When it comes to high-quality leather, it’s good to know what defines high-quality. Not only is this good information to know when making a purchase (hello, choices), but it also helps you care for your new goods. So what’s the deal with nubuck leather? Have you even heard of it? Here, a quick guide on the leather you probably have come into contact with more than you realize.

WHAT IS NUBUCK LEATHER?

On the surface, nubuck can seem like suede. It has a similar finish, but there’s one key difference — nubuck leather is a top-grain cow leather that has been sourced from the outer-facing side of the hide. Suede, on the other hand, is crafted from the inner-facing side. Nubuck is then sanded or buffed, producing a soft but strong texture. (Suede is sanded as well.)

What does that mean? Nubuck is more durable, and more weather-resistant, than suede due to the using of the topside of the hide — it’s made for the elements — as it’s thicker and stronger.

A BRIEF HISTORY

Nubuck leather was traditionally made from the buckskin of deer or elk and has been used in the U.S. since the 1930s. In fact, the origin — buckskin — is most likely where it got its name. (New and buckskin.) The finish really caught on in the U.S. — especially in men’s fashion — when the Duke of Windsor (AKA Edward VIII) wore brown nubuck shoes to a polo match at Meadowbrook Polo Club in Long Island, and Americans took note and made orders.

WHY IT’S GREAT

With a soft texture made from the outer skin, it maintains a velvety feel but with a tough finish — think of it as the in-between of full-grain, flat leather and suede. It can withstand rain and snow, and lasts years and years — a true investment piece. Just make sure you care for it. (It’s not that hard, promise.)

HOW TO CARE FOR NUBUCK

While nubuck is tough and durable, it can stain (and easily). While water (including snow) will dry and the leather will return to its original color, you might not be so lucky with other spills. Make sure to use a pre-treatment or stain-resistant spray specially made for nubuck.

If you do spill, use cotton cloth to sop up any excess. And don’t use shoe polish, as the polish will stick to the textured finish. Specialty cleaners are out there, and using a bristled brush to keep the leather in shape (and free of dust) is recommended.

PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS

Ready to take the purchase plunge? For womenswear, head this way to the Starlight in Ivory Snake, which features a mix of leathers with nubuck as the main attraction. Want a timeless addition? The Wilder boot in Ivory, our take on the classic Chelsea Boot, is ready to transition you from spring to fall and back again. The Austen in White features nubuck as well, and is a quintessential oxford perfect for spring. Our mule, the Jubilee in White might also call your name.

For men, the Fairview in Ivory is a standout and classic, with an easy-on back zip (no messing with laces). Our take on the Chelsea boot for men, the Uptown in Ivory, is an easy slip-on that will upgrade you for spring. The Bartlett in Ivory is the ultimate go-with-everything shoe, while the Elmhurst boot in Ivory features wingtip-inspired detailing but with a slightly rugged finish.

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