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.