The USA has a rich tradition of making awesome, durable boots. In fact, I would say that when most people think of “boots” they think of American boots. A lot of makers from other companies have been catching up and indeed surpassing US brands, but there are still some high quality American-made boot brands still around. This list will showcase some of them. To be clear, all of these makers are made in the USA. There is no outsourcing on this list. Also, because top quality, handmade cowboy boots are a whole different universe, they are not on this list. You can be assured that you are getting boots actually made in the US of A so let’s get into it!
Parkhurst is a brand I know little about and I suppose I could have put Allen Edmonds, Oak Street, or Wolverine here. From the little I’ve seen, however, I think Parkhurst deserves the nod. The quality looks OK, but I see a lot of flaws just from pictures like with all the other brands mentioned here. More people already know about Allen Edmonds, Wolverine, Frye, or almost anyone else I could put here. A major reason that this list was made was to introduce people to bootmakers and brands that they have not heard of before so I figured Parkhurst would be a better choice for this spot.
If I were to choose between Oak Street, Allen Edmonds, Helm, Mark Albert, Wolverine, Danner, Parkhurst, or Frye boots, I would personally spend my money on a pair of Parkhurst. Oak Street would probably be my second choice because of the designs, but I have heard of too many construction horror stories and their boots cost over $100 more. I also like Parkhurst’s choice of leather and while I only like their Allen boot, I like it enough to make it my choice. To be clear, I would not actually spend my money on any of these brands mentioned unless I didn’t have other choices. None of the designs appeal to me enough. With that said, I do think the Allen is a well designed boot even if it’s not my general cup of tea. I just don’t usually go for something that sleek.
To be perfectly honest, I preferred Truman’s old lasts and leathers than what they currently offer. With that said, I like that they offer a fair amount of leather choices and are fairly hefty in construction. There are plenty of examples of poor quality control with this maker, but many people are quite happy with their boots. I recently received a pair of these myself and the overall quality control so I will be able to speak to this brand more in the future. They seem decent overall though which is why I put them above Parkhurst. This is the last brand on the list that I would not purchase from with my own money.
As much as people think I make fun of Red Wing and their fans too much, I actually like Red Wing overall. In fact, I have owned three pairs of Red Wing boots and currently own a pair from them that I wear quite often. The two pairs of moc toes I had were sold because I did not like how they looked on me, not because I did not like them overall. I actually think that Red Wing has several seriously incredible designs. The moc toe is a classic for a reason, the Flat Toe Beckman looks fantastic, and I think their women’s boots look pretty good too.
My current pair from them is a pair of Pecos boots in Gold Russet Sequoia that I improved by having the wedge sole removed. As poorly as these boots fit me (all Red Wing boots fit me as well as a tuxedo would fit Lemmy Kilmister), I really like how they look. Sure, I don’t like Iron Rangers much, but I cannot deny their long term success. Plus, I think Red Wing moc toes are one of maybe two or three boots that look good on a wedge sole. They also have solid quality control. Their boots will not be beautifully crafted or flawless, but you will rarely get any major issues from Red Wing and their prices are now back to being on the more affordable side now that Indonesian makers have upped how much they charge Westerners. Do I believe that collecting only Red Wing boots is ridiculous? Yes. Am I happy to have a pair of Red Wings in my line up? Definitely.
This one was a weird one for me because I do not generally like sleeker boots and while I would not call most Alden models sleek by dress shoe standards, I would call them relatively sleek by casual and Amekaji/heritage standards. Still, I really do love a lot of their designs. Their longwings are gorgeous and I love how most of their cap toe boots look. At this point, I have come quite close to purchasing several pairs of Alden boots. By far the biggest downside with this maker is their horrendous quality control, especially given their price. If this was not such a problem, I would probably already own a pair.
It is now time to jump into the Pacific Northwest Bootmakers with all three of them ranked in a row. This was not necessarily on purpose, but it does make sense when I think about it. Whites, Wesco, and Nicks have quite a few similarities. All companies started out as work boot makers and all three of them still make some seriously tough footwear for loggers, linemen, and wildfire fighters. As a result, all three makers will be able to build you some seriously tough boots that have the potential to outlive you.
If longevity is all you care about, then these are the boots for you. However, anyone reading this article who is honest with themselves probably knows that they do not actually need boots this tough so aesthetics and quality control come into play as well. Aesthetically, all three makers make some nice looking boots and they are all starting to offer a better selection of casual leathers.
