Comfortable, functional clothing can make the difference between a hard day’s work and a miserable one. When apparel is designed specifically for riding horses or doing ranch chores, you’re prepared for any of the day’s elements.
Also, any clothing lasts longer when cared for properly. This is especially true for boots, arguably the hardest-working part of a cowboy’s wardrobe. Clay Miller of Ramblin’ Trails Custom Boots in Fort Worth, Texas, likens the care of your cowboy boots to routine maintenance on your vehicle. Below, he shares some tips to care for your Western boots.
“When you buy a pickup, you have to change the oil in it every now and again,” Miller says. “You also have to put tires on it every once in a while. But if you only change the oil when you need some new tires, it’s not going to last too well. It’s the same thing with boots, if the only time you clean or condition them is when you come to me to get them resoled; they’re not going to last as long.”
Get proper fit
The longevity of your boots is impacted by correct fit. “1,000 percent, if your foot is sliding around in your boot because it’s too big, depending on how you walk, most likely you’re going to break that boot down and roll it over to the outside,” Miller says.
Clean your boots
Depending on the material, Miller says most boots can be cleaned with warm water and saddle soap. But even if you don’t clean your boots every time you get them dirty, Miller advises to at least knock the dust and dirt off the welting—the stitching surrounding the top of the sole that ties the sole to the vamp, or foot, part of the boot—with a small nylon bristle brush. “The biggest thing you can do to help the longevity of the boot is care for the welt,” Miller says. “We used waxed string to tie it, and it doesn’t matter if it’s kangaroo or elephant hide, it’s all tied with the same string. When manure gets into that crevice, the acid eats the string. So clean out the welt. That will help a lot.”
Don’t neglect conditioning
Even if you have a durable hide like elephant, it still needs to be conditioned, says Miller. He recommends Bickmore Leather Conditioner for most boots. “Elephant is tough as nails, but it still needs to be moisturized, otherwise it’s going to crack and split like your skin,” he says.
If your boots get wet, let them dry without wearing them. Miller adds that it’s best to avoid putting them in the sun, by a heater, or using a blow dryer to help them dry. “Just kick them off in a dry room and let them dry naturally,” Miller says. “Trying to dry them too fast will suck the moisture out of them and can cause them to shrink and shrivel.”