Nubuck Vs. Suede: What’s the Difference?

Everyone has them. Everyone puts them on every day. Everyone has a least one pair; many individuals have too many pairs. Shoe styles continue to change daily. From formal to casual, shoes are a bigger part of your life than you many think.

Shoes bring changes to their lives. Shoes reflect who you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there. Shoes are the foundation of every outfit. Shoes allow a person to move on unforgiving surfaces. Your shoes protect your feet from the elements. Shoes add the final statement with your own personal style.

Casual shoes have many different styles. Nubuck and suede shoes define the style. These shoes are perfect for the office with a look of affordable style. There remain some very distinct differences and other uses for nubuck vs. suede.

“Blue Suede Shoes” or blue nubuck shoes, is there a difference?

Brief History of Nubuck Vs. Suede

Nubuck leather adapts to many footwear applications. The origin of Nubuck dates back to the 1930’s. Nubuck is often mistaken for suede. The Duke of Windsor found an interest in nubuck shoes while traveling in the United States. Worn to a polo match, Nubuck sparked an immediate interest by consumers.

The visual appearance of Nubuck became an instant success. Manufacturer’s scrambled to fill a large number of incoming orders.

Nubuck leather is the premier material in shoes, jackets, wallets, briefcases, and furniture. Nubuck leather is durable for years of continual use and wear. Nubuck leather has a long history associated with trending styles. This durable material is for both luxury and less-exclusive items.

Suede became very popular in the twentieth century. Suede often associates with high-end-luxury due to its soft, delicate feel. Suede is a French term “gants de Suede” or gloves from Sweden. Throughout History, this term came to mean any kind of leather with a napped surface.

Suede is not special leather. Suede is a particular finish of the leather. The process of finishing gives suede a soft and warm effect. Nubuck leather is the by-product of animal hides. Suede is a specific manufacturing process referred to as “suede leather.”

Suede is a softer and thinner leather. Suede is popular for clothing and fashion accessories. Suede accessories include gloves, handbags, and belts. Western-styled suede fringe jackets remain the main focus of western-styled apparel.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nubuck Vs. Suede

Advantages and Disadvantages of Nubuck Vs. Suede

Every product has pros and cons. Nubuck vs. Suede is no different.

Nubuck Leather Advantages:

  • Nubuck is long-lasting and very durable.
  • Breathable leather when compared to synthetic coated leather.
  • Nubuck is comfortable, which is a strong selling point.
  • Leather requires no polishing.
  • Nubuck leather needs less maintenance.

Nubuck Leather Disadvantages:

  • Material not suitable in mud, dirt, and water.
  • Darkens when wet.
  • More expensive when compared to suede leather.

Suede Leather Advantages:

  • Thin nature provides a nice, rich, delicate shade.
  • Smooth appearance with appealing fabric texture.
  • Flexible, elastic leather is easy to mold to make other clothing.
  • Breathable leather lining cushioned to keep your feet dry and odor-free.
  • Affordable and available in a wider range of color options.

Suede Leather Disadvantages:

  • Prone to shrinkage. Manufacturer stretches for uniform thickness and texture.
  • Soft, absorbent surface. Vulnerable to dirt and moisture.
  • Requires specific professional cleaning.

See the differences? Nubuck is the clear winner here. Both Nubuck vs. Suede leather have their advantages and disadvantages.

Nubuck and Suede leather is a delicate material. Use caution when wearing these shoes. Weather and water is the worst enemy of Nubuck and Suede leather. Stay alert to all possible changing weather conditions.

The Necessity of Waterproofing

The Necessity of Waterproofing

Nubuck, Suede, and water do not go together well. Getting shoes wet made from Nubuck and Suede leather is a recipe for disaster. Water will warp and shrink these materials to the point of a very uncomfortable fit. Water damaged Nubuck and Suede shoes are hard to put on and wear. Water damage to the material is often permanent.

Waterproofing Nubuck and Suede shoes may even improve your present health conditions. Water trapped on the inside of your shoes is a breeding ground for bacteria. Wet interior of your shoes leads to athlete’s foot and other foot diseases.

Waterproof with the use of specialized sprays made for this particular use. Here is a point that is very important. There are many waterproofing sprays available. Not all waterproofing sprays work well on all shoes.

Choose the correct waterproofing that designed for Nubuck and Suede shoes or premium leather material. Other waterproofing sprays not designed for Nubuck and Suede may damage your shoes.

Read all available information on waterproofing Nubuck and Suede leather. Follow all recommended steps in applying the waterproofing sealing spray.

Follow These Simple, Waterproofing Steps:

Waterproofing Spray

Buy an inexpensive shoe cleaning kit for your choice of either Nubuck or Suede leather. This kit features the best in shoe cleaning brushes. This kit will make shoe cleaning much easier. You will find frequent use for this shoe cleaning kit. Nubuck and Suede shoes require frequent cleaning.

  • Clean the footwear thoroughly.
  • Remove all dirt, mud, dust, and stains.
  • Shake waterproofing spray-on can very well.
  • Place one hand inside the shoe while using the other hand to operate the spray-on.
  • Spray waterproofing over the shoes.
  • Let the waterproofing spray soak into the shoe material.
  • Set aside and air dry for at least a day. Do not use hair dryers or other heat sources.
  • Once completely dry, spray on another application and let dry once again.

Depending on the product that you are using, drying times may vary. Read and follow all recommendations printed on the waterproofing spray-on can.