Whites is at the bottom of my list simply because I have seen the largest number of quality control gaffes from them. However, this is fairly arbitrary as I really cannot tell you which of these brands has the highest quality. I have seen absolutely appalling quality control issues with all three brands. They are all pretty infamous for it (unless you talk to the fake-macho stans who think that wearing these boots raises their testosterone levels by 20%). In fact, one of the most entertainingly hilarious things I see in the world of boots is when people adamantly proclaim that any of these three brands is undeniably better or worse than the other. It’s like watching Arizona Cardinal fans, Cincinnati Bengals fans, and New York Jets fans arguing over which of their franchises is the least historically pathetic. It would be cute if it weren’t so sad.
Are there any differences between the brands? Yes, absolutely. Whites and Nicks reportedly have better arch support than Wesco and while I haven’t owned Whites, my Nicks definitely have better arch support than the Wescos I had. Whites actually hand welts some of their boots which is pretty cool, but it has also just been revealed that their new moc toes are complete garbage over on Superfuture, so that’s not great. Nicks makes the most work-like casual boots of the three of them. Also, Wesco is the only one of the three that makes an engineer boot that doesn’t look like it is meant to be worn by 67 year old Harley Davidson riders who still fly confederate flags from their 1996 Dodge Ram pickup trucks. To be fair, the Wesco engineer boot on the MP toe last is one of my favorite engineer designs on the market. If they didn’t fit me like trash, I would have bought another pair… or actually, I would have just kept the pair that I had.
In summary, I personally like Wesco the most, but all three of these makers will make you solid boots if you don’t get torpedoed by their infamous QC lotteries. My suggestion? Go through a dealer like Standard and Strange or Bakers Boots so you can get more protection against quality control issues if you like the designs and want to wear the equivalent of a pair of Challenger 2 tanks on your feet.
Julian is a weird brand. I met the owner and the team at the last Inspiration LA event that happened with my buddy John. They were… characters. Apparently the owner is trying to start a chocolate company or something like that right now, so that’s fun. Anyway, the boots from this brand are pretty solid. They make the Mister Freedom Road Champ which has been delayed more times than the end of COVID-19. I have tried on these and handled several boots from them. They seem to be well built overall, but QC is definitely not perfect.
As you can tell, that’s the general issue with USA made boots. The QC just isn’t at the level of the top two makers here or a lot of overseas brands. With that said, I really love some of the models made by Julian. Their Bowery is especially nice in my opinion. The Road Champs are usually well made from what I have seen and these boots do seem to be better overall than those from PNW makers. I really want a pair of Bowery boots from Julian and if I end up getting a pair, I will be able to update this section, but for now, I think this is an underrated maker in the US.
OK, now we’re actually getting into the world class makers. While I do not own anything from Kreosote, it is pretty obvious that Gabbard makes a top tier boot. The styling certainly will not be for everyone and neither will the long wait time, but he is seriously committed to quality. These boots are hand welted, and even the upper stitching is done with a manual stitching machine. Materials are also all extremely high quality with this maker. What is more is that everything is done by just one person. Many hours go into making these boots and it really does show. I haven’t found a pair from Gabbard that I absolutely adore, but when I do, I will almost certainly be purchasing them because this is a maker that I want to experience.
1. Role Club
This one is probably not a surprise to anyone who knows anything about Brian the Bootmaker. Like with Kreosote, everything is made by just one person with Role Club and the boots are handwelted. Also as with Kreosote, Brian makes sure to get precise measurements from the customer to ensure an excellent fit and the materials are high quality. In addition, Role Club also has very neat construction and great quality control. I have heard of some issues, but there is only one maker that I have never heard of or seen any issues with (White Kloud) and my Role Club boots are extremely well made.
In addition to the fantastic materials, construction methods, and quality, what puts Role Club at the top is the quality of design from this maker. His engineer boots are one of my two favorite engineers on the market, the Underdogs are absolutely stunning lace ups, and his monkey boots are also incredibly beautiful. He even has two great lasts for his engineers, which is wild. As much as I love Clinch, I only really like the Classic Narrow last on their engineers. With Role Club, I love my 2307 flat toe last engineers, but also love the RC1940 last as well.
The only major downside of this maker is the wait, which apparently is over 2 years now. I did not wait anywhere near this long for my pair and as of now, I don’t think I will order another pair while the wait is this long. However, if I did not already have a pair from Brian, I would absolutely and without question wait that long or longer for a pair. To me, they are absolutely worth it if you do not already have something from him.
You may have noticed that I had a lot of negative things to say about a lot of these brands and that is the unfortunate case of USA made boots. Most of them just do not match up to competition from makers in the UK, Indonesia, and especially Japan. In fact, even a Chinese maker, Flame Panda at least matches the top two makers on this list in my opinion. If you absolutely refuse to buy anything not made in the USA, then fine. Here is your list. However, if you have an open mind, I highly suggest that you check out some other non-USA made brands as well. Role Club and Kreosote are definitely awesome, but the other makers are all outclassed by other makers around the world. In my own experience, I can recommend the following makers over the majority of the brands on this list: