Red Wing 101: Roughout Leather

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We’re kicking off a new series on the Journal this year in which we’ll take a closer look at the different leathers and other components Red Wing Heritage uses to build its footwear as well as the construction techniques we use. We call the series, Red Wing 101. 

New Iron Ranger 8083
New Iron Ranger 8083

 

Worn Iron Ranger 8083
Worn Iron Ranger 8083

 

Winter can be tough on your boots. Salt, mud and snow can wreak havoc on leather, requiring vigilant care to ward off the inevitable scuffs and discoloration. And while all leather can benefit from occasional TLC, there’s one that shrugs off abuse better than most: roughout.

Roughout leather is the underside of a hide’s grain, so the grain remains intact. To better visualize roughout, imagine a loaf of bread where the crust is the full grain. The roughout is the soft side of a slice at the end of the loaf; a split grain would be like the inner slices. This gives roughout a surface texture that not only wears well but doesn’t require as much care to keep looking good. Since it is a thick, full-grain leather, roughout also provides superior support and durability, a feature that made it popular with midcentury mountaineers as well as the military who used it for boots during World War II. Roughout combat boots also didn’t require as much care in the field, an added advantage for soldiers.

Worn Weekender 3321
Worn Weekender 3321

 

Of course, all of these traits make roughout an excellent choice for Red Wing Heritage boots, such as our legendary Iron Ranger work boots, but we also use it for our more refined Merchant, where the oiled Muleskinner roughout stands up to slushy city streets. The matte finish and textured surface of roughout give the boots a slightly more dressed-down style, going well with jeans and chinos alike.

Merchant 8062
Merchant 8062

Though at first glance, roughout leather can resemble nubuck or suede, the three are quite different. Suede is usually made by splitting full grain leather, resulting in a thinner and less durable leather because there is no grain to keep the fibers intact. Nubuck is full grain leather that has the smooth side sanded to give it a more velvety texture. All three have their distinctive uses and advantages but it’s important to know the difference.

 

Worn Pecos 8188
Worn Pecos 8188

While roughout leather can take considerable abuse, you’ll still want to take care of your boots to keep them looking their best. Red Wing Heritage provides a Care Guide and has the right products to keep your roughout boots going for a long, long time.

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