Category Archives: Boots

White’s Custom Boots

I got a pretty amazing birthday gift this year. Our parents decided to spend most of their spring out in Portland Oregon to spend time with Wefty and his family. Moving from the suburbs to a downtown apartment resulted in a lot more walking than my parents are used to, and my Dad looked into getting himself a new pair of boots to help with the foot fatigue. He ended up at Animal Traffic, which stocks the ever famous Red Wing Boots, and the somewhat less-known White’s Boots made in Spokane Washington. After relieving his own foot pains, and knowing that I often have similar problems, Dad decided to get me a pair as a birthday gift when I came out for a visit at the end of May.

Continue reading White’s Custom Boots

Red Wing 3141 Chukka

Redwing is synonymous with quality american made boot. The other day I heard a story on NPR about how they were a hot item for counterfeiters in China to make and sell in country, alongside iPads and other popular brands.

But when I walked into the Durham NC’s Vert & Vogue back in October, I had never heard of them before. I walked out of the store on that day with several new items of clothing, and I did it with a pair of Redwing 3141 Work Boots on my feet.

The Leather
With Redwing’s Briar Oil Slick leather, these shoes are dark brown and solid. The toe-piece is constructed from the cows back, where the hide is thick, while the back of the shoe and tongue are constructed from more flexible leather pieces from the cow’s belly and sides. Although these shoes lack a steel-toe reinforcement, the toe is very sturdy thanks to the thickness of the hide. These shoes are made from full-grain leather, and can withstand the knicks and scrapes of everyday wear.

The Sole
This imported white sole was originally put on the shoe for finish-workers. Instead of a heavy tread, the texturing is fine. This originally was meant to prevent finish-workers from screwing up the floors they had been working on. These have a cream tinge to them that makes dirt look a bit more at home, and makes the shoe feel more natural than a bleach white would.

The Assembly
Brown and White contrast stitching piece this shoe together, with a Goodyear Welt welt attaching the shoe’s top to the imported sole. The Goodyear Welt allows for the shoe to be easily resoled. If the shoe wears similarly to how it has so far in the last few months, I expect to resole every three years or more, and I anticipate these shoes to be worthy of resoling for several rounds. I very well may be wearing this same pair of shoes for the next decade or longer.

The entire Redwing label is constructed by hand entirely out of two US-based plants: One in Potosi Missouri, and the other in Minnesota.

The Wear
When I first put this pair of shoes on, I knew I was in for an experience. Never before had I tried to break in a casual boot before, and it is not an experience I plan to undertake again lightly. First, the shoes needed an insert. The friendly staff at Vert & Vogue gave me a Dr. Scholl’s insert, which we trimmed down and placed in the shoe. But after numerous times where the insert shifted, I ended up replacing it with an insert from an old pair of New Balance Sneakers. The insert softened the sole enough to make wearing them tolerable, although other problems still arose.

I gained blisters literally larger than quarters on the back of my ankles where the shoe rubbed against my foot. This problem lasted for about the first two months of months of wear. Part of the problem was my own stubbornness: I did not want to go back to any other pair of shoes, so I refused to take a break from these. In retrospect, I should have limited myself to wearing them one day a week until my feet got used to them.

But now, after four months of continuous wear, I can walk any distance comfortably in these boots. I even went on a 5-mile hike the day after these pictures were taken, and ended up with slightly sore but blister-free feet. And the Redwings continue to mold more to the story of my wear.

The Guarantee
While Redwing does try to keep shoes consistent, I have noticed a subtle difference between the left and right boot: The toe-piece on the left is slightly lighter, and more susceptible to visible wrinkling, than the right. I considered bringing them back to the store I bought them at to ask if this was normal, but I actually kind of like it. It reminds me that these shoes came from real leather, and that natural products sometimes turn out inconsistently. If I did elect to pursue a replacement, Redwing’s warranty is fairly generous: 30 day unconditional money-back guarantee, 6 month repair or replace guarantee, 12 month repair or 50% credit guarantee, and beyond 12 months they even offer a credit towards another Redwing product, at the discretion of the vendor. Because of this policy, where you buy your Redwings can matter, so consider supporting your local retailer.

