Leather expert, craftsman, and small business owner Weston Kay of the Rose Anvil project gives his raw opinion on a pair of Chisos boots in the ten-minute video below. Weston's whole thing is slicing open footwear to see what's really inside, then rating them and giving his review.
He said, quote, that Chisos are, "The best cowboy boot I’ve ever cut open." But don't take our word for it, watch for yourself!
Key moments, if you're in a hurry:
- 1:05 History of Chisos
- 2:23 Leather Grade
- 3:43 Burn Test
- 4:29 Insole Grade
- 4:55 Outsole Puncture Test
- 6:10 Cutting
- 7:31 Full Analysis
- 8:25 An Added Layer
After cutting apart the American handmade, best quality boot in the entire world in Luccheses, I think a lot of people left that video, including myself, a little underwhelmed with the quality, especially on the inside. And as soon as that video posted, the comments were just flooded with people requesting the Chisos and saying they're way better, they're half the price, they're better made, they're more comfortable. Everything wrong with Luccheses, allegedly the Chisos fixes. I reached out to the owner of Chisos was like, "Hey, do you want to throw your hat in the ring?" He said, "Yes," sent me these boots, so now we're going to cut them in half, dissect them, run some tests on them to see if they really are this new kid on the block that's taking this antiquated wave making cowboy boots and improving it and modernizing it and really making some of the best boots in the world, or if it's all just hype. And thanks to Chisos for sponsoring this video.
And now for a super short history, because like I mentioned, they've only been around for a few years. It was founded by Will Roman the owner in 2019, and he studied boot making in Mexico, bought tons of cobbling books, studied the web, interviewed cobblers, looked at old cowboy boots that are worn out, and looked to really see what the industry was doing, where the holes were because a lot of these brands, especially the ones that have started in the last decade, really target that entry to mid-level boot range because they can cut certain corners. And it's probably that sweet spot where you can maximize profit margins while still selling it to a ton of people.
Will didn't want to make just an average mid-tier boot. He wanted to make the best boots possible. And in November 2019, he launched Chisos and he named the brand Chisos after the Chisos Mountains in the far west of Texas. And Chisos is a tiny operation. There's only four people on the team. There's no investors, they didn't do this direct to consumer model by giving away parts of their company to raise funding and capital, they're small, they're privately owned, and it's a small team devoted to making the highest quality product possible instead of making the most money possible. One really cool thing is they give to Texas Land Conservation non-profits with each cell they make and they support the Texas Military Forces Museum in Austin.
And Chisos has grown a lot over the last three years, especially through word of mouth, which is always a sign of a good product. But we don't know because we've not cut it in half, so now start dissecting this thing and start going through the details, starting with the leather first, because this is a unique leather. It's a dairy cow leather instead of the calf skin that we've seen on some of the other boots that we've seen. And you can tell it's a really natural leather because of all the different variations in the way that it folds and rolls and wrinkles, and different textures.
And I believe it's a hand-dyed leather because you can see these highlights and low lights that give it that kind of rusticy look versus these really flat and even colored leathers like we saw in the Luccheses. And that's not really a sign of a high quality or low quality leather. It's just a different look with the highlights and low lights. And it's a fairly thick leather too, because the outer leather is 1.7 millimeters thick. The lining leather is 1.2 millimeters thick. A pretty good thickness, especially compared to the Luccheses. And to grade this leather, we burnt the leather to see how much of a plastic coating was on top and there's no plastic on it at all. It's just a natural finished leather with that hand dyeing. And if we look at the cross section, you can see there's a nice slab of grain throughout the entire cross section. It's a nice full-grain leather and there's no print embossed into it. I would consider this an A grade leather.
And as for the rattlesnake test to see if this is rattlesnake proof, we put it on our arbor press to see if we could puncture through it. And it took 94.5 pounds to puncture through, so pretty on par with the rest of the cowboy boots. But the lining is, what's really interesting about this boot, because this is by far the highest quality lining we've seen in any of the cowboy boots. It's a really nice soft, supple oil-tanned leather. And it doesn't have that really heavy pigment on top because we burned it and it just was a really natural leather. It still has the grain throughout the cross section.
And the nice thing is it's the same leather lined throughout the entire boot. Because as we've seen some of these brands, like the Luccheses will use a nice leather in the shaft and then where you can't see the lining and the vamp, they put a really terrible pig-skin lining that's already split and that is just crinkly and gross. And this leather still has a pretty heavy pigment on it. I believe it's a corrected grade, so it's probably a B grade leather, but I still think it's the best lining leather we've seen in any of these boots. And also on the inside. If you look really closely, you can see there's a veg-tanned center on the inside, which we didn't see in any of the boots except for the $1000 Luccheses.
