For the first time since I started caring about how I dressed, I actually feel fairly content with my current footwear collection. Obviously, I am not naive enough to think that I will never buy another pair of boots. To be honest, there are more boots that I still want. However, I am overall quite happy with my footwear collection right now and I do not feel a desperate need for anything as of this moment. As of the publishing of this article, I have only two pairs of boots on order and both are from makers that I already own boots from.
Given that my collection will likely not be growing much for at least a little while in terms of new brands/makers, I finally feel confident enough to actually go through my full collection and rank them. Please keep in mind that this ranking is in reverse order of how much I personally like the boots. Sure, quality comes into play, but more subjective issues like design, comfort, and leather choices come into play as well. Also , I must point out that this list is not set in stone at all. A lot of these boots are fairly new and have not been worn nearly as much as others. The excitement of the newness of some boots may help them, but the experiences and time spent with some other boots makes a difference as well.
If the list does change significantly and/or if a lot of new boots are added, I will revisit it in the future. Before the real list starts, I will also discuss the boots that I have sold, which are actually not many. I sell a lot of the clothes I buy, but I rarely sell my boots. Finally, I want to mention that I have written reviews of a lot of these boots, but also still have to write reviews for many of them as well. This list hopefully gives some different insight than reviews do, being more of a comparison and based on more subjective factors than my reviews are. Even though this is not a review, I hope you get something out of reading this article.
4. Red Wing 8882 Moc Toe in Indigo Portage
These were actually a grail boot for me for almost a year. I remember seeing my buddy Joe Pizarro posting his pair on Instagram and really loving the color. The blue tone of these boots was really nice in my opinion, especially for a chrome tanned leather. When I received them, they did not disappoint and I really liked wearing them. Weirdly, Red Wing has released another pair of navy blue moc toes, but the color is darker and much duller. It’s so much worse than these that it’s actually pretty funny. Even though I sold these, they are solid boots in a cool color that I think should be brought back. They also interestingly had a lot less flaws than my other pair of Red Wings. They were decently comfortable, but I ended up selling them because I did not like how the moc toes looked on me with wedge soles. I really despise wedge soles.
3. Red Wing 9875 Irish Setter Moc Toe in Gold Russet Sequoia
This pair had a lot more flaws than the previous pair I mentioned and the leather was not as special, but I liked them more because they were easier to wear with more outfits thanks to the color. Also, my leather collection will show you that I am extremely partial to golden/orange/whiskey colored leathers and that’s what these had. This was another leather that looked fairly nice for chrome tanned leather. It was a lovely shade of golden orange. As with my other pair of moc toes, they were sold simply because I did not like how the wedge sole moc toes looked on me. Still, they made me appreciate Red Wings more than I had before and I may buy another pair of Wings eventually. You can read my review of them here if you want.
2. Viberg 2030 Service Boots in Tan Washed Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather
This was my first pair of Viberg boots. The design of course is nice, but the quality control left a lot to be desired. I fell out of love with them not long after I wrote my review of them because of that lack of quality and I just did not like them as much as I did at first. These were so forgettable that despite working on this article over several months, I forgot to add this pair until I saw them while I was going through my photos to add for this article. They still rank above the Red Wings because I truly detest wedge soles and because they had vegetable tanned horsehide.
1. Clinch Classic Narrow engineer in hand-dyed brown latigo
These were my first Clinch boots and my second pair of quality casual boots. In fact, I got them just after my Lofgren engineers and I even reviewed this pair a while back. They were absolutely amazing. In fact, they were so good that I custom ordered two more pairs of Clinch engineer boots because of them. These were only sold because they were half a size too small for me. I kept them longer than I should have, actually. They hurt my feet, but they were so beautiful that it was difficult to get rid of them. In fact, I still kind of regret selling them even though they didn’t fit.
