The Best Engineer Boots in the World: Clinch by Brass Tokyo Horsehide Engineer Boot Review

I have now owned a custom pair of custom made Clinch horsehide engineer boots for three and a half years. In fact, I even went to Brass Tokyo’s shop in Setagaya, Tokyo to pick these and my other custom pair of boots up from them in person and got to meet the founder and owner of the company, Minoru Matsuura. Yet, despite that special experience, I have yet to review these boots. Honestly, I should have reviewed these years ago, but better late than never.

My first pair of Clinch boots was the pair that I reviewed quite a while back. Unfortunately, those did not really fit so I had to let them go. However, they were so great that I ordered two pairs of custom Clinch boots. I will review the other pair eventually as well, but today I am focusing on the horsehide pair. These are a 9” tall pair of engineers in a mid brown vegetable tanned horsehide from an unspecified Italian tannery, light brown/tan contrast upper stitching, natural edge finishing, woodsman heel, and biltrite soles. 

My first pair of Clinch engineers
My custom Clinch horsehide engineers when they were brand new – this was taken in my Shibuya hotel after picking them up – you can see how beautifully made and finished they are

At the time, I was excited to be able to custom order two pairs of Clinch engineers, but I appreciate it even more now. From what I understand, you cannot custom order Clinch engineers unless you do so at the actual Brass Tokyo shop itself and there is a 20% upcharge on top of that. To be clear, I am not entirely sure if this is true. If you are interested in ordering Clinch boots, I would suggest emailing them and perhaps they will let you order directly. It’s worth a shot at least. However, I believe you now must order from retailers or order at their shop in person and can only get truly custom orders from the shop in person now.

My brother and I with Minoru Matsuura, owner of Brass after picking up my boots

Even the standard Clinch horsehide engineers are just under $2,000. With the 20% upcharge, these boots would be $2,400 now. At the time, I believe I paid just over $1,500 for these boots with the only downside being the fact that I could only get the horsehide in the 9” boot rather than the 11” tall boot. Given the fact that I was allowed to custom order them and for the price I paid, I think that was more than a worthy trade off.

The materials are of course top notch with these boots. They better be for that price. This horsehide especially is absolutely stunning. In fact, it was my favorite boot leather until I got my Shinki horsehide Vibergs and I still sometimes waver on that because of this leather. It is such a beautifully rich golden-red brown color. It has darkened with age of course, but not to an extreme degree. The grain is visible, but it isn’t wild like the Shinki is. Instead, it just has a wonderful, lustrous depth and gorgeous color that is offset perfectly by the contrast stitching and the natural edge finishing. 

The leather is beautiful right from the beginning
Some beautiful grain as well

The Biltrite soles are nothing special to look at in my opinion, but they do the job. They have held up quite well to repeated wear over time, though not as well as the Made in USA Vibrams on my John Lofgren engineers. The buckles are very beautiful brass roller buckles that match quite well with the rest of the boot. Clinch also includes a nice little fabric tag on the inside of the left boot instead of any gaudy branding on the shaft of the boot that so many other brands do. I am glad that they did not fall into that trap and instead let the beautiful design and construction quality speak for itself.

Before discussing the construction methods and quality, I have to talk about the design of these boots. In my opinion, these are easily the best designed engineer boots on the market. The original classic narrow last is my favorite last of any boot in the world. It is gorgeous to look at and the way it develops over time is better thought out than with any other boot or last out there. Minoru Matsuura has designed these boots in a way that the leather rolls instead of creases over time which looks stunning. My other pair of Clinch boots have done this more than my horsehide engineers, but you can see it happening on this pair as well. I have never seen another pair of boots, including engineers that do this the way these do and that alone makes them incredible. In many ways, design is subjective, but this is something that I don’t think many other people can do. At the very least, they haven’t done it.

