Viberg is a bit of a conundrum for me. Without question, they have a heritage that many boot companies pretend to have and they still manufacture their boots using high quality techniques and materials. At the same time, Their boots are far from perfect in terms of quality and finishing and they are relatively expensive. As I have written in the past, they are no longer the end all be all of boots as they once appeared to be and I have reviewed a pair of their boots before with mixed results. Despite my mixed feelings on the brand, I had not intended to sell those boots. Not long after publishing the review however, I found myself not wearing the boots anymore so I figured it was best to move them on. At that point, I figured the only time I would get a new pair of Vibergs would be if they released one of their old engineer models with a leather that isn’t CXL.
That all changed when I saw what just might be the most beautiful boot that I have ever seen. As soon as I saw them, I had to have them and luckily, I managed to grab a pair before they sold out. The pair of boots in question is the Viberg x Division Road x Motiv Mfg. Shelby Sharp boot in Shinki Hikaku horsebutt. In terms of design, this is without question the perfect boot for me that doesn’t have a woodsman heel. In fact, if I could design my dream boot (without a woodsman heel) with no money barrier, this would be the exact boot in every single detail. In fact, the only thing I would change would be to have a bespoke shoemaker construct it with handwelted construction, but still using the same base last, details and materials.
These details that I am so excited about are a Viberg service boot on their iconic 2030 last with brass mini eyelets, a cap toe, broguing, pinking, and piping throughout the boot, a 360 degree channelled insole goodyear storm welt, and a leather sole. All of this adds up to a boot that in my personal opinion, perfectly toes the line between rugged and refined. The 2030 last is iconic for a reason. In my opinion, it is one of the two most beautiful boot lasts in the world right now along with Clinch’s classic narrow last and it neither looks too formal, nor too clunky. In my view, it blends both perfectly.
The piping, broguing, and pinking give off the look of English country boots which are more refined and “dressed up” than North American work boots, but certainly not as sharp or formal as true dress boots or shoes that are much more sleek. Something that I am quite impressed with is how these three details are balanced. All three could make the boot look too busy, but they actually do not. Part of this is because they restrict the broguing to only the cap toe and the back stay which allows for broguing to be visible, but not overbearing.
Balance is also struck in the sole. While I believe that Viberg should stick to stitchdown construction for their service boots, these have been modified to the point that they are not meant to be service boots. Being an interpretation of English boots, the 360 degree storm welt is the correct choice and I am so glad that they also went with the leather sole. While not the most practical, not only is it most likely period correct*, but it also just looks great. A Dainite sole and heel would not completely ruin the look of the boot, but I do believe it would negatively impact the appearance greatly. As it is, the natural midsole and outsole looks beautiful against the warm, honey brown of the upper and the 360 storm welt helps prevent the boot from being too refined and still chunky enough to be casual.
Despite how much I love the design of the boot, there is no doubt in my mind that the star of the show here is the leather. I am a massive fan of Shinki leather owning jackets, wallets, and boots made from it and I think these Vibergs demonstrate why. The color is as rich as Elon Musk and the grain is as crazy as… Elon Musk. Some people may not like how intense and varied this grain is, but I feel that this is the most beautiful leather I have ever seen in my life. That deep, rich honey brown color with a red tint, stunningly intense grain, and lustrous shine make this leather a real winner. In fact, I would crown this the King of leathers over shell cordovan easily.
I think it is fairly obvious that I adore how these boots look. They are technically called the “Shelby Sharp” boot, but my guess is that they are only not calling them “Peaky Blinder” boots is because of legal reasons. As a huge fan of the show, I do love how these do resemble the boots in the show. The Shelby family tends to wear black boots, but these do look like a brown version of what they would wear and I like that. Even without the Peaky Blinders reference, they are still stunningly beautiful boots in terms of design and leather.
Unfortunately, I cannot really comment on the comfort of these boots. I am a size 10.5 on a Brannock and the size 9.5 service boots that I previously owned were slightly snug so I wanted a 10 in these. Unfortunately, the 10 was sold out so I went with a 10.5. Fortunately for me, I have Badalassi Carlo leather insoles from White Kloud that not only make these fit well, they make them extremely comfortable as well. My last pair of Vibergs were OK in terms of comfort. Despite them feeling slightly snug in the front, the heel rubbed quite badly for a while. This is not to say that the design is poor, however. As I always state, comfort is subjective so all that means is that the service boots do not fit me perfectly and that is OK. It is irrelevant in this case anyway as I sized up and used an insole with these and that has worked brilliantly.
Something worth noting is that these leather soles are quite slippery. Several of my friends mentioned to me that Viberg’s leather soles are incredibly slick and they were absolutely correct. On carpet, asphalt, and normal weather, they are fine. However, on tile surface, in malls, or in any slick surface, they are horrendously slippery. I have owned several leather soled shoes and boots before and these are the worst of all in terms of grip. They are the Dainite of leather soles, unfortunately. In snow, ice, or rain, I imagine these would be basically unwearable.
