04 October 2013

Still Thinking About Boots

Can you stand a few more words about shoes? Because I have them. Words. And shoes, duh.

I've been lamenting this week's return to summer-like weather because, well, mainly because I don't like warm weather, but also because it's prime boot-wearing time. It is October, after all. The window of opportunity for wearing boots that don't protect feet from cold and/or snow, and are worn primarily because they look good, has gotten narrower as we've become accustomed to our changing climate and weather patterns. It's possible I might end up being able to get back some of this time during December (and perhaps even later, like two winters ago), but there's no way to know that now.

A long time ago I wore Justin roper boots, and I've also tried classic harness boots with oil-impregnated, matte-finish leather, but I've found that the shaft height (around 10 inches, sometimes a little higher) of these styles to be uncomfortable; the tops of the boots end up rubbing against my calves. I tried higher socks, but they wouldn't stay up and they caused their own comfort issues.

So I've settled on 6" lace-up boots, and a zipper boot that's about 7" high. I have a couple of different kinds in different colors. Three years ago I bought a pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile boots in a color they call "rust." I chose it because it was more distinctive than the black or brown they were also offered in at the time. Some time later they added "tan," which in reality looks too orange and is not something I'd wear.

I've wished since then that they would offer some sort of a burgundy, especially since the leather for the boots comes from Horween, a Chicago tannery that's been around for over a century. Horween offers shell cordovan leather (from horses) in a deep burgundy they call "color 8," and I know this color is available in some of their other leathers. The competition (Red Wing) also offers their boots in "black cherry."

Sure enough, the 1000 Mile boot is now available in "cordovan no. 8," but these boots retail for $350 a pair. You can spend quite a bit less than that, and still get a quality boot that's made in the USA. Maybe seven or eight years back, L.L. Bean revived an engineer boot they had offered back in the 1930s for their Katahdin Iron Works collection. They are made for Bean by Chippewa, a company that doesn't get as much attention as Red Wing or Wolverine but has an equally legitimate bootmaking heritage. (Actually, J. Crew has been offering a few Chippewa styles for a couple of years now.)

This fall Bean added a plain-toe version of the Iron Works boot in a deep burgundy. They cost $210, which is a chunk more than the $150 they ran when Bean first reintroduced them, but still only about 60% of what you'd pay for either the Red Wing or Wolverine equivalent. And the Bean/Chippewa boot can claim to be more usable as a work boot as well. I tried on the original version some years back in a Bean store, and I found that they run small; I have another pair of Chippewas for winter wear and those run small as well.

By the way, for any of my family members who might be reading this: a Bean gift card would be a welcome Christmas or birthday gift, so I could put it toward a pair of these.


Anonymous said...

How did the stitching on the sole of the Wolverine 1000 mile boots hold up? The fact that they are not recessed in a channel is what made me pass on this boot. I was afraid of paying $300+ for a boot only to have the stitching on the sole fray after a few wearings.

Some Assembly Required said...

The soles show wear, but I guess I haven't worn them enough to reach that point. You could always have a Topy layer added; I considered doing that, and may still do it for the sake of traction.