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What is the softest leather?

Published 1 years ago

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Why are certain types of leather softer than others? Which leather can lay claim to being the softest around? What’s the reason behind nubuck and suede’s velvety texture?

In this article, we’re exploring the relationship between leather and softness, answering the above questions and much more. We’ll begin with the basics.

Leather tanner stands beside pile of brown tinged leather hides

What is soft leather?

First of all, it’s worth noting that ‘soft leather’ is an umbrella term under which many types of leather can be grouped, from Nappa to nubuck. The term is not protected. Consider it a byword for any variety of leather with a velvety, fleecy exterior.

What affects leather softness?

The texture of any leather is influenced by two broad variables: the natural characteristics of an animal’s hide and the tanning (or leather-making) process. Let’s dive deeper into this below.

The hide

  • Type of animal. Certain animals will naturally create softer leathers than others due to the unique structures of their skins (more on this later). For example, deerskin is particularly prized for its fleecy feel and is utilised to make the softest leather gloves

  • Age of animal. Collagen is the protein that keeps skin looking glossy, promotes elasticity and counteracts wrinkles. As you might have guessed, younger animals — kids, calves, lambs — have it in far greater abundance. It follows that their hides are better suited to producing soft leathers

The tanning processs

  • Tanning method. Humans have developed at least 4 core methods for tanning leather. Of the two most widely practised, chrome tanning and vegetable tanning, the former tends to produce the softest leather. This is owing to the chromium ions used in the chrome tanning process to instigate chemical reactions

  • Sanding of the hide. Every hide is separated into multiple thin layers when it arrives at a tannery. While most layers move straight onto the tanning stage, some are sanded down to increase softness. Nubuck is made by sanding the outer-facing top layer (the strongest section of the hide); while suede is created by sanding the lower internal layers. The process slices and raises the surface grain of each leather, leading to a velvety, napped finish. Note: while the two materials share a soft texture, nubuck is inherently more durable

  • Treatments. Master tanners can apply any number of conditioners and oils to achieve the desired degree of softness

Man adds a soft brown leather hide to a pile in a tannery

Types of soft leather


Arguably the softest type of leather is deerskin. This is due to the unique physical structure of deerskin leather, which has elongated interwoven fibres that have larger-than-normal gaps in between them. Air easily traps in between these layers, making the leather feel soft and light — noticeably more so than bovine leather, for example.

Brown deerskin leather gloves and silver watch


A combination of the lightweight, airy layers that comprise lambskin and the high collagen count make it a high scorer on the leather softness scale.


First produced by artisans in the 19th century and now used to create a host of elegant yet durable leather bags and accessories, nubuck is renowned for its distinctly silky-smooth exterior.

Aside from its visual prowess, nubuck is also extremely long-lasting. It’s the core material in the Rover collection: our latest range of versatile everyday bags tailored to on-the-go lifestyles.

Zoomed in image of olive green nubuck leather bag showing soft texture


Softer and thinner than nubuck with less durability, suede is a luxury material that adorns any number of fashionable accessories, from dinner jackets to dress shoes.

What is soft leather used for?

The qualities of soft leather make it a fitting choice for producing a range of everyday clothing accessories.

As previously mentioned, the desirable hand-feel of softer leathers means they are often relied on to make premium gloves, particularly from deerskin and lambskin.

While nubuck is used to create everything from high-end footwear to wallets, bags and even furniture upholstery.

Rover collection

Our latest collection of elegant everyday bags — the Rover collection — is also made from premium nubuck.

The nubuck gives each item a velvety texture and suave feel, without sacrificing anything on the durability front. In fact, such is the longevity of the nubuck we’ve incorporated that each bag is backed by a lifetime warranty.

If you’re in the market for a soft leather bag to support your on-the-go lifestyle, the Rover collection has you covered.

Fashionable an removing two brown soft leather bags from car boot
What is soft leather called?


There are many different varieties of soft leather, notably deerskin, sheepskin, suede and nubuck.

What is the softest leather ?


Owing to a unique physical structure that allows air to trap between layers of skin fibres, deerskin is typically regarded as the softest leather around.

What is the softest leather for gloves?


Deerskin leather is renowned for it’s lightweight, velvety and airy feel. It’s perfect for producing premium gloves and other clothing accessories.