The Best F**King Boots Money Can Buy – Conclusion

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Let me begin by saying that these are all great boots, if you are fortunate to own any of these then I have no doubt that you are happy with them and each pair is undoubtedly worth your investment in terms of both finance and the time to make them yours. I consider boots to be life essentials, as I have grown older I have come to truly appreciate just how high up the tree of requirements a top class pair of boots is, they are literally the foundation to everything else that you wear and a truly great pair will serve you for many, many years.

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My personal taste is for boots which can serve a variety of purposes, whether I am walking in the woods with my dog or polishing them up to wear with a nice pair of jeans, or even trousers, for a more formal setting. With the exception of my Viberg engineer boots I think that the other three pairs can do these jobs perfectly well, the Vibergs are my “man sneakers” , and perform that job exceptionally well but undoubtedly one for which a cheaper pair of boots would do the job just as well (I paid significantly less than half the retail price for my Vibergs).

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For me all the brands and boots have different areas of strength and weakness’, Whites are the best on price and offer a variety of options, plus their arch support makes them perfect for people with a high instep and there is no denying that the Semi Dress is a great looking boot. On the other hand the arch ease isn’t for everyone, they are pretty heavy, and if you really wanted to be super picky you could say that the finishing of the boots is perhaps not quite to the standard of the other brands, whilst still being completely functional, but that is what happens with handmade boots.

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The Vibergs are immaculately finished, but the buckles could be improved and the price point is bordering on insane. The Aldens retain the optional formality afforded by the Whites boot, whilst being lighter and more comfortable for people with a lower instep, but they are a little more pricey, they are not custom built and there have been quite a few more reported quality issues in more recent times. In Wesco you have possibly the ultimate in tough and sturdy boots, which you can custom order and they will be lasted to fit your feet, but they can be very heavy and quite expensive, though not to the level of Viberg.

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An obvious point to remember is that I have been strictly discussing the boots in my possession as the example of their brand, so many of the issues I have raised can more than likely be altered by changing a few options. If you don’t like the sound of heavy Wesco’s then change the leather, lower the heel and remove the lining, if Vibergs are proving too expensive then try to be patient with the second hand market. Speaking of buying used, there are virtually always some really nice pairs of Whites to be found second hand on eBay for very little money if you are looking for somewhere to start, same goes for Aldens.

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The conclusion which I draw from all this boot talk is that the most important factor in selecting new boots isn’t the leather, the last, the weight, the height or where it was made, the most important factor is the person who is wearing the boots. We all have different tastes and we all have various amounts of tolerance for what could be viewed as imperfections, not to mention that we all work to different budgets. The key point to this is that in these four brands, Whites, Viberg, Alden and Wesco we have the pinnacle of what is available out there as a work wear styled boot, and when you reach the very top of three then all differences and inconsistencies we discuss are really splitting hairs.

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The intent here was to see if there was a discernable difference between the brands based on my boots, so far as I can see there are negligible differences, but what has come out of this which interests me is that brand loyalty at top end of the boot game is foolish as you are denying yourself so much pleasure from experiencing the rest.

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The Best F**king Boots Money Can Buy Part 5 – The Modified Wesco Packer

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Wesco are a brand which did not get much initial attention from me due to my perception being that their boots were a little too utilitarian and also slightly too, well…..biker, which I am not any more (sadly), happily I can confirm that my perception was wrong. My perception was gathered from my social media feeds being regularly permeated by pictures of well-dressed Japanese bikers wearing their black Wesco Boss engineer boots, they looked great but I am neither Japanese or a biker, so my primitive mind dismissed them….stupid me.

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Earlier this year I was lucky enough to attend the Iron Heart summer party where I met Chris from Wesco who had with him a large variety of shoe and boots samples of all manner of shapes and sizes, my eyes were opened and my mind blown so finally I decided to give Wesco a good look. What I found was a brand who have been in business for over 100 years, have a first class reputation with American workers of all descriptions (much like White’s), and are amazingly still owned by the same family, a family who are incredibly called Shoemaker.

Workmanship

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So far I have looked at boots by three brands, White’s, Viberg and Alden. Of the boots I have looked at so far Viberg stand out for their super clean, almost flawless build, but Wesco incredibly match this. Every stitch is perfectly uniform, solid and in exactly the right place, the boots literally feel super well made, like your first drive in a brand new car or when you first set up a new skateboard, before everything has worked loose from use and abuse. Interestingly Wesco have a sale page on their website for factory seconds, and a brief scan through the list of boots and their “defects” on this list will tell you all you need to know about the brand. I have bought new boots at full price from other brands with more wrong with them than what Wesco consider to be seconds.

