If you follow me on Instagram or have read more than one post on this blog, you will be well aware of the fact that I absolutely adore engineer boots. I now own 6 pairs of them after buying my first pair only 2 years ago this week. With that information presented, it may be surprising to hear that the subject of today’s review is the first pair of boots that I have received new in the mail. My first pair of Clinch was purchased used, my John Lofgrens were bought at Self Edge, I picked up my Role Clubs from Brian in Los Angeles, went in person to get my second two pairs of Clinch boots from the guys at Brass in Tokyo this summer, and I bought my first pair of Red Wings at Snake Oil Provisions from Bobby Milwaukee. Reading back over that last sentence makes me realize just how blessed I have been, but I have to say that I was still feeling like a kid on Christmas when my Wesco boots arrived.
There is so much to talk about with these boots and I am already thinking that this article will be my longest so far, so we will begin with a brief history and description of Wesco as a company. The company was founded in 1918 by John Shoemaker (no, that is not a joke) and even I can do the math that reveals that their 100th anniversary is coming up, which will no doubt deliver some extremely unique and exciting boots. Based out of Scappoose, Oregon and still family owned and operated to this day, the company has been known the world over for making some of the most rugged and tough boots possible. Linemen, loggers, wildland firefighters, and even bikers attest to the longevity of these boots. They are not only a true work boot company, but a work boot made for some of the most demanding and dangerous jobs in the world so if the people in those jobs swear by Wesco, you know they are doing something right. This means that Wesco have a very real heritage and as a result, their popularity grew even more during the rise of raw denim and heritage workwear.
Of course, they do not have the spotlight all to themselves. The company is one of four famous work boot makers from the Pacific Northwest along with Whites and Nicks, which are both out of Spokane, Washington and Viberg, which is in Victoria, British Colombia, Canada. These four companies are close not only in market and quality, but also in distance. You could drive to all of them in under 15 hours which may sound like a lot to some in Europe, Taiwan, or Japan, but here in North America, that’s a relaxing Sunday drive.*
These four brands all have loyal fans and the raw denim and heritage work wear community has argued intently over which brand is best. With White’s being sold to an overseas interest and the quality suffering in turn, it was a close battle between Wesco and Viberg until the Canadian company made several questionable business decisions including raising their prices higher than the northern tip of Canada, making far less boots with stitch down construction, and beginning to neglect their actual work boot heritage to cater to a more fickle, fashion-oriented crowd. According to many, myself included, this has left Wesco as top dog in the Pacific Northwest boot battle in terms of actual quality and durability. Of course, it is very difficult to quantify this. I can only say that in my experience, I have heard the least amount of complaints about Wesco’s actual construction quality.
The one major issue that Wesco had for years which kept them behind Viberg in popularity was the fact that they did nothing to keep up with the current market and consumer interests. Until quite recently, Wesco boots were only available in their basic oil tanned leathers which while durable, were horribly dull to look at and there was very little in terms of details that made them appeal to the massive influx of people like me who became interested in engineer boots from a style standpoint rather than from a practical or motorcycle riding standpoint. Fortunately, Wesco has been involved in some collaborations with other brands and stores that have resulted in some much more appealing boots.
In my very biased opinion, their most interesting collaborations have been with Standard and Strange, a retailer from Oakland, California. The engineer boots that have been created between these two companies have been exactly what people have been wanting from Wesco for years. They are all made on Wesco’s beautiful motor patrol toe last, feature unique and beautiful leathers that were not previously offered, and have the stitching details that were missing from Wesco engineers for years such as triple stitching on the vamp and counter and the v stitching on the back which are actually details from boots they used to make in the 1930s.
Very Sexy v stitch
The boots that I have here are the latest collaboration and in my opinion, the most exciting yet! Unsurprisingly, this pair of engineers is made on the narrow motor patrol last with two row stitch down construction, triple stitching on the vamp and counter, and of course the v stitch on the back. These are the details that we have come to expect from the Wesco x Standard and Strange engineers and I am happy to see that this winning formula has not been messed with. Like the Mazda MX-5 and The Force Awakens, sometimes doing things exactly the same works out very well. This is an unfair comparison, however, because these boots manage to separate themselves from the other Wesco x Standard and Strange models far more than The Force Awakens does from A New Hope.
Most noticeably, the leather itself is quite unique and it was what I was most looking forward to about this boot. It is a waxed flesh leather from the well-loved Horween tannery. Being waxed flesh, it has a very unique look to it that I quite like. It does not actually resemble suede or rough out, but if you look closely, it is very apparent that it is not your average leather. There is some actual texture to it, which is very nice, but still subtle. If rough out and suede are Randy Moss and Chad Ochenta y Cinco (I refuse to call him by his horribly botched interpretation of the Spanish language name that he gave himself), then waxed flesh is Marvin Harrison. You didn’t notice him as much as the other two at first, but he actually ended up with more receptions than both of them.*Sports analogies aside, I really like this leather, especially because of the color. Olive green is one of my favorite colors for clothing, but it is quite rare to see it on a pair of boots. This example is fantastic. It is a very dark color, helping it to blend in with outfits much easier than if it were a brighter, bolder shade. However, once the boot takes some abuse, the lighter green shades come out, adding to the unique character of the boot.