The last is well designed (it looks distorted here on the phone camera)
The boots look even better after aging

Sizing is interesting on these boots. The last is called the classic narrow for a reason as it is a fairly narrow last. I am a 10.5 on a brannock device and I wear a size 11 in these boots. They are quite comfortable and do not feel too long or too narrow at all. In fact, these are some of my best fitting boots. I would say that they are my third most comfortable and third best fitting boots after my White Klouds and Role Clubs. I also never had any issues putting these boots on and taking them off, despite my high instep. Of course, that issue varies greatly from person to person. To be clear, I do not have a narrow foot. I have an average width foot and a higher than average instep, but simply sizing up by .5 on these was enough for a comfortable fit. It isn’t overly roomy on the sides, but rather snug in a comfortable way rather than a cramped way. 

I know that some people worry about fitting into the original classic narrow last, but it’s a comfortable last and all I had to do was size up by .5 for an extremely comfortable and good fit. If you have wider feet, then maybe go up by a full size instead of half a size. There is a classic narrow wide last available, but in my opinion it does not look as good as the original classic narrow last. The increased width is quite notable and while it still looks good, it just is not quite as elegant in my opinion as the original CN last. The original last was designed the way it was for a reason and when you have the opportunity to purchase something that is so well designed, you don’t miss that opportunity. 

My black Clinch engineers better demonstrate how well the leather folds thanks to the last design

One other piece of information that I feel that I should point out is that the pair of Clinch engineer boots that I had to sell due to sizing were also size 11. However, they were made out of the extremely thick latigo leather. I cannot confirm that the leather was the reason that they fit smaller or if something changed between those boots being made and my custom pairs being made. However, I would say that it may be prudent to size up further on CN boots made with latigo leather to be safe.

Comfort is subjective of course, but I do want to report that these boots have been quite comfortable for me as I have owned them. They of course have a small amount of heel slip, but I have never experienced engineer boots that do not have this. However, it is so minor with these boots that I do not actually notice it when walking. With such high quality materials being used and the fact that the boots are hand welted, it is no surprise that the footbed feels quite comfortable and has conformed to my feet well. Hand welting means there is less of a gap between the insole and the midsole so you do not have to use as much cork filler to fill the cavity. 

These boots have been worn for full 8, 12, and 16 hour days with no comfort issues at all. Obviously, after 16 hours of being out and about on my feet, they hurt a little at the end of the day, but no footwear has ever kept my feet feeling perfect after that long. These boots were also one of the pairs that I took on my second trip to Japan. In fact, these were the boots that I wore on the plane and through customs. Engineers like these that are easy to get off are perfect choices for wearing through airport security. I walked a ridiculous amount of miles every day on that trip and these boots handled that quite well. Of course, the construction quality is even more impressive than the comfort.

The construction methods and quality are overall extremely high. These boots are hand welted. The person who used to do this part of the construction has recently retired, but I would assume they had a plan to replace him with someone else or multiple people who could also do the hand welting. The midsole/outsole stitching is done by machine and is done very well overall. In addition, the upper stitching is extremely dense, straight, and even. This is some of the highest quality upper stitching I have seen on any pair of boots, though if I were to nitpick, I could say that it is not as perfectly executed as the upper stitching on White Kloud boots. The leather is perfectly cut as well and the edges and heels are extremely well finished.

You can see that the upper stitching and cutting are done extremely well. Near the bottom of the second photo, though, you can see it’s not quite perfect

Unfortunately, there is one minor issue on this pair of boots. One part of the thread on the sole stitching was broken when I got the boots. On the plus side, the whole thread is not broken and after owning these boots and wearing them many times for three and a half years, nothing has broken further. Additionally, my pair of latigo engineers from them that I reviewed previously did not have this issue and my black pair that I also still own does not have any issues either. This is the kind of small issue that reminds me why White Kloud is the best at making casual boots because he is the only maker from which I have never seen or experienced a flaw from. 

Overall, the rapid stitching is done extremely well. You can barely see the partly broken thread near the front.

