Every pore and scratch tells a story of the animal’s life, and since the dawn of time, humans have used the animal’s skin or leather for various applications, but one of the most common is shoemaking. If you have been moving around the leather industry spirals, you have possibly noticed that the industry is transforming. Venerable leather boot gurus are looking for ways to modernize their products’ appeal.
Meanwhile, new players in the industry are also taking advantage of changes in the modern way of producing and distributing leather boots. There are different types of boots in the market today.
The types of leather boots available include calfskin, roughout, patent, cowhide, pigskin, deerskin, sheepskin, suede, chamois, nubuck, etc. Each type of leather boot has its unique qualities and styles.
The different types of leather boots are confusing and unclear to most people. It’s important to know, though, that not all leather boots are created equal. And with the marketing jargon used in the industry to make leather boots seem better than they are today, it’s challenging to decipher the truth from fiction.
In this article, we’ll cover the different types of leather boots so you can rest easy knowing you’re strutting the streets in your best boots.
10 Common Types of Leather Boots
Leather boots come in different shapes and designs, but what sets them apart is the leather used to make them. Leather is a broad term as it circles an array of skins, treatments, and tanning methods. Below are the most common leather boots in the market;
1. Patent Leather Boots
When considering a classy touch, patent leather is often first to mind. It is the type of leather characterized by having an obvious, shiny, polished surface. The last coat applied gives the required gloss, but the base coats and leather preparation also profoundly impact the final properties.
Experts produce most patent leather boots on corrected grain. The grain correction’s main reason is that its high gloss finishes need a surface free from blemishes. The texture is impregnated and covered with pigment coats before the application of the final gloss.
Manufacturers soak the thin, smooth, and semi-transparent material in a bath of chromium salts, then coat it with clear nitrocellulose lacquer. It helps protect the leather from wear and tear, but they will discolor or chip if you don’t maintain your patent boots. The surface is generally water-resistant or waterproof and helps provide durability by protecting the leather underneath.
The history of patent leather spans thousands of years, though the most significant advancements have happened in the last few centuries. Initially, experts made patent leather boots from natural leather coated in various oils. Over time, it has become much more common for the boots to come from faux leather with synthetic coatings.
2. Rough-out Leather Boots
Rough-out leather boots are a type of footwear characterized by the fact that the rough side of the hide is facing outward, while the grain part remains underneath. Its corium is left more or less untreated and protected by a layer of leather on the other side. It has a napped surface and suede grain, so it’s very soft to the touch.
Because its surface is natural, it will have a much more rugged appearance than other boots, making the boots rigid. They often choose leather boots for construction workers who need a boot to handle all kinds of outdoor conditions like mud, rocks, dirt, etc.
Since World War II, the rough-out leather boot has been around when American GIs wore them while marching across Europe; hence its name “rough-out.” Rough-out leather boots are the exact opposite of smooth leather- the natural grain provides durability and protection from the elements like water, snow, etc.
However, it’s important to note that rough-out leather boots are not waterproof. They’re only water-resistant, and the rough side of the leather will soak up any moisture it comes into contact with water, so you may want to consider using a protective spray or wax.
3. Calfskin Leather Boots
Calfskin leather boots are made from the hide of young cows, making them incredibly soft to touch. The calfskin leather boasts the surface of the boots that is smooth to the touch, luxurious to look at, yet more durable than regular cowhide. They are usually made from a single piece of leather cut on the bias to provide stretch and comfort.
Manufacturers apply several finishes to the leather during the boots process, altering its look, weight, and other physical factors.
Calfskin, in particular, has two significant finishes; aniline and semi-aniline. Aniline is the most natural-looking leather, as it is dyed all the way through. The dyeing process ensures that every part of the calfskin has a uniform appearance without any blemishes or pigmentation differences on show.
On top of their smooth look and feel, aniline calfskin boots are also quite flexible, providing you with more comfort while wearing them.
They are perfect for those who dislike the bulky feeling of heavyweight boots, and they complement casual outfits flawlessly. Semi-aniline leather has a more uniform look than most other finishes with less noticeable natural markings; it is also highly resilient to scratches which means you can expect your calfskin boots to age gracefully.
Calfskin leather is often touted as the most luxurious kind of leather and holds a certain status in the leather fashion industry. If we look at the hierarchy of leather in terms of quality and desirability, calfskin is definitely around the top.
