What is Nubuck Leather? The 2022 Guide


nubuck leather

If you’ve looked into investing in high-quality leather bags and products, then the chances are you’ve already been faced with numerous types of leather from which to choose.

Likely, some of these leathers were more familiar than others, and you’ve probably found yourself wondering:

Just what is nubuck leather?

In this guide will tell you everything you need to know about what nubuck leather is and, importantly, how it compares to other types of leather.

What is Nubuck Leather?

To the touch, and upon initial inspection, nubuck leather feels and seems quite similar to suede.

In reality, nubuck leather is much more resilient and strong than suede or faux/vegan leathers and this is why it is often favored.

Nubuck leather is made from the top grain of the hide, and, like top grain leather, is a durable and tough leather material, often used for luxury lifestyle products like leather bags or shoes.

It is a material that is very often compared to suede due to its fibrous texture. Those investing in leather products are often directly comparing the two materials to decide which is the best option for their newest leather piece. In terms of quality, nubuck leather is the favorite.

Typically, nubuck leather is not very water resistant. Its raised-fiber finish, in fact, can make it more vulnerable as the fibers not only are unable to repel the water, but they actually absorb it. Nubuck leather can have treatments applied to make it more water resistant. However, due to its design and appearance, it will always be more susceptible to water than some other leathers.

nubuck leather man bag

How is Nubuck Leather Made?

In quite the same way as top grain leather, nubuck leather is created from the very top layer of the hide.

Nubuck leather is made from the outer grain side of the animal hide and is carefully sanded down to give it a smoother, more polished finish. The sanding process exposes the fibrous layers and this is what gives nubuck leather its soft and smooth texture.

These top grain materials can often be subject to damage or marking because of their origin. In an attempt to cover these blemishes, leathers from the top grain are often tanned and then dyed.

For aesthetic appeal, a pattern might also be embossed into the nubuck leather surface. Common patterns mirror natural leather patterns and will often enhance the natural colour of the exposed fibers.

Nubuck Leather: The Pros and Cons

We’ve already spoken about the durability of nubuck leather but in reality, it has much more to offer than toughness alone. This popular, luxury material makes excellent leather products and offers much in terms of its appealing properties.

Pros of Nubuck Leather

1. LONGEVITY

Of course, for many, the resilience and toughness of the material is a great feature in a high-quality product. Particularly for products like bags and shoes, you’re looking for products that will stand the tests of time, and a nubuck leather bag will absolutely do that. Alone, the fact that it is made from the top grain gives it much of its strength but the tanning process and good, careful maintenance of a nubuck leather product will also contribute to its longevity.

2. NATURAL LOOK

Nubuck leather also has a very natural appearance whilst avoiding some of the defects that thicker leathers can have. Having been sanded and treated, the nubuck leather has a classic smooth appearance that appeals to many.

3. COMFORT

Typically, nubuck leather is more breathable than other synthetic leathers. This makes it comfortable to wear and therefore a popular choice for a variety of different leather goods.

Cons of Nubuck Leather

1. PRICE

Whilst it is by no means the most expensive type of leather on the market, it is slightly more expensive than its closest comparison, suede. This is mostly down to its superior quality thanks to its tight-knit fibers. Aesthetically, nubuck leather also has more of a classic appeal which can add value.

2. STAINING

Nubuck, unlike some other leathers, can be prone to staining. Untreated nubuck leather shoes, for example, when exposed to oils can be stained. Typically nubuck leather will get darker when it’s wet, so caution should be taken because when it dries, it will return to its usual color, whilst leaving any stains behind.

nubuck leather waist bag

Is Nubuck Leather Good for Bags?

Nubuck leather is a popular material for many products. Briefcases, travel bags, boots and gloves are popular examples of where this stylish material makes excellent wares.

Nubuck leather can make stylish bags for both everyday use and for travel. It is strong and durable due to its close-knit build and therefore makes a sturdy and classic bag that can last for a long period of time.

Their long-lasting and attractive appearance make real leather bags the perfect gift. Many invest in real leather bags for special birthdays, anniversaries and even promotions for their loved ones, and see them lovingly used for many years, even decades. Nubuck leather bags make wonderful gifts, just like luxury top grain leather bags.

Nubuck Leather vs. Suede

Suede is quite similar to nubuck leather in that they’ve both been sanded to a finish. This process is what gives both nubuck leather and suede their signature looks and feels. The main difference is that suede will come from the inner layer of the hide while the nubuck will come from the outer layer.

In many ways nubuck and suede are very similar. They are both used for fashionable products like leather bags, belts and wallets, they are also both made from the outer hide.

Both suede and nubuck leather can be vulnerable to water damage. There are options to treat the leathers for additional protection but owners of these leathers should still be cautious of staining and damage.

Typically nubuck leather is more expensive than suede, and this value is reflected in the look and feel of the material in the leather goods it produces.

nubuck leather man bag

Nubuck Leather vs. Other Leathers

Nubuck leather is slightly different to most other “traditional” leathers in its texture. It is sanded to the result of a raised-fiber finish which is why it is most commonly compared to suede rather than any other material. Other leathers do not typically have such a smooth, fibrous finish.

For high-quality leather goods, we often recommend full grain leather and top grain leather. These are luxury, premium leather materials and make beautifully classic leather products. We recommend these materials due to their durability and finish. Whilst nubuck leather is itself resilient, it will not hold up as well to substantial water damage and scratching as some others. Full grain leather will be able to absorb some moisture for its own rehydration without substantial damage or misshaping.

Our Favorite Nubuck Leather Product of 2022

At The Real Leather Company, we (of course) adore high-quality real leather products. Although it is a difficult decision amongst our full grain leather collection, we thought we would recommend our favourite nubuck leather product of 2022, The Man Bag.

The Man Bag

the man bag

This endlessly stylish and functional leather bag makes the perfect purchase for anyone looking for a multi-functional everyday bag.

Delicately handcrafted, this leather bag for men is made with luxury nubuck leather and only the most premium metal hardware, so you'll have confidence that it's built to last a lifetime.

You can check out the rest of our collection of leather bags here.