About the Brand:
Founder: Tiago Maximo, Business Partner: Mike Lodzinki
Location: Portugal (manufacturing)
As a child, I saw the boots on my grandfather's feet and was fascinated by how the leather acquired personality over time. The boots that my grandfather wore were the boots of the working class: they were sturdy and were the same style of boots that had been worn for generations.
"Authenticity" would be the best one word description of Urban Shepherd Boots. In 2014, Tiago Maximo started the brand with 300 Euros, producing footwear that pays homage to the Portuguese working boots of the 1950s and the Portuguese culture. He stresses identity, strength, and values; all of which can be seen in Urban Shepherd's boots. There is a unique 'identity' in the boots as they are made of waxed-calfskin and stitched together with red thread. There is 'strength' in the quality of the materials used to make his boots and there are many 'values' when it comes to where and who the leather is sourced from. These boots are more than just work footwear, they are a representation of the very people who make them, where they are from, what they do, and how they live.
Combination Tanned, Waxed Calfskin Leather
360 Goodyear Welt
Vibram Mini-Lug Rubber Half-sole and Heel
Leather/Foam Insole (Removable)
Anti-Shock Cork, Leather Midsole
Calf-Skin Leather Lined Interior
Waxed, Red Stitching
Comes with White and Red Laces
Made in Portugal
There is something tricky when purchasing a pair of Urban Shepherd Boots, even more so than other brands: sizing. Before getting the Country Boots, I got a hold of others who had a pair of Urban Shepherds already to inquire about how they determined which size was right for them. Usually I am a size 9 in boots and a 9.5 true-to-size, so I was fairly certain that a 9 would probably be the way to go. But I am glad I asked around! After many discussions with other customers, I had a variety of answers: "stay true-to-size, go with your Red Wing size, size up two sizes"... Quite confusing to say the least! I finally went with my standard 9 boot size.
Still unsure, I wrote a note to them with my exact measurements asking to please size up to a 10 if they think it would be a better fit. I wasn't sure if the company would actually read the note (some brands don't which makes the 'Leave Us a Note' section pointless when purchasing) but their customer service is excellent. Mike Lodzinki (Tiago's business partner) responded quickly via social media and email. He sent me a size 10 with a note saying that he would be more than happy to do a size switch free of charge. Once they get their sizing down, it will be much easier on new customers to be confident in their purchase. The company's goal is to have their boots be true-to-size be the end of the year.
Thankfully, getting the sizing right is the only real issue I have with my Country Boots. I love the red stitching (very well done) as it is quite attractive and unique. As a bonus, the threading is also waxed down to help keep loose threads at a minimum, something I have noticed to be an issue for some other boot brands at this price point. The anti-rust brass hardware is a personal favorite for me over nickel and the inclusion of cream, tan, and red laces makes it fun to try out different color combinations. I was thinking about getting some Pisgah Range LTD laces as I like to do the wrap-around-the-ankle look but the eyelets are a tad to small for regular boot laces. No matter, as the included laces are of really good quality (something that I cannot say about many other boots).
The Country Boots, as well as most of the Urban Shepherd line, do not include speed hooks (Tiago is opposed too them which I understand) was an initial turn off for me. However, I have come to appreciate it as I have broken and bent several other speed hooks on other pairs of boots. Despite their usefulness, companies have a hard time getting them just right. Plus, the 'all eyelet look' makes for a more uniformed boot.
The Goodyear Welt is superbly done and I could find no issues with it. The Vibram sole has excellent traction and I have had no problems. They are a great pair for inclement weather with no slippage or sliding. The mini lugs also do very well on rocky surfaces. I am glad that they use a leather stacked heel, something some brands skimp out on, as well as a leather midsole over foam. The traditional cork and shank help in both comfort and stability. Having nails in the front of the boot by the welt gives the feeling of a secure boot, regardless if they actually offer much in the way of durability.