The Boots I Still Own:
17. Thursday Captain in brown Thursday Chrome leather
I do not like these boots. At all. I’m pretty sure the review that I wrote made it pretty clear that I was not a fan of these and the pictures proved why. The leather is awful in terms of quality and looks like it was clicked by Shaggy Rogers while a guy in a ghost costume chased him. There are a lot of loose threads and examples of poor construction quality and I do not understand the modern obsession with synthetic materials in boots. It is not more supportive. Making boots feel like sneakers does not make them more comfortable, it just makes them more like sneakers. The only reason I keep these boots around is so I can compare them to other boots if/when I need to. I would never be seen in public with these boots.
16. Clarks Desert Boots in beeswax leather
The Clarks Desert Boots are cheaper than the Thursdays and you could argue that they are worse boots, but I massively prefer them to the Thursdays. My Clarks are better clicked and have better construction and finishing than the Thursdays. With that said, they are still not good boots at all. I would actually probably recommend Thursday as a first pair of boots for others over these if I had to choose between the two and I would never wear these again. I only keep them for sentimental reasons and if I found someone to give them away to I would donate them immediately. I only put these higher than the Thursdays because I would personally choose to wear them over the Thursday Captains if I had to wear one of them.
15. Urban Shepherd Country in natural waxed calfskin
I actually kind of liked these when I reviewed them, but my opinion on them has gone south since then. The more I thought about it, the more I was annoyed by the broken stitch on them. How does that get past quality control? Additionally, I realized that I really just did not like how these boots looked. The red stitching on my custom Clinch engineers looks great and it looks great on the olive Role Club engineers as well. On these natural colored boots that are supposed to look like European country boots, it just looks out of place. I did actually choose to wear these a few times after I reviewed them, but I have not worn them in at least a year and a half as of now and I do not see myself wearing them again. Overall, I do think they are good boots for the price if you get a pair without a broken upper stitch, but they’re just not for me.
14. Mark Albert Uptown in Coyote roughout
This is the first pair of boots on this list that I have actually worn in the past 6 months, though I have not worn them often since writing my review of them. I think I have only worn them once in that time, but given that I am not wearing any footwear as much thanks to COVID, the fact that I’ve worn them at all says something. My particular pair is certainly flawed as they have a lasting issue that makes the boots uneven, but otherwise they’re decent. My actual least favorite aspect of them is that they have synthetic materials in the soles instead of just leather, but I have heard that the new models have upgraded to leather instead which is great. The reason that I actually wear these is because they are decent enough boots and I actually like how they look. They are not my personal preference in terms of style, but I still think they look good and I like the dull roughout leather which is tan with a sort of sage green tinge to it. Every once in a while, I like to bust these out as a change of pace.
13. Carmina Chelsea in tan suede
Carmina makes a pretty great boot for the money in my experience, though I have seen some articles exposing some mediocre interior components. Mine were bought for less than $350 back when you could take advantage of European pricing without tax better. At that price, these are a steal and I am really happy to have them in my collection. They are much more formal than anything else that I own, but they are what a Chelsea boot should be. I personally despise the trend of chunky, “rugged” Chelsea boots being made right now. If you want a rugged laceless boot, there are plenty of boots that already fit that bill. Engineers, cowboy boots, and pecos/pull on boots are much better than trying to make Chelsea boots something they are not. These Carminas are beautifully designed, especially for the price. The Rain last is absolutely gorgeous and rivals the lasts of brands that are far more expensive than Carmina even if the rest of the boot isn’t at the level of a $1,000 boot.
The rich cognac color of this suede is also gorgeous and helps keep them a little more casual. I used to wear these to my old job a lot and I still did wear them to work once in a while until COVID forced me to work from home. They still get worn outside of work sometimes as well, but they’re definitely too formal and too slim for most of my outfits and trousers these days and I would never wear them with any of my jeans. They also are not comfortable at all. Being so slim and formal means that there is almost nothing between my feet and the floor, so these feel like walking on concrete all day. Still, they will likely stay in my collection for many years to come and this is the first pair of boots on this list that I can say confidently will not be sold or given away any time soon. They are also the first boots that I wrote more than one paragraph on, so that must mean I like them, or that I just need to do an actual review on them.
