Recently I’ve been sticking to straight up reviews and style interviews. Quite frankly it has been too long since I’ve put a good rant up here so I will remedy this right now.
If there was one thing that I would change about the heritage menswear/raw denim/workwear/boots community/world/subculture besides figuring out an actual name for it, I would want there to be a greater distinction between objective superiority and personal preference. Just because someone likes something more does not make it better and the pervading view that different items are not actually better or worse than each other is quite misleading. Certainly, you may like a pair of boots better or they may fit one person better than they fit someone else, but that is subjective. Over time I have noticed a general “good enough” attitude with heritage menswear products. I personally do not like this way of thinking and believe that we can and should have high standards in this clothing subculture.
Mirriam Webster defines the noun ‘best’ as “the greatest degree of good or excellence.” It defines ‘objective’ as “an object in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers” and “having reality independent of the mind.” These definitions tell us a few things. Firstly, they prove that it is impossible for human beings to be entirely objective by stating that objectivity is independent of individual thought. If I get annoyed by people saying that boot quality is subjective, I am even more infuriated when someone says that they will be completely objective in a review, despite being given that product for free. However, these definitions also tell us how we can at least get closer to being objective when talking about boots and other menswear products.
Firstly, the current problems need to be identified. The issue in the world of boots is that people think that the “best” boot is either completely subjective or they base their idea of the best boot on the wrong criteria in most cases. Many people do in fact think that the best boot is completely subjective, but this is simply not true. Of course, many factors that go into boots are subjective such as fit, comfort, styling, and the heritage and ethos of the brand. These criteria change based on the person owning, wearing, or observing the boots. Fit is perhaps the most subjective aspect of boots because everyone’s feet are different and yet this is actually one of the criteria that many people use to describe what they think is a better or worse boot. Doing so is incredibly misleading and in fact, I will go so far as to say it is simply bad advice. With feet all being so different, how can anyone possibly say a boot is objectively better just because it fits them as one single individual better?
Materials are objective to a degree. For example, using something aside from leather for the heel stacks is obviously inferior to using real leather. However, once a certain quality point is reached, it does come down to subjective preference. Is Badalassi Carlo Minerva leather objectively better than Horween Latigo? No. Badalassi does objectively age and patina more drastically and it has more grain, but Latigo is thicker and due to being chrome tanned, almost certainly better suited to being used in the rain so which leather you prefer overall comes down to what you value more. I vastly prefer Badalassi Minerva, but I cannot say it is just flat out better than Horween Latigo.
Construction methods are also objective only to a certain point. Nobody is going to argue that Goodyear welted boots are superior to cemented ones. However, between different construction methods, it is hard to actually decide which is best. Goodyear welt and stitchdown both have their advantages and disadvantages and even adding a channeled insole to a Goodyear welted shoe does not have much of a practical benefit, especially given that machine channeled insoles are not the same as hand cut channels. The highest quality construction method is handsewn welted, but this is only a small advantage over other methods and is desirable more for the skill put into it than anything else, though it is also technically the most durable method of construction.
Construction quality therefore is the most easily measurable way to determine which boots are the best with materials and construction method also playing a part. The reason for this is that construction quality can be objectively measured. You can actually measure the stitches per inch, how straight the stitches are, how many loose threads or mistakes in the stitching there are, how smoothly cut the leather is, how precisely shaped the edges and outsole are, how smoothly finished the heel and outsole are, and more. Some will certainly argue that none of this matters and to a degree this is true, but then again, none of it matters at all. Pretty much none of us who wear boots actually need them. If you do have to wear boots for work, then this is not the website for you. The best is not about the most practical, it is about exceeding all others.
It serves no practical purpose that a Bugatti Chiron can go over 261 miles an hour with its limiter and in theory could hit 289 miles per hour and can go from zero to 249mph in 32.6 seconds . Almost none of the owners if any will ever get their Chirons to the top speed, but people still respect the fact that the car can do it. The Chiron is horrifically impractical, but its achievement is still to be marveled at. The fact that a car can be that fast and yet have such an incredible interior made to the highest standard is a testament to humans trying to make the best possible product and that is what matters. White Kloud boots are about a man trying to make the best possible product he can and that is wonderful. This is why I love this type of clothing.
