Ah, Autumn! The leaves begin to change color, the temperature begins to drop, and summer finally sulks away to bother us all again next year. This is what I would be saying if I lived somewhere that is not Southern California. Unfortunately, it is still quite hot here and the leaves never change color. Still, no matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is coming to an end and fall is right around the corner or already here. For many denim heads and heritage menswear enthusiasts, this means that it is time for the much beloved boot season. I am always confused by this because for me, boot season is 365 days a year, but I know that releasing this article now will do better than if I released it in spring so here it is.
This time last year, I did a top ten leather jacket brands list and recently released a top ten denim brands list. Now, it is time for the big one: the top ten boot brands list. Out of all of these top ten lists so far, this one was the most difficult to finalize. There are quite a lot of boot brands and while my top 4 has been pretty much set in stone for around three years now, the rest were very difficult to decide and place in what I believe to be the correct order.
I have persevered though and finished it. Of course, I must remind everyone that this is just my list. There is no definitive top ten boot brand list. Additionally, no dress boot/shoe makers/brands are on this list. That would complicate this far too much given that the list would end up being just a bunch of bespoke dress shoe makers. This means that there will be no Edward Green, John Lobb, Hiro Yanagimachi, Gaziano and Girling, Trickers, or anyone like that. This list pertains to casual boots only. Note that I said casual boots and not work boots. If you want advice on actual blue collar, heavy duty work boots, this is neither the list nor the website for you.
There are of course other criteria that you should be familiar with aside from the rule of no dress shoe makers if you want to read this list. While I always say that no human can possibly be fully objective, I am trying to be as objective as possible with this list. This means that subjective criteria such as design(in terms of appearance) and fit are not taken into consideration. Please remember that fit and appearance are quite subjective and should not be used to determine objective rankings of boots(though I will mention subjective elements that I like and dislike that will not affect the ranking). Instead, these boots will be judged by their quality of materials, construction method, and overall construction quality and finishing.
Attractions makes some seriously beautiful engineer boots. The leathers that they use, especially the horsehide is extremely nice and while subjective, I think the design of these boots is spot on. The quality is overall quite good, but I have seen them with some relatively sloppy stitching on the uppers which is why they are down here at the bottom of the list. Still, their quality is overall quite good which is why they are on the list at all. Attractions can be found on their website and on Instagram. They can be ordered directly through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love one man brands, so I am so happy to see makers like these existing in the modern boot world. What’s more is that Gabbard of MYG Handmade and Lars Jensen of Ostmo Boots both make some seriously high quality boots.
Lars at Ostmo has only been making boots for a few years, but he has improved massively in a short period of time. His boots definitely have a service boot vibe, but with several unique touches. Overall, the quality is extremely high on these boots and while price does not factor into the ratings on this list, I do have to point out that if you are lucky enough to get a pair of his boots, the value for money is beyond excellent. Being more critical, his outsole stitching is not as clean as it could be, but with Lars constantly improving, this could change quite quickly. It is also important to note that Lars is extremely humble and is highly self-critical which I think is an excellent trait to have. He is never satisfied and is always looking to improve his craft which means that I only expect his work to get better and better over time.
While MYG is also a one man brand, it is a different animal than Ostmo. While Lars builds whatever he wants and then does a drawing to decide who will get his boots, Gabbard of MYG is much more collaborative with his customers. His boots are made using customer’s feet measurements. Impressively, not a single electronic tool is used when making his boots. The uppers and outsoles are stitched using hand cranked machines and most importantly, his boots are made using hand sewn welted construction. In terms of construction methods, MYG is one of the very best on this list. From what I have seen, however, his boots are certainly not as cleanly executed as others on this list. The boots are very well made, but the finishing is not on par with others on this list. Still, the construction methods are incredible.
Both of these brands could be ranked higher depending on what is prioritized most. Additionally, with both being very dedicated one man brands, the quality could and likely will climb higher over time. Either way, these are both highly underrated boot makers that should be looked into further. MYG can be found at his website and on Instagram while Ostmo can be found on Instagram.
8. Mister Freedom/Julian
Unlike the previous entry, this is not actually two brands. Julian makes Mister Freedom’s boots so I thought it would be fair to include them here as well. The Mister Freedom Road Champ is undoubtedly one of the most iconic modern engineer boots in the world of heritage menswear. In fact, it and the John Lofgren engineer were the first vintage-style reproduction engineer boots to become popular in this millennium, paving the way for many more to follow. The Roadchamp’s leather is a very unique, vegetable tanned cowhide that patinas differently depending on the individual person and the specific run of the boots.
