Irrelevant of the kind of leather you’re talking about, all leather materials are made from animal skin that has been treated, tanned and crusted. The difference between nubuck, split leather, full grain leather and suede is simply down to the method used to carry out these processes and what, if any, additional processes take place. In any case, the result is a versatile, hard-wearing material that is both resilient to damage and aesthetically pleasing; though it is worth noting that these qualities occur to a greater or lesser extent depending on the type of leather.
These days, leather is primarily made using the skin of a cow, due to their large average size and plentiful population, but leather can be made from the skin of various other animals too; including sheep, deer, horses, kangaroos, and pigs. In the past, other more exotic leathers - such as snake, alligator, elephant, and ostrich - were available too, however, nowadays they are rather rare and tend to come with a rather hefty price tag.
What Is Full-Grain Leather?
Full grain leather is generally recognised as being the most durable and robust form of the material, as it is made from the strongest part of an animal’s skin. The reason full-grain leather is called such is that the skin used to make it is very tight and the patterns on it have a tendency to be in close formation. In addition to an attractive visual quality, the grain’s close pattern provides it with impressive levels of resistance to damage from prolonged moisture exposure.
It is often said that the appearance of leather clothing, handbags, and the like improve with time, which is especially the case when it comes to full-grain leather. Over time, as the leather is handled and exposed to regular use, it shall naturally develop a veneer that is appealing to the eye and also helps to provide an additional layer of protection; thereby improving the material’s durability further.
What Is Split Leather?
Split leather is made using the remnants of the hide leftover once the top layer has been removed to make top-grain leather. This material is incredibly versatile and can be processed in various ways depending on its thickness and size once the top layer has been stripped away. Because split leather is basically the underside of the hide, it is not as pleasing to the eye as full-grain leather and has had considerably less exposure to the elements, making it less durable and resistant to moisture.
Whilst it does not age as well as full-grain leather, split leather has a wide range of potential depending on the hides used to make it. For example, split leather is commonly used to provide the soft lining on the inside of purses, handbags, and coats, but it’s also often used as upholstery. This is because split leather tends to have a more uniform aesthetic than full-grain leather, and there is less wastage as there are fewer flaws in the material’s presentation.
What Is Nubuck Leather?
Nubuck leather is a type of top-grain leather that has been treated in such a way as to give it a smooth, velvety feel. This effect is created by buffing the side of the material on which the grain can be found, and in so doing you create Nubuck; a material that is wear-resistant and generally resilient against most forms of damage. Nubuck leather does, however, have some downsides; most notably that it can be easily marred by scratches and is susceptible to liquid damage.
What Is Suede?
A popular type of leather that can be identified by its fuzzy surfaces, suede is commonly made using split leather, but can also be created using full-grain leather. Primarily used in upholstery, suede shoes, bags, and curtains are also incredibly popular due to the material’s naturally decorative visual qualities. In spite of this, however, the material is not as resilient as other types of leather and must be cared for properly if it hopes to retain its good looks. Caring for suede is a little bit different than caring for many other leather materials, though, as suede requires regular brushing to ensure it keeps its texture.