What Is English Bridle Leather?
English bridle leather is a leather with a specific finishing process, giving it a unique appearance and feel. Just like Chromexcel or other types, it has some unique properties that make it the perfect choice for the right person and the right application.
It's a great choice for leather goods that have to be sturdy, but also maintain a good appearance. English bridle leather boots, belts and - of course - horse tack for showing are common uses.
So what IS English bridle leather? Should you get a pair of boots or shoes made from it? Let's talk about that a bit more.
English Bridle Leather Is A Show-Quality Working Leather
Bridle leathers were originally developed for exactly the use the name implies, as horse tack. The "English" variety uses a particular type of finish to give it a classier appearance.
Bridle leathers are vegetable-tanned leathers, meaning the tanning process (where the leather is preserved so it doesn't rot - it's skin, remember!) uses natural sources. Typically it's oak bark or an extract thereof.
Vegetable tanning tends to produce a stiffer, hardier leather than chrome or chrome/vegetable hybrid tanning processes, so they're great for working applications such as horse tack, work boots and so on.
English bridle leather, however, differs in the finishing process. The leather is hot-stuffed with oils and waxes before dye is applied. The practical effect is that it gives the leather a subtle texture and a subtle sheen, more of a matte than a gloss.
Traditionally, only quality hides with relatively uniform grain structures and few imperfections in the surface were chosen to make English bridle leather with. It's meant for showing, not hitching up any old horse for farm work, so the done thing is to only use leather that will look its absolute best.
So, it's a vegetable-tanned leather that's been hot oil-stuffed. However, it also tends to be very high-quality leather as well.
So it's good stuff! And it makes some darn fine casual boots too.
What's So Great About Bridle Leather Boots?
If you wanted a pair of English bridle leather boots, or were wondering if it was the right kind of leather to get, there are some definite benefits.
First, they're going to look amazing. Again, what's typical is that they will be some of the best available leather you can get in a pair of boots, so you'll get as uniform an appearance as possible.
Second, they will last a long time if cared for. It's supposed to be a working leather that also looks great.
However...there's a bit more to it.
Beak-in is going to take a little longer. Vegetable-tanned leathers are stiffer than chrome or hybrid-tanned leathers, so you're going to have to endure a bit of pinching at the toe or bunion and some rubbing at the heel as the leather wears in.
To maintain that beautiful matte shine, you're going to have to work a little harder.
Pull-up leathers (typically chrome-tanned or chrome/vegetable tanned) are easy to maintain. A bit of oil, a bit of buffing and they're almost as good as new; vegetable-tanned leather will take a bit more attention to keep it.
Any scuffs or scratches will be a lot more obvious.
Bridle leathers take polish very well, so you can easily get that high mirror shine if you want, or can be treated with boot grease and buffed for a duller shine if so desired. Cracks and creases can appear very easily, so make sure the leather stays nourished with oil or conditioner.
It will take a little longer to start developing patina, but it will be a lot more pronounced. If you want your boots to get that beautiful aged look after a few years of wear, bridle leather boots will do it beautifully.
Does it make a great pair of boots? English bridle leather is one of the best choices for leather boots or shoes if you're okay with a little more maintenance and a little longer break-in.
Chances are you won't care about that because of how darned good they look.