Skip to Content
From The Guest Room is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read more

Are You Supposed To Polish Cowboy Boots?

Are You Supposed To Polish Cowboy Boots?

Polishing cowboy boots is a good thing, but somewhat unnecessary as much as leather conditioning when it comes to leather cowboy boot care. 

My whole extended family has been wearing cowboy boots for several decades already. But I rarely see them polish their boots (probably on some special occasions like my sister’s wedding only). The boots still last for at least a few years.

Many people say that polishing cowboy boots can be quite redundant since the glamor this offers may not last too long. However, I personally think that polishing is still one of the steps of leather care, showing that it brings some benefits to cowboy boots to an extent. 

You can, of course, still skip this step if you have put too much conditioning on your cowboy boots before. To an extent, I still do enjoy seeing men in polished cowboy boots. What a great sense of courtesy and elegance!

But it’s not just all about how you look in a pair of glossy cowboy boots. Under certain circumstances, polishing cowboy boots is a must.

So I am going to tell you everything you need to know about when and when not to polish your cowboy boots.

Here you go!

Cowboy Boots 1

Do You Need To Polish Cowboy Boots?

From the leather perspective, you are actually not supposed to polish cowboy boots. For some cowboy boot designs made from special materials, you shouldn’t even polish the boots at the end of the boot care process.

So when should or when shouldn’t you polish cowboy boots? Here’s how.

When should you need to polish cowboy boots?

Polish leather cowboy boots can be optional, but in certain cases, they’re a must as well.

Gleaming cowboy boots

polish maintains cowboy boot shine

You will need to polish your boots if they are already glossy right out of the box. Some cowboy boot designs are surface treated before reaching out your hand and your wallet. Natural leather will not have a very obvious shine regardless of the material. 

However, some pointy cowboy boots can be coated with an industrial gloss to look exceptionally shiny (and even shine like a mirror). 

Interestingly, you will probably find these designs are mostly optimized with pointed cowboy boots since these types of cowboy boots are encouraged to be worn in the office, indoor environments, celebrations, occasions, or as a part of business attire. 

For example, attending a wedding venue may require you to put on glossy cowboy boots as a way of paying some respect to the host couple

Their glossiness is a great way to enhance the formality, elegance, and lush impression of the formal outfits. For these designs, you will need to polish them every few months to maintain the proper shine. Otherwise, the boots will quickly show a layer of dust instead. 

Besides, when the industrial glossy coat wears out over time due to external factors, polishing cowboy boots can be helpful to enhance the overall look of the boots. 

Polishing glossy leather cowboy boots is a must to get a refresh and new look for the footwear.

 It is required for some jobs

man wears khaki and glossy black cowboy boots

My whole extended family wears cowboy boots without ever polishing them for decades. But this does not even include my husband’s case. He works at a bank branch in San Angelo, somewhere in West Texas. 

He is obsessed with leather cowboy boots instead of dress shoes, which he is supposed to wear. So, he had a close conversation with his boss and tried hard to convince him that cowboy boots could be a great factor in my husband’s job performance. 

In the end, they agreed that he could wear cowboy boots with a sort of J toe and definitely a certain glossiness. So my husband enthusiastically agrees.

That is one of the reasons that sometimes you will be forced to polish your leather cowboy boots due to the strict requirements of your job.

Since cowboy boots are way more advanced these days, they have become pretty much a part of the office’s attire. 

If you work as a policy, security guard, bank staff (like my husband does) or in some entertainment jobs, you will likely be required to wear shiny cowboy boots more often while on the job. 

It is necessary to show up with excellent professionalism, trustworthiness, and neatness to your clients, who will pay you throughout your career.

To hide the leather’s scuffs and stains

glosssy cowboy boots after polishing

Polishing can help hide the leather’s scuffs and stains pretty well in one way or another. A friend of mine, a professional cowboy boot maker, once said that every piece of the flaw in leather cowboy boots can be completely repaired after they are polished. Personally, I find this to be fairly true.