Other Useful Tips

Make sure the waterproofing that you are using has an acrylic copolymer agent. Sprays carry a possible strong scent. If possible, spray shoes in a well-ventilated space. Outdoor is better for applying waterproofing sprays. Apply several waterproofing coats for the best results.

Do not use waterproofing waxes on nubuck or suede shoes or materials. Waxes cause permanent stains.

With a little practice and a lot of patience, you will become a waterproofing expert in no time. Waterproofing of Nubuck and Suede is time-consuming.

Waterproofing often requires more than one application, with no guaranteed results.

Check this out our review about Danner Acadia Waterproof Gore-Tex 8″ Boot to avoid wet your feet.

Bottom Line Pricing

The majority of shoe manufacturers offer both Nubuck and Suede leather shoes. A variety of styles are available. In comparison, the price range for either shoe remains very competitive. Nubuck shoes are a little more expensive but not over-priced. Both styles are available throughout the Internet, with reduced competitive prices.

The current prices for both Nubuck and Suede are from one of the largest online retailers in the world.

Nubuck Current Prices

Oxfords – $102-$279.00, Moc Nubuck – $59-$144.00, Chukka work boots – $100 – $150.00, Hiking – $78-$200.00, Sneakers – $155.

Suede Current Prices

Oxfords – $28 – $130.00, Casual – $35.00, Chukka, (Ankle Height) $28 – $35.00, Formal Dress Oxford – $35.00, Sneakers – $20 – $145.

Keep in mind that the above-stated prices often change, if not daily. These prices provide you an idea of the approximate cost. Prices do not include applicable sales tax or shipping charges, if any.

Price ranges do not reflect color options, larger sizes, or other styles of the same shoe.

It is clear to see that Nubuck shoes do cost a little more. Nubuck shoes are more durable with thicker leather. The higher cost might be money well spent for a durable, well-made, stylish shoe.

The above-selected styles are only a few of the many styles available.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. How durable is nubuck leather?

A. Nubuck leather is the exterior or grain side of the animal hide, making it a tough and durable leather. Because of its resistance to wear and tear, nubuck is the preferred material for making shoes. Scratches remain visible on Nubuck leather. This leather resists permanent water stains.

Nubuck is a thicker leather, unlike thin suede leather. Nubuck shoes will last for many years with proper cleaning and routine care.

Q. How water-resistant is nubuck?

A. Nubuck Leather is not waterproof. For any leather to be waterproof, it needs tanning. Tanned leather goes through a further abrasion process to remove the top grain. Upon completion of this process, the leather is waterproof.

There is a process in which nubuck shoes can become waterproof. Waterproofing kits are available at your local big-box department stores. For the best results, have your Nubuck shoes waterproofed by a professional. Waterproofing may take more than one application.

Q. How can I Clean Suede / Nubuck Shoes?

A. To maintain the stylish look of Nubuck and Suede shoes, it is necessary to keep them clean and neat. To achieve this, consider the following steps:

  • Remove the laces and take a small container filled with Nubuck or Suede cleaner.
  • Take a soft brush and soak it in the container.
  • Use one hand to hold the shoe from the inside and use the other hand to brush the shoes in circular but small motions.
  • Repeat the same process for the other shoe.
  • Let the boots dry for 24 hours.
  • When they are completely dry, use mink oil with the help of a small suede brush to make them smooth and soft.

Use caution in the application of any suede cleaning solutions. Use only the recommended amount per cleaning. Using more cleaning solution than required may cause permanent damage to your shoes. We recommended that way to clean your suede shoes.

Consult manufacturers’ recommendations for the proper cleaning leather oil of both Nubuck and Suede shoes.

Q. Do suede shoes become ruined in the rain?

A. If you don’t treat them, you will run the risk of ruining them. The napped surface of Suede will attract moisture into the leather. Dyes or pigments applied to the Suede are likely to fade or run when subjected to a lot of water.

Suede may shrink when it dries becoming discolored. This will be worse if you use a hairdryer to dry these shoes. The safest way to dry it is to air-dry with a shoe tree inside the shoe to help the wet Nubuck or Suede shoe hold its shape and size.

Q. Do suede shoes stretch over time? If so, how can I prevent this?

A. Yes, they do, and unfortunately, you cannot prevent it. Like any shoe, the fabric will stretch until it becomes relaxed. The best thing to preserve the shoes would be to get a cedar shoe tree. It will absorb the moisture and keep the structure firm.

Buy Nubuck and Suede shoes from reputable sellers. Reputable sellers hand cut the fabric and keep it clean. Better quality leather is the end result. The more information you have, the more educated you will be.


Nubuck vs. Suede is very similar in appearance. The main difference lies in the way the manufacturers prepare the material. Nubuck uses the outer layer of the hide (top grain). Suede uses the underside of the hide, giving it a softer surface.

Top grain layer of Nubuck is tougher and used in many other applications. The Nubuck top layer often shows defects then sanded to produce an even smoother appearance. Suede is usually made from softer lambskin. Lambskin produces a smooth touch and pleasing appearance.

Place identical Nubuck and Suede shoes side-by-side. It is hard to determine which one is the correct one. Both shoes represent the quality of Nubuck and Suede leather. Other than the manufacturing process, the main difference lies in personal preferences. Nubuck has a tendency to be higher priced.

From city streets or attending the football game of the year, Nubuck and Suede continue to score.

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