In Closing
While I loved this pair of boots from the first time I tried them on, they were an effort to break in. But now, they are my absolute favorite pair of shoes, and I think of them as more comfortable than sneakers. If you are looking for a fantastic pair of casual boots, I highly recommend investing in a pair of Redwings. This pair is made for more “light duty,” and I find it to be a fantastic for my daily activities. But if you want a more heavy-duty boot, another style may be worth looking into. And if your budget exceeds Redwing’s $200-$300 range, you may want to check out Wefty’s Aldens for Unionmade.

There are many styles of Red Wing’s available, and this specific one seems to have gone out of production recently, although they can still be found online. I recommend Finding a local retailer or considering some of these offerings from Need Supply: The 3137 Chukka is the same style in a lighter color.  Also worth checking out are a few other styles.

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12 months in: Alden Sloat Plain-Toe Boot for Unionmade

For the last year, I’ve been wearing a pair of Alden Plain-Toe Boots that I got from Unionmade Goods in San Francisco. The shoes are made in Massachusetts from natural Chromexcel leather, sourced from the Horween Factory in Chicago. These shoes are exclusive to Unionmade, and they are beautiful. I thought it would be good to share some pictures and talk about how they broke in. Continue reading 12 months in: Alden Sloat Plain-Toe Boot for Unionmade

A stroll down Oak Street

Winter was on its way, and I knew I needed some new boots. Okay, it was August, so really, fall was on it’s way, but that’s not really the point. Initially, thought it would be between a pair of Danner Lownsdales from Tanner Goods (@TannerGoods) or a pair of Red Wings, which I thought I might get at Dunderdon (@DUNDERDON). Either way, my search led me to the Blackbox Building in Downtown Portland, where both Dunderdon and Tanner Goods sell their great stuff.

Being a huge fan of Tanner Goods, I walked into the store and was pretty close to buying a pair of the logger-inspired Lownsdales, which are truly beautiful boots. For me, the deciding factor against the Lownsdale was the Gore-Tex liner; my feet need to breathe, and I’ve found Gore-Tex to be like wearing a Ziploc bag over my feet. With that in mind, I decided not even to entice myself, and I left the store without trying the Lownsdales on.

Next, I walked over to Dunderdon, which is two doors down from Tanner, and I went straight back to the shoe wall They had the Red Wings I was looking for, but it took all of 2 seconds for my eye to drift over to a pair of beautifully dyed, finely crafted camping boots from a small producer called Oak Street Bootmakers (@OakStBootmakers). I asked about the shoe, and then promptly decided to buy them. If Red Wing and Yuketen (@Yuketenfootwear) were to make a baby, these boots would be their perfectly designed offspring — not too rustic, not too industrial.

Initial impressions:

Oak Street uses Chromexcel leathers from the Horween factory in Chicago. The handmade boots seem to have immense character, and the richness of the leather is amazing. When I first started wearing them, they were stiff, which is to be expected when it comes to Vibram-soled boots.

When compared to Red Wings, these boots have a bit less bulk and are more suited to walking than the work-oriented boots on the market. I got them in my true size, 9.5, but I planned on wearing them with thick socks. If you want to wear them sockless or with thin socks, size down a bit because they are sized for wear with warm socks.

I’ve been wearing them almost daily since the day I purchased them, and it took a good month for them to soften up and become really comfortable. Now, they have molded to my feet and are — without question — the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned. The quality of construction continues to amaze me each day, too. I have to say that I’m really glad these were the boots I ended up with, and I look forward to years of wear.

Details that I like:

The color is fantastic, as is the contrasting leather used in sole. Also, the brown laces add a pop of color that stands out against the richness of the blue leather.

Beyond this, one detail I particularly love is that Oak Street offers a resoling service for their boots. For $92, they will take your boots, replace the Vibram soles and the laces, as well as reshape the boot to ensure the maximum life of the boot. I didn’t know this when I purchased them, but now that I know, I plan on sending them in every so-often for an overhaul. I plan on wearing these things until they fall apart, which will likely be a very long time from now.