Regardless of whether you have cowboy boots with either a natural finish, a matte finish, or a glossy finish (right out of the box), they are likely to get scratched on the leather surface. Scratching even gets worse if you often have to go around the outside during work. 

This is because your boots will be more likely to be brushed against hard dust, sharp nails, or rough surfaces, leading to the formation of scratches (either small or large and prominent) on the surface. 

After all, your boots look old and terrifying, like they’ve just been through a life-and-death battle. For the better, you may need to use deep conditioning to soften the scratches. 

Then you need to polish the surface of the boots to better hide these scratches.

Stains on leather cowboy boots need the same treatment. Some colored liquid-based stains can stick to leather vamps or toes when you are out eating or drinking. Color or dark water marks will remain visible on boots even after cleaning. 

Polishing the boots can help conceal these unsightly marks while distracting people’s attention from the weird marks on the boots.

Polishing cowboy boots becomes even more useful for hiding moldy marks and mildew marks left on the boots after the cleansing and conditioning process. 

To finish the leather’s dyeing process

shoe polish, brushes, cloth and cowboy boots

Finishing the leather cowboy boots’ dyeing process with polishing is also a must. Usually, I would encourage you to meet a professional cobbler or cowboy boot maker to help you with this. 

You may possibly end up spending great bucks on stuff during the whole process of dyeing the leather cowboy boots. That makes it work smoothly and effectively.

If you intend to do this at home, you will definitely need to polish your leather cowboy boots immediately after coloring them. This is due to the fact that most leather dyes on the market today do not aid in providing a natural shine after application to the material.

Your boots will have an extremely uneven matte look after being tinted, no matter the color. They won’t look very appealing at this stage. Therefore, polishing the boots will help improve the perfection of the dye. 

The shine will hide uneven colors or errors in the process of dyeing the leather. It’s fine since we, as human beings, are unable to do things perfectly.

Besides, polishing leather cowboy boots after dyeing will help the dye color not wear out and fade away when exposed to water or chemicals on a daily basis. Dyes will often leave a very fine powder residue after dyeing the leather. 

They will likely be washed away by water or moisture. At this time, the glossy layer covering the dye layer will act as a barrier to prevent water from penetrating the dye since polishing ingredients are highly waterproof.

To get rid of the matte appearance

Dark cowboy boots

Getting tired of the matted look of cowboy boots? then polish them. There weren’t too many leather cowboy boots that came up with an exceptional matte look before. 

However, the trend of matte footwear and accessories seems to have returned to our lives in the last few years. Personally, I think matte leather cowboy boots can be a wise option. 

You can make a decision whether to keep the matte appearance as they were right out of the box or turn them into glossy leather cowboy boots with heavy polishing whenever you want them to be.

Also, if your leather cowboy boots are forced to transform into some matte spots after you accidentally spill alcohol or acetone on them, polishing leather cowboy boots seems to be the only way to get rid of unsightly uneven matte spots.

Enhancing water repellency

Cowboy boots that are waterproof

Yes, the most prominent function of polishing leather cowboy boots is to enhance the effectiveness of water repellency. 

You can’t seem to achieve this by just cleaning or conditioning the boots. Some high-end leather conditioners may claim that they increase the water resistance of the leather thanks to its high fat content, but I actually doubt it. 

Leather conditioners are often in the form of milk-liquid to increase their ability to penetrate deeper into the structure of the leather material. 

As a result, the conditioner’s fat content may be just enough to soften the leather but not enough to create water resistance for the material from the outside. 

That’s why you need to polish your leather cowboy boots to keep water from getting deep into the leather structure.

Polish or wax is usually made from beeswax, an extremely water-resistant material. The atoms of polish are usually larger than those of conditioner, so they usually remain on the surface of the material longer with a great sheen. 

Thanks to that, leather polish helps cowboy boots resist water stains like rain or liquid-based stains. 

However, you should keep in mind that polishing leather cowboy boots doesn’t mean 100% water repellency from the outside. It works well to improve the effectiveness of waterproofing only. 

Exotic and faux leather cowboy boots

Some of the leather materials used to make cowboy boots may require some polishing, including faux leather, real sleek leather (full-grain, top-grain, genuine leather) and especially some sort of exotic leather.

