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Fashion Shoes (Nubuck vs. Suede): What’s The Difference?

Nubuck vs. Suede

Last Updated April 19, 2018

Some people think nubuck and suede are the same things; others believe they are very different materials.

The truth is, nubuck and suede are in fact different materials.

The main difference between the two is that nubuck is made from the outside of leather, whereas suede is made from the inside of leather.

To better understand these differences, we must first finely define the two types of material, nubuck vs. suede.

What is Nubuck?.

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Nubuck is a lesser-known material created by sanding or grinding the top grain of the leather, which is the most common type leather design to make boots or other of leather products.

Nubuck has a more velvety texture due to the buffing is done to the grainy side of the leather. In doing this, the leather gains a softer surface with naps.

Naps are found on the durable surface and are protein fibers that produce a velvet-like feel. It is noteworthy to mention that nubuck is real leather and is much more durable than suede.

The texture of nubuck is more rough than suede, and they have the marking of natural leather that gives it a distinct look.

Suede is more porous than nubuck leather, so it doesn’t require much maintenance. There’s no need for frequent protective applications for nubuck leather, though it’s alright to use them.

However, it is essential to not over-clean nubuck unless they’re filthy. In that case, they must be washed and brushed very thoroughly.

What is Suede?.

You can get suede from the interior part of leather, or the part that contacts the skin of the animal. Suede is softer in comparison to nubuck and is sanded and buffed to remove any remnants of impurities.

Suede is softer and more flexible than nubuck. Due to suede being more refined than nubuck, it makes an excellent option for loafers and other soft footwear. The downside is it lacks the durability of nubuck and is not a good option for material in boots or other heavy duty shoes.

Suede also requires a higher level of maintenance compared to nubuck as it gets stained more easily.

It’s worth noting as well that suede shoes are not waterproof.

Water and most liquids can penetrate suede, as is usually the case for most leather. Many suede protection products exist, but it’s important to be sure it is for suede and not general leather.

Suede is much more sensitive than other materials, so it’s important to be careful when maintaining suede footwear.

Suede waterproofing products should only be bought if they’re good quality. Besides waterproofing, a lot of suede protectants offer UV protection. If your suede/leather boots are often in the line of sunlight and heat, then UV protection is necessary.

Cleaning suede requires more attention than nubuck. For example, should your suede shoes get muddy, you’ll need to get rid of excess mud without going against the material too much. Then, let the dirty shoes dry. After the drying is complete, you’ll be able to remove more significant pieces of the mud.

You can use a suede brush to get rid of dirt and mud as well.

Removing stains on suede is more involved than removing them on nubuck.

On suede, you must utilize a suede eraser to get rid of stains, spots, and marks. There are more tools available, but often it’s easier to use suede erasers since they’re designed for the job.

When doing this, it’s important to apply only light pressure at first gradually increasing pressure if they mud becomes harder to remove.


As for which is better in the debate of nubuck vs. suede, the answer lies with the person wearing the material. It can be said though that certain types of footwear are better suited for either material, nubuck being for more heavy duty footwear and suede for softer footwear.

Image Source:
Pexels, rainierleather.com

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