Durability does come up when it comes to the insole. The insole is removable with a leather layer over foam. However, I do not know at this time how well it will hold up and Urban Shepherd does not currently offer or sell any replacements. On the other hand, the fact that they are removable means customization is easier and adding your favorite insert, or in some cases, a needed insert, makes it much easier. If you want, you can wear these without the insole as the cork footbed rests right underneath the leather lining.
The original waxed calfskin leather has always been used on this style of boot in Portugal and is fairly unique to Portuguese shoes. What I love about it is that it is incredibly durable and beautiful leather. The farmers have been using it for generations. Not only is it beautiful, it is very functional, which allows us to keep that 'workwear' aspect that is so important to both of us. -Mike Lodzinski
As for use, these have become my favorite boots at the moment. These boots in particular are my go to in nasty weather as rain and moisture run right off of it. Scratches and scuffs easily buff out of the waxed leather and the more I wear them, the unique character of the boots begin to come alive. It is not an even patina, certain spots darken quicker where there has been pressure, particularly around the vamp and tongue. The heel counter is another spot where the leather has started to darkened. For me, this characteristic of the leather can tell quite a story after many wears. Which is one of the reasons I have really gotten into natural leather.
A polarizing opinion about these boots will be the design. The cap toe has almost a trapezoid like shape and is quite short compared to my Red Wing Iron Rangers. Although not as bulbous, it is certainly not a dress boot. That might be off putting to some people and that's okay, one of the reasons I really love these boots is that they are quite unique. When most brands seem to be heading for that sleeker toe cap, hybrid dress/work boot style, Urban Shepherd Boots stay true to their roots and produce heirloom footwear that pays homage to the Portuguese workers and farmers. I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings for both these boots, and the brand.
About the Brand:
Founders: Anibal & Cuitlahuac Ortiz
The sibling tag team of Anibal & Cuitlahuac Ortiz are the founders of John Doe Shoes that began it's journey around 5 years ago. One aspect I really respect out them is that they are an upfront, transparent company that do not try to hide behind fancy words and other bells and whistles.
The name (John Doe Shoes) comes from the idea that we don't care about brands, so the brand is pointless what people should care about is quality. Our motto is "pay for quality not for a brand." -Cuitlahuac
Brogue Cap Toe 420 Last
Vegetable-Tanned, Russet Horsehide Leather from Horween
360 Goodyear Welt
Commando Rubber Halfsole and Heel
Leather Lined Interior
Metal Speedhooks & Eyelets
Made in Mexico
I had been eyeing these particular boots for sometime. The fact that Russet Horsehide Leather Boots are not made by any other company (that I know of) and John Doe's own description of the leather peaked my interest. If Horween themselves advised against using this leather to make boots, then why did John Doe Shoes do it and what are the benefits?
...I think only 2 or 3 companies can compare to our vast leather collection. -Cuitlahuac
Before answering that question, let's look at what Russet Horsehide Leather is. The leather is from a "strip" along the horse's backside that is above the "shells" used to make Shell Cordovan Leather. At Horween, this strip is vegetable tanned for 45 days and is known for its tight fiber structure. Russet Horsehide is commonly used for moldable items such as holsters and sheaths. Suffice to say, John Doe Shoes took a big risk making boots with this particular leather!
Looking at the boots, they are a beautiful tan color. I have owned the 420 Last before and find it to be like most service boot models; not to slim but certainly not bulbous either. There is triple stitching along the vamp and counter and has a partially gusseted tongue. A cotton set of laces came with the boot but I switched them out for these Emerald Green beauties by Pisgah Range LTD (and sometimes Maroon). The commando half sole/rubber heel add some nice traction and surprisingly, not that much girth to the boots. While the outsole isn't from a famous company such as Vibram or Dainite, it does its job and only time will tell how it holds up compared to the larger brands.
Most of my boots are size 9 but John Doe Shoes, at least their 420 Last, runs pretty true to size and the 9.5 is a good fit (Note: toe box does run long). Anibal and Cuitlahuac Ortiz, the founders of John Doe Shoes, told me to "take it easy" with these boots at first. There is statement on the company website that make it clear that it takes time for these boots to break in. Me, being stubborn, decided to wear them the whole first day (about 12 hours) I received them.
