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ReiningGirl 02-22-2012 11:40 PM

top grain vs full grain leather
I have had a pair of Ariat boots for riding for 4+ years now, that were previously owned, and I love them! They're well cared for, but the insole is wearing out and the heels need a bit of repair. So I decided to get a new pair for shows, and just keep the old ones for work and everyday riding. I purchased a pair of Ariat Tombstone boots, in black. I love the way they look, and they are super comfy, however, the more I look at my boots together, the more concerned I get. I've been looking into it, and it looks like my show boots are made of top grain leather. My old ones appear to be made of full grain. I love how tough my old ones are, even after years of wear, they still hold up, polish fairly well and resist stains. I am seriously concerned that my show boots will become super wrinkled, crack and just not hold up like my others have. Any opinions?? Is top grain going to last, or should I sell them and buy a full grain pair??

And does anyone have any advice for keeping them in great shape? I feel like hardening them around the foot would help, but I am worried that this will ruin them permanently. The leather on the foot is just so soft that I worry the show ring will ruin them this summer. (I also want to wear them to events and big national shows I attend with my instructor and have them still look like new.)


ReiningGirl 02-23-2012 01:35 AM

I guess I'm just looking for opinions on these two types of leather - there is so much conflicting information that I can't figure out a decent answer - so anyone's personal experience or thoughts would be great! Thanks :-)

TKButtermilk 02-23-2012 01:53 AM

I have a pair of tombstones (the dark brown and green, love them!) and they hold up amazingly & I ware my boots hard! I mean hours at the barn and then 8 hr work days because I worked at Bootbarn and now a feed store. I've had them for almost a year and they look brand new when I clean them up. Hands down the best boots I've ever had, I'm a square toe junkie now. When I was just riding and working at Bootbarn with them I would wipe them down with a rag and then condition them with Bick 4, & then use a water & stain spray on them to prevent stains. When I started working for a cowhorse trainer I ended up mink oiling my boots because it was either raining or I was washing horses and soggy boots are no fun not to mention I wanted to protect the leather. Mink oil will darken leather some, but since mine were already dark brown I didn't notice a difference. I think they'll be great as long as you take care of them! I can take a picture of mine if you'd like. The only problem I ever had was right where the shaft meets the boot buckled in (common issue with this style becaus of being in a box) but I just conditioned, put a soft ball in a sock and squished in down in, left it over night and ta da! No prob.
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ReiningGirl 02-23-2012 02:06 AM

Thanks for the story! I guess the info on the internet just scared me a bit because I'm so used to my old Ariats with their super durable (and harder then my new ones, but that might be due to age) leather! I'm not used to the super soft foot leather :-) glad to hear that after a year of wear and tear (and care!) That they're still holding strong and looking like new. Does the super soft leather crease a lot, though? (Not sure why I'm so concerned about that, but it's nice to know what to expect!) Have they stiffened at all? I assume not if you mink oil them ... I'm thinking an investment in that wouldn't be a bad idea (I have put a waterproof spray on already, but that's all I've done to them in terms of protection - and put thinner Dr scholls insoles in for work boots - the ATS ones were too thick, and made them too tight on my foot.)

SouthernTrails 02-25-2012 10:56 AM


  • Full-grain leather refers to hides that have not been sanded, buffed, or snuffed (as opposed to top-grain or corrected leather) to remove imperfections (or natural marks) on the surface of the hide. The grain remains allowing the fiber strength and durability. The grain also has breathability, resulting in less moisture from prolonged contact. Rather than wearing out, it will develop a patina over time. High quality leather furniture and footwear are often made from full-grain leather. Full-grain leathers are typically available in two finish types: aniline and semi-aniline.
  • Top-grain leather is the second-highest quality. It's had the "split" layer separated away, making it thinner and more pliable than full-grain. Its surface has been sanded and a finish coat added to the surface which results in a colder, plastic feel with less breathability, and will not develop a natural patina. It is typically less expensive and has greater resistance to stains than full-grain leather, so long as the finish remains unbroken.


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