Due to its tighter grain, calfskin leather boots have relatively high water resistance. But, claiming that they are waterproof would be misleading. The result is a smooth surface that requires little maintenance but should still be treated with leather conditioner now and again to keep the boots looking good.
4. Cowhide Leather Boots
Manufacturers produce them from the stricter side of cowhide, so they are thicker and more rugged than other leather boots. Cowhide boots generally have a tighter grain and broader heel. The boots come from single pieces of cowhide leather stitched together, with the rough side turned inward to protect the stitching from wear and tear.
Designers craft the upper part of this boot using full-grain or top-grain leathers, both of which are known for their durability and water resistance. There are two types of cowhide leather boots: apache and engineer.
Apache leather boots are ideal for those who like the outdoors and want a rugged boot to handle any terrain they might cross while still maintaining an attractive look. You can treat the leather boots with wax and oil to create a vintage “old” look. Apache cowhide can be lightly sanded or aniline tanned, and this creates a unique character.
The engineer cowhide boots come from box calf. These are the most stylish cowhide boots and can be worn with a business suit or casually on weekends for an authentic suede look.
They tend to be sturdier, with soles that can take some severe damage without wearing down, while their thick rubber lug outsoles are perfect for gripping slippery surfaces. Cowhide leather boots usually don’t need much maintenance; however, applying a leather conditioner now and then is recommended to keep them in good shape. Cowhide leather boots bring texture, color, and dimension to a boot.
5. Suede Leather Boots
Manufacturers make the leather boots from the underside of a cowhide. Suede leather boots have the nap or pile on them, giving them an overall softer feel than other leather boots.
The soft and fuzzy underside of the hide gives the boots a unique feel and look. Suede comes from the innermost part of the hide, so it tends to be thinner and more supple. The boots often have a smooth surface, but some brands might sand or buff the suede leather for an even more rugged look.
The higher-quality suede leather boots come with added wax coatings to help protect against water damage and staining. The downside to suede leather boots is that they are prone to water damage since the absorbent surface can be easily stained and damaged by humidity.
To take care of these types of leather shoes, you should apply a protective spray or conditioner on them before wearing them for the first time; it will help reduce the chances of staining and damage. Suede leather boots are great for casual occasions.
6. Nubuck Leather Boots
Nubuck leather boots come from top-grain leather sanded or buffed on the grain side or outside to give a slight nap of short protein fibers, producing a velvet-like surface. The result is a very soft and velvety smooth leather. Nubuck leather boots are similar to suede leather boots but are created from the hide’s outer side, giving them a more robust structure.
After the brushing or sanding process, the nubuck leather can be dyed or stained to any color. Designers treat nubuck leather boots in a variety of different ways to achieve the desired look.
They are very durable and don’t usually require much care, except for occasional brushing to remove dust or dirt accumulated on the surface. You can also apply a conditioning product once in a while to keep the boots supple.
7. Pull-up Leather Boots
Pull-up leather boots, also known as “pull up” or “distressed leather boots,” are made from full-grain aniline-dyed cowhide. The dye is pulled to the hide’s surface during the finishing process and creates a unique look. During the tanning and finishing process, experts color the pull-up leather with aniline dyes impregnated with natural-based oils and waxes instead of being coated with paints and pigments.
The oils and waxes tend to darken the original aniline dye coloration but “pull up” the lighter color when stretched and pulled. The oils and waxes provide even more beautiful shading and unique, subtle color variations. This aniline dying process allows the scars, scratches, and wrinkles naturally on the leather hides to show through the finish.
Pull-up leather boots are very soft, resulting in a smooth and shiny surface. They are water-resistant but not waterproof; they can absorb moisture if exposed to too much humidity or rain. The pull-up leather boots should be protected with either wax or spray conditioners from time to time, wearing for the first time, or else it will scratch off easily.
8. Scotch Grain Leather Boots
Designers make scotch grain leather boots with top-grain or full-grain aniline-dyed cowhide. The distinctive feature of these shoes is that they have a very distinct pattern obtained by sanding and polishing one side of the hide to produce its characteristic pebble grain finish.
Scotch grain leather boots are known for their unique embossed texture, making them naturally resistant to everyday wear. As well as its sound quality, scotch grain offers other benefits, including durability and water resistance.
Caring for the scotch grain leather boots is relatively straightforward – keep them conditioned with conditioner, protect them with Cream, and add some scuff protection on the toes and heels with Paste/Wax Polish. You can also aim for the magic mirror-shine or even an excellent quality high shine, which can sometimes be elusive.
