3 Things to Look for in Leather Boots
Call us cynical, but our here-today, gone-tomorrow economy is increasingly full of purchasing pitfalls. Especially in menswear. Ever heard of planned obsolescence? It’s real. That’s why finding the perfect pair of boots is like unearthing buried treasure. Maybe they’re not literally from another time, but they’ll sure feel like it, because the right boots are built for the long haul.
Leather boots were once standard footwear for blue collar laborers, soldiers, and outdoor ramblers. Today the basic designs haven’t changed all that much, and there are ones still appropriate for work, those that are a little dressier, and plenty that easily straddle both scenarios. That’s really the beauty of a good pair of classic-looking leather boots: they pair just as well with a t-shirt and jeans, as khakis and a sports coat. Get a pair and they’ll become one of the most versatile things in your closet.
To aid you in finding the right leather boots for you, here are three tips every discerning boot hunter should know, as well as a few of our own personal recommendations:
1. Not All Leather Is Created Equal
There are actually a lot of differences between leathers. If the boot just says “leather,” it’s potentially of much lower quality, so watch out. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for “Full Grain” leather, which is rugged, handsome, ages exceptionally well, and more importantly, is of top quality. (We’re partial to Wolverine’s 1000 Mile for its Horween leather.) On the opposite end of the quality spectrum, you’ll find stuff like “Bonded Leather,” which sounds neat, but is basically leather bits, dust, and shavings all pressed together. Leather branded as “Genuine” is great for leather suede, but not for a boot’s high-stress areas like the toe. “Top Grain” is second best, just below “Full Grain.” It’s durable enough to get the job done, but probably won’t win any beauty contests.
2. Make Sure They’re Resoleable
If you want a pair that will run the gauntlet and still have some miles left for your grandkids, invest in resoleable boots. Yes, they’re more expensive. Yes, you’ll have to get them resoled a few times over the decades. But these are the highest quality boots out there. Period. Look for boots made with either the “Blake Welt” (Rancourt’s Brunswick) or “Goodyear Welt” (see: Red Wing’s Iron Ranger and Wolverine’s 1000 Mile). “Goodyear Welting” is actually the oldest (circa 1869), most labor intensive, and most durable way to construct a shoe. It uses a strip of leather or rubber that runs along the perimeter of a boot’s sole, which is then lockstitched to the sole, upper, and insole. The benefits? It’s easy to resole by hand or machine, while providing extra foot support and even a little bit of added water resistance due to the extra layering.
3. Trust Heritage Brands
Look to the feet of America’s bravest and most badass dudes for help. What were the lumberjacks and mountain men and construction workers who built this country wearing? Answer: a few brands that are still crushing it — Rancourt (Est. 1967), Red Wing (1905), Astorflex (late 1800s), and Wolverine (1883). The highest quality materials and construction don’t lie. Heritage like this is living proof that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Alright, now that you’re an expert on all things boots, here are some options for both work and play. They have our full blessing. Whichever suits your style, you get exactly what you pay for: the highest quality materials and construction from legacy brands. Win. Win. Win. Below are three of our favorites for varying styles:
Built For Fridays: Nisolo Andres
With an upper handcrafted from a water-resistant oil-tanned leather equipped, plus a Vibram Mini Lug sole, the Andres Boot is ready for whatever the weather throws at you. Whether you’re traveling, hiking, or just getting things done around town, you’re covered. Its classic, old-school workboot silhouette cleans up nicely, so you can count on it for a dinner party or happy hour too, making it one of the most covertly rugged boots we’ve ever stepped into.
Rugged Yet Refined: Rhodes Dean Boot
The Dean Boot is crafted in a third-generation, family-run Portuguese factory with over 50 years of experience and expertise. Every time you thread the laces through the easy-on speed hooks, you’ll see the calf leather subtly aging with a handsome patina that makes them more uniquely yours with each mile you put on ’em. And when the miles really start to add up, that hard-earned patina isn’t going anywhere—Blake construction means a cobbler will make short work of replacing the sole. Premium materials, best-in-class craftsmanship, fully resoleable—in other words, this is a pair of boots you can depend on for a lifetime of service.
The Everyday Wear: Astorflex Greenflex
The Greenflex Desert Boot is one of the best kept secrets in men’s footwear. Handmade in Northern Italy by a family that’s been making boots for six generations, these boots are eco-friendly, handsome as hell, and represent the best value on the market. They’re a take on the desert boots worn in WWII, but crafted with a bit more care. It all starts with premium European leather that’s aged for 30 days in an all-natural mixture of water, oak bark, and powdered mimosa. The leather is then softened with all-natural ingredients to produce a leather that is supple and environmentally friendly. The boot is then finished with 100% natural rubber soles that feel like walking on a cloud