12. Nicks Robert in Wickett & Craig medium brown English bridle leather
This is the pair of boots that I wrote a review on most recently and it was an extremely enjoyable review to write given just how unique these boots are within my collection. These boots are probably more actual work boot than casual boot, which is really cool. Without a doubt, these will be my new go to for any manual labor or hiking. Basically, any time I need to have something tough, supportive, and something that I don’t feel bad about abusing, these will be the boots I choose. On the other hand, I still do not love how these boots look on me yet.
Comfort is not the issue. They do not feel heavy or bulky on me and are actually quite easy to wear for a full day thanks to the arch support and all the leather in the sole. The only issue was the stiffness of the upper leather and my trouble with the full tongue gusset, but those issues have been cleared up so I am happy to wear these all day. They just look big on my feet which is exacerbated by my 5’7” height and size 10.5 feet. Also, they aren’t my most nicely made and finished boots and when boots are like that, they do tend to get worn a little less. Still, I actually really like these boots. I received them in quarantine which makes it extremely difficult to judge just how much I would wear them on a regular basis. This is a boot that certainly could move up in the rankings, which I do not think is true for any of the boots below this one.
11. Wesco x Standard and Strange Knuckle Draggers in Horween dark olive waxed flesh
These boots should be higher on this list. Wesco makes a beautifully designed engineer boot on the MP toe last, especially with all the nice details that Standard and Strange chose. They took forever to break in, but now that they have broken in they are decently comfortable. However, there are a few personal issues that I have with them that have placed them so far down on this list, which is probably a shockingly low placement for people who know how much I love engineer boots. The construction is solid and the finishing is OK, so that is not the issue I have with them, though I do wish they were more even with their SPI on the area where the vamp and shaft meet.
No, the two biggest issues with these are the heel slip and the leather. Heel slip is inevitable on an engineer boot and I have no issue with that. I have worn engineers all day long walking around Japan with no issue. However, even after break in the heel slip on these is absolutely atrocious. If I will be walking a lot during the day, I cannot wear these. I also fell out of love with the leather. It’s not black or brown and everyone thought it was black so I just overdyed them black myself. They look better now, but I just wish I had chosen a different leather, such as the natural veg tan on the Van Cleef engineers. There will be a follow up review on these boots in the near future to discuss all of this more, so look out for that. You can read my initial review from a few years ago, but keep in mind that my opinion on these has dropped since writing this review.
10. Attractions Lot. 444 engineers in black Japanese vegetable tanned horsehide
Here is another pair of engineers that are surprisingly low on the list, but this can be attributed more to the fact that I have not worn these boots all that much yet. In terms of design and leather, I think these boots are absolutely gorgeous and I love to wear these with my black leather jackets. I will not say too much more on these because I will be reviewing them in the future and I really just need more time with them right now. However, I do quite like them already. All of the boots from this point on are ones that I really love.
9. Motor lace up boots in hand-dyed brown Japanese vegetable tanned cowhide
Motor is still one of the most underrated boot makers out there. The quality, finishing, and beautiful hand painted leathers that they offer at their surprisingly low price point make them an absolute steal and in my opinion, one of the best value for money boots out there as long as you are a US 10.5 or smaller which I mentioned in my original review of them. The design of these boots is wonderful, the leather is awesome, they are extremely well finished for just over $600, and the boots are not uncomfortable at all. I just don’t quite love them as much as the boots above them on this list. Still, I am extremely happy to have them in my collection and believe that more people should look into ordering boots from them.
8. Viberg x Division Road x Motiv Mfg. Shelby Sharp boots in Shinki veg tan horsehide
In terms of quality, these are undoubtedly below the Motors. The finishing is extremely poor on these as I detailed in my review of them. However, I also mentioned in my review that I absolutely adore the design and leather of these boots. They are basically the exact boot that I would design if I could design a non-woodsman heel boot. I literally cannot think of a single detail that I would change other than having someone else actually make them. The red-brown Shinki horsehide leather on these is without doubt the most gorgeous leather I have ever seen on a pair of boots and that includes boots that I do not even own.
