The Difference Between Nubuck and Leather

The Difference Between Nubuck and Leather - MERLA MOTO

What’s the difference between nubuck and leather?

What happens when it gets wet? Wait… what even IS nubuck?

Feeling overwhelmed? You’re not alone.


This blog breaks down the nuances between suede, traditional leather, and nubuck, and the differences in protective elements for bikers.


Nubuck Leather

At Merla, we take pride in the quality of motorbike gear we craft and the materials we choose. Some of our jackets are made in leather or nubuck using the outside layer of cowhide which is thick, sturdy, and durable. The optimum thickness of leather that Merla maintains is 1.1 – 1.3mm, where the leather is both durable and comfortable.

Nubuck Leather Fringed Jacket   Nubuck Leather motorcycle jacket   

What is nubuck leather?

Nubuck is traditional leather that has been sanded during the tanning process from the outer layer of the cowhide. The process creates a soft, suede-like material.



Suede is fabricated by sanding the thin and delicate inside layer of the cowhide, which offers little to no protection. Leather and nubuck are typically preferred among the moto community due to the strength and protective elements of the material.





Nubuck Leather tanning

What’s the difference between Nubuck and Suede?

To understand the difference, it’s important to first understand that suede, leather and nubuck are all made from the same part of the animal. The difference is in the processing and the side of the cowhide that is used.


Smooth, velvety finish.

Sanded from the delicate inner layer of the cowhide.

Must be dried carefully if it gets wet.

Requires brushing and spraying to protect against damage.

Little to no abrasion resistance.


Traditional Leather

Ranging from textured and matte to smooth and shiny.

Sanded from the durable outer layer of the cowhide.

Suitable for all weather conditions – resistant to water and dirt.

Requires conditioning, brushing and polishing to retain quality.

Thick and strong, offering abrasion resistance.


Soft, napped finish that is more durable than suede.

Sanded from the durable outer layer of cowhide.

Must be dried carefully if it gets wet.

Requires brushing and spraying to protect against damage.

Thick and strong, offering abrasion resistance.

Why choose Nubuck?


There are three main reasons why a motorcyclist would choose nubuck as their preferred material. 

  • The strength of cowhide leather offers superior abrasion resistance.
  • The strength of the material means that it is durable and will maintain longevity.
  • Nubuck leather has a unique nap, which is the soft, velvety effect that is achieved by sanding the leather. The only other material that achieves this unique look is suede, which does not have protective abrasion resistance.

Traditional leather remains a popular choice amongst bikers due to the protective elements and strength of the material, however, nubuck is certainly growing in popularity in the moto community.

Nubuck Leather motorcycle jacket

Water can stain Nubuck leather.

Excessive water on Nubuck leather can stain the material if it is not dried properly, leaving a watermark around the edge of the affected area.

 Therefore, we always recommend applying water protecting spray to jackets to prevent jackets from staining.

Wet Nubuck Leather

How to dry Nubuck that has become wet.

The best way to dry nubuck leather is to carefully blow dry the area on a low setting and brush the nap as the nubuck dries. Brushing the nap will remove any residue, maintaining a soft and unstained finish.  Alternatively, the jacket should be hung in a well ventilated area away from direct sunlight until it dries, and brushed around the edges of the wet area where to prevent the water from leaving a stain.







To learn more about protecting and caring for your motorcycle jacket, check out our blog post on How to Care for Your Motorcycle Jacket.


Ultimately, when choosing between nubuck and leather motorcycle jackets, you don’t have to compromise on safety.

The choice lies within the personal taste of the rider, and which they choose to express their style.

Feeling inspired?

Check out our classic styles below.

Ladies, our beautiful women’s nubuck motorcycle jackets include the Dakota and Festival Fringe.


Looking for a classic leather style?

Our Isla and Fly By Night jackets were recently featured in Vogue as high quality, stylish motorcycle jackets for women.

“Two of our favourites, the Isla and the Fly By Night, can go from day to night in a cinch and cement the moto jacket as a staple.”

For the lads, we recommend the enduring appeal of the Duke and Wakefield jackets.

To get Freddie’s look, check out the Byron nubuck jacket.


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