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.