This combined with the fantastic 2030 last and beautiful design touches on this boot such as the leather soles, 360 storm welt, broguing, pinking, and piping makes this boot achingly beautiful to me.The reason this pair of boots is not higher is because of the unacceptable construction quality at this price point. Even with that, these boots were actually ranked as high as third on this list at one point. In fact, every boot from rank 3-8 has changed rankings multiple times as I contemplated this article. That is how close all of them are in my mind.
7. Role Club custom 2307 engineers in brown Horween CXL horsehide
I really hate Horween Chromexcel leather. I wrote an entire article talking about how this leather is more overrated than the TV show Friends. That is a major reason they are only ranked at 7 on this list. I deeply regret choosing this leather for these boots. It is as dull and boring as modern Nascar. With that said, I still absolutely love these boots. The dark brown color and dark brown edge finishing combined with the fact that these are my smallest and slimmest engineer boots makes them a good pair of semi formal engineers when needed.
They are wonderfully made by Brian the Bootmaker in Los Angeles, CA. The design is brilliant as well. I really love the 2307 last that Brian has crafted. They also fit me extremely well thanks to Brian measuring my feet in person. I absolutely love everything about these boots except the leather. In a different leather, I can guarantee they would be at least in the top five, if not higher. I still have not done a full review on these for some reason, but I definitely will do so in the future because they certainly deserve it.
6. Onderhoud Handmade LCV01 in black Maryam veg tan horsebutt
I wrote a review of these boots not too long ago and not much has changed since then with these boots. Thanks to COVID I have not worn them much more, but it is not because I don’t want to. These are great boots. I’m not a fan of all of the Onderhoud designs, but I do love these. They are chunky, but not overly so and are well balanced with a nicely curved woodsman heel. The leather is great and the construction is excellent. With more time, these boots could end up being higher, but this is where they are right now.
5. John Lofgren engineer boots in natural Horween CXL cowhide
These were my first high quality casual boots that I bought and I fortunately still have them today. I have reviewed these as well and again, not much has changed since I wrote that article. These beauties are wonderfully designed, finely crafted, and have stood up well over time, remaining comfortable for me to wear. As with the Role Clubs, by far the worst part of these boots is the leather. I understand why John Lofgren uses CXL. It’s easier to work with and more consistent than other more exciting leathers, but that does not mean that I do not wish that these boots had a better leather. As much as I love these boots, these have the highest chance of moving downward and it is mostly because of the dull, boring leather that is CXL.
4. Clinch custom Classic Narrow engineers in black Japanese veg tan cowhide
Picking up these boots from Brass Tokyo in person was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. I will never forget holding them for the first time in the store, downstairs from the room they were made in and admiring how beautiful they were. I will never forget taking pictures with the staff while wearing them and then walking out of the store in them. I also will never forget how I wore them while shopping around Tokyo the next day and made my shins bleed because the vegetable tanned cowhide was so stiff.
Despite that uncomfortable experience, these boots have been an absolute joy to own. I feel extremely fortunate to have been able to order custom pairs of these boots directly from the maker. The red stitching against the black leather is something that I still love and these boots have aged very nicely with the trademark rolling of the leather that Clinch has engineered into the brilliant classic narrow last. These were my first black boots and are still my favorite black boots that I own by a pretty comfortable margin and are my first choice when I wear either of my black Freewheelers leather jackets.
3. Flame Panda Monkey Boots in natural Maryam veg tan horsebutt
These boots surprised me more than any other boots have. Flame Panda was someone I had barely heard of before ordering these boots and when they arrived, they turned out to be one of the best pairs of boots in my entire collection. The more I wear these, the more I love them. In fact, my opinion on them has actually gone up since I wrote my review. The more I look at these boots and compare them to others, I think that in terms of quality, they are up there close to or possibly even at Clinch level which puts them above or equal to everything except White Kloud by my estimation.
