My Favorite Indonesian Boots: Sagara Shell Cordovan Cordmaster Boot Review

My first experience with Sagara Bootmaker of Indonesia was not all that positive. Several years ago, my brother bought a pair of Sagara derby shoes in a local Indonesian leather. They were nicely put together, especially for the price, but the upper leather, outsole leather, and rubber heels all cracked and/or deteriorated quite rapidly. 

I had cheap cemented dress shoes that didn’t deteriorate that quickly with equal wear so I was quite appalled. In fact, my brother’s experience was such that I avoided Indonesian boots for a couple of years afterward and stuck to Japanese and American boots instead. While I was avoiding them, Indonesian bootmakers were getting better and better and sourcing superior materials so once I saw Onderhoud making some gorgeous looking boots in non-Indonesian leathers, I jumped on a pair. They were great and proved to me that I was needlessly avoiding some great Indonesian bootmakers. 

One of those was Sagara, the same maker who made my brother’s old shoes. I had considered getting a pair from them when my brother had initially ordered his pair. After all, I was the one who recommended the brand to him. At that time, however, nothing they made really struck me as appealing. This is not to say that they did not have any good looking boots, just not anything that really appealed to me. Fast forward a few years and I saw a couple of boots from them and one in particular that strongly appealed to me. 

My Onderhoud boots gave me a new perspective on Indonesian boots

Sagara’s Cordmaster monkey boot is a truly fantastic boot design. Monkey boots were not a style that I initially liked, but over the past 2 years, they have become one of my favorite boot styles and I think the Cordmaster is one of the very best in the world. It’s less chunky than my Flame Panda monkey boots, but is not too sleek at all. It does not make the mistake of many Indonesian boot designs of looking too sloped or forward leaning and that really helps make it look wonderfully refined. It also has an appropriate amount of toe spring, but without a bulbous bump toe. I really cannot say anything but positive comments about how much I truly love the way these boots look. 

Needless to say, I ordered a pair. I was on a shell cordovan kick at this time and really wanted a tan/cognac color so I asked Bagus from Sagara if he could get me cognac shell cordovan from Shinki. They offered Italian shell, but the colors were not as vibrant and saturated as those from Shinki. Fortunately for me, he was willing and able to do this. Based on my measurements, we went with size 43.5 and I finished off the boots with Dr. Soles cork half soles in brown. 

Upon arrival, I was thrilled with how they looked. The rich, lustrous, deep cognac color of the shell was absolutely breathtaking and I was pleased with how it looked against the natural midsole and brown half sole and heel combo. I really do not like full soles so I was happy that I was able to go with the half sole. The cotton flat laces chosen also matched really nicely against the shell and the brass hardware used was the obvious choice. I also liked the use of the 270 degree braided Norwegian/storm welt that was performed(it’s not fully braided, but is stitched into the upper.) In terms of looks, I was thrilled with the boots.

Fit and comfort has also been fantastic with these boots. They fit quite well. In fact, I would say they are one of my best fitting boots that were not made to measure. The heel cup is nice and snug without being too tight. They are not cramped in any way, but not too loose either. There is enough room in the toe box, but my feet are not swimming in them either. The area that I have the most common issue with is the outer ball of my foot, but there is enough room with these boots which is fantastic. I have size 10.5 feet that are wider than average and 43.5 fits me as well as I could reasonably expect.

In terms of overall comfort, they have been wonderful as well. There is not all that much arch support which isn’t surprising, but they are still quite comfortable for me. According to others who have gotten double leather midsoles from Sagara, their boots can get quite substantial and tough to break in. These boots do not fit into that category. With a single leather midsole and rubber half sole, they are quite flexible even with the stiff shell cordovan. The insole leather also feels quite soft and nicely flexible as well. 

These boots are not as supple and bendable as my Iron Boots 5515 boots, but they still are quite cushy and comfortable to wear by boot standards. I have owned them for a little over 6 months and the comfort has improved thanks to the insole conforming to my feet quickly. These are up there with some of my most comfortable boots. Of course, comfort is subjective, but I have to say that I am extremely happy with these boots in terms of fit and feel.

Let us switch gears and talk about my favorite aspect of boots: construction methods and quality. It is tough to argue with the methods. These boots are hand sewn welted which is superior to the more common Goodyear welted method of shoe and boot construction. With makers such as White Kloud, Kreosote, Role Club, Flame Panda, all the Indonesian makers and more offering this construction method, it is thankfully easier to obtain than it had been for a while. Still, it is impressive as is the Norwegian-style storm welt that is done here. While not truly rare, it is not exactly common among Amekaji style boots and I think it works well here.

Most Indonesian bootmakers seem to be one man brands, one man brands with an apprentice or two, or tiny workshops with a few makers. Sagara is an exception to this as they actually have a larger amount of craftsmen making their boots. When production is scaled, it is more difficult to maintain quality control. As such, these boots are not as nicely made and finished as my White Kloud, Clinch, or Flame Panda boots. 