And one thing that really stands out to people about the Chisos is that they're made to have an insole in the boot. And they put the softest, squishiest, thickest insole in this boot, most cowboy boots are not made to accommodate insole, so when you put one in it jams your toes up to the top of the boot, it makes the boots fit smaller. Whereas with the Chisos, when they're making these boots and are lasting them, they gap it enough to where when you slide this insole in the boots don't fit differently. The boots are made to fit with this insole in it.
And as for the outsole of the boot, you can see we did the puncture test just to see how thick and durable this is. And it came in at 268 pounds, which is pretty on par with the rest of the boots, but it is just like the rest of the boots, a big fat slab of veg-tanned leather for the outsole, a full leather hill stack with your rubber top lift and it's lemon wood pegged and brass nailed as well. And if you look at the way this boot is built, it's clearly a Goodyear welted boot, because you can see the leather has been channeled to let that stitching recess into the actual in insole itself so you don't wear through those stitches prematurely.
And one thing that I almost didn't notice is this is the only boot that we've cut apart that has a full leather rand. Even these $1000 Luccheses, this top little bit right here called the rand that sits on top of the heel is a synthetic. Does it make that big of a difference? Is it going to make the difference between a boot lasting twice as long? No, but it's just one of those little touches on a expensive boot that you would expect to be leather, especially for a thousand bucks.
And then other than that, we don't really know what else is on the inside so let's get these things cut in half to really see if they rival Luccheses or if they're like some of these other brands that just hide some stuff on the inside to make it look like a higher quality until you cut it in half and discover there's some stuff hiding on the inside.
All right, we got it cut in half, so now let's see what's inside. This is by far the thickest shank we've seen in any of the cowboy boots. It nearly killed my bandsaw. I thought we were going to start a fire. And I ended up skirting along the side of it because it was so hard to cut, but which ended up being really beneficial because now you can see those lemon wood pegs going up into the different layers, binding them together like a nail does. You might notice in here, I thought this was going to be a full leather construction, but you see this little strip of pink right there. That is not leather. That is a compressed cardboard layer.
We asked the owner Will, what that layer's in there and why didn't he just use leather? Well, he said it's to help prevent the squeaking, because if you want to compare full leather boots, a lot of times, as soon as you get them started to get broken in those layers loosen up, they start rubbing against each other and leather on leather squeaks like crazy. I have a pair of JK Boots that took 30 wears before they stopped squeaking. I still think ideally I would rather have that be leather than a composite material just for tradition sake and to make it all leather.
But that does one thing that I don't think a lot of people fully appreciate, because if you look at these two boots, it's not that the Chisos replaced a layer that the Luccheses had with the synthetic material. They added an extra layer in there that's a synthetic material. And what that layer does is it builds up that platform underneath of your heel and it slopes down slowly so that the profile of this insole is a lot more similar to the Pacific Northwest boots with a higher arch support, than it is to these Luccheses that are a really sloping profile that don't give you a lot of arch support, that your toes end up sliding to the front of the boot. And so I think that's one of these things that a lot of people feel inside of the boot, but don't realize the difference.
And as for the other bits, you've got a little bit of a backup counter behind the veg-tanned counter. You've got that celastic toe-stiffener to maintain that cowboy look. It has that rolled tucked in finish edge that the Luccheses didn't have the Tecovas did have. It has the thickest shank. It's the only boot that has a leather rand. There's a lot of parts that are better than all the other boots.
But what's worse about this boot than the other boots. Well, that one thing you can point to is maybe that compressed cardboard throughout the construction that helps prevent squeaks. But other than that, there's really not a whole lot you can point to, with twice the price Luccheses that's better than the Chisos, except for the fact that the Chisos are made in Mexico where the Luccheses are made in the USA.
And I think a big part of the reason why this boot is such high quality is because it is a tiny team. They have to make a super high quality boot to rival these other boots to build a name for themselves, instead of some of these other brands, I'm not specifically talking about Luccheses and Tecovas, more like these Carhartt brands that use their good name to sell a subpar boot. And being a small business owner, I just love that they're doing it the right way.
Let me know what you guys think, and just like any other sponsored video, if you disagree with my analysis let me know specifically what you thought I got wrong, because I'm not perfect and sponsored videos can be hard, but I think I stand behind this video pretty strongly, but I'm still open to being wrong, so let me know. And let me know what other cowboy boots you want us to cut apart, and thank you guys so much for everything you do in allowing us to get these sponsors, allowing us to buy these $1000 boots to cut apart to really show you the difference between a $500 small brand and a $1000 big name established brand to really show you what you're spending your hard earned money on. And I love doing it, so thank you guys. See ya.