Is it time for me to eat my words? By now, I think most people are aware of my now infamous What Happened to Viberg article which is my most read article on my website by a wider margin than the gap between Pandemic’s beloved Star War: Battlefront II and EA’s disastrous version. While that article is slightly outdated by this point and I do plan on updating it further soon, I still stand by my basic premise.
Viberg used to hold near-universal acclaim among denim-heads several years ago and today, while still beloved and worshipped by many, they do not have the same level of reputation among the overall denim and boot community. Despite this and contrary to what many mistakenly took from that article, I hold no animosity toward Viberg and as I said in that article, I was not against adding a pair of Vibergs to my boot collection.
A few months ago I did finally put a pair of Vibergs to my wall of boots. It was a long time coming and I only needed to find the right pair and the right timing. Fortunately, I found the exact right pair- namely, the tan washed horsehide service boots. This model had basically everything I wanted in a Viberg boot. Vegetable tanned horsehide leather from Italy, the 2030 last, a brogued toe cap, 8 blind eyelets, Dainite sole, and most importantly, stitchdown construction all are present. In fact, if I were to custom design a pair of Vibergs, the only change I would possibly make would be to have 8 mini brass eyelets instead of the blind eyelets, but even that is not a certainty. These are basically my perfect Viberg boot. So then, what do I think of them?
Everything starts of quite well in terms of materials. They have offered the tan horsehide service boot for years, but for as long as I can recall, did so on a last that I did not personally care for. In the past it was on the 1035 last and then on the Cantilever last and most recently, on the 2030 last in a slightly different washed version. I have chased this leather for years and was very happy to finally obtain it on the last I wanted, albeit in a slightly different iteration of the leather.
Washed or not, this leather is absolutely stunning. The color is a very versatile tan/light brown color that varies slightly around the hide. It is fairly dull, especially when compared to other vegetable tanned horsehides, likely owing to the washing process. Easily my favorite trait of this leather is the grain. It is wonderfully uneven and wild, with more character than Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of Truman Capote. This is where I will always give Viberg credit. They do an utterly fantastic job of procuring some truly wonderful leathers.
Aside from the leather being high quality, the other components are excellent as well. The lining is a very soft and supple leather that I assume is calfskin. Both sets of round, waxed laces sent feel rather sturdy for how thin they are appear to be well made and finished. Additionally, the Dainite soles are known to be sturdy and offer solid grip on most dry surfaces. My one complaint would be that as soon as I stepped on a wet surface, these soles became quite slippery so they are not perfect, but they are known to last long so perhaps that is a tradeoff.
So far, these boots are looking excellent. The design is fantastic, the leather and other materials are high end, and the construction methods used are proven and solid. Unfortunately, the actual construction on these boots is far from stellar in terms of neatness. The stitchdown is solid and I have no doubt that it will last longer than it needs to, but it is not as well executed as it is on other boots such as my own pair of Wesco engineer boots or even my old Clark’s Desert boots. The stitching on the uppers is nice and dense, but again, not perfect.
There are quite a few loose threads as shown in the photographs and the area connecting the vamp with the quarter could be stitched better. Finishing on the edges of the sole and heel are subpar and there were pen marks on the lining of the right boot when they arrived. While the toe caps’ pinking is well executed, the toe caps themselves are not completely even. Worst of all, one of the hidden eyelets was missing on one of my boots when they arrived.
None of these issues are major or cause for concern with the longevity of the boot, but they are all noticeable, especially when compared to other boots in my collection. This is made worse by the fact that these boots cost $710 new. For that money, I expect far better finishing than is present on these Vibergs. I struggle to think how so many people consider these to be the “best” boots with quality like this. My Motor boots cost less money and are better finished in every way and my Wescos also have less issues while being just as, if not more robust.
As stated before, these flaws should not lessen the longevity of the boots, though the missing eyelet could be an issue down the road.* Some will doubtless argue that these flaws do not matter, but in my eyes, they very much do. For this price, I am not happy with the quality of the construction on these boots. The usual defense is that despite the flaws and imperfections, the boots are made solidly and will last a long time. The problem with that argument is that it does not justify the price or reputation of Viberg.
