Wesco Burlap Oxfords – Review

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Wesco are currently the best North American work boot company in existence, I realise that is quite a statement, I realise that many people favour White’s Boots (as I once did), Viberg, Nick’s or even Red Wing, but for me there is no longer even an argument to be had here. Wesco are number one.

There was a time only a very short while ago when there was not much to choose really between the big three of White’s, Viberg and Wesco (I don’t include Alden as they are not primarily a work boot company), that isn’t really the case these days for a few reasons. In both White’s and Viberg there has been a paradigm shift, a slight one but when you operate at the top end of your chosen market slight changes can have fairly major repercussions.

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White’s Boots reputation for cosmetic quality is not quite what it once was in the denim and work wear community, it’s still extremely good and far above what you would get from just about every other manufacturer in the market, unfortunately Whites are competing with brands who do better, and that is a problem. Over at Viberg they have continued with their path towards the high fashion market, choosing retail partners in luxury boutiques and courting the attentions of those perhaps more used to wearing Dior or Rick Owens than Samurai, Iron Heart or LVC. Which leaves Wesco, a brand who have risen to prominence here in the western denim and work wear scene a while after they did so in Japan. They still make custom options, they have a huge variety of leather options, they don’t have the most extensive range of models but they do make simple and solid footwear with near perfect construction.

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Wesco found prominence in the market by being the favoured choice of Oregon based woodsmen and bikers alike, mostly due to their Jobmaster and Boss models. They are a brand who have been in business for 100 years and are still owned by the same family, so their heritage is on point for those who place importance on such things, and now they are setting the standard for what American made work footwear should be. Recent times have seen the Wesco range expand slightly in terms of the standard models and lasts which they offer, still not on a par with the other two mentioned boot makers but expansion nevertheless, and it is this adherence to doing what they do so well which has seen them take the top spot amongst boot brands.

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Giles Padmore (of Iron Heart UK fame) has launched an exclusive Wesco dealership and distribution network in Europe, featuring a few select details which will only be available through this enterprise, know commonly as The Bootery EU. The first exclusive from Wesco which The Bootery took delivery of was the collaboratively designed “Foot Patrol” utility boot, a service boot/ semi dress rival which manages to be both casual, formal and practical in one stunning package. They also have exclusivity on a rather nice olive burlap leather which caught my eye as something which should evolve incredibly, so that is what I decided to order for my second pair of Wesco’s.

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Having already sampled Wesco’s quality with a custom order of the Japanese “Flightmaster” model through the Bootery ,(for courtesies sake I refer to them as a modified packer), I decided to opt for the same brand again to make me a pair of shoes which has always taken my fancy, some lace to toe oxfords. Having chosen the model and the leather all that remained were the details.

– Wesco Lace To Toe Oxford
– Olive Burlap Leather
– Rough out
– Natural Edge
– Brown stitching
– Brass hardware
– Black wedge sole

My aim was for a pair of shoes which would have serious long term comfort for work and leisure, evolve to look even better with wear and most importantly they would need to hold my interest over a minimum of 24 months for wear the BWC contest. On first impressions, I am not disappointed.

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The construction is, as expected, flawless. Stitching is even, edges are neat and the whole shoe feels like a robust quality item. The burlap leather has a soft hand but is also surprisingly substantial and certainly does not feel weak, which was a slight worry of mine. The leather is allegedly only 5oz but with the leather liner providing stiffness and support you get the softness and character of the rough out with enough heft to make the shoe quite a heavy piece of footwear. An intriguing detail to note, and one which I have not seen anyone else do, is actually stitching a wedge sole to the foot bed for extra durability. I have seen it done with other soles but never a wedge sole, if anyone was going to do it then it would be Wesco.

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Something which always strikes me about Wesco footwear is how well it bears close inspection, it really is worth taking a close up look at the meticulously spaced stitching, the precision of the hardware fit and the smooth edges of the midsole, details which reassure you that you have bought a quality item indeed. The shape of the shoe is also near perfect, with lace to toe shoes and boots I have seen some manufacturers go too far in actually lacing to the toe, resulting in kind of a “bull nosed” look to the contour, too short, too wide and not particularly functional when it comes to the job of securing your boots with comfort, something of an over exaggeration of form resulting in a loss of function. Wesco get it absolutely correct, the shoe feels secure, with no slip whatsoever, whilst maintaining a form which is more subtle, true thought has gone into this.

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In summary the shoes are exactly as I expected, precisely made with real attention to calibre and detailing. Wesco have gone beyond being simply a quality work boot company, their craft has made them a boot maker’s boot maker, a company producing the most stunning, well made and functional work boots and shoes there is. Whilst it is clear that footwear made from burlap leather perhaps won’t hold up to the rigours of serious labour, they could certainly occupy the feet of an office worker like me for many years to come.

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