Engineer boots caught my eye the moment I first set my gaze on a pair. I have always loved boots and rugged clothing, as my love of Western films influenced my tastes from an early age. Something about the laceless design, the buckles, and the perfect balance between a cowboy boot and a work boot made them a dream for me. For so many years, however, I put off buying a pair. Despite knowing that I could pull off a café racer leather jacket, I thought that engineer boots were simply too much and that I would appear an idiot to others.
This way of thinking was obviously a mistake. Certainly I am not the best looking or coolest guy in the world, but that should never have stopped me from wearing what I wanted to wear. As usual, it was my fiancé who gave me the confidence to wear my first pair when she said she liked a pair of John Lofgren engineers that I tried on. After purchasing those, I have become a very faithful devotee to this type of boot. In my personal opinion, there is no cooler look than a pair of jeans, a white t shirt, a leather jacket, and a pair of engineer boots. Something about the combination of the tall, woodsman heel, the strap, and the shape makes them the most bad ass boots one can buy. However, they remain a niche within a niche and this has its positive and negative results.
On the negative side, there really are not any good affordable engineer boots. All the ones under $500 are missing very key features such as the woodsman heel, a good last, triple stitching, or real leather heel stacks (looking at you here, Red Wing Klondike engineer). On the plus side, however, the brands that make high end boots almost all have engineer models with the biggest exception being White Kloud. In fact, many of the best work boot brands today including the best three below White Kloud all made their names with engineer boots. Of course, I am referring to John Lofgren, Role Club, and Clinch by Brass Tokyo.
It was not long into my engineer boots journey that I discovered Clinch boots by Brass Tokyo on Denimbro where they were originally posted by user Double 0 Soul, who was also the first to post about Conners Sewing Factory, and was awestruck. Their design was one of the most beautiful engineers I had ever seen and I desperately wanted a pair. Unfortunately, they were absurdly expensive and sold out from the retailer at the time. After a few sad months of waiting, I stumbled across a pair in nearly perfect condition in my size for a good price and jumped on them immediately. Unfortunately, due to sizing issues, I was recently forced to sell this pair of boots so I figured it was appropriate to send them off with a proper review.
Brass Tokyo is a very small boot workshop based in Tokyo, Japan. The team of less than 10, including the owner, make all of their boots in house to the highest standards of a work boot and utilize top shelf techniques such as hand sewn welting, a process normally reserved for dress shoes. Specifically, the model I first had was their engineer boot on their Classic Narrow last. While easily one of my two favorite boot lasts that I have ever seen, the shape is very narrow as the name implies, meaning that you should actually size up a whole size from your Brannock measurement. At the time, thinking that I was a 10, I thought a Clinch size 11 would fit me perfectly. Unfortunately, it was too small, but I was hoping that the leather would stretch out, so I kept them anyway and wore them for over two years.*
The boots themselves are absolutely stunning, so much so that it made the 20 minutes it took to take them off the first time I wore them worth it. The classic narrow last is rather sleek, without being dainty or overly dressy. In my personal view, it is the most beautiful flat toe last I have seen in my life. The shape of everything, from the vamp, to the heel counter, to the woodsman heel are all well designed and immaculately executed. I love their triple stitching that includes two rows extremely close to each other with one row further away. It also has Biltrite soles, medium brown leather midsole, and boot straps on the inside of the shaft that make putting the boots on far easier. Every design element was thought of with these and it clearly shows.
Even the leather is quite special. It is Horween’s Latigo leather and it is quite thick and substantial. In fact, it is absolutely stubborn to break in and insanely thick for a boot leather, but it is quite tough. What truly makes it special, however, is the fact that it has been hand painted in a beautiful brown color that matches wonderfully with the brown midsole. Unfortunately, I do not still have any shots of when I first received these boots, but I can at least include shots that show how gracefully this leather has aged. It is not quite as stunning as the best vegetable tanned leathers, but it certainly is nothing to stick your nose up at.
More impressive than the leather is the construction. I love beautiful stitch work and these boots have some of the very best stitching in the business. It is neat, dense, and even across the entire boot. Remember the unique triple stitching detail I mentioned earlier? That is not easy to do, but Clinch pulls it off flawlessly. On top of that, the boot is handwelted and the sole stitch is stunning as well. As far as construction goes, I have only seen one bootmaker better and that is White Kloud who does not make engineer boots. The heels are very nicely carved and smoothly finished and the entire boot has an extremely high quality feel to it. In fact, the heel stacks are more smoothly constructed than almost any other boots I have ever seen.
As mentioned before, the fit is too small for me. My feet are size 10.5D on a Brannock and these Clinch size 11 fit a little too snug. I think part of this is due to the leather because I purchased two more Clinch CN boots from Clinch directly in the same size with different leathers that fit much better, but I will touch on this more when I review those boots. My advice is that if you have a very narrow foot, you likely only need to size up by half a size, but if you have a wider foot, you may need to size up by 1 or 1.5 sizes from your Brannock in this boot depending on how wide your feet are. Fortunately, Clinch can help with sizing advice as can the good people over on Denimbro, a place where Clinch boots are owned by several members. Despite the sizing being a little intimidating, these boots are well worth it in the end.
Other than the sizing difficulties, these boots are incredible in every way. The leather is not my absolute favorite, but it is still much nicer than most. I was gutted to have to sell these, but having chosen better sizing for my other boots, I realized that I would probably damage my feet eventually if I kept wearing them. On the plus side, Clinch allows for custom orders that allow you to choose everything from the model, last, leather, stitch color, heel, edge finish, and outsole. They are very much custom boots and their leather options are quite impressive with everything from the hand painted latigo in a wide array of colors to Japanese veg-tanned cowhide, to roughout leathers, and Italian horsebutt.
The only true downside is the price. With the boots being this beautifully designed and this beautifully made with such high quality materials, they will cost a lot. The prices range anywhere from around $1,000-$1,500 directly from Clinch depending on the options selected. The price can soar even higher if you purchase from a dealer. If you love engineers or high quality boots in general, this price is entirely worth it.
Role Club is the only other engineer bootmaker that is this high quality and customizable at the same time and with a different look and different leather options, Clinch and Role Club are both must-haves for boot aficionados. The only reason I was even remotely at peace with selling these boots was because I knew I still had two pairs of custom Clinch boots in my collection. Aside from the sizing issue, which is partly my own fault, I have nothing negative to say about these boots. They are a masterpiece.
Not only that, but they are engineer boots, my favorite type of clothing around. Something about engineers and wearing them just makes me feel good. They are such a unique design and when you wear a good pair, you feel special. They do not make me cool or a bad ass, but they do make me feel a bit cooler, especially when they are a pair as superbly made as these. Clinch is without question one of the three best boot brands in the work wear/reproduction sphere right now. With my tastes being what they are and my experience with these boots, I cannot recommend them enough. If you want engineer boots, you cannot buy anything better.
Check out Brass/Clinch here: http://www.brass-tokyo.com/
Learn more about them on Denimbro
*You know how I say I value quality and passion above all else? That’s right. I care about those more than proper fit.