This is a big one. Today, I will be reviewing my first ever pair of engineer boots. These are the ones that started the journey for me and really helped push my style to what it is today. The John Lofgren engineer boot is a modern classic and it along with the Mister Freedom Road Champ were largely responsible for kicking off the massive engineer boot revival that we are currently enjoying. In fact, I just discussed this with John in the recent interview that I did with him. Both of these brands are still around, but the Road Champ’s production is incredibly inconsistent, while the Lofgrens have stayed in steady production since their inception.
So much has been said about the effort that John Lofgren put into creating these boots that I could never do it justice. What I will say is that John has made sure to guarantee that absolutely everything put into these boots is ethically sourced. The leather, the buckles, even the Vibram soles are sourced ethically. John specifically points out that his Vibram soles are made in the USA and not China. The production is also done ethically in Japan and I personally love that someone who is not a one man maker cares so much about ethically producing their goods and it does make me feel better about purchasing.
Of course, it does not hurt that I think these boots look gorgeous. Most engineer boots tend to follow one of two design paths in my view. There are the flat toe engineers such as the Clinch Classic Narrow, Role Club 2307, Mister Freedom Road Champ, and Attractions engineers. Even boots like the Wesco MP toe engineer which are not technically flat toes look quite slim and are quite low in the toe. The other versions are the bulky and sprung toe engineers such as The Real McCoy’s Buco engineers, Red Wing engineers, and Pfigvel Engineers. Then, there is the John Lofgren engineer. It is not as slim and the toe is not as low as a pair of Role Clubs, but the toe is not bulbous and sprung like the Bucos. To me, it is a great balance and along with the storm welt, leads to a handsome and unique looking engineer boot.
As of now, the general consensus seems to be to size down .5 from your brannock size for these boots. I am a 10.5 on a brannock and went with a 10 in these. They do fit slightly loose, but with thick boot socks they fit well. One thing to point out is that these do fit fairly wide. I find it quite comfortable, but I have had people tell me they were too wide for them. If you are having issues with engineers being too narrow, these would be a good option to try. Heel slip is quite prevalent for me with these. I could have gone down to 9.5, but those would have been snug in the toe. Heel slip is just something that you deal with when wearing engineers and though for me, these have more than some of my other engineers, I really don’t mind and I find these easy to wear. They have a roomy, but not actually loose fit. They would not be my first choice to walk miles and miles through a city or Disneyland or something like that, but I could do it in these and I have stood on my feet for over 12 hours with these and they were certainly comfortable for that purpose.
Comfort is subjective. Say that with me again: comfort is subjective. With that in mind, these are quite comfortable for me. My White Kloud and Role Club boots are my most comfortable footwear, but both of those makers measured my feet in person. Aside from those two, either these or my Clinch horsehide engineers are my most comfortable boots. They do not have extreme arch support or anything like that. They simply have great quality materials on the inside and they simply feel comfortable to me. Your mileage may vary of course.
As mentioned before, the material quality of these boots is high. However, it is now time to discuss my least favorite aspect of these boots and if you know me, you already know what that is. John Lofgren engineers are made with Horween Chromexcel leather. My dislike for this leather is so great that I wrote an entire article about how I feel strongly that it is overrated. To me, these boots would be much better if they used vegetable tanned leathers and I wish the cognac Badalassi model was still available. Unfortunately, we are stuck with Chromexcel which is why I only own one pair of these boots. Still, objectively, Chromexcel is a good quality leather and John and his team are extremely meticulous about the hides they choose, rejecting many even from Horween.
My personal experience with this natural Chromexcel cowhide leather is that it starts out a sickly grey color, but over time, morphs into a much nicer shade of brown. Conditioning it certainly helps speed up the aging process and they do look quite nice now. The CXL used on these is quite soft and my boots got a pretty deep gash in the toe. I cannot say that this is entirely because of the soft leather, but it is unfortunate. I have no concern for the durability of the boots, but it did bother me when it happened.
