A few articles back I was less than complimentary about a certain brand of boots who enjoy enormous popularity in the denim and work wear scene, and for this I received quite a bit of backlash and also quite a bit of support it has to be said. To be clear my position is based around a few things…
* The price for these boots in the UK is ridiculous, not a million miles away from custom boots by White’s, Wesco and Viberg etc.
* Personally, I think that 90% of the particular range is fairly bland to downright ugly.
* I find their leather to be characterless when set side by side with some of the stunning hides used by quality boot makers.
There are a few more but I have no real interest in re-igniting the same debate again, what I do have interest in though is in a question I was asked in the ensuing debate, namely “tell me a better gateway boot for people in the denim scene? (we can’t all afford White’s you know).
Well, to start at the end, if you can afford to wear Red Wings then you can afford to wear White’s (or Wesco, or Viberg, or Trickers, or…..), you simply have to be prepared to wait a little longer to gather the funds and have the boots made, in my opinion the extra time and money is well worth it. On to the meat of the question, I also believe that there are far better gateway products into this market, in fact I know that there are and I’ll show you who.
The first thing that anyone with market knowledge will now be thinking is “Thorogood make their boots in China”, wrong! Thorogood make some of their safety boots in China, but their American Heritage range is all “proudly made in the USA”. Not to mention that this forms the bulk of their range, not to mention that they are much cheaper even in America and also not to mention that they even make those awful moc toe things with the big white sole should you desire a pair. The Roofer boots from Thorogood are full of character and go great with your denim.
Another American Heritage brand who produce some boots in the far east, but also have a more than impressive range of domestic product at a price point which competes and often betters good old faithful. Not to mention that they have a hook up with famed tannery Horween for some of their higher priced boots, which means you can get an American bench made boot, with a great character leather for only £30 more than a Red Wing Beckman, I know where my money would go.
Oak Street Bootmakers
All hand made in Chicago featuring Horween Chromexcel leather, and soles by Vibram and Dainite the OSB Trench Boot looks fantastic, and at $426 it’s about $100 more than the Beckman, which is comparatively a small amount of money for the step up in quality.
If you’re boots don’t have to be made in the USA then a brand which I have personal experience of is Sagara of Indonesia. I have met the company owner, tried his boots and came away unbelievably impressed. Sagara use imported American leathers and Cats Paw heels on their 100% hand made boots, and let me explain that by 100% hand made I don’t mean that a guy hand fed the hide into the pattern cutter, I mean that they are totally made by hand. Sagara have such high regard for their products that the owner personally ensures each pair is sent out in impeccable condition.
I hope this has helped to broaden a few horizons and at least given a few choices to some. Any of the boots I’ve listed here are absolutely great in terms of price and quality and will serve you well, but you should be aware that the extra money you pay for the next level is due to the materials and custom nature of what you are ordering (except Viberg who have a pricing structure I cannot fathom), not to mention the level of skill and quality assurance which goes into them.
I have heard people openly snigger at the thought of guys paying $500+ for boots to basically walk around urban environments in, rather than using them for their intended purpose of driving cattle or putting out forest fires, but the reason is this. We all want things which last in this niche, we’re into this because we like well made things which will journey through our lives with us right?
I haven’t worn my White’s Bounty Hunters much at all in the last few months, but I know that come winter they will be with me daily, just like they were last winter and just like they will be in 20 winters time if I live that long and treat them right.