. Nubuck cannot get wet at any cost, as it will darken and once dried will lose the unique bristle texture as they will become weak and eventually break. 

Comparison of Nubuck with other Leathers 

There are many leathers that are often confused with or by Nubuck due to its uniqueness, durability as well as easy prone to damage. Suede is often confused with Nubuck as they look quite similar in appearance. Keeping in mind all the different types of leather including chrome dyed leather as well as vegetable leather, many will agree that Nubuck and Suede are great choices based on cost and durability. 

Chrome-Dyed Leather and Nubuck 

However, chrome-dyed leather shares a bit of the same feel as Nubuck though appearance wise they are considerably different. This type of dyed leather calls for tanning the hide or skin and then dyeing it to your desired look. Interestingly, Nubuck isn’t as water-resistant, durable or in danger of getting ruined due to staining and such are some of the differences that set them apart. 

By tanning the hide or skin in tannins originating from tree bark, vegetable leather is made. The look is smooth, which develops a unique patina over time which leather lovers find most favourable in their leather products. 

Winding up this Post

If a conclusion is to be given to the question of what is Nubuck Leather it would be this: Nubuck is as durable and long-lasting as it is soft and velvety. It is often confused with Suede simply due to its appearance though both are completely different. Nubuck is made of the outer layers of the skin or hides that is sanded and buffed to make Nubuck. Although it is durable, it is easily prone to damage due to mud, dust or rain. Once wet, it is very difficult or often impossible to regain its original feel and appearance. Despite popular belief that Nubuck is made using top-grain leather, in reality; it can be made using full-grain leather as well. The latter being more durable. 

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