Fit/ Comfort

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This is my first pair of Wesco, and the only pair which have ever graced my feet, prior to their arrival I had heard from several people who I trust that the break in time for Wesco boots can be brutal, probably more so than any other boots I had worn before, so I was a little worried. As it turns out, and quite possibly because I received good sizing advice, the boots fitted perfectly straight from the box, and the small cushioned insole which Wesco supply is an absolutely brilliant idea to assist with initial period we all experience with new boots. I can honestly say that I have never had a pair of boots which fit me well from Day 1, and that was an extremely pleasant surprise.

Materials

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The boots are made from Wesco’s signature Domain leather, which is a thick waxy leather, very uniform in texture and reminds me a lot of White’s dress leather, this is not a bad thing as the dress leather is my favourite all time boot leather for durability and how it looks with a good amount of wear. Being a waxy leather it is also extremely easy to care for, needing little more than a damp cloth and a soft brush for probably the first year if you are a town dweller like me. Aside from the leather, the hardware is robust in the extreme, like it was made to tether ships together rather than keep boot laces in place, whilst the Vibram sole is the industry standard for good reason.

Price

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At this point it becomes redundant for me to wheel out the old chestnut of these boots not being cheap, none of the boots which I talk about are, and for good reason. Footwear is definitely something where you get what you pay for, so cheap boots should never make it to an article about the world’s best boots. For a pair of heavily modified packers like these you can expect to pay upwards of $700.

Availability

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You can order directly from Wesco, select one of their US dealers, try your luck with Wesco Japan who have some fantastic exclusive builds, or in Europe you can now contact The Bootery, who are Wesco’s official European distributor, and are run by the people responsible for Iron Heart UK, and Vater & Sohn, Hamburg. Wesco do make custom orders and you can do this by either going to them directly, or talking those fellas at The Bootery.

Design

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The design on these boots is heavily err……influenced by a Japanese Wesco design called the Flightmaster, it is basically a packet built on the motor patrol last used for the Boss boots. The MP last makes for an amazingly comfortable boot and has the added effect of slightly softening the shape of the packer uppers to make them appear slightly less narrow, which I think updates them and makes them more modern in appearance. Aside from this they are what I would term as very subtly beautiful, the contrast olive stitching is a lovely feature, I’m a huge fan of the Cuban heel and the gold hardware really sets the whole thing off, but what I love most is the toe profile, which is just about perfect in my opinion. On first glance these boots can look fairly ordinary, but the more time you spend with them and spend looking at them you begin to see that they are far from ordinary. What they are is understated but with just the right amount of flash, slim and low but with enough height to make them undoubtedly masculine, and not to mention that the early signs show me that they are going to look incredible with more wear.

Functionality

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As you have probably gathered from my earlier posts in this thread, I really like comfortable utility boots. I work in an environment where I can be expected to be on my feet for a good portion of the day, and I do a lot of walking, so comfort is top of the list when I consider a boot.

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If Wesco’s were a car they would be a Bentley, they are heavy and built with precision but they are also comfortable, luxurious and almost unfeasibly sturdy. When wearing them you get a true sense that they are boots which will not let you down, ever, I have worn Whites, Viberg, Red Wing, Trickers, Grenson , Alden, Sargent, Dr Marten, Thorogood, Wolverine and Hathorn but nothing comes remotely close to sheer strength of these Wesco.

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Of course strength and durability aren’t everything, you might decide that you simply prefer the design aesthetic of another brand, you might have a different idea of acceptable price point or prefer to try a boot on before making such an investment. For these reasons we need to put the boots side by side, and take a look at the factors which influence a boot purchase. To be continued.

The Best F**king Boots Money Can Buy Part 4 – Alden Indy 405

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As a kid I was always the odd one out due to my insistence that the Indiana Jones movies were far better than the Star Wars movies, not a big crime you might think but it was enough to find me in several physical confrontations, as a 5 or 6 year old boy, with my peers (Transformers were better than both btw). The boys own adventure style of “Indy” really struck a chord with me and I hold those movies entirely responsible for my love of travel and history, so if a boot company made the very boots which were favoured by Indiana Jones himself then surely they have to be great right?

