Meet Our Materials: Balthazar & Chromexcel

Meet Our Materials: Balthazar & Chromexcel


Only the good stuff. Inside and Out. 

All HELM boots and shoes are constructed using only the finest quality full-grain leather inside and out. Since we handcraft each pair with the goal of lasting for decades, we never settle for lower quality. This attention to detail and craftsmanship ensures your pair will be with you for miles and miles on the road ahead.



We Get Good Grades

Our most popular leather types in the current lineup are Balthazar and Chromexcel. Each of these hides require a different tanning process with a unique mix of heat, oils, pressure, and time. The hides are full-grain, classic “pull up” leather that are hot-stuffed during tanning; is a process of pushing waxes and oils into the leather. When pull-up leathers move and flex, these waxes and oils help to reveal character and eventually develop a rich patina over time. If you place your finger under a HELM boot or belt and press upward, you’ll see a lighter patina coming through. That’s pull up!

Full-grain leather refers to a grade of leather that has not been treated or sanded down to remove marks from the hide's surface. This ultimately protects the integrity of the leather’s fibers, yielding hides that are supple, durable and more water resistant than top grain leather. Unlike top grain leathers, which have been sanded down for an even and perfect surface, each living full-grain hide is unique, bearing individual details from the life of the animal, and raw, organic character. 



What’s Your Type?


We take pride in picking only the best materials. Balthazar and Chromexcel both have unique features and distinctive family histories, and it’s impossible for us to pick a favorite. That's why we offer multiple types of leather in the HELM lineup. To help you find which type of leather is right for you, read on for a breakdown of each style. 



Balthazar leather is made by B Leather Company, a family owned tannery in Santiago Dominican Republic. Founded in 1940, this multi-generational tannery has a reputation for creating some of the finest and most versatile leathers in the world.  The tanning process for their leather includes hot stuffing the hide with wax and oils over the course of 28 days, allowing for a shorter break-in period and lustrous sheen straight out of the box. The hides easily show character variance and develop a rich patina over time. 



Chromexcel is an All-American institution. Made exclusively by Horween in Chicago, their tanning process is a secret family recipe that mixes chromium salts with vegetable retannage. The mix involves bark extracts, natural agents and a host of other top shelf ingredients, from cosmetic-grade beeswax to food-grade beef tallow. Creating a single CXL hide involves 89 steps, a process that has made Horween a household name. You’ll notice a beautifully even color variance on a new CXL HELM boot, with the leather itself being described as well-rounded and supple, being about one millimeter thick. We often say they feel like a baseball glove when new. It takes a bit of oil and road for a CXL hide to contour and soften. Left unpolished, the hide has a matte finish and will develop character over time.




As with anything here at HELM, we want to know if you have any questions. Whether they are about leathers, designs, break-in or anything else when it comes to our boots and shoes, let us know. Give us a call for a quick chat at 512-609-8150 or email us anytime, day or night, at and ask us more about these two popular leathers, or anything else you want to know more about.



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