Down and Dirty: Roughout Leather Boots

Whether you’re fighting wildfires or taking a leisurely stroll through nature, roughout leather boots provide excellent support and durability against the harshest environment. Using the hide’s underside, you get more abrasion resistance without sacrificing durability.

Many people aren’t aware of the advantages of roughout leather over other types of leather. In this guide, we’ll show you when to go with roughout leather boots and how to care for this beautiful material.

What Is Roughout Leather?

Roughout leather material for boots

Let’s start with the basics. What are the different types of leather materials used in most work boots?

High-quality, full-grain leather is the gold standard for any leather product, whether it’s a sleek jacket or a heavy-duty shoe. It’s not only the most durable option, but it also has a timeless style.

Leather is made by tanning or chemically treating animal skins and hides to prevent decay, making them last for years. Leather is commonly made from cattle, equine animals, sheep, goats, pigs and hogs, and other animals.

Animal skin consists of three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis.

  • Epidermis (grain): This thin, outer layer is connected to the animal’s hair follicles, scales, and sweat glands and is usually one percent of the skin’s total thickness. This part is used for full-grain leather.
  • Dermis (junction): This middle, soft layer is composed of the upper papillary dermis and the lower reticular dermis. The thin, upper layer is dense, while the bottom layer is thick but less dense. The reticular dermis is used for split leather.
  • Hypodermis (corium): This inner-most skin layer connects to the muscle tissue and subcutaneous fat and is not used for leather.
  • Contrary to popular belief, roughout leather, also known as “rough out” leather or full-grain suede, is no different than full-grain leather. With roughout leather boots, the fuzzy and soft inside of the hide is used as the exterior of the boot, while the smooth and tough side is found in the boot’s interior.

    The rough side of full-grain leather has a fuzzier look, giving it a rough-around-the-edges appearance that can stand up to highly-abrasive environments. That’s why it’s been traditionally used for hunting, riding, and military purposes. While it’s built for tough work, it can also work for casual wear.

    Benefits of Roughout Leather

    Compared to high-quality, full-grain leather, roughout provides similar advantages, with the addition of a soft and fuzzy appearance and texture. We want to be clear that roughout leather is just as durable and protective as roughout leather.

    Here are a few benefits of roughout leather:

    • Low maintenance
    • Durable
    • Provides excellent support
    • Hides wear and tear
    • Good for cold weather
    • Water-resistant
    • Abrasion resistant
    • Good for work or casual shoes

    Roughout vs. Suede vs. Nubuck: What Is the Difference?

    Suede and nubuck leather are often confused for roughout due to their similar appearances. All of these soft leathers have a rougher look compared to full-grain leather, but roughout stands out as the most durable and protective.


    Suede, unlike roughout, is made from the under-layer part of the leather and is usually cheaper and less durable. Suede is made by buffing or splitting the corium part of the animal’s hide. Because it is made from the underside of the hide, it has a softer and smoother look and texture compared to roughout.


    Nubuck leather looks like suede and roughout leather, but is different from both. This material is made from the hide’s top grain and sanded or buffed on the outside to create a consistent appearance. The sanding produces a slight nap of fibers, creating a velvety finish.

    How to Clean and Maintain Roughout Leather

    Cleaning and maintaining roughout leather is slightly easier than cleaning full-grain leather boots.

    Brush Boots

    Start by removing the boot’s laces. Remove dust, dirt, and other debris with a wire brush, rubber cleaner bar, or a damp cloth.

    If you can’t brush out the dirt, use water to clean the leather. If you get roughout leather wet, let it air dry overnight. Do not use direct heat to speed up drying because it can shrink the leather.

    Condition Boots

    Apply some conditioner if your boots are cracking and too dry. Some owners prefer to condition the inside of the boot because it can darken the leather. After applying the conditioner throughout, allow the leather to dry.

    Add Leather Protection

    Leather protection can be sprayed on the boot to protect it from water, salt, dirt, and other natural debris. Remember to test out the product on a small part of the boot that is not easily visible to check for color changes.

    In some boot styles, a smooth and tough upper part of the boot is paired with a roughout lower part. In high-abrasive environments, the lower, roughout part of the boot can withstand the scrapes and nicks from the rugged environment.

    The upper part of the boot, made from smooth leather, is somewhat protected by the pant leg, while the exposed roughout section can handle most wear and tear from tough jobs.

    Our Favorites – Roughout Leather Work Boots

    We’re big fans of the roughout look and function. It’s the perfect leather material to stand up to scratches and abrasions from the great outdoors and has unparalleled durability and support.

    If you’re looking for a good pair of roughout leather boots, consider these rugged footwear options from our online shop:

    Drew’s All Brown Roughout

    Roughout leather boots

    For wildland firefighting, the 10” Drew’s All Brown Roughout boots feature an all-leather, high-arch construction for greater arch support. We also carry lace-to-toe style and a women’s version that caters to the modern working woman.

    Drew’s 10” Elk Tan Roughshot

    Look sharp and stay protected with these 10” Drew’s 10” Elk Tan Roughshot, all-brown boots featuring full Vibram lug soles and solid brass eyes and hooks. A 12” version is also available.

    Drew’s Original Roughshot

    You can’t go wrong with our classic, 10” Drew’s Original Roughshot boots. A black roughout vamp and counter provides protection for the lower part of the boot. It also features McKay stitching and double-row outsole stitching, as well as reinforcing screws in the outsole. Go with the lace-to-toe version for more toe box tightness.

    White’s Smokejumper 12” Brown Roughout

    Smokejumpers and firefighters trust these White’s Smokejumper 12” Brown Roughout boots to handle the toughest conditions. It has strong ankle support and a deep-tread Vibram outsole for excellent traction. We also carry the lace-to-toe Smokejumper boots.

    Baker’s Fire Line Lace-to-Toe

    These 10” Baker’s Fire Line Lace-to-Toe boots feature a black upper and black roughout lower for wildland firefighting protection. They include Kevlar stitching, quadruple stitching on all the main seams, a Vibram 100 sole, and nickel hardware.

    Drew’s Fireline

    These 10” Drew’s Fireline boots feature Kevlar stitching on the uppers and roughout vamps and counters.

    La Sportiva Glacier WLF Style

    These La Sportiva Glacier WLF Style boots feature tough Vibram soles, Idro-Perwanger roughout leather, a removable EZ Flex Tongue with Dri-Best lining, and a half steel shank.

    Macie Bean Top Hand Lavender Cow Roughout

    For the modern cowgirl, these Macie Bean Top Hand Lavender Cow Roughout boots are built to stand up to tough environments and be comfortable for all-day wear. These colorful and unique boots are designed for those who want to stand out.

    White’s 350 Cutter Roughout

    The White’s 350 Cutter Roughout boots are a modern take on the White’s work boot. These 6” tall boots are made with full-grain, water-resistant leather and a mini-Vibram sole.

    Shop Roughout Work Boots at Drew’s Boots

    We offer a broad range of boot styles at Drew's Boots, including cowboy, wildland fire, safety toe, winter, lineman, and logger boots. No matter your budget or needs, we carry the best boots made with the highest quality leather. Shop Drew’s Boots today!