How To Make Cheap Boots Look Expensive

In a world dominated by sneakers in an ever-growing casual workplace, many people, including yourself might not find the need to buy expensive leather boots or shoes. Quality, well-made footwear isn’t always easy on the wallet and it can be hard to justify the price tag for something that only sees a few wears a year.

Currently, the cheapest decent Goodyear welted boot can be found at Thursday Boot Company for around $200, and for the price, many consider it a good deal. But what if you don’t have $200 laying around or if you don’t want to commit to a particular style for the next season? Are there cheaper alternatives? 

Yes! There are many options in the sub $200 range. Granted, being at a lower price point means the boots will be of lower quality. So don’t expect a Goodyear welt construction or full grain leather uppers. Instead, cheaper boots will generally be made using cement construction and “genuine leather“.

  • The term, “genuine leather” is probably one of the smartest marketing tactics that have ever come out of the fashion industry. While from a tannery’s standpoint, all grades of leather are considered”genuine”, fashion brands have adopted a blanket “genuine leather” label to cover the fact that they are using very cheap and low-quality hides. Genuine leather is thin, matte in color, and won’t patina over time. 

Even though it’s not possible to change how the boots are made, it is possible to alter the appearance of cheap boots at home to make them look higher quality. 

This is how. Thanks to the brilliant Carl Murawski for assembling these tips — be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel to learn all about quality menswear.

[Learn more: Cheap vs Expensive Boots | 5 Areas to Look At]

What You Will Need

Before we work on the boot, make sure you have the following.

shoe brush

Prepping The Boots

The goal here is to clean and condition the boot before applying the beautifying products. (We’ve decided it’s OK to use the word ‘beautify’ here.)

  1. Remove the laces and brush the boots.First, remove the laces of your boots, and then using your horse hair brush, brush them thoroughly to remove any dirt and grime. This cleaning stage is crucial because dirt and debris will rub on the leather when you buff the boots later on.
  2. Apply leather conditioner.After that, apply a tiny amount of leather conditioner — that’s the Venetian Shoe Cream or some neutral conditioning cream, not a polish — evenly throughout the boots and let the boots air dry for about an hour. It is important for your boots to be dry before you apply any polish because the conditioner (if left wet) will prevent the polish from depositing its pigments on the leather. 
  3. Buff the boots with your brush. 

    Once your boots are dry, use your horse hair brush to brush them again to circulate the conditioner through the entire surface area. Brush briskly so the oils and waxes can heat up and move around.

Read More: The 5 Best Leather Conditioners For Your Beloved Boots

saphir cream polish

Applying The Polish

The goal here is to produce an artificial patina on the uppers.

  1. Open the polish and dip the brush.Now, open the tub of Saphir cream polish and dip the applicator brush in the polish so that all the bristles are coated with the substance. 
  2. Apply the polish.In a circular motion, work the polished coated brush onto the entirety of the boots. Remember to periodically dip the applicator back into the Saphir polish to recoat the bristles. Some areas that you should pay more attention to are the stitching lines and any perforations on the uppers. Those are the spots that will absorb the polish really well and will help create a patinated look. 
  3. Let the boots dry.After the boots are evenly coated, let them dry for about 15 minutes. This will give the leather time to absorb the pigments. 
  4. Buff the leather with the brush.Now it’s time to buff your boots again using your horse hair brush. Begin by brushing the boots in a horizontal motion. Do this until the boots develop a faint luster. Don’t worry if the boots lighten up a bit; that’s just because the excess polish is being removed. 
  5. Buff the leather with a cloth.Finally, take a piece of cloth and buff the boot further. This will remove even more dye from the boot creating an illusion of textures in the leather. Do this until you are content with the color of your upgraded boots. Ideally, you’ll use a lint-free microfiber cloth, but an old t-shirt or rag should work well enough.

In the end, your boots should be a shade darker than before, with some parts of the boot being darker than the rest. 

Read More: What is Patina?

guarded good laces

Replacing The Laces

Most inexpensive boots come with flimsy, cheap laces. Replace those with raw-hide laces or waxed cotton laces to elevate the appearance of the boots. Our favorites are on offer from Cobbler’s Choice.

Wrapping Up

There is no shame in buying a pair of inexpensive boots and making it appear more expensive. I’ve been there myself. I remember buying a pair of Stafford Deacons from JC Penny while I was in college because I could not afford Allen Edmond Daltons. Even though the Deacons were around $60 on sale, I was able to transform them into something that looked more luxurious using this method.

Now you can try this too! 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do I need to use cream polish?

Yes. Cream polish is easier to spread on a boot and the pigments are usually more saturated than cheaper polishes.  

Will people be able to tell that my boots are made out of cheap leather?

Generally yes. Lower quality leathers tend to be very dull, but applying conditioner and polish the right way can dramatically improve the appearance.

Does this method work on all leathers?

The black polish works best with brown leather.

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Humphrey Tsui

Humphrey is a native Brooklynite who loves to talk about personal styling! He is an expert on leather, shoe construction, and the history of American pop culture. Message him on Instagram. here!

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