Both suede and nubuck are genuine leathers. The difference between them lies in the part of the hide used, and the tanning process.
This is a very supple leather, drum dyed, to give it a uniform colour. Nubuck is made from the outer layer of skin, and is sanded from the outside of this, to give it a pebble like finish. Like all leathers it will retain its fine hair-like finish on the underside.
Nubuck is developed from the tough outer layer of the hide. It is therefore:
- stronger and more durable than suede and thus pricier.
- usually aniline meaning that natural markings and scars will be visible. These imperfections give the product character.
- easily stained and should be sprayed with a leather protection product upon manufacture.
Suede is usually confined to use in the fashion industry for jackets, bags and shoes, rather than used in furniture manufacture.
The correct manner of tanning to arrive at true suede is to split the hide and remove the upper grain to reveal the soft and napped inner surface. That surface then undergoes further sanding to create a tactile and pliable leather. Occasionally manufacturers simply use the underside of leather, and declare it to be suede. However, this results in the material being much sturdier and can take away from the lovely delicate quality of suede which it is known for.
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