In addition to their objective quality, I simply love them subjectively. I never thought that I would love a pair of monkey boots so much, but I am smitten by these. Peng has a lot of well designed boots, which is more than most newer makers can say and that is why I actually have another pair of his boots on order. This also puts Flame Panda in a pretty exclusive club of makers that I have ordered more than one pair of boots from. I had two Red Wings, but sold them both and I have bought two pairs of Vibergs, but sold one pair as well. The only others that I have bought two pairs from are Clinch and White Kloud. That puts Flame Panda in pretty exclusive company in my collection.
2. Clinch custom Classic Narrow engineers in brown Italian veg tan horsehide
While I love my black Clinch engineers, I love these more. In fact, the top two boots on this list are the most solidly in the positions that I have them listed at. These are easily my favorite engineer boots and I do genuinely believe that the Clinch engineer on the original classic narrow last (NOT the classic narrow wide last) are the best engineers you can buy. Again, I feel fortunate for being able to buy these custom in this gorgeous mid-brown vegetable tanned Italian horsehide with tan stitching which slightly contrasts the leather. These boots are just incredibly stunning and are a go-to for me. Like the other Clinch engineers, they are also quite comfortable for me. In fact, they are only after my White Klouds and Role Clubs in terms of comfort for me right now. A big reason that I have not bought all that many engineers after both of these pairs is because I haven’t felt the need to. I have already reached the engineer summit with these custom Clinch boots.
1. White Kloud custom boots in cognac Badalassi Carlo veg tan cowhide
While I adore my Clinch engineers, nothing can equal my White Kloud boots in my collection. These are not only my favorite boots, they are my favorite physical possession period. As much as I love engineer boots, I would wear these for the rest of my life over any pair of engineers. I loved them when I wrote my initial review of them, and loved them even more when I wrote my two year review on them. White Kloud is unquestionably the best casual-style bootmaker on the planet and these boots are proof of that.
The leather is the incredibly gorgeous Badalassi Carlo minerva leather in cognac which is aging to perfection. It is clicked masterfully by Show Goto, stitched perfectly, hand welted perfectly, hand outsole stitched perfectly, and finished perfectly. One cannot overestimate the beauty of the finishing on White Kloud boots. What is more is that these boots have stood up well so far to all the wear I have put them through and have become easily the most comfortable boots that I own. Everything about these boots is the best available, with Goto-San going as far as to make his own thread for hand welting from scratch by himself. When people say they don’t cut corners, they all may as well be lying compared to this guy.
Goto-San is also one of the nicest and kindest people that I have ever met. The entire experience of going to his shop and getting measured, hanging out with him again the second time in Japan, and hosting him here in the United States makes these boots even more special to me. They would be the best boots in the world even if Goto-San were a jerk, but he’s a friend so that makes these even more special to me. The only way they could possibly lose their number 1 spot is if they get knocked off by the new Ogawa shell cordovan White Klouds that I have coming in soon. However, this was my first pair from him so my guess is that these will always be my favorite boots.
That was a lot to read, so if you made it this far, I hope you got something out of this article. It’s funny to me that I get a lot of flak from people about doing these “clickbait” list articles when in fact the list articles take me by far the longest to write. The boots ranked 3-8 changed places more times than I can count and in fact, I went back and forth for two months just deciding on where to place them all. That goes to show just how close all the boots in that range are and they really could change placement at any time.
Right now, only boots number 1 and 2 are safe in their rankings. My White Kloud and Clinch horsehide engineers have been 1 and 2 respectively in my collection since I received ownership of each of them and the Clinch were in first place before I took ownership of my White Klouds. As of the writing of this article, I have my Leder Ogawa shell cordovan White Kloud boots coming soon and a special new pair of boots from Flame Panda coming as well that could shake up the top rankings. Other than that, I am confident in these rankings for now.
If anything does change, I will update this list. Right now, I am not expecting anything to change much if at all. Even when I get my new boots, I will need time with them before I can add them to the list. It likely will not be until COVID calms down more that I will even have time to wear my boots enough to make serious changes to this article. For now, this is my ranking of my own boot collection in terms of how much I personally like them. This is one of my more subjective pieces of writing, but I think talking about boots in this way can also be quite valuable and I hope this article was worth your time to read.