In terms of construction quality, the boots are certainly quite good, though admittedly imperfect. The first flaws are noticeable in the clicking. For the most part, it is actually quite well done. However, the extra leather on the inner part of each boot seems a little darker and there is an area near the toe where there is a noticeable dark spot on the shell. To be fair, Bagus said that not all the leather that he ordered matched perfectly so I think they did a good job given the situation, but it is not quite perfect here. The other issue is that the upper stitching is not very clean where the upper meets the toe/vamp. This area on lace up boots is always a telltale sign of how clean the upper stitching is and unfortunately, these Sagara boots are a bit jumbled and messy here. It’s not awful, but below the standards of the best boots that I have handled. 

With those two negatives out of the way, I must say that otherwise, these boots are actually quite nicely made. Aside from the areas previously pointed out, the upper stitching on these boots is quite clean, dense, and even. It is not the best I have seen, but is nowhere near the worst and is definitely better than acceptable for the price of the boots, which is $870 for shell cordovan. The outsole stitching and Norwegian stitching are nicely executed as well. The leather is cut well which is nice to see. 

The overall finishing on the midsole and outsole are also excellent. These areas are quite cleanly done and I love to see that. All of the edges are quite smooth with no nicks or unevenness and the midsole and outsole are nicely polished. They don’t have a crazy mirror shine, but the surface is extremely smooth and level. I am impressed by this. Even the pinking on the top of the boots is well done so overall, the quality of these boots is high. It’s not perfect, but I certainly cannot complain overall.

One weird occurrence that I need to point out is that the left tongue does not sit properly while the boots are being worn. It collapses to the left/outside of my ankle and no matter how many times I have tried to move it back to the center, upright position, it always just falls back over to the left/outside over time. If I wore my jeans with an especially high cuff, this would be extremely noticeable . In fact, when I sit down it is already quite noticeable. There are gussets on the tongue, but they are so loose that they do absolutely nothing to fix this issue. This is by far the most annoying aspect of the boots for me. It is not a dealbreaker and I do not know exactly what caused it, but I know the gussets should be tighter on these boots. I have tongues on other boots that fall to one side, but they can’t fall too far because of the tighter tongue gussets of my other boots. 

So far, these boots are quite good in my opinion. The design is top notch, the leather is quite nice and all the materials seem to be good quality too. Fit and comfort are excellent for me as well. They have been breaking in well and only have one issue that while annoying is not a dealbreaker. At $870 for Shinki shell cordovan hand welted boots I would not hesitate to recommend them if you were interested in this style of boot. This would normally be the point in which I end the review. However, I have just a little bit more to say because quite frankly, I really love these boots. 

In objective terms, these boots are very good and I would say they are definitely worth the asking price, but they aren’t perfect. In subjective terms, I absolutely adore them. They just seem to click with me. The last and overall pattern/design really connect with me and I love how these boots feel on my feet. These are boots that I look forward to wearing and the biggest reason that I don’t wear them more is because I don’t like lacing boots up in the morning before work so I almost always put on engineers. When I can be bothered to lace up my boots, these are often on my feet. 

The shell is really nice on them too. I have heard a wide range of opinions on Shinki shell cordovan since getting these boots. Some say it competes with Horween and others say it’s garbage. I’ve worn these boots enough to say that this shell is definitely not garbage. However, I honestly don’t care if it’s as good as Horween shell or not. I had boots in Horween shell and while it was nice, I don’t like Horween shell colors as much overall, especially in the lighter brown range. This Shinki shell is just so vibrant and saturated and I really love that in leather, especially a lighter brown/tan leather. I do want to get some more Horween shell boots soon, but it will not be in a tan/cognac color because I prefer the saturation of Shinki and Ogawa. 

These boots match really nicely with my Freewheelers Lot. 667 and Ooe Yofukuten mustard cossack jackets which also just makes me like them even more. If there was a major flaw with them, it would prevent me from enjoying them as much as I do, but there is nothing that problematic with these. In fact, while my Flame Panda monkey boots are objectively better than these, I think I actually prefer these Sagara Cordmasters at this point. Aside from my White Kloud boots, they are my favorite non-engineers that I have ever owned. It’s hard to complain when I love the boots that much. 

Sagara improving this much from a few years ago when my brother received his shoes is wonderful to see. Indonesian bootmakers in general have the most incredible attitude of wanting to constantly refine and improve their boots which I just absolutely love. At this point, I still do not believe that Indonesian leather is worth going for. However, if their tanneries have the same attitude as their bootmakers, in 10 or so years we may actually be viewing some Indonesian leathers as desirable. For now, there are plenty of other great leathers to choose from and if you like monkey boots at all, I won’t hesitate to recommend these at all. 

2 thoughts on “My Favorite Indonesian Boots: Sagara Shell Cordovan Cordmaster Boot Review”

  1. I really enjoyed your article on the Cordmaster boots from Sagara. I, like you, did not like the Monkey boot style at first, but I’ve grown to really like the look of the Cordmaster boots. I’m planning on ordering a pair in Maryam Natural Horsebutt leather and I’m wavering on a single or double midsole, probably a single midsole after seeing pictures of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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