9. Vegetables-Tanned Leather Boots
Vegetable-tanned leather is a natural tannage using tree bark and other vegetable materials. Artisans have used it for centuries as one of the traditional methods to tan leather. Vegetable-tanned leather boots are known for their distinct smell, which lasts for a few weeks after purchase.
However, once the scent subsides, it creates an incredibly unique leather with a distinctive look and feels. It is also softer than other types of leather, and its surface has a matte appearance.
There are various kinds of leather grain available in multiple levels of quality. High-quality leather, meaning top- and full-grain leather from an established tannery like Wickett or Craig, produces high-quality leather once experts complete tanning. The surface will be well polished, and the leather supple.
The downside of this type of leather is that it can easily scratch and scuff, so you need to take care of them to avoid any damage.
10. Shell Cordovan Leather Boots
Shell cordovan leather is not tanned, but rather it comes from the fibrous flat muscle or “shell” beneath a horse’s hide on the rump. It is very smooth, flexible, and durable but hard to break in initially. The contrast in texture between rugged selvage denim and smooth-as-glass Cordovan boot remains a classic look.
Additionally, Shell Cordovan leather boots do not crease like the typical calfskin. Instead, you’ll find Cordovan will ripple or roll.
Shell cordovan leather dates back to the 7th century when artisans used it for shoemaking for over a hundred years. More recently, it has returned to prominence and even more so with the advent of new production techniques.
A good shell cordovan boot is hard to find and highly sought after by many shoe lovers. Shell cordovan leather boots react differently to lotions and other forms of leather care; they require shell cordovan-specific care products.
You can take a pair of shell cordovan boots to your local cobbler to get a touch-up, but if they don’t have the right products, your shoes, they could damage the overprized pair of boots. Most people often look at shell cordovan leather boots as the holy grail of men’s footwear- king of leather but worth the fuss!
7 Exotic Types of Leather Boots
The different leather boots are essential in some human’s wardrobe regardless of whether they want them classy or sporty. Now, let’s jump into the good stuff- exotic leather boots!
1. Crocodile Leather Boots
Crocodile leather boots come from the skin of one of the world’s twenty-three crocodiles’ species. Crocodile leather is an exotic leather that makes up less than 1% of the world’s leather production. It is rare compared to other leathers such as sheep or calf and requires high levels of craftsmanship to prepare it for use in the consumer industry.
Designers make crocodile leather boots from the softer belly skin of the crocodile and the top part, protected by an armor plate of scales. The benefit of using this type of exotic leather is that it’s very sturdy and will last a long time. The boots are resistant to water and other liquids, so you can easily clean them or wear them in wet conditions.
Most people consider crocodile leather boots a luxury item utilized by high fashion brands. The leather boots tend to be higher priced because of their rarity, while the manufacturing process is more time-consuming. Crocodile leather passes through complicated, natural, and synthetic tans with various treatments like most exotic leathers.
2. Camel Leather Boots
They are ‘high characteristic’ leather boots that are known for their durability and breathability. They usually have a distinct smell known as “waxy.” The manufacturing process of camel leather boots starts with tanning which requires vegetable oils without chromium to avoid cracking over time.
Camel leather boots are uncommon even when compared to other “exotic” leathers. While rare and unusual, the boots have lovely grain, lovely patina, and soft temper.
Like other hides from aged animals, camel leather has unique stretch marks and scars if left in its natural state. Most full grain camel leather has a pebble-like texture. The Roughout camel leather boots have a short nap and are strong because of the thick hide.
Camel’s hair offers some insulation from the icy weather conditions, making these exotic leather boots incredibly comfortable when
3. Hippopotamus Leather Boots
What about hippo leather boots? While they are not as common to find, their hardiness makes them worth mentioning! Hippopotamus leather boots are scarce. The natural grain pattern on the surface is noticeable.
The surface of the boots looks like lines drawn with a knife in moist clay. Also evident are the many injury scars on the skin of these animals. The leather boots are very durable.
4. Chamois Leather Boots
Chamois leather boots come from a porous mountain goatskin traditionally used in the manufacture of athletic shoes. Chamois leather boots are supple, thin (less than 0.25 millimeters), and highly absorbent due to their porous nature. Chamois leather boots are typically oiled to give them a classic shine.
They are more resistant than suede, but, like suede, they require intensive treatment before wearing to avoid premature wear on the toes or heels of the boots.
