Cowboy boot leather types: How they stack up and which is right for you

Cowboy boot leather types: How they stack up and which is right for you

When you’re looking to buy a new pair of boots, picking the right leather is a big part of the decision. Of course, the leather used has a direct effect on the look of the boot. But each type has other unique properties that might make them a better fit for you (boot pun 100% intended). 

Here are three of the most popular types of leather for cowboy boots, with a hot take on the benefits each gives you. The factors that distinguish different leathers (aka the Three Pillars of Leather Excellence) are: 

  • Durability: An indicator of how long the leather will last and the amount of maintenance it needs to stay in top form.
  • Flexibility: The more flexible the leather, the more it’ll bend without creasing, which can lead to cracks. Flexible leathers are also more comfortable because they give with your foot. 
  • Stretchability: How a leather stretches and forms to your foot plays a major part in how well cowboy boots break in. Certain leathers will conform to your foot better without overstretching. 

Cowhide Leather 

Cowhide Leather Rating

Cowhide is the standard leather of the boot industry. It’s by far the most-used leather in the world, and has been for millenia. And even though I’m from Texas, that’s not an exaggeration — the oldest shoe ever found was a 5,500-year-old cowhide leather number discovered in a cave in Armenia. 

Cowhide is far and away numero uno because it’s widely available, looks great, and offers the best balance of the Three Pillars of Leather Excellence for the money. 

  • Durability: When properly cared for, a piece of high-quality cowskin will survive just about anything you can throw at it — and for decades at that. 
  • Flexibility: Cowhide bends easily as you walk, making it comfortable and preventing creases (at least with quality leather). 
  • Stretchability: Cowhide will stretch out where needed, forming to the unique features of an individual foot. The leather will give just as much as it needs to until they fit like a glove. 

Teju Lizard Leather

Teju Leather Rating

Teju leather is a great choice if you want a boot that stands out a little more than cowhide but isn’t too flashy. They dress up or down equally well, and while they have a premium look they can handle some abuse. Basically they’ll fit in at the fanciest wedding, and then hold up under the sloppiest of open bar receptions that follows. 

  • Durability: The hard scales give a beautiful sheen to the leather, but aren't just for looks — they’re highly scratch resistant. So Teju lizard leather is perfect for someone who’s afraid to spend money on nice boots because they’re rough on them.
  • Flexibility: Usually leathers with high durability sacrifice flexibility, which can make them less comfortable. But Teju has soft membranes in between the scales that help the leather flex with the foot. The mix of durability and comfort is hard to match.
  • Stretchability: While it won’t conform to each crease of your foot like a cowhide, Teju lizard will mold to your foot nicely. And the high flexibility means you won't ever suffer trying to break them in. 

Python Leather

Python Leather Rating

When it comes to fast break-in, this is the skin. Python boots are incredibly soft, lightweight and beautiful. And because they break in so quickly, you can pop them on fresh out of the box and be ready for a weekend walking up and down the Vegas Strip. 

  • Durability: Python is the most durable species of snake to use for boots. It’s tougher than you’d think based on its looks, but isn’t as hardy as cowhide or Teju lizard. So don’t go crazy.
  • Flexibility: Python is an extremely flexible leather, making it highly comfortable and resistant to creasing or cracking even over extended use. 
  • Stretchability: This stretchable skin quickly forms to your feet. In just a day or two, it’ll feel like getting a hug from a cloud. At Alvies, we consider Python one of the most comfortable leathers around. 

Hopefully that helps you choose the right leather for your next pair of cowboy boots. If you have more questions on which leather is best for you, hit us up at holler@alvies.com.

About Clay

Clay is the Co-Founder and Director of Events at Alvies. He’s also the self-proclaimed Indiana Jones of cowboy boots. He slogged through the roughest jungles and ate from the gnarliest nasi goreng warungs (Indonesian fried rice carts) to find the best skins you can cover a foot in. He braved Mexico’s underground boot markets (that’s a thing) and least reputable bars to find a bootmaker who shared our vision. He has slanged boots from polo fields to crawfish boils. He acted as an unlicensed therapist to the overserved and a drunken drama de-escalator while selling boots from our Airstream in the soap opera of downtown Austin. Skilled at import brokering, Clay has gotten boots into this great country through sheer will and an unbridled enthusiasm for pestering bureaucrats.

About

The Alvies blog is a sappy-yet-also-hard-rocking love song to boots: how they’re made, how they’re worn, and who they’re for (spoiler: they’re for everyone). It’s also a tribute to the great city of Austin, Texas. And a place to get the latest Alvies news.