What Is Nubuck Leather and How Is It Made?

Nubuck is a type of leather that became very popular in recent years due to its soft, velvety feel and elegant appearance. It is a popular material used in shoes, bags, jackets, and other accessories. But what exactly is Nubuck leather and how is it made? In this article, we’ll explore the processes behind the production of Nubuck leather and examine its unique properties.

What Is Nubuck Leather?

Nubuck leather is a type of leather material used to create furniture, clothing, and accessories. This type of luxury leather has been around since the 19th century but only recently became more popular in modern-day fashion pieces such as boots, jackets, and purses.

The distinguishing feature of Nubuck leather is its velvety look and feel. This characteristic gives the material an eye-catching appearance that makes it attractive to fashion-forward individuals. Also offers superior comfort due to its softer surface than other types of animal hide materials.

Nubuck is known for its durability. This makes it the perfect material for furniture upholstery, shoes, and other items that are prone to get scuffed or scratched.

Nubuck leather is most commonly derived from cowhide. Other animals that are sometimes used for Nubuck include sheepskin, deer skin, moose skin, elk hide, and goat skin. On rare occasions, other hides may be used as well but these are not typically seen in commercial production.

Nubuck Vs Suede

At first look, Suede and Nubuck look very similar. But there are a few key differences that set these two materials apart. 

Suede is made from the underside of a hide, giving it a soft texture and making it more supple than Nubuck. On the other hand, Nubuck is made from the top layer that provides much more durability than Suede. Compared to suede, it is more resistant to scratches and other forms of wear and tear. But still, scuff more easily than regular leather.

Suede and traditional leather both develop an attractive patina as they age. This means that your classic leather or suede bag may gain character and become more beautiful over time. But Nubuck doesn’t develop a patina over time like Suede or regular leather. In some cases, this is an advantage, if you want your leather garments to look the same after years.

Also worth noticing: which is more expensive, Nubuck or Suede. Since Nubuck offers higher durability, Nubuck costs higher than Suede in most cases.

How Nubuck Leather is Made?

Nubuck is made from the top (outside) layer of an animal’s hide. The top layer is known as the ‘grain’ layer and provides much more durability than the underside (known as the Split Grain) of animal hides. It also contains higher levels of collagen fibers which gives it greater strength and elasticity compared to Suede.

Nubuck leather material

The process of making Nubuck starts with the same processes used to make ordinary leather fabric. The hide of an animal is cut down into thin pieces and then soaked in water for several days before being treated with enzymes and other chemicals to remove any impurities. After the hides have been washed, they are then tanned using vegetable materials or chromium salts to give them their unique softness and color. 

Then, the leather is processed with a special machine by lightly sanding the surface of the leather with very fine sandpaper or a similar abrasive material. This removes any unevenness in the grain and ensures that when it comes time for buffing, all areas will be even in their finish. Once this has been done, special rotating brushes are used to raise up part of the nap on the surface, which gives Nubuck its distinctive texture and appearance.

Is Nubuck as Waterproof as Regular Leather?

Nubuck is not as waterproof as regular leather because its surface is much more porous than regular leather. The pores allow water droplets to penetrate easily into the material and leave behind unsightly stains which can be difficult to clean up. That said, there are some methods available for making Nubuck more resistant to water. Applying a weatherproof spray can add protection from liquids and help repel dirt and dust particles too. However, this will require regular maintenance for it to remain effective over time.

Where Can You Find Nubuck?

From shoes to couches, Nubuck can be used to create stylish and long-lasting items. Nubuck is often used in the fashion world for its versatility and durability. Shoes crafted out of Nubuck are extremely comfortable and can last for years. They are also able to withstand water better than some other materials, making them an ideal choice for rainy days or trips near bodies of water. Furthermore, clothing made from Nubuck is just as stylish as any other type of leather. Jackets, skirts, vests, shoes and more can all be designed with the material in mind.

Pockets on nubuck leather jacket

Advantages of Nubuck

  • Nubuck leather is durable enough, making it a good long-term investment.
  • Its texture has a luxurious feel that is both soft and comfortable in the hand.
  • This type of leather has a distinctive look that gives any garment an elegant touch of sophistication.
  • In most cases, Nubuck leather will be of higher quality than other types of leather because it must be sourced from strong hides that can withstand sanding without compromising their integrity. 

Disadvantages of Nubuck

  • Regular cleaning can damage its surface if not done correctly.
  • It is prone to staining and scuffing more than classic leather, if not cared for properly.  
  • Nubuck leather can be more expensive than other types of leather due to its premium quality.
  • Doesn’t develop a patina over time, so it’s not become more valuable over time.
  • You can scratch Nubuck more easily than other types of leather.

How to Care for Nubuck

While this type of leather is known for its high quality, it does require hard work to ensure it stays looks beautiful and luxurious.

If you want to keep your shoes looking their best, you should clean your Nubuck with the right cleaning products to avoid damaging the material. Regularly brush away any dirt or debris with a soft Suede brush and special eraser to stop it from becoming embedded in the fabric. When dealing with spills or other types of stains, you must act quickly to minimize any possible damage.

You should also apply an appropriate protector to help guard against water damage and staining. This should be done at least once every few months or as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions on your product’s label.

Also, because of its velvety surface, Nubuck is prone to collecting dirt particles and oils from everyday wear. So, Nubuck gets dirty quite easily. But you still can solve this problem by applying a protectant spray.

Nubuck Leather

And, no, you cannot put Nubuck in the washing machine, doing so could cause irreversible damage to the material resulting in discoloration or fading of its natural beauty.

Nubuck Alternatives

Suede is an excellent alternative to Nubuck, a type of leather made from the flesh side of animal skin. Not only does it provide a soft and luxurious feel, like nubuck, but it is also more affordable.

Also, faux leather is a great option. Faux leather has been designed to resemble natural leather in its texture and feel, while also being more cost-effective than genuine Nubuck materials. It comes in various colors and textures which means you can find something suitable for any style or application. Plus it’s easier to clean than Nubuck. 


In conclusion, Nubuck leather is a great choice for those looking for a high-quality, durable material that will last for years to come. It is increasingly popular with fashion designers and luxury brands due to its attractive color and texture variations. With proper care and maintenance, it can retain its unique look even after years of wear and tear. While Nubuck leather is more expensive than other types of leather, the investment is worth it given its durability and unparalleled beauty.


Why is Nubuck leather expensive?

The main reason for Nubuck’s high cost is that Nubuck leather is made from Top Grain cowhide leather. This type of leather has high quality and strength compared to the inner side of the leather. In addition, since it needs special treatment during production, that also adds to the price tag. The process requires sanding which produces a suede-like texture on the surface while still maintaining its durability and strength. 

Is Suede more expensive?

Suede can be more expensive compared to other types of leather, but Nubuck still costs more due to its higher durability. 

Is Nubuck real leather?

Yes, Nubuck is made from real leather, the top layer of animal hide, which goes through a unique tanning process to create its distinct texture. This makes it highly durable and resistant to everyday wear and tear, while still remaining comfortable to the touch.

Is Nubuck OK to get wet?

In general, untreated nubuck should never be exposed to moisture as it can cause permanent damage such as discoloration, staining, and even shrinkage if left too long in the water. The good news is that you can protect Nubuck from water by using spray sealant.

Is Nubuck Full Grain?

Nubuck is made from the Top Grain leather. Unlike Full Grain leather, Top Grain Nubuck has had its outer layer sanded down, which made the leather thinner but save almost the same durability.