Red Wings can last very long and are less than half the price. Wescos, Whites, and Nicks are just as, if not more robustly constructed than Viberg service boots are and cost less money. In fact, while Wesco’s more desirable builds are around Viberg pricing now, their boots can be had for less and Whites and Nicks can be had for $200-$300 less than most Viberg boots. If you want to compare actual construction quality, Motor, John Lofgren, Role Club, Clinch, and White Kloud all beat Viberg with the last three adding hand sewn welting in to make it a complete no-contest.
Comfort is a bit of a mixed bag. While they are quite flexible out of the box and good for a while, they rub very uncomfortably on my heels after an hour or so of walking. This may go away with further wear and I don’t want to mark this too strongly against the boots as they are quite comfortable otherwise. As a 10.5D on a Brannock, I took a 9.5 in these on the 2030 last and they fit fairly well, being roughly an E width. They do feel a little small, surprisingly. I would not expect them to feel snug in the toes, but they do to a degree and don’t feel as wide as I would expect an E width boot to feel. Perhaps I should have gone with size 10. If you do have wide feet, you may wish to go true to size or go with a wider last such as the 1035. *Update* I ended up selling these boots, partly because the fit never felt quite right and partly because I just didn’t wear them much. I think I should have taken a 10 in these, despite conventional wisdom. I’m not saying everyone should only size down by .5, but I think that would have worked better for me.
On the plus side, I love the look of these boots. There are now more copies of the service boot than there are Creed Aventus clones or New England Patriots bandwagon fans, but the original design still has yet to be topped in my view. While it would be easy for me to simply state that the only reason Viberg still sells so many boots is because of their name and heritage, this would be incorrect and would do them a disservice. There is something about that 2030 last that looks just right. It is not as slim or dainty as some boots, but not as bulbous as others. In my opinion, it is well balanced for a slimmer, slightly dressier work boot to the point where I would say it is one of the best lasts on the market.
The combination of this last with the eight blind eyelets, perforated cap toe, and terrific leather make this a truly beautiful boot. Balance between rugged and classy are well balanced here and while not something to be worn with a suit, you could easily wear these with chinos to most offices while then wearing them with a destroyed pair of jeans after hours and they would look equally good with both. Additionally, while they are usually worn with rather slim jeans, the photos here should prove that they actually look excellent with wider, classic leg trousers and denim jeans. In fact, my favorite outfit I have ever worn is just below and includes these Viberg service boots and there is only one pair of boots I can think of that I think would look equally good with the outfit.**
Overall, I am in two minds about these boots. The materials, design, and construction methods are all solid. Viberg’s service boot still looks better than any other service style boots in my eyes and they use some incredible leathers that are often not found on other footwear. However, the construction quality and finishing is not good enough, especially for the price in my view. If the boots were $500 I would be more forgiving. Maybe Viberg cannot afford to charge that price, but if not, they should improve their quality. At the very least, the fact that Truman has much more egregious quality issues, has changed their last for the worse, and are also starting to make Goodyear welted boots instead of sticking with stitchdown means that I do not consider them to be equal to Viberg at all. In fact, I almost forgot to mention them entirely because between the two, I believe Viberg to be the clear choice.
I am painfully aware of the fact that some people simply do not want to hear that in some ways, these boots are a disappointment, but the pictures easily speak for themselves. Even so, I know people will not be satisfied. As a result and to better explain what I mean when I discuss the quality of boots, I will be doing a comparison of all the boots I own in a future article which will expand on the pictures above.
However, I want to reiterate that I do not dislike these boots. I am happy that I have them. They are good boots. They are well made boots. If you buy a pair of Vibergs, they will most likely be very solid. Most of the upper stitching on my boots is excellent and the quality overall is OK. The issue is that the quality is not great and there are better boots out there that prove this. There are many others who are on the same page that I am, but the vocal Viberg fandom is still loud and I want people who are trying to learn about boots to see a different perspective.
I understand the appeal of Vibergs and my displeasure with the quality is simply to give honest feedback and to inform. Aside from a few construction issues and slight discomfort, my view on these boots is positive. If you really want a pair of Vibergs, go for it. I did and I do not regret my decision. However, if you are looking for value for money, you should look elsewhere. If you are searching for the highest quality boots out there, there are quite a few other options out there that will satisfy you much more.
*I contacted Viberg about fixing this and while they responded once, they did not reply again afterward and I do not feel like chasing them down to fix this.
**Those boots are my own Clinch brown horsehide engineer boots