Viberg are a company who have not, in my opinion, gone out of their way to ingratiate themselves to the entire boot market. Their pricing has traditionally been much higher than companies who could be considered their rivals for trade, but Viberg fans point to a perceived higher standard in materials and workmanship. Their Managing Director, Brett has gone on record as stating that he wants the prices of Viberg boots to increase as they embrace the fashion market for work boots, which has definitely made a section of the market feel a little uncomfortable, so for these reasons a pair of Viberg boots has never been a huge draw for me, until now. Viberg have not changed their position on pricing, and I have not changed my position on Viberg, but happy circumstance lead me to be able to pick up a pair of Viberg boots which were pretty damned close to the design I wanted for a relatively small amount of money, so let’s see what all the fuss is about, are they really that much better that it makes spending an extra few hundred dollars seem ok?
The circumstance which lead to my purchase were brought about by a Japanese lady, the owner of Iron Heart UK, and Wesco boots rather than Viberg. Sarina, who works for Iron Heart in Japan, had a pair of short Wesco Boss boots made for her with an Armortred wedge sole and a short shaft, I loved them, my wife loved them, neither of us could afford to buy a pair so I set out looking for something similar and on eBay I found the Vibergs. These boots were originally retailed by Oki Ni for £600, I paid significantly less than half that price which was a major deciding factor in buying them, they are made from Vibergs smooth leather (their equivalent of White’s dress leather) and rough out with a Vibram 2021 wedge sole and nickel plated roller buckles. They are substantially heavy despite the presence of the sole which Giles Padmore affectionately refers to as “the mattress”, I must confess that aesthetically the sole is not the most pleasing, but I cannot deny its comfort and flexibility and as I plan on wearing these daily for work, comfort is king. The edging is natural and the toe profile is not as sleek as many other Viberg boots I have seen, which suits me.
The first thing I noticed when removing the boots from their box was that 99% of the stitching is flawless, which is disappointing as I had heard Viberg owners proudly proclaim that the stitch regularity and quality was unparalleled. The flaw in these boots is a loose/ snapped stitch near the toe of the left boots, not a huge deal at all but as there are no other marks around the stitch to denote damage I can only assume that it is a manufacturing error, which is not what I expected. The rest of the stitching is indeed uniform and gloriously spaced and most importantly it is intact, the hide is perfect and blemish free and the edging is considerably smoother than I have experienced on old pairs of White’s boots which I have owned. Overall, apart from the left toe, the finish is a level above White’s and Alden, and many levels above Red Wings, Wolverine, Thorogood and similar brands.
In terms of fit, they are comfortable and supportive in all the right places with only one minor complaint, they slip on my right foot only and this has caused some skin to be rubbed off, pretty painful but not uncommon it seems. I asked for advice in alleviating this problem in a Viberg discussion and found several other people had the same issue, they did all assure me that it will be resolved with wear and they will then become my most comfortable boots, time will tell on this but I hope so as they were bought for the specific purpose of being my daily work boots. Something else I have noticed is that the wedge sole feels much stiffer on these than it did on the White’s oxfords which I had with the same sole, whether this is a batch issue or whether the construction of the boot holds things together, including the position of my foot, in a much more rigid position is difficult to say, but it is noticeable.
What I like about these boots is their convenience, they literally slip on and off in seconds which makes a refreshing change from spending time messing around with super long boot laces and speed hooks (a counter intuitive name if ever I’ve heard one). This makes them ideal for casual wear, and the name I heard for them from a friend the other day of “Uggs for thugs” seems quite appropriate to their aesthetics. The remaining question is how do I feel about Viberg after finally putting a pair on my feet? Well, in comparison to the other brands I have tried over the years (White’s, Alden, Red Wings, Thorogood, Wolverine and Timberland Abington) they are certainly a cut above in terms of finish, though not as immediately comfortable as any of the pairs of White’s which I have owned and also not as comfortable as my Aldens, which were admittedly well broken in when I got them. I have been assured by other Viberg owners that they will meld to my feet and will surpass the other brands in terms of comfort too, we will see. The only one of the big North American work boot makers I can’t make a comparison with is Wesco, who are the company which is reputed to make boots on a similar level of quality to Viberg, I do have some Wesco on order, and once they arrive I will also review them and hopefully answer the question. In summary, these boots have not made me like Viberg the brand any more, but I do really like these boots.