These boots are made with Goodyear 270 degree storm welt with gemming. The uppers are triple stitched along the vamp and quarter. In terms of construction quality, these are truly excellent. The outsole stitch is dense and neat and the upper stitching is perhaps even more impressive. The stitch count is fairly high and incredibly straight and consistent with no signs of anything even resembling a mistake. The edges are beautifully finished, the leather is nicely cut and trimmed, and the woodsman heel is beautifully shaped. In my opinion, these are the highest quality boots that are not handwelted on the market and in terms of finishing and execution of construction, they are better than some handwelted boots and many one man makers.
I have now owned these boots for over 4 years at the time of the writing of this review and they have been worn extensively. Without question, they are the most worn boots in my collection at this point. For the first year that I owned them, I only had them and a pair of Clinch boots that I swapped between and even since then, the boots were worn multiple times a week. I now have over ten pairs of boots with more on the way, but I still wear these at least once a week, usually twice a week and sometimes more. Part of this is due to the comfort, part of it is due to the fact that these engineers are actually extremely easy for me to put on and take off so I tend to reach for them in the morning when I’m in a rush. Another reason is because they strike that balance between high quality, but not something I feel like I need to baby. I am always proud to wear them, but I feel comfortable beating them up at the same time so they are still the boots I wear most often to this day. They have stood up to the considerable amount of wear I have put them through easily.
As a result of this frequent wear over 4 years, they have aged significantly. The leather especially looks better after all of this time, despite the cut on the right toe. Something impressive is how well the Vibram soles have held up. I am not sure if them being made in the USA makes a difference, but I would assume so and I am quite surprised how little of these soles has been lost after so much wear. As far as I am concerned, they are still getting better and it should still be quite a few years before I have to resole them, especially because I am not one of those people that resoles boots before it is necessary to do so just because I feel like it.
I love these boots. The design is beautiful in my opinion, the materials are excellent, and the construction quality and finishing is truly incredible. They are one of my most comfortable boots and they have aged gracefully. Aside from my dislike for Chromexcel, I really do not have anything to complain about with these boots. Some complain about the pricing, but seeing the quality of materials and construction and knowing the time and effort gone into designing these boots and ensuring their ethical sourcing and production, the price seems more than justified to me. Engineer boots are always more expensive than most other boots and other John Lofgren boots are much more in line with the pricing of other high end boots. Again, I have to point out that aside from my handwelted, custom boots from White Kloud, Clinch, and Role Club, these are the best boots I own along with my Motors.
To be as transparent as possible, I will say that I obviously have some sort of emotional attachment to these boots given that they are my first ever pair of engineers. However, they were my first engineers for a reason and I am glad they were. Lofgren boots are not cheap at around $900 to $1,050 USD depending on the time, exchange rate, and store you purchase from, but everyone that I have personally talked to that has purchased them has seen the quality and most understand the pricing. What’s more is that John stands by his product 100%. I have seen every single boot brand have imperfect boots aside from White Kloud (and that may partly be because of the low sample size) and the one time I saw someone have an issue with a pair of John Lofgrens, it was handled as well as possible.
The person contacted John and he offered to either repair the boots or send the owner a brand new pair with either option being free of charge even though the boots had been heavily worn by this point. This example and my experience with Lofgren boots tells me that if you order a pair of John Lofgren boots, you will get a seriously high quality pair of boots and if they are anything less than that, John will make it so you do end up with boots that are what you expected. I am not saying no other makers would do this, but I have seen and experienced other brands that have absolutely not handled issues like this as well as John did in this example.
If you love boots and especially if you love or are interested in high quality engineer boots, I highly recommend checking out John Lofgren boots. They are available from John Lofgren’s own store, Speedway Sendai, from Standard and Strange in the US, and from East West Apparel in Europe. If you have any further questions on these or any other boots, feel free to email or DM me on Instagram.