At the same time, this does not mean that Clinch isn’t one of the best bootmakers in terms of quality either. Everything else about these boots is incredible and nearly perfectly executed. Even with this minor flaw, the quality is still second only to White Kloud in my opinion, perhaps tied with Flame Panda in that second spot. The fact that I had to dedicate two paragraphs to this minor issue shows just how highly I regard Clinch. With lesser brands, something like this would warrant two sentences at most. With Clinch, I have to point it out and mention that it is an exception to their rule of generally incredible quality. 

These boots are just so well suited to me that I haven’t really bought any more pairs of engineer boots. The only recent engineer purchase that I have made was my pair of Attractions horsehide engineers, which was largely made because I wanted a pair of all black engineers. The Clinch craftsmanship, the perfectly designed original classic narrow last, the way the leather has folded thanks to that design, the stunning leather, contrast stitching, and overall makeup and colors on this boot makes it my perfect engineer boot. Aside from making it an 11” boot which really doesn’t matter much and fixing the one minor flaw, I cannot think of a way to improve these at all. 

These are my second favorite boots only after my White Klouds and they are quite often the boots I wear when I really want to look my best. They go especially well with my Freewheelers Caboose leather jacket so that causes me to wear them even more. Engineer boots are my favorite type of boot and I have owned or tried on and handled just about all of the best pairs. I own pairs from Clinch, Role Club, John Lofgren, Attractions, and Wesco and have handled and tried on engineers from Mister Freedom, Julian, Motor, and Buco/The Real McCoys and I would say that Clinch are the best engineers in terms of design and overall construction quality. I am not saying that this particular pair of engineers is the best pair of engineer boots in the world, but I do believe that as an overall package, Clinch by Brass Tokyo offers the best designed and best made engineer boots that you can buy today. 

Two photos of my Clinch engineers with my Freewheelers Caboose jacket

Some will disagree of course and that is understandable. I do think you could make arguments for Role Club, John Lofgren, Mister Freedom, and Attractions also being the best engineer boots in the world, especially with Role Club. I have a pair from each of these brands (except Mister Freedom, which I have handled and tried on) and my Role Clubs are basically equal to my Clinch in overall quality in my opinion and the design is also fantastic so I would not argue with someone who puts Role Club at number one. For me, it is quite close between these two makers overall and if you are a true lover of engineers, you need to have at least one pair from both makers. Without a doubt, I need to review my Role Club engineers soon. 

If you are interested in purchasing a pair of Clinch boots by Brass Tokyo, check out their website and their instagram page. The can be purchased as well from Pancho and Lefty and Standard and Strange. As always, these are not affiliate links and I do not get any benefit from sending people to these websites. I am just giving my honest opinion.

4 thoughts on “The Best Engineer Boots in the World: Clinch by Brass Tokyo Horsehide Engineer Boot Review”

  1. Hi Jake, due to your site I decided this years’ spring to purchase a pair of clinch boots. Bought them in black Latigo. I like to dress nice cloths and shoes but don’t have or think its necessary to spend the tailor made budget. So I really had to overcome the high amount of money involved for a piece of clothing. When I received my pair I was happy as a hippo. I felt like a kid who got a new toy and I wanted to go to sleep with my boots next to my bed, but I thought my wife would immediately then ask for a divorce. This stuff really doesn’t suit my style like 100% but I really like when utensils and fashion are authentic, artisanal and extremely we’ll made. These Clinch boots just ooze quality and perfection. But oh boy. did I panic when I tried these on. I had already been reading about how difficult they handle with the first like 10 fittings. The one and only solution has to be a bag of plastics to help you get into these boots with their narrow last. This classic narrow last is tight for my also average feet, but they grow on you and they fit like a pair of custom gloves. The whole dressing and pulling of these boots on and off your feet is a kind of ritual. But I love it. And I wear these everywhere. Not every day cause is don’t want to be city cowboy each day but they are durable and will last a life time.

    1. I’m glad they worked out for you. The Latigo is definitely on the thicker and stiffer side so it can be more difficult to get them on and off, but the quality of the boots is incredible!

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