In terms of iconic medium weight work boots I don’t think that there is much argument that the Alden 405 Indy boot and the White’s Semi Dress boot are the two big boys. They are priced similarly and made by companies with a rich history in quality working footwear and both pride themselves in being a boot that you can work and walk all day in with discomfort. Only one however is big in Japan, whilst the other was the favoured boot of the worlds most famous fictional archaeologist, but which is king and why?
I am fortunate enough to own both of these much revered boots, I have not owned either of them from new (both were gifted to me by friends) and I have far more experience with Whites than I do Alden but I take this as an advantage as the comparison is very fresh in my mind. The White’s boots are made from buffalo hide, whilst the Indy’s are made from Horween Chromexcel, chrome tanned leather, both have a block heel and a single leather midsole, the Aldens have and extremely hard wearing flat rubber sole whilst the Semi Dress come with the Vibram 700 sole unit and Quabaug heel. The Aldens weigh in at 4.4kg whilst the White’s weigh in at a slightly more substantial 4.9kg.
Comparing the apprearance of both boots reveals that they are both share a relatively low profile toe box, with the Alden featuring the signature stitch pattern on the top, both sweep upwards into a 6″ shaft with the Whites being finished with a 1.5″ block heel compared to a 0.75″ heel on the Aldens. There are similarities, there are also differences, the Aldens have a slightly more refined appearance with a single row of visible welt stitching compared to the White’s double row (although single row stitching is an option in a White’s custom build) and the slightly lower overall profile of the Alden adding a touch of refinement to the total form.
After the aesthetic the next area of comparison is build quality. Both of these boots are hefty, use great materials and are bench made, the Aldens feel like a boot you could cover many miles in, ideal for working on your feel all day, whereas the White’s feel like the kind of boot you could work, hike and possibly go to war in. It’s almost a term of stating the obvious when I say that White’s are well made, in contrast I had heard unacceptable things about Aldens slipshod construction, thankfully I find that reports of the demise of Alden have been greatly exaggerated…..at least in the case of these particular 2 year old boots.
Moving on to comfort, and this is the area which could trip me up (pun intended). I have slim, girly feet, my wife describe them as being like a ballet dancers. I also have an unfeasibly high instep which renders Converse and Vans all but useless instruments of torture to me, so naturally I favour the patented White’s “arch ease” system and it has kept me loyal to White’s and away from other brands for a number of years now. My first couple of days wearing the Aldens did nothing but confirm my fears, I found them to be too flat and hard for my high rise feet, but after the initial discomfort and my own mental denial process of all other boots they became almost (but not quite) as comfortable as the SD’s.
In summary both boots are extraordinary and thoroughly deserving of their reputation at the top of the tree, but the White’s are still the imperator for me. In real terms both boots cost roughly the same, but with the SD’s you have seemingly endless custom options, superior construction and they are completely rebuildable for a surprisingly reasonable price by White’s themselves. This level of personal investment in the SD’s by the company makes a real difference to me, put simply if I was forced to replace both of these pairs of boots I would certainly replace the White’s first…..but the Aldens would not be too far behind.