This leather really is quite beautiful
Another unique aspect of these boots is the double leather midsole. Coming in at around 75% thicker than the midsole on any other pair of boots that I own, this is one stiff son of a bitch. It definitely gives the boot a slightly chunkier, formidable stance which is nicely balanced by the slim, relatively sleek last. Walking in it has not been too painful for me as of yet, though I will say that it certainly has the most heel slip of any boot that I have worn so far thanks to the iron levels of stiffness in the midsole. I believe that after enough wear, the boot will finally bend to my will instead of the other way around, but I have been wrong before.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the boot is the fact that it has a brown rubber sole from Vibram. This may sound like a silly detail, but it is one that I absolutely adore. Personally, I find that black rubber soles on brown boots do not look all that nice, especially when the midsole is a light or mid-brown color rather than black or dark brown. For example, my brown Role Clubs have a very dark brown midsole and therefore the black rubber sole looks fine on them. However, my brown Clinch engineers as well as my Natural CXL Lofgrens have black rubber soles that look slightly awkward next to their otherwise light and mild brown colors elsewhere.
You want these rubber soles to blend in more with the rest of your boots, but like that one strand of hair on the back of my head that just WILL NOT LAY DOWN NO MATTER HOW MUCH POMADE OR CLAY I PUT IN MY HAIR, they will always look slightly out of place. I think most people have simply gotten used to this because almost nobody makes brown rubber soles. Vibram has made one for years, but nobody seems to use it. I made sure to order it for my upcoming White Kloud boots as well because I think it makes boots look much cleaner and a little classier as well.
The brown leather sole looks perfect!
As I mentioned earlier, Wesco has an unshakable reputation for high quality, hard-wearing boots that are made practically, not to be showroom trophies sitting on a mantle. My pair of engineers certainly does nothing to alter this reputation in any way. My Boss boots are very well made indeed. Not only do they have a very solid feel to them, I looked over both boots several times and could not find any wonky stitches or issues whatsoever. There are only two small issues that I found and they are extremely minor. Firstly, there was a slightly loose thread on one of the stitch down stitches which is probably more a result of just how beefy the thread is than anything else. I have attached a picture that shows that the actual stitch is fine. All I need to do is cut off the loose part of the thread and everything will be fine. Secondly, my unlined boots have some green color splashed around the inside of the shaft, but I would not personally call that a problem on Wesco’s part because that is a result of the tanning process done by Horween.
The slightly loose stitch. As you can see, the stitch itself is actually done perfectly.
So really, the construction is pretty much perfect and definitely superior to that of my Red Wings that I will review next. The actual stitch work had no mistakes. With that said, the boots are not as beautifully crafted as my Role Club, Clinch by Brass Tokyo, or any of the White Kloud boots I have seen. The stitches are not as tight or as ornately done as on those boots and the overall fit and finish is not quite as polished and pristine. What makes up for this is just how solid everything looks and feels. The stitch down thread is massively thick, the midsole is chunky, and the boots are easily the heaviest that I own.
As a result, I believe that Wesco are now at the peak of the value for money scale. In the past, Wesco was known for well made, durable boots that did not look all that appealing. The leathers were quite dull, there were few to choose from, and despite the fact that the company has a claim to inventing the engineer boot, their versions looked more like the type of boot that a guy from Alabama named Keith who wears Oakley sunglasses and rides Harleys would wear rather than an actual vintage-inspired boot. With pricing generally around the $600 mark, this was a lot to pay for a boot that was well made, but not visually appealing. Fans of the style would instead opt for less expensive Red Wings or have to fork over the cost and spend time waiting for brands like Clinch, Role Club, John Lofgren, Mister Freedom, or Attractions.
Fortunately, the more recent Wesco engineers have had much better leathers as well as far superior details that really get them on the level of those other high end engineer boot brands. In fact, with their triple stitching and cleaner construction, Wesco is now clearly superior to Attractions who often have some less than stellar stitching at times. The stitch work is still tighter and more intricate on Lofgrens, Clinch, and Role Club, but with these Boss boots coming in at around $700, the price difference is significant as is the wait time difference for some. At this point, I will also say that these are a better option than the Mister Freedom Road Champ. No triple stitching, high price, long wait time, and very inconsistent leather means that I chose not to purchase them when I had the opportunity.
I adore my Clinch, Role Club, and Lofgren boots, but I will admit that they are not functionally made any better than these Wesco boots. The only major difference is that Role Club and Clinch are hand welted, which is quite unique and special. With that said, the fact that they are not functionally superior means that your returns diminish with these brands. While there are definitely aspects of these boots that I prefer, these Wesco Boss boots absolutely fit in with them and deserve a place alongside them.
It is no surprise that I am thrilled to have these boots in my collection now. The construction, details, and leather make them a beautiful and unique pair of engineers. Sizing was easy for me as well. I am a 10E on a Brannock and that is what I took in these. Aside from the heel slip, the fit is quite good. I will say that if you do not have an insanely high instep like me, you could take a 9.5 if you are otherwise a 10. These boots will be an exclusive to Standard and Strange so make sure to contact them if you are interested. They can help you out with sizing and give you all the details that you need. Neil has always been extremely helpful and kind to work with. I consider him to be a friend at this point so I have no qualms about pointing you in his direction. I cannot wait to get these more beat up and I’m also excited to see what other boots Wesco and Standard and Strange have in the works.
*OK, it’s not actually a relaxing drive, but it does honestly feel that people in the US and Canada are just used to having to drive very long distances fairly often, myself included.
*He also ended up being just as wild as the other two because he was nearly convicted for murder and then was involved in a second shooting a few years later. I guess Curtis Martin was the only real quiet, unassuming star in the NFL.