Needless to say, the Ortiz's where right. I went for a walk, worked in them, and took the dogs out on the first day which led to my heels and feet being sore that night... And for a few nights after. This leather is tough!
Despite wearing these everyday for the past week and a half, the boots have just started developing creases at the flex point! However, they have become more comfortable (or I have just gotten use to the pain haha) and the only sore spot is on my right heel. The 420 Last has a squared off shaft at the counter which makes for a somewhat weird fit around the ankles.
The counter is the only place I found quality control issues as both are stitched unevenly and at a slight angle. They match though and considering how hard this leather is to work with it doesn't really bother me (my jeans cover them anyways when wearing them). I did have a speed-hook fall off but that was more my fault as I caught it on the edge of a table. Hey, it happens. Both of these issues are cosmetic and do not effect the durability. In my opinion, that is more important.
These boots will last a long time and they will keep evolving. I have really gotten into natural, undyed leather boots lately as they have the most patina potential. These Russet Horsehide Boots from John Doe Shoes are no exception. The unique grain patterns on the leather pop out the more I wear them which is something I just don't see on my cowhide boots. As this pair breaks in, the leather will to start to show even more character and darken. I think that is what I am most excited about: the great stories these boots will tell for me over the years.
Style: Plain Toe Service Boot
Leather: Horween Indigo Dyed Chromexcel
Outsole: 18 IR Cork w/Vibram 468 Heel
Insole: Comfort Cushion
Welt: 360 Degree Goodyear Storm Welt
Hardware: Nickel, Speedhooks
Made in the USA
About the Beloit Model:
Here it is, the other pair I got from the Thorogood 1892 Collection: the Indigo Dyed CXL Beloit 814-9011s. After talking with Clint Greendeer over at Context Clothing (Interview with Clint on the Natural Nantucket Janesville Review) and about his favorite 1892 Boots, I had to get another pair! I was torn between the Beloits and the Tomahawk Lodan Green 814-7011s. What made me ultimately go with the Beloits was the indigo dyed Chromexcel Leather and the fact that the 6" service style boots just look better on me than taller models.
The Beloit Boots are inspired by the hardworking farmers at the turn of the 20th century, these handcrafted Beloit boots help today’s growers of art, technology, and manufacturing get the job done in style. Just like their Janesville Moc-Toe cousin, the boots are named after a small town in Wisconsin. According to Thorogood, the town of Beloit is known as "the Gateway to Wisconsin" and is the birthplace of the speedometer. The bit of history that goes along with the 1892 Collection is the cherry on top for me. I love heritage boots and the story behind them!
Once you get the boots out of the box, admire the craftsmanship and beautiful leather, you will be presented with two styles of laces: leather and waxed cotton. Personally, leather laces make boots much tighter on my feet and break very easily, so I tossed those aside. The regular laces are just par-for-the-course for me; useable, but nothing special. Luckily, I have a bunch of Pisgah Range LTD Laces and found the Maroon pair to be the perfect contrasting mate for the boots.
After putting on the laces, I did a quick quality control once over. The stitching and welting are well done (really like the storm welt) for the most part. There are a few uneven stitch lines on the heel of the right boot but nothing that would affect them negatively in terms of performance. It is a meniscal cosmetic flaw that make my pair unique to me and remind me that these boots are truly handmade.
Once getting them on my feet, they were quite comfortable. The Beloits use the same No. 60 last as my Janesville and the only difference between the two is that the Beloits were a bit tighter towards the front of of my feet at the beginning. However, after a couple of wears, the Chromexcel leather formed to my feet and I am able to spend all day in them. Hardly a tough break-in!
I really like the cork sole and Vibram heel combination. Cork soles are more comfortable than most rubber ones for me, but of course the downside is that they provide less traction. The rubber heel on the Beloits help balance that out and provide pretty good shock absorption as well. After doing a little investigating, I found that the exact heel model is the Vibram 468 Comfort Cushion which main compound is SBR. I have no idea what that is but I like it!
