The Many Designs of Cowboy Boot Tops: From Inlay to Top Stitching

top cowboy boot designs
April 26, 2023 Jeremiah Craig 0 Comments

If you’re a fan of cowboy boots, you know that there’s more to them than just the type of leather or the shape of the toe. Cowboy boots often feature intricate designs on the tops, which can add style and flair to these iconic footwear. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the different designs you can find on cowboy boot tops, from inlay to plain, and discuss their popularity, craftsmanship, and cost.

Top Stitching

Let’s start with the most obvious and beloved design element – top stitching! Originally used to prevent the boot from flopping over, top stitching adds a touch of design and elegance to the boot’s top.

Top stitching on Hondo 2670

But here’s the kicker – top stitching isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s also about stories and history. Custom cowboy boot makers often pass down stitch patterns to one another, and some patterns are even copyrighted by specific companies. These stitch patterns can tell tales of tradition, heritage, and craftsmanship. So when you choose a pair of boots with unique top stitching, you’re not just wearing a piece of footwear, you’re carrying on a legacy.

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Inlay on Black Jack Rattlesnake Boots

Inlay is a process in which a piece of leather is placed behind the top layer of leather, giving the design a nearly seamless look. This technique requires skilled craftsmanship, as boot makers often need to skive or shave off a small piece of leather to ensure a smooth and even result. Due to the complexity and time-consuming nature of this process, boots with inlay tops tend to be more expensive. However, the end result can be truly stunning and worth the investment for those who appreciate the artistry.


Tooling on Heritage Flores Boots

Tooling, or hand tooling, is a design technique that involves using various shaped tools to stamp patterns or textures onto the leather. This creates unique designs such as flowers, skulls, or other intricate patterns. Tooling can be seen on the entire boot or just on the tops, also known as the shaft. However, like inlay, tooling can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, making boots with this design more expensive.


Cording on Yeehaw Cowboy Caiman Tail Boots

Cording is a design technique in which a fabric or leather cord is placed behind the leather and then sewn to create a raised look on the top of the boot. Cording has gained popularity in recent years, with many boot brands, including Tecovas, Thursday Boots, and JRC and Sons, incorporating it into their designs. However, cording is not a new technique, as it has been used by boot makers like Lucchese and Dan Post in the past. This design adds depth and texture to the boot top, giving it a trendy but timeless look.

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Buck Stitch

Buck stitch tops on J. Chisholm boots

Buck Stitch is a design technique that is less common and not as popular nowadays, but still worth mentioning. It involves weaving a piece of cord or material through a raised piece of leather on the top of the boot. Currently, Laredo is one of the few boot brands that incorporate this design into their boots. Buck Stitch adds a unique and eye-catching detail to the boot top, and it’s a great option for those looking for something different and less mainstream.


Overlay on Clyde Boots

Unlike inlay, where the leather design is inside the top leather, overlay is just on top of the main piece of leather, hence the name “overlay.” It’s a more cost-effective option compared to inlay, as it’s easier and less labor-intensive for boot makers to do.

If you’re looking for a unique and eye-catching design without breaking the bank, overlay is the way to go. It’s a great option for those who want a touch of flair to their cowboy boots on a budget.


Plain tops on Chisos King Ropers

If you’re someone who likes to keep it simple, a plain top might be your go-to. It’s clean, classic, and timeless, making it a versatile option for any occasion. Pair it with your favorite jeans for a casual look or, for the ladies, dress it up with a skirt or dress for a night out. It’s a no-fuss option that never goes out of style.

This is also a common style for roper boots like the Chisos King Roper above.

Choosing the Right Top Design for You

With so many options for top designs on cowboy boots, how do you choose the right one for you? It ultimately comes down to personal preference and style. Some people prefer the simplicity of a plain top, while others enjoy the intricate details of tooling or inlays. Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a top design for your cowboy boots:

  1. Style: Consider your overall style and what kind of look you want to achieve with your cowboy boots. If you prefer a more classic or traditional look, a plain top or overlay design may be a good fit. If you want to make a bold statement and show off your personality, a decorative top design with stitching, inlays, or tooling may be the way to go.
  2. Occasion: Think about where you plan to wear your cowboy boots. Are you wearing them for everyday casual wear, for a special event, or for a night out on the town? The occasion can influence your choice of top design. For example, a simple plain top may be suitable for everyday wear, while a more elaborate design may be appropriate for a special occasion or event.
  3. Budget: Budget is also a consideration when choosing a top design for your cowboy boots. Some top designs, such as inlays or tooling, can add to the cost of the boots due to the additional labor and materials involved in their creation. If you’re on a budget, a plain top or overlay design may be a more affordable option.

When it comes to cowboy boots, the top design is an important aspect that can greatly impact the overall style and cost of the boots. From inlays to overlays, tooling to cording, there are numerous options to choose from, each with its own unique characteristics and appeal. Whether you prefer a simple and understated look or a bold and decorative design, there’s a top design out there that’s perfect for you.

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