For me winter means boots. I know some people feel it appropriate to stride through the cold and dark, over the ice and snow, wearing the same flimsy, slippery and chilly footwear they use the rest of the year. Around here though we see winter as an opportunity to boot up. And boots must be real boots, no zips and no inappropriate soles will be accepted.
What makes a boot a winter boot? The basic concept is one of ruggedness. They have to be usable when when it’s bastard cold, almost pitch dark, the laces and hooks are frozen, you’ve got bags of shopping and those half a dozen mugs of tea are suddenly back to haunt you. That may be the worst case scenario, but you get the drift. A pair of Converse won’t cut it (too cold!), neither will the typical christie-soled Red Wings (the sole is rubbish on snow and ice) or even a pair of those duck-boot things you see about (too plain ugly).
Don’t forget though, good boots are only half the solution, you wan’t some good wool socks as well.
So, what have I come across that would be good?
[Links to retailers after the description, for your convenience]
RED WING 2930 HERITAGE WORK 6″ ICE CUTTER BOOT
These are what I have been mainly wearing the past two winters. Yes, they are Red Wing, but very rarely recognised as such, as they’re not the mic-toe christie-soled variant that are most popular. These are pure ruggedness, from the soft Vibram commando sole through the Goodyear welted construction, to the simple appearance and the wool lining. 4 eyelets and three hooks make it easy to get on and off. Available in black and brown. Pure business. Made in the USA. [END]
Solovair Chestnut 6-eyelet Derby Boot
I’ve been wearing a pair of these quite a bit this Autumn and I like them a lot. Not dissimilar to Dr Martens of old, in both looks and in being practical no-nonsense footwear. Not surprising really, as Solovair used to make Dr Martens. These have soles similar to the old DM soles, both grippy and comfy. The soles are Goodyear Welted to the full-grain leather uppers, with a leather insole. Available in black, burgundy and chestnut, and several soles. 6 eyelets. Reasonably prices as well. Made by NPS Shoes in Northamptonshire, UK. [Solovair]
SHACKLETON BOSS BOOT
Shackleton have teamed up with traditional British boot and shoe maker Cheaney for the “Boss” boot. A combination of a classic Dainite sole Goodyear welted to an upper of Italian grain leather and Maracca suede. And fully lined in shearling for comfort and cosiness. Looks magnificently rugged and stylish at the same time. Nice and tall as well, great for wading in snow. Boss, indeed. 5 eyelets and three hooks are practical. Handcrafted in Northamptonshire, UK. [Shackleton]
MARK MCNAIRY COMMANDO SOLE BROGUE BOOT
Every time I think about doing a guide to boots I bring out this one. Or one almost just like it. That rugged country brogue boot. I’m really not sure what Mark McNairy brings to the table here, as these are an identikit classic brogue boot. Commando soles Goodyear welted to the full leather uppers, brogue detailing and 7 eyelets. A bit tricky to get on and off, I suspect, but great once you’re stomping around. Available in a number of variants. Made in Britain. [END]
FRACAP M120 RIPPLE SOLE SCARPONCINO BOOT
Another boot I tend to include is the classic Fracap hiking boot. This time though I’ve included the intriguing ripple sole. I can only imagine the traction this sole gives in medium firm snow. With the ripple sole Goodyear welted to the leather upper and the great leather lining, this makes for a splendid boot. 5 eyelets and two hooks make it easy to get this quite low boot on and off. [END]
BARBOUR BILLINGHAM DERBY BOOT
And in from the left field comes something of an outside. Classically British, Goodyear welted, Kainite-Style soles, brogue patterns and well… shiny! It was the shiny leather that made me notice them, to be honest. And they’re quite reasonably priced. And they have branded eyelets, if that makes a difference. They’re unlikely to be made in the UK though. [END]
YUKETEN ANGLER BOOT
You probably saw this one coming as well, right? You can’t do a list of premium gentlemans boots without including a variant of the Yuketen Maine Guide style. This is one the classic reworkings of the American hunting boot. I wanted a variant with a decent winter sole though and this one has the requisite commando sole. Again, Goodyear welted to the leather uppers. This time in chromexcel leather. Hand stitched occasion (aka “moc”) toe. Leather laces, leather lining and excellent details. Leather laces and 7 eyelets make it hard to get on and off though. They come with their own shoe bag. Quality boots. Handmade in the USA. [END]
END. X TRICKER’S COMMANDO SOLE KELMSCOTT BOOT
Occasionally I run a boot or shoe by my friend Scratch, asking his considered opinion, or in many cases triggering a rant. Scratch is particular about his shoes, and this one falles heavily into the category he describes as “Mr Noisy” (I should probably write that in capital letters to really ram the point home). For all intents and purposes this is another repeat of the very classic country brogue boot. Commando sole, Goodyear welted, leather uppers and brogue markings. Check check check. This one was reptile style leather though, combined with smooth calf leather. You can just se yourself stomping around being Mr Noisy, right? 7 eyelets means not easy to get on and off. [END]
Alden Indy Boot
I’ll leave you with another American vintage workbook classic. The “Indy”boots got their name after Harrison Ford wanted to use his personal pair in the “Indiana Jones films”. Normally I wouldn’t have included these in a Winter boot guide, as they are rare to find with anything approaching a usable sole. These are the rare pair that come with a proper Commando sole and that means they can be included. Goodyear welted, naturally, to a Horween Chromexcel upper. 5 eyelets and 4 hooks, make for an easy life. The laces included are pretty feeble though. A distinctive and quality pair of boots. Made in the USA. [KAFKA]