From left to right:
Alden for J.Crew Natural Cap Toe Boot (size 12). USA. $547. Purchase.
Oak Street Bootmakers Natural Cap Toe Trench Boot (size 13). USA. $426. Purchase.
Red Wing 9016 Beckman in Cigar Featherstone (size 12). USA. $330. Purchase.
Wolverine 1000 Mile Rugged Boot in Brown (size 12). USA. $355. Purchase.
Timberland 6 Inch Zip Earthkeepers Boot in Burnished Tan (size 13). Imported. $170. Purchase.
Bonobos Premium Denim, Flatiron Dark Rinse, Slim Straight Jeans. USA. $145. Purchase.
To preface, I’m partial to the following: a true goodyear welt for resoling and longevity, cap toes to aesthetically break the length of the shoe (I wear a size 13, but for those that run a size large I ordered down as noted above), a method for
speedily donning the boots, clean edges (as opposed to broguing), a sole with traction since these are for NYC winter, leather lining for boot longevity & comfort, made in the USA.
Alden for J.Crew Cap Toe Boot in Natural
Well made with a Goodyear welt with the highest stitches/inch in the lot. The smooth, vegetable tanned, leather lining fully covers the interior and creates an incredibly comfortable boot straight out of the box. They’re easy to put on with a large entry area combined with hooked eyelets, although there a more hooks and eyelets than necessary, stylistically it adds refinement. The commando (rubber) soles are appropriate in depth for a city winter boot to provide traction in snow, without clomping around in a hiking boot with half inch lugs. The color will patina very well (according to photos online of Alden Indy Boots made with the same leather). They come with two bags for storage and an extra pair of laces. They’re also made here in the USA.
The stitching on the sole isn’t channeled into the bottom of the shoe, although it isn’t routed directly over the tread, so until the treads are worn considerably it should be OK. However, once the treads are worn down, the threading will be exposed on the sole of the shoe receiving abrasion from the sidewalk. Similarly, the thread under the arch of the foot is on the surface of the leather, which will inevitably receive some wear and tear from curbs and the built environment, if it’s enough to wear through before it’s time to resole, I’m not sure. The laces also don’t feel durable and the broguing, while well done, is unnecessary and I prefer simple toe caps (even if broguing was born in bog boots). The color is lighter than expected, however it’ll darken and patina beautifully with wear.
Since Alden offers many styles and frequently collaborates with vendors for custom runs, it can be hard to find exactly what you’re looking for. To help, here is a short list of retailers: Unionmade, Need Supply Co., Leffot, Epaulet, Leather Soul Hawaii, Winn Perry, J.Crew, Barneys NY, The Shoe Mart, Alden of Carmel.
Oak Street Bootmakers Cap Toe Trench Boot in Natural
Very well made and true to length, however the boots are a bit wide. They’re also comfortable out of the box, with the tongue laying smooth across the top of my foot and ankle. The leather laces are the perfect length for wrapping around the top of the boot, which is both stylish and a good alternative for speedy lacing without using hooks, which some people don’t like due to the increased cuff damage and tripping hazard. These Oak Street’s have half a lining, which isn’t as luxurious as the full lining on the Alden’s, but is better than no lining. Made in the USA.
Oak Street hasn’t released their rubber Dainite soles in the cap toe, so the bottom is a smooth leather. Style wise the broguing is minimal with a clean edge rather than the Alden’s wavy half crescent edge, but still unnecessary. The color has a bit of a sickly hue, which was surprising and not what I expected from a “natural” color. This could be from the Chromexcel process that uses chrome salts to speed up the process, before a secondary process with natural tannins, although the Alden leather is also Chromexcel, so it’s unclear. It’s likely that this will fade with time as the leather patina’s to more of a brown color. Only the front half of the boot has a calfskin lining (same as Red Wing Beckman and Wolverine 1000 Mile).
Red Wing 9016 Beckman in Cigar Featherstone
The rubber sole is good for snowy cities and the tongue webbing extends higher than on the other boots, which should help with weather protection. Solid Goodyear welt construction and the main leather feels very durable. Additionally, the wax on the laces, to prevent untying, is a feature all boots with cotton/nylon should include.
I was most surprised and disappointed in the Red Wings. The tongue is made of a thin and stiff piece of leather that doesn’t sit flat against my foot/ankle. The laces are too short, such that every time I want to wear the boots the top eyelets need to be restrung. The top edge of the boot has a thin, black rolled piece of leather that is stiff and feels cheap. The soles have no channel for the stitching and thus the stitching is exposed, running directly along the wear surface. This shouldn’t matter all that much since the soles are both glued and stitched onto the boot, but it shows a lack of detail. I expected better from Red Wing and wouldn’t recommend this boot. If the style is to your liking go with the Red Wing 877, it’s a beast of a boot, but the craftsmanship and functional design are excellent.
Wolverine 1000 Mile Rugged Boot in Brown
The burnished edges along the top are aesthetically preferable to the Beckman’s leather trim. Some folks recommend conditioning new boots before wearing them to ensure the leathers ready for weather, but that’s unnecessary for these. The leather arrives with a waxy sheen as if the final coat of wax/oil wasn’t fully buffed off, which means the leather hasn’t dried out at all. Because of this the leather is very soft and water repellent from the get go, as well as very comfortable. The laces are the perfect length and a better color than the Beckman’s. The eyelets are an antiqued brass color, which I also prefer to the black Beckman’s. The sole stitching is channeled so as not to wear prematurely. They’re made in the USA. If this boot came in a commando sole it would have kept it.
Not offered in a rubber sole, which would be preferable to the Beckman and would probably be the best price/quality option in the lot. Some people have had problems with the heels in the past, but to my knowledge that is no longer an issue. The interior lining is only in the front of the boot similar to the Beckman and Oak Street boots.
Timberland 6 Inch Zip Earthkeepers Boot in Burnished Tan
Very comfortable out of the box and the leather is a nice color. “Silver Rated Tannery” combined with the use of recycled plastic and organic cotton is commendable. Far cheaper than the other boots and yet they still manage to channel the sole stitching so the threads don’t wear on the bottom.
Due to the synthetic liner the interior of the boots, wear out faster than a boot made of more durable materials, preventing resoling from being very useful. If the liner does last the soles are thin, so resoling can be problematic (I’ve tried in the past, but it was unclear if it was an impossible task or the cobbler botched the job). Together this may negate the fact that they’re cheaper; if well cared for with basic maintenance (periodic saddle soap + Obenauf’s) the other boots will last considerably longer. The toes are unnecessarily long and the burnishing is poorly done with a very rigid and unnatural cutoff point. Made in China.