Inside the boot, you will find a pair of removable Thorogood insoles that the company provides in most, if not all, their models. The one issue I can see with the sole is more cosmetic as the Vibram heel is lighter in color than the black sole. Personally, I don't mind it but I understand why it would bother others.
I love the way Chromexcel feels and often find myself running my hand over the boots when I am sitting down (Yes, I am weird). The normal con, or pro depending on who you ask, with Chromexcel is that it scratches and scuffs easily. In my opinion, it is cool to see the different shades of blue that appear after a few wears but if you are a person that likes a clean looking boot, you might be polishing these often. Me? I work for that patina!
Loose grain seems to be a popular topic in the boot community, particularly when it comes to Chromexcel. Nick, from the Horween Tannery, explains that more here. While my pair of Beloits may not be immune to loose grain, it is not prevalent and again, I like when my boots age and look beat up. What's the point of buying them if you don't wear the heck out of them?!
Currently, the Beloits, and the rest of the 1892 Collection by Thorogood, are on sale at stores such as Context Clothing and Milworks. I read a rumor that the 1892 Line is going on hiatus in May because of Thorogood's new business partnership but I cannot confirm this statement first hand. Regardless, the sale won't last forever and these boots are already hard to find as it is!
The Thorogood 1892 Janesville Natural Nantucket Boots 814-3781: Initial Impressions: Featuring the Boot's Designer, Clint Greendeer!
Leather: Horween Natural Nantucket
Outsole: Vibram Christy
Insole: Comfort Cushion/PORON
Welt: 360 Degree Goodyear, Storm Welt
Made in the USA
About Thorogood and the Janesville Model:
Thorogood (Weinbrenner Shoe Company) has been making boots since 1892. The company was started, and still run to this day, in Wisconsin. It is employee owned and unionized, a rarity in today's fashion world! Thorogood's bestselling boots come from the American Heritage Moc-Toe Line. The 6" Moc-Toe Work Boots in Tobacco in particular are a favorite among Thorogood followers!
The Janesville Boot is a similarly designed moc-toe boot that is part of Thorogood's 1892 Collection. All of the boots in this series are named after towns in Wisconsin and boasts quite an impressive lineup!
This Janesville model, in particular the 814-3781, is a collaboration boot with Clint Greendeer of Context Clothing. Context Clothing (est. 2005) is located up in Madison, Wisconsin and is a specialty store for well made, heritage clothing; from denim to boots to wallets! The store had the honor of being named one of of the top ten independent men's clothing stores in the US by GQ Magazine in 2010!
I had the privilege to get to know Clint and ask him a few questions about the Janesville Nantucket Boot and Heritage Clothing. (interview after "Initial Impressions")
I had been looking into getting a pair of moc-toe boots for sometime now. However, the overall boot style made me worry that a pair would like like clown shoes on my feet. I had even tried on competitors' boots and were still unsure. What struck me first about these boots is the beautiful, Natural Nantucket Leather. It was hard to find much information about this type of leather. The other Janesville models are made from Horween's famous Chromexcel Leather, a favorite among boot makers and collectors. The Natural Nantucket is different though in that it is a pure, vegetable-tanned leather and not combination tanned like Chromexcel.
Not only do the boots look great but they are very comfortable out-of-the-box, compared to other moc-toe style boots I have tried on in the past, and did not even need a day of breaking in. The inclusion of a removable Thorogood Comfort Insole is one of the main reasons for this no break-in period and allows a person to have more possibilities with what socks they wear. That is a big deal to me as I have the option of taking the insole out in the winter time in order to put on thicker socks!
The Janesville is more simplistic in terms of design compared to their Thorogood Moc-Toe brethren; less stitching and branding, no steel toe etc... While the Heritage Line boots are made for manual labor, the 1892 Collection is more fashion focused. That doesn't mean that the 1892 boots aren't meant to get beat up, no, they are tough! However, I believe these would not pass many regulations for footwear in different industries compared to the Heritage Boots.
