Leather VS Nubuck VS Suede… What Difference ?

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You are interested in a pair of leather shoes, but beetween full grain leather, nubuck and the suede you feel a little lost ? Well don’t worry, we have all been there at some point of our research. I admit, it can seem a little confusing at first, but by the end off this post, you will be leather experts.

Let’s get into it!

First things first, whether you hear of full grain leather, nubuck or suede it’s all leather. The difference between the three is in fact very simple, it depends of which part of the leather is used and how it has been processed.

The Full Grain Leather

Full grain leather refers to the type of leather that has not been sanded during the tanning process. For example, a cow full grain leather is a premium leather. It’s made out of the part of the skin which comes with almost no defects, meaning, no scar, mole or any type of hole. This is why it does not need to be sanded. (Check out our post on, how to identify full grain leather).

The Nubuck

Historically, the Nubuck was made from buckskin of deer or elk and was bough to the US market at the beginning of the 1930’s. At first, this new type of leather didn’t encounter much success, until the Duke of Windsor traveled on a royal visit to the United States. He was wearing Oxfords made of the new nubuck and thanks to him, the new style took off.

To make the nubuck, the outer layer of the calfskin is used, then the leather has to be sanded from the outside of the skin. The nubuck is more expensive than suede most of the time. This is because the outer layer of calfskin, is tougher than the inner part used for the suede and therefore logically is stronger and will last longer. However there is a counterpart to the nubuck, because the nubuck is sanded from the outside, there maybe some apparent natural imperfections of the leather. Some might find that the imperfections give character to the nubuck, but for all the others, in order to offer a smooth and clean product, manufacturers often dye and stain the nubuck.

The Suede

In Contrary to the nubuck, the inner layer of the calfskin (or other animal skins) are used to make the Suede. The suede is also sanded from the inner side of the leather allowing a naturally smoother and cleaner product than the nubuck. But as mentioned above this also implies that when compared to nubuck, suede is not as resistant.

Many believe that suede will be damaged if wet. Although it is not advised to expose suede to too much water, your suede shoes won’t be ruined if wet. If you can, avoid going out with suede on the rainy days, but if you do, don’t worry your shoes will survive just fine. In fact suede does not require much maintenance, treating your suede shoes with water proofing products and brushing them regularly with a suede brush (the soft bristles, never the wire) to maintain the nap, the actual fibers that gives suede its character, will be enough.

Leather vs Nubuck vs Suede, Let’s recap!

Nubuck is actually a type of suede and both are generally made of leather like calfskin, although they may also be made from the hide of a sheep/lamb, cow/calf, goat, or deer.  At first sight, they both look and feel similar but are in fact created and treated differently as seen previously. Both of these leathers are created by sanding process, the nubuck being sanded from the outside and the suede from the inside. Because of this difference, their is wide price range between nubuck and suede, suede being the cheapest.

When maintaining your suede or nubuck, it is important to pick the correct brush for each. Since the nubuck is a harder material than suede, a nubuck brush used on suede will damage the nap. On the other hand a suede brush used on nubuck will have little to no effect.

Many believe that suede shoes are harder to maintain and more precious than their shiny leather counterparts. This could not be further from the truth.  Suede and nubuck actually require less maintenance.  These shoes do not need to be shined and should never be shined, so say goodbye to the weekly shinning chore.

You are now expert on leather and it’s two most famous variations, nubuck and suede. I hope that this post will help you in your research of the perfect leather shoe. If you like this post please share it and don’t forget to leave us your comment’s below.

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