Leather is a fabric produced from the skin or hide of animals such as sheep, lambs, pigs, cows, buffaloes, kids, goats and deer. The softness, suppleness, quality, characteristics and cost of leather fabrics depends on the origin, with leather fabrics derived from lambs, kids, sheep and goats being most expensive. Leathers from pig, buffalo and cow hides tend to be tougher, more durable and lower in cost. The more expensive leather fabrics are nappa, nubuck, suede and brushed hides. Leather fabrics are breathable, natural materials that conform to the shape of the wearer and provide benefits such as warmth in cold temperatures and coolness in hotter temperatures.
Nappa leather is one of the most expensive types of leather fabric. It is a soft, full-grained leather made from the skin of kids or lambs. It is very supple and lightweight and wears well. Nappa leather is used to make luxury handbags, gloves, shoes, accessories, luggage and clothing items. A coating or wax is often applied to the surface of nappa leather to provide it with a smooth, lustrous or pearlescent appearance. The coating lends additional strength and durability to the leather and requires special care and cleaning. Brushed nappa leather has a matte finish rather than a sheen and is not usually coated.
Nubuck leather is a type of leather that has been sanded or milled to produce a luxurious, soft, velvety surface. Some nubuck leathers are more expensive than basic nappa leathers. Nubuck is made from full-grained leather that is buffed on the grain side to produce a soft nap, similar to that of suede. The nap is carefully produced so that the leather reflects light and has a slight dual tone effect. Nubuck is often treated so the leather has a slight sheen and an oily or waxy feel.
Suede is a soft leather made from the underside of the skin of sheep, goats, pigs, cows or deer. The leather has a hairy nap on both sides. Suede is less expensive than nappa or nubuck leather and is suitable for everyday use. It gets dirty very easily and is difficult to clean. It has to be treated to withstand accumulated grime from daily wear and tear and becomes shiny with regular use. Suede is used to make handbags, clothing, shoes, gloves and accessories.
Cow and pig hides are thick and tough and make the most durable and cheapest types of leather. Brushed or washed hides are made from thin slices of hide that have been milled or washed to produce a napped or nubuck-like finish. Premium hides are used to produce brushed hides, and while cheaper than nappa, nubuck or suede, these are still more expensive than thicker, untreated leathers.