Chamois leather is used for its gentle, non-abrasive, and absorption properties while remaining supple enough that you can make it into form-fitting boots. Most manufacturers produce chamois leather boots by tanning the skin of mountain goats. Chamois leather boots can also take waterproofing, so they are also a decent choice of outdoor boots, never mind for use as leather work boots.
5. Aardvark Leather Boots
All hail Aardvark leather boots! These are not just a passing trend, but they’re also great for the environment. Aardvarks are nocturnal, so their skin has a natural resistance to sun exposure, which means it requires minor tanning when compared with other leathers.
The downside of this type of exotic leather is that they’re usually very pricey because not many people want to invest in them or eat an anteater!
6. Kangaroo Leather Boots
Whether you’re working or playing, kangaroo leather is one of the most durable types of boots that are on the market. Kangaroos have tough skin, making them great for shoes because they can withstand wear and tear without being damaged easily. Plus, they’re lightweight, so people who spend a lot of time outdoors will find them to be very comfortable.
7. Stingray Leather Boots
Have you ever seen a stingray up close? Their skin is beautiful and iridescent, which makes it ideal for use in luxury leather products. Stingrays are dangerous creatures, so there’s no way to farm them commercially, making the acquisition of their skins difficult.
The tanning process of these exotic boots can make them stiff, but they’re very versatile. Stingray leather boots surface look like marbles or small tiny pebbles and have a distinctive “star” shape like an opal in the middle of the vamp.
They are the toughest of them all and do not stretch. They are also water-resist and can survive in any weather condition.
How to Take Care of your Leather Boots
Leather boots are a wardrobe essential, so it’s vital to know about the different types of standard and exotic leathers before you purchase one! While most people think that artisans process all animal skin equally, they couldn’t be more wrong. The techniques, treatments, and finishes set the leathers apart.
Any leather can last for decades, depending upon how conscientiously you care for the boots. Of course, this rule applies to every single type of leather boot. If you want the leather boots to stay strong, durable, smooth, and shiny, you will need to put in the effort to take care of them. How do you go about it?
- Storage– The first thing you need to do is store them in a cool, dry place. Make sure that the boots are immaculate before storing them so you can get rid of dirt and debris. If your leather shoes are wet for any reason whatsoever, make sure they’re dried because moisture will cause damage over time. You should also avoid exposing the boots to direct sunlight as this can cause discoloration.
- Cleaning– One of the biggest threats to leather boots is dirt. If you want your shoes to last, you must clean them regularly. Dirt can cause cracks in the leather, making them less durable over time, so don’t wait for this damage! Use a brush and some lukewarm water with mild soap or leather cleaner for thorough cleaning. Ensure you don’t scrub too hard because this can damage the boots, especially if they come from exotic leathers like shark or eel skin!
- Conditioning– It’s essential to use boot oil regularly on your shoes so that you keep them looking their best for as long as possible. You can find a variety of brands and styles, but most include the same materials:
- Mink oil– derived from the skin of minks which are aquatic creatures, is widely used by boot makers because it’s very effective at treating suede-like leathers.
- Horse oil– made from the fat of horses, is especially beneficial to exotic leathers like kangaroo and snake skins that tend to dry out and crack.
- Silicone oil– you can use silicone oil to reduce water penetration in shoes but still keep them moisturized, so it’s a good choice for people who live in humid climates or have sweaty feet!
- Waxing– Finally, wax is an excellent choice for people who want to give their shoes a protective coating. Waxes are very effective at repelling water, dirt, and other contaminants, so you’ll be able to keep your boots looking great much longer.
The types of leather boots in the market are unique, but calfskin leather boots are undoubtedly one of the best kinds of leather boots out there. The masterful balance of softness and toughness is what makes it so great. While they are lightweight and thin, artisans can design them into any design.
Sure, you can find other leather types that excel in one specific aspect, but nothing combines all the positives in a neat package, quite like genuine calfskin leather.
Made How: Patent Leather
Neiman Marcus: Calfskin Leather Boots
Tsuchiya Kaban Global: Bovine Hide & Skin Calfskin Leather
Ali Express: Cowhide Boots
Best Leather: Suede
Best leather: Nubuck
Garrett Leather: Pull Up Leather
Zappos: Pigskin Leather
Nicks Boots: What is Vegetable Tanned Leather
Gear Patrol: Shell Cordovan Loafers
Steel Horse Leather: What is Pu Leather
Safari-Center: Leather Making Process Using Crocodile Skin