What I am saying is that it may not matter to you that tighter, neater stitching, smoother edges, and better overall finishing are objectively better, but they still are better. The Chiron is better than my Ford Fiesta. My Fiesta is vastly more practical, but that does not change the fact that the Chiron is better. Someone may prefer Red Wings or Vibergs to White Klouds and that’s also fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that the White Klouds are just better. I would rather have a 1968 Plymouth Roadrunner than a Bugatti Chiron. The Chiron is better, but I’d rather have the Roadrunner. It is totally fine that I prefer the worse vehicle, but the important part is I don’t try to argue or pretend that what I prefer is objectively better.
The biggest argument against what I am saying would be that construction quality does not really matter and that I am placing too much of an emphasis on it. I would counter this by saying that if you do not care about construction methods and construction quality, that is totally fine. You do not have to care about them, but that does not change the fact that these are the most objective ways to judge boots along with material quality. As a reviewer, I feel obligated to put the most emphasis on these factors because they are the most objective and therefore the most universal. I of course will discuss fit and comfort, but that does not play much of a factor in my rating of a boot because my experience will likely be quite different from other peoples’ on this front. For my actual boot rating, styling and comfort account for around 10%. Materials are around 20% and construction method is around 20% with actual finishing and construction quality being 50%. Even if you disagree with everything else, I hope we can at least agree that some boots can objectively be better in certain ways than others- such as having better materials, better construction method, and better construction quality and finishing.
To answer the question: Yes, it is possible for one pair of boots to be objectively better than another. However, there are caveats to this. The first one is that only in some cases is it clear that one pair of boots is better than another. For example, White Kloud boots are objectively better than Viberg and Motor Boots are objectively better than Red Wing and Red Wing boots are objectively better than Thursday. However, Are Viberg boots objectively better than Wesco and are Motor boots objectively better than John Lofgren? In these second two scenarios, I would say that it is reasonable to argue either or simply say that they are roughly equal in objective terms. In other cases, one brand may be objectively better in one category and objectively worse in another. For example, Sagara shoes are objectively better in terms of construction method and quality compared to Red Wing. Sagara boots are hand welted and the construction quality and finishing is vastly superior to Red Wing. However, Sagara’s materials in my experience are unquestionably worse than Red Wing to the point where even I, who value construction quality above all else would say Red Wing is better.
Another caveat is that just because one boot is better than another, doesn’t make the worse boot bad. It just means that it is objectively not as good. It is perfectly fine to prefer or not be able to afford the best item. I certainly cannot afford any of the best watches in the world nor can I reasonably afford owning the best suits or best bespoke shoes. Additionally, while my wallets are all great and I love them, I am aware that there are objectively better ones out there and I am content with that. I have no idea how my Tatton Baird hat ranks against the other great hat makers, but I am happy with it and that’s what matters. The important part is that I don’t try to say that any of these items are objectively the best when I know they are not or am not sure.
In fact, in many cases the objectively best item may not be the right choice for you. You may not like the style, the materials, the fit, or the price. In cases like these, you probably should choose something different than the objectively better option. Remember that objectivity involves “reality independent of the mind” which basically means that it is independent of human thought. However, our purchases are not independent of our human thoughts, so I do not think all choices should be made based on objective criteria, even if I do believe that it is important to attempt to distinguish those objective qualities.
With these caveats in mind, this should help you understand what I look for when I rate and review boots. You can of course disagree on the weight I put on each factor and I am not saying that my method is perfect, however, I do believe quite strongly that this is the most helpful way to review boots. At the very least, I hope people can understand which aspects of boots are objective and which are subjective thanks to this article. What you do with that information is up to you, but as long as it is out there, I will be happy. At the very least, I hope I have made clear how boots can be distinguished in terms of objective construction quality. As I said before, no human can be completely objective, but I hope this article will help us be at least a little more objective when discussing boots and other clothing items.
3 thoughts on “Can One Pair of Boots Really be Better than Another?”
This is the “best” article I have read thus far on your site. (See what I did there? LOL) Seriously, I think you did a fantastic job of covering the concept of best and how that can mean many things. While I equate $600+ work boots as form over function…..a Bugatti pick-up truck…..I respect your love for the pursuit of excellence that creates those beautiful $600+ dollar boots. For me, I too would prefer the Road Runner over the Chiron, and in my case, I prefer a good pair of Red Wing or even Thorogood 1892 boots over a pair of Viberg or Alden. Some of that is based on style, but most of it is based on who I am, or at least who I think I am. Excellent article!
[…] Quite fitting for the topic of this week, Jake shares a blog post about whether one pair of boots can objectively be better than another, which you can read right here. […]
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