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Alden come in for some criticism in certain circles for their approach to customer quality issues, if you read through some forums you will find a few horror stories about boots splitting and hardware either bending or snapping but this is not something which I can comment on as my battered 405’s are still going strong. I was gifted my boots by a friend who has always extolled the virtues of Alden and was happy to give me a chance to experience them for myself, I have since added significantly more wear to the boots and with the exception of requiring re-heeling they still have plenty of life in them. I can report no stitching issues, no hardware issues and their durability is certainly not in question with me.

Fit/ Comfort

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Alden are a little more formal than other brands famed for their work boots, the bulk of their range is more formal, refined and perhaps more comfortable in an office environment than a factory or workshop, or trekking through the jungles and deserts as Indy himself might do, but the 405 is an exception in many ways. Aside from the much lesser known Tanker boot, it is Alden’s sole representation in the field of real work wear. Much like the Semi Dress from White’s it is a utility boot, although retaining a certain amount of formality it is designed mainly for the comfort of worker (or adventurer) who is on their feet and on the go for the majority of their day, as sure key point to the boots long term popularity. Unlike the SD it does not have so much arch support, so is better suited to someone with a slightly lower instep perhaps, but a well-worn pair if Indy’s feels very much like an old pair of slippers.

Materials

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Alden are perhaps best expressed through their use of cordovan, with their long wings being a stunning example of using cordovan leather for a formal shoe, indeed they also produce the 405 in cordovan which looks incredible but is extremely expensive. It’s a personal thing but I have never seen the point of using a fine expensive leather like cordovan on a work boot when the difference in durability between it and a good quality cow leather is minimal, for formal shoes though I definitely see the point for the high gloss shine. My 405’s are made from Horween’s famed chromexcel leather, if I had bought these boots new I would have chosen a different leather as I find that CXL (as it is known) wears and marks extremely quickly, almost artificially quickly. Having said that it is a thick and durable leather, and I have no complaints about anything else used in making the boots, even the hardware seems fine to me, not as chunky or tough as White’s but definitely fit for purpose.

Price

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What you pay for 405’s varies wildly dependent upon a number of factors, the obvious ones being the type of leather, the country which you purchase from and whether the type you buy is a collaboration with some interesting and limited sole and hardware options. This is far from a cheap boot and you should expect to pay upwards of $500 unless you are fortunate enough to find a retailer having a sale, which happens more often than you might think. Whilst they are not in the Viberg level of pricing they certainly do leave a healthy dent in your wallet.

Availability

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The only issue with getting a pair of Indy’s is getting the pair that you want, due to the amount of options and collaborative models available. Many of the special models are only made in limited numbers and for certain retailers, should you simply want the standard model though there are Alden retailers on most continents or you can order directly from Alden themselves.

Design

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The 405 Indy is distinctive, it has an unmistakable look especially when directly compared to its peers in the utility work boot field. The toe profile is low and flat with distinctive dual row stitching, which serves no purpose but looks nice anyway. The soft toe collapses and creases up in all the right places with wear, and looks great if you like that kind of thing, it gives the boots a real “experienced traveller” look about it, like your boots have seen a thing or two in their time.

Functionality

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As an all-day wear utility boot the 405 is hard to argue with, it’s lighter than the SD, doesn’t offer as much support but is arguably more wearable as a casual boot due to the design, the weight and the more broad spectrum fit due to the lack of, what can be, an intrusive arch support. I do have my doubts about the long term durability of the 405 compared to the SD, but that is more to do with the “tank like” build quality of the SD rather than a critique of the Alden boot, which easily matches and surpasses most “normal” boots.

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The reality of the Indy boot is that it is in direct competition with boots like the White’s Semi Dress and the newly designed Foot Patrol from Wesco. If I were Indiana Jones, or any sort of adventurer, I would more than likely choose the SD over the Indy simply down to the fact that the SD’s can take more punishment without a notable detriment to performance , the Indy feels significantly more flimsy than the White’s boot. In terms of a comparison to the Wesco boot, I cannot really do a direct comparison as I don’t own the Foot Patrol, I do however own some heavily customised Wesco packers which fit nicely into the utility boots mould, so that will be the next boot to be reviewed in this series.