That being said these boots hold up well in less than ideal conditions. I trudged them through a muddy hill (which was a bad idea for those pretty white soles) about a week after I got them and they held up (And held me up!) well (although they got really dirty). The ground has been very wet because of constant rain and melting snow. I have had no problems with water getting into the boot. In fact, I ran them once under the faucet after the trip through the mud and not one drop got in. Just working for that patina!
In terms of quality of construction, the boot is very well made. The Storm Welt is perfect and the upper is stitched to perfection. There were one or two loose threads (which I have read can be a problem with some Thorogood Boots), however, nothing alarming that will effect the everyday wear of the boots. I feel people tend to nitpick over the smallest details and forget that products such as these boots are handmade. Minor cosmetic flaws that are barely visible cause me no concern and makes the pair I own unique to me.
When it comes to the price, the 1892 Collection is more expensive than other Thorogood boots (however, they do go on sale from time to time) and are competitively in line with the popular Red Wing Heritage Collection. One of the reasons for the higher cost is that the leathers used to make these boots are of better quality and come from the infamous tannery Horween, which is located in Chicago. Second, the sole is made by Vibram, which is considered one of the best sole makers in the world for shoes and boots. On Thorogoods' other boots, they use their own in house soles that are made specifically for certain work environments and saves on production cost.
I prefer the slimmer profile of the Janesville compared to Thorogood's Heritage moc-toe models. I think they look great with selvedge denim (if you couldn't tell from the pictures). Getting to know the man behind this particular design (see below), and the fact that Thorogood is a company that's located one state north of me, puts a stamp of 'authentic heritage' on these boots for me. I not only own a product from a brand with a rich American history, I also got to put a face to the person who had a hand in the product's creation!
Get to Know Clint Greendeer:
How did you get involved with Thorogood?
I (Clint) became familiar with Thorogood while working at Context Clothing. Ryan and Sam (of Context Clothing) met with Thorogood to discuss new styles for the 1892 Collection. They asked me what my ideal Thorogood boot would be, so I started to research vintage Thorogood‘s to gain inspiration. Ryan and Sam pitched Thorogood my concept of a new boot, and I’m honored that Thorogood put the Janesville in Natural Nantucket 814-3781 into production.
What about the moc-toe style do you love?
I love the workwear aesthetic, especially when pairing Moc-Toe style boots with selvedge denim.
Why go with the natural, vegetable tanned leather? What about it drew you to it over other leathers?
I went with natural leather because of the high contrast patina it develops. It’s cool to see how the light leather gets darker over time and with more wear.
Besides the Janesville 814-3781, what other boots do you own that are among your favorites? Why?
Context 113 Boot 814-1113
Janesville Black 814-6781
Beloit Natural CXL 824-4311
I am a big fan of the Plain Toe Beloit Boot in Natural Chromexcel. That boot is what influenced me to go with a similar leather for the Janesville in Natural. The Plain Toe on the Beloit looks great with Chinos for a formal look and goes well with denim for the workwear aesthetic.
The 113 Boot is a rugged Moc-Toe in oily Horween Plainsman Leather. I love the natural irregularity in the leather which makes each boot unique to itself and the person wearing them.
What first got you into vintage items and heritage clothing?
Levi’s 501 denim was my first calling to heritage clothing. The 501 Jean is a versatile garment that has been worn by many people in so many ways. I like the approach of soaking a pair of unsanforized 501’s then breaking them in. The 501s are very versatile! I believe that adds to the non-verbal expression of how we decide to dress ourselves.
What cleaning/conditioning/polishing products do you recommend you use with the 814-3781s?
I recommend a horsehair brush on them every 2-3 wears. When it comes time for boot care, apply Obenauf’s LP evenly on the boot. I like to add Obenauf’s to the leather laces so they become more flexible and it holds the knot better.