Real sleek leather is pretty durable and well-resistant when it comes to cowboy boots made from it. You may not need to polish these materials very often. In other words, it’s optional whether or not to polish sleek leather cowboy boots.

However, faux and exotic leathers are more prone to damage when exposed to water, humidity, or chemicals, causing a shorter lifespan. Faux is fine to easily get a new one, but pricey exotic leather is definitely worth your care and protection with polishing.

Since polishing can improve the level of waterproofness of the material, this obviously prolongs the life of faux and especially exotic leather.

Besides, polishing exotic leather cowboy boots is a great way to increase the wearer’s sense of power and class. But not all exotic leather is suitable for polishing. You will probably have to be careful when polishing thin reptile skin such as karung, snake, or lizard.

When should you not need to polish cowboy boots?

Polishing leather cowboy boots, however, is not recommended in the following situations. Let’s check it out before it’s too late.

You already use a lot of conditioner

polishing cowboy boots

If you have applied a very large amount of conditioner to your leather cowboy boots (whether intentionally or unintentionally), you may need to skip polishing afterward. 

This is because the leather has almost drowned in the conditioning liquid and absorbing an additional amount of polishing can put a burden on the pores of the material. 

The leather starts to darken pretty badly and becomes sustained in this case. It feels hard to breathe, so leather may need a lot more time to dry completely.

Also, if you decide to polish your leather cowboy boots right after the conditioning layer has not completely dried, this will give the same result.

Overall, pouring too much moisture into the texture of the leather is not a good thing. This also activates mold and mildew growth if the material is not completely dried quickly.

 Some types of cowboy boots don’t need polishing

As mentioned above, not all types of leather need to be polished. Some of which are highly prohibited.

  • Suede, nubuck, split leather:

Suede vs Leather Cowboy Boots

These are typical leather materials with a furry finish on their surface. This prevents you from shining the surface of cowboy boots since there’s no glossy effect that can be achieved in this case.

Besides, polishing suede, nubuck, or split leather by applying a thick layer of wax to the fur will make the hairs stick together in unsightly lumps.

Polishing suede cowboy boots also darkens the material badly. They will almost never be able to dry again after being polished.

  • Some thin reptile-skin cowboy boots:

Polishing thin reptile skin such as karung, snake, or lizard is not an absolute taboo, but since these skins are very prone to damage, you will have to be very cautious when using polish products on them.

These skins have a particularly fragile, crumbly structure with small scales. You should never use polishing products with high fat content, as this will cause the scales to stick together and flatten.

Besides, when applying polishing on these skins, you need to move the sponge in the direction of the scales (no way out). Otherwise, you will end up tearing the material’s natural scales with no way to get them repaired.

  • Decorative details:

robber heel cowboy boots with stitches

Leather cowboy boots decorated with heavy embroidery details on the boot’s shaft are also not places to be polished. The consistency of polish and wax has the ability to stick to the threads, making them take longer to dry and collect dust more easily.

Instead, you just need to use a soft, small brush to gently clean the dust in these areas.

How often should you polish cowboy boots?

polish cowboy boots with stitching

So, how often should you polish your cowboy boots if you are supposed to do that? It greatly depends on how often you wear the boots.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are required to put on shiny leather cowboy boots every time you show up at work, you will probably need to do this once or twice per month (or often right after the boots are no longer glossy). 

If your glossy leather cowboy boots are exposed to dirt, water, and chemicals more often, chances are their shine will be washed away faster. This shortens the period of time between different polishes. 

If you wear leather cowboy boots as something flattering and beautiful, you may only need to polish them a few times a year. This also works the same way when it comes to polishing exotic leather cowboy boots.

Before you leave

cowboy boots after polished

By the time you’ve read this far, you’ve probably found the answer to whether or not you are supposed to polish cowboy boots.

You are not, but sometimes, in some cases, polishing leather cowboy boots is a good blessing for your footwear.

Keep in mind that suede, nubuck, and split leather are highly prohibited when it comes to polishing.