Subjectively, I find them to be a very beautiful pair of boots in terms of design and leather. Objectively, the materials, construction methods, and construction quality and finishing are all very high. Still, they are not quite at the level of other brands higher up on this list. Mister Freedom also offers the Trooper boots in a hybrid leather and fabric construction. Julian has quite a few more options, but none are as iconic as the Mister Freedom boots. Mister Freedom boots are currently unavailable, but apparently should be back in stock soon on their website and Mister Freedom can be found on Instagram. Julian boots can be found on their website and Instagram.
7. Rolling Dub Trio
This is a brand that appears to be relatively known on forums, but almost completely unknown on Instagram for whatever reason. Either way, RDT is a brand from Japan that makes very high quality boots in a fairly wide range of designs. They do everything from low work boots to engineers in construction methods ranging from stitchdown, to Goodyear Welt, to even Norwegian construction. As with Mister Freedom and Julian, the construction is excellent overall, but I have seen enough flaws to keep them from the highest tier. Still, they are great boots and worth checking out on their website and Instagram. They are available in the West at East West Apparel. If you would like to read a full review of RDT boots, take a look at Indigoshrimp’s review.
I had faintly heard of Moto/Motor here and there on forums in my early days in the heritage menswear scene and I really liked the design of their boots, but nothing ever made me pull the trigger. My mind was changed, however, when I saw @wildfrontiergoodsbrand posting pictures of his Motor lace up boots on Instagram. They offer quite a few different models ranging from shoes to lace up boots to engineers with several leathers including chromexcel, shell cordovan, horsehide, and hand painted leathers.
My personal pair of Motor boots are a lace up model made with vegetable Japanese cowhide that is hand painted by the team at Moto for an incredible tea core finish. On top of this, the quality is absolutely incredible, especially for the price. In fact, from what I can see, my Motor boots are as well stitched and finished as my John Lofgren boots which makes them an impressive value for money (though price does not factor into this ranking.) Motor is still a highly underappreciated brand that has a lot to offer. Check them out on their website and Instagram. You can also read my review of them.
5. The Real McCoys
While most famous for their leather jackets, the real McCoys makes just about everything in terms of clothing and that includes some seriously high quality boots. I have handled several pairs and tried on a few and they were extremely high quality in terms of materials and construction. However, I do know someone who had a construction issue on one of their pairs, so they are not perfect and even on their boots without issues, they aren’t quite at the level of the very top. Still, they have some of the neatest stitchdown work I have ever seen, completely disproving the people who make excuses for the messy stitchdown construction done by North American brands. Check them out on their website and Instagram. They are available in the USA at Standard and Strange and in Europe at The Real McCoys London.
4. John Lofgren
Boots from John Lofgren are not only incredibly well made, but also come with what is effectively a guarantee of ethical manufacture from the man himself. It should not be a surprise that John Lofgren is the highest ranked brand on this list that does not use hand sewn welted construction. The materials and construction are all fantastic, with the finishing and construction being seriously incredible. This is especially impressive given how popular Lofgrens boots are becoming. With so many, I would have expected more examples of flaws with his boots. However, I have only ever heard of one actual construction issue with his boots and so dedicated to quality is John that he gave that customer a free pair of replacement boots immediately.
The fact that I have only seen or heard of one construction issue with his boots already speaks to how high the quality is and how it was handled shows how guaranteed customers are to receiving a truly excellent pair of boots. With more new models being announced recently, I only expect Lofgren’s popularity to grow. Check out these boots at Speedway Sendai and Instagram. They are available in the USA at Standard and Strange and in Europe at East West Apparel.
3. Role Club
Now it’s time for the really heavy hitters. All of these top three makers use hand sewn welted construction and are extremely high quality by casual boot standards. Role Club by Brian the Bootmaker is one of them. Brian’s dedication to his craft is impressive and subjectively, I love most of the designs he uses, while not loving the majority of the leathers he uses. However, these subjective thoughts do not weigh in on his placement. The fact is that despite his young age, Brian makes some of the very best boots in the world. Objectively, his materials are top notch, his workmanship is beautiful, the hand sewn welting is great as well as is the fact that he also uses customers’ actual foot measurements to make his boots.