In terms of construction methods and materials, these boots do well. They have a 360 degree goodyear storm welt which should provide fairly good water resistance. Something relatively unique about Viberg’s goodyear welted boots is that instead of using gemming, which involves using fabric to connect the welt, Viberg uses a channelled insole. This is not as good as actual hand sewn welting, but technically, it is superior to gemming. In practical terms, I have not heard of any high quality shoes or boots made with gemming having any issues, but at the same time, I like that Viberg is using a superior method for their goodyear welt boots and shoes.
One downside is that the tongue is not gusseted which would let water in and allows the tongue to move around more than I would like. I complained about this in my Thursday review and I am complaining about it again here. I would prefer for the tongue to be gusseted and I cannot think of a great reason for it not to be. The uppers are double or triple stitched where they need to be, the boots are fully lined, and all the materials from the leathers used for the sole, the brass eyelets, and the leather used for the insole are high quality.
Where these boots falter the most is in construction quality. To be clear, these boots are not made badly and as with my previous pair of Vibergs, I have no concerns over the long term durability of them. Much of the construction is well executed. I like that Viberg uppers are stitched with a high stitch count. The rapid stitch on the outsole is mostly done well, but there are a couple areas where something clearly went wrong and it looks quite poor. Finishing on the edges and heel are better than my previous pair and good overall, but not at the level of John Lofgren, Clinch, Motor, or even Urban Shepherd, the last of which cost significantly less money. Unlike my last boots, all of the brass eyelets were present and accounted for on these boots.
All of this so far is fine for a pair of boots that cost over $800, but certainly not impressive. However, the uppers still have the issue of many loose threads and some wonky stitching, especially in the area where the quarter meets the vamp. There is an area on the heel/back stay where what looks like glue was left over and this looks horrible. As beautiful as the pinking looks on this boot, it is not executed that well, especially in certain areas. In fact, one of my friends noted that the pinking in one area was so mangled that “it looks like it was chewed up by a cat.” I do not disagree and given the price of these boots, this is quite poor. There are scratches on the leather, loose threads, poorly finished pinking, and what looks like glue visible under the pinking in several areas. Despite being better than my previous pair of Vibergs, I am not happy with the construction quality and finishing on these boots. In no way do they measure up to Motor, John Lofgren, or any of the boots above them in this category. In fact, the recently reviewed Trickers are better in this category as well despite costing around $500 while these Vibergs were over $800. Keep that in mind when you see how critical I am being of the finishing. These boots are quite expensive and I know the leather is part of that cost, but the construction quality should be much higher for a boot of this price. I do not think that such a massive amount of mistakes are acceptable.
Even with these issues, I still adore these boots. They just look that good. They are a perfect match for my Freewheelers Caboose jacket and they look excellent with my Freewheelers Sunset jacket as well. I prefer woodsman heels on my boots in general, but it is nice to have a great pair with a lower block heel as well. Unlike my last pair of Vibergs, I actively wear these pretty often because I love them and not because I feel like I need to wear them in order to review them. At the time of this review, I have owned them for over 6 months and given them at least a month and a half of actual wear so far. They still look almost new though because I have babied them. They do not require it, but the leather is just so stunning that I have treated these with kid gloves. Aside from some rain getting on them and the sole getting broken in, the only signs of wear are the evidence of the leather folding and crinkling which I think actually looks quite nice.
These Shelby Sharp boots are far from perfect. The soles are almost unforgivably slippery, the construction quality and finishing is not acceptable for boots of this price and hype, and I really wish the tongue was gusseted, though I will admit that is more of a subjective preference rather than the other two objective complaints. Still, I adore these boots. In fact, they are already my third favorite boots in my collection only below my White Kloud boots and Clinch brown horsebutt engineers. Despite their obvious flaws, I feel great when wearing them because they just look that good. In general, the Division Road collaboration boots are my favorites from Viberg. I would suggest checking them out if you are interested (this is NOT an affiliate link, I just think they do a good job with collaboration Viberg and Trickers boots.) I suppose these boots are just a perfect example of personal preference winning out over objective quality and that is perfectly fine with me because I know the difference.
*Rubber heels for leather shoes first appeared in the United States at the turn of the 20th century and Dainite rubber soles first appeared in 1910. Without knowing exact shoe history, it is quite likely that a boot made in England in the 1910s-1920s would still be using a leather sole, even if it was being used in muddy Birmingham.
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[…] in their price range and better than many more expensive brands such as Wesco, Whites, Nicks, Viberg, Trickers, and Alden. There are no wonky stitches or true mistakes, just some inconsistencies in […]