The Best F**king Boots In The World Part 3 – Viberg Short Shift

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Viberg set themselves apart from other boot makers in a number of ways, firstly they are made in Canada rather than the USA, secondly they remain family owned by the Viberg family, thirdly they are the most expensive of the brands which I am looking at by a not insignificant margin, and lastly they straddle the line between work boot and fashion more blatantly than the other brands. Viberg have a reputation for flawless construction, many fans of the brand will tell you that the fit, materials and build on a pair of their boots is unsurpassed by other brands, that is a bold claim indeed. I must confess that I have only ever owned one pair of Viberg boots so my experience is admittedly limited, but I have looked at and handled many other of their designs so I am not without experience, and I have stated in the past that Viberg are a brand that I find it hard to love for a variety of reason, but I do love my Viberg boots, and I will tell you why.

Workmanship

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My boots have a loose stitch on one of the toe’s, I made a bit of a fuss about this the last time that I spoke about them as I had expected genuine flawless quality which is harsh on the brand as they had not fostered this perception in me, rather some enthusiastic wearers had. I could now attempt to list the other flaws I found with them but it would be an exercise in futility as there aren’t any, and the fault which they do have is pretty minor to be fair, I would need a macro lens to highlight it. Everything else is tight, solid and exactly as you would expect. In terms of stitching the boots are uniform, triple stitched in areas and extremely neatly done.

Fit/ Comfort

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I bought these boots with the infamous white wedge sole on to use as my “man sneakers”, I bought them for comfort and convenience and at first I thought that I had made a massive mistake. After one day of wear the heel of my right foot was devoid of skin from the inner of the boot rubbing against it, I sought advice from experienced wearers of both Viberg and engineer boots (as this was my first pair of either) and was told to persevere. I gradually wore them a little more each day over my patched up foot and within 10 days they felt like slippers. The boots are a 10D, which is a UK 10D as Viberg use UK sizing, and they fit true to size.

Materials

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I have heard through forum whispers, which I cannot substantiate, that Viberg use better cuts of leather than other companies. I have no idea if this is true but I will say that the surface of the leather upon first receiving these boots was completely blemish free and uniform. The leather used on these is Vibergs own black smooth leather and rough out, both are thick and sturdy and certainly feel like great quality leathers.

As these are engineer boots I can’t talk about the lace loops or speed hooks, but I can talk about the buckles which look great and feel nice but are not particularly substantial, this doesn’t bother me but it is an observation. The Vibram sole is the same as you would find on any number of other work boots, views on its quality are a matter of opinion but I think it serves a purpose.

Price

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Well, they’re more expensive than just about everyone else. These boots retailed for £600 on Oki Ni, I paid £180 for them from eBay, I would not have paid full price for them but for the price of a pair of Red wings (UK price) they represented exceptional value. Vibergs pricing is controversial and nonsensical to some, but the truth is that if they are worth the money to you then they are worth the money.

Availability

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Thanks to Vibergs ability to position in both the fashion and work boot market they have managed to find themselves quite a number of retailers, as well as retailing through their own website. Something which they have stopped doing recently due to capacity issues is custom builds, which is a shame because they made some really nice looking ones for people with great taste, and some butt ugly ones for people who think they have taste. To my knowledge the Short Shift engineer boots are not currently available from anywhere.

Design

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As Viberg is split between the work boot side of things and the more fashion oriented side of things so is there design ethic. On the work boot side of things there is nothing startlingly out of the ordinary, smoke jumpers and lug soled work boots are normal, well made and a tad boring, on the other side things get more interesting. If I could characterise the Viberg aesthetic in one word then that word would “clean”, what they do is derive inspiration from vintage military, civilian and hiking boots and then smooth out all the rough edges, for a prime example of this take a look at the ever popular 1950’s service boot.

The short shift boot is not a particularly original design, it is in fact extremely reminiscent of similar styled Red Wing shirt engineer boots fitted with a wedge sole, but is a little neater around the edges. The toe profile is much improved, not at all bulbous, the mid sole is perfectly finished and the entire build feels undeniably like a quality piece of craftsmanship.

Functionality

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Well, like I said earlier, I bought these to be my “man sneakers”, now I’m advancing in years I find it harder to convince myself to buy a pair of Jordan’s or Air Max but I still like the comfort of a more padded and flexible sole. I have always found things like Converse and Vans to be uncomfortable due to my high instep and their uncompromising flat sole, so my options are somewhat limited, unless I opt for a boot/ shoe with a Vibram wedge sole as an everyday piece of footwear, which I have.

After an initial break in they have become supremely comfortable, and I love having something that I can just slip on and off (handy for visiting people homes). Being engineer boots they don’t work with some cuts of denim, but they improve the stacking on my Samurai 710’s beautifully, which makes them perfect partners.

Next up, the Alden 405 Indy Boot.