The wait for these boots can be long and they are not cheap (though I believe them to be a great value for money). However, his work speaks for itself and I have yet to meet anyone who thought the wait was not worth it. In fact, his work is so good that I could completely understand people saying he is better than the next brand. I am very happy to have a pair of his extraordinary boots. Visit his website and Instagram if you are interested in seeing more.
2. Clinch by Brass Tokyo
Clinch boots was first brought to my attention (and the attention of the West in general) by Denimbro and Pancho and Lefty. I was fortunate enough to scoop up a pair of their boots stocked at Pancho and Lefty for a discounted price and was so impressed that I ordered two custom pairs directly from Clinch. From the beginning of their time in the Western spotlight, they have been known as a brand that makes work/casual style boots at dress shoe quality and indeed, this is true. The very small Brass Tokyo team makes these boots in house using extremely high quality materials including hand painted latigo leather, Japanese vegetable tanned cowhide, Italian vegetable tanned horsehide that they finish themselves, and even custom rubber soles made for them by Dr. Sole.
The use of hand sewn welting is impressive enough, but the finishing is also truly wonderful and the stitching is very neat and dense. Despite being casual boots, they do feel and look like dress boots in many ways, partly due to the design, but also largely because of the quality. Ever since I first got my pair in late 2015, I have been raving about how incredible they are and with good reason. These are next level boots. You can check out my first review of these boots, though I do plan on reviewing my other pairs in the near future. View their website and Instagram and find them at Pancho and Lefty and Standard and Strange.
1. White Kloud
In my top ten lists for leather jackets and jeans, I noted that objectively, it is very difficult to determine which maker is actually objectively the best. This is not the case with boots. White Kloud is the best maker of casual style boots in the world. Period. Trained by a Japanese bespoke shoemaker who was trained in Northampton, Show Goto truly brings dress shoe quality to casual/work style boots. In fact, he doesn’t just bring dress shoe quality, he brings bespoke dress shoe quality. While he does offer stitchdown construction that is in a class of its own, he also offers hand sewn welted construction in which the outsole stitching is done by hand. On top of this, he also offers modified and completely custom lasts as a bespoke shoemaker does.
Materials are also high quality with upper leathers including chromexcel and Badalassi Carlo and even Badalassi Carlo leather for the insole! The actual workmanship on the boots is almost unbelievable. The uppers are perfectly clicked, cut, and sewn and everything is finished to an exquisite level. In fact, his outsole and heel finishing is the best I have ever seen. The quality of these boots is undeniable. Goto-San is a master of his craft and is tirelessly dedicated to improving his already mind boggling quality. His boots are not cheap and are only available by appointment only in his workshop in Japan, but there are no other boots like his. Indeed, he has no equal in the casual boot world and deservingly tops this list. If you want to see more, you can read my White Kloud review, check out his website, and follow him on Instagram.
Well, that’s the list. I hope you enjoyed reading about what I think are the top ten casual bootmakers around and perhaps you even learned of some makers that you had not heard of before to look into. This took a long time to write as it was very difficult to determine the actual list (and I still sort of cheated by putting in an 11th). This list may change or be edited over time and as I mentioned before, it is just my personal list. Your list will likely be different and I encourage you to learn as much as you can. Go to places like Denimbro and Superdenim and learn more about boots and read other reviewers like Indigoshrimp.
Keep in mind however, that while I admit that any list such as this cannot be completely objective, I am trying to be as objective as possible. As with my other top ten articles, this is not just a list of my top ten favorite brands. If it was, then 6 of the brands would not even be on the list at all. There aren’t any current designs that I love from Ostmo and MYG, but given other qualities these brands have, I felt that I should put them on the list.
You may like other brands more than the brands on this list. In fact, I do too. I love my Wescos more than many of the brands on this list and there are plenty of other brands and makers that I would buy before some of the brands here. For example, I love my Lofgren engineers, but I haven’t bought more from Lofgren because of the fact that I can’t get the boots I want in a vegetable tanned leather. This is my preference, but objectively, his boots deserve to be this high on the list. I may do a favorites list in the future to highlight the differences. You may also notice that the boots on this list are all relatively high in price when compared to brands such as Red Wing. Price did not factor into this list at all, but I may do a list of great budget brands soon too. Look forward to that, have a great autumn, and remember that it’s always boot season.