Chelsea boots have a long history with menswear and style around the world but, in particular, quite the cult following here in Australia. From the farmers working the countryside to the corporate halls of the city, every man and his son seems to own at least one pair of Chelsea boots in his life.
The design itself can be dated back around 1837, although there is much speculation around the design’s name. It was basically called an elastic-sided boot. Later on, through the 1900s, it was picked up by equestrians worldwide. They then produced what was known as the jodphur boot (see Herring Milton), similar to the design but with a strapped ankle system in place.
The boots were originally made with a single piece of leather, but nowadays many brands choose to use two pieces as not all boot makers are able to manipulate the single-piece leather onto the last.
The Chelsea boot is a very simple design; no brogueing, wing or toe caps. Styling can be very versatile. You can pair them with jeans or suits with ease. For me personally, getting used to the clean design was my only challenge, coming from wearing traditional style boots and shoes.
Many genres use this style of boot across the board, some genre styles with Chelsea boots, include mod, preppy, heritage, western and of coarse the modern-day street style. See this link to view all Chelsea boots Herring have to offer.
To style with a suit, treat the boot just like an Oxford shoe as this style is much sleeker than country-style boots. In saying that, keep in mind if you go too skinny in the pants department, you will elongate your feet visually.
Now that we have gone over the construction and care basics. we can move onto the footwear.
Currently, in Melbourne, Australia, it is autumn/fall, so we are getting into “boot” weather. Boots have a few more details than shoe styles, so I thought I’d go over the Herring offering, showcasing the features and benefits. Thus, helping you buy better. In saying this, I will note not all the styles I own may be available to purchase, but below I will offer alternatives.
The first boot that I bought from Herring was the Burgh (sadly now out of stock). This is a very classic British style brogue boot, some may say this is an essential item for the colder months. The brogue boot can be traced back to Ireland and Scotland in the early 19th century. Unlike the modern-day brogue, instead of perforated holes and decorative patterns, the story was told that farmers drilled holes into their boots and shoes to drain water out during the wet season. The word “brogue” is Scottish for a tool that bores holes. This country-style boot became a staple across the British and European countryside, being made to handle the harshest cold and wet conditions.
Like most country-style boots, these run a little bigger than a shoe. This is to leave room for thicker socks, as a posse to thin dress style socks. Size-wise, I went for more fitted and dropped half a size from my regular, something I would advise for most boot styles if you wish to wear them more fitted.
I love wearing these boots in a more utilitarian style: jeans, fatigue pants, moleskin or a heavy cotton chino. The storm welting gives width to the boots, so sticking to a slightly tapered or regular/straight cut pant/trousers works best visually. If you go too skinny, then your foot proportion will be exaggerated. In other words, you’ll have “clown” shoes.
These are definitely capable of being matched in a suit, due to the soft chisel style toe, they are more elegant than bulky. I would suggest wearing brogue boots with winter fabrics such as flannel, tweed and corduroy. Blues, greys and earthy tones will give you the most versatility, as brown is a warm colour.
Boots are like a fine wine and only get better with age. They will soften and gain lots of character, so don’t be too precious with them. Quality boots will last and take a beating.
My top replacement for the Burgh would be the Langdale II and here is a list of other offerings from Herring that will also fit the bill perfectly well.
Hopefully you enjoyed my previous blog about shoe care, if you missed it you can find it here. This week we are continuing with caring for your quality shoes as we make our way to the part of the shoe that gets the most wear; the sole.
There are many different materials that can be used to produce a shoe sole; leather, rubber, crepe, resin, synthetics and fibreboard to name the most common.
Only two of these materials can be cared for (Leather and Rubber). While others are made to be thrown away or completely replaced if possible, they can still be protected by Topy or Vibram soles.
I am starting with rubber soles, as there aren’t as many care steps available in comparison to leather.
The two main quality rubber soles used in the shoe industry are; Dainite and Vibram (Also look into newer heritage style sole companies like Dr Soles and Role Club). These are made from 100% rubber, the benefits of these are in the non-slip capabilities.
The best example I can personally give is from when I was a roof-tiler. We used to wear Blundstone boots with 100% rubber soles. If it started to rain, we could easily walk across the roof (regardless of how steep the angle was) to the ladder without slipping at all. Then the whole “comfort” revolution came in and they changed to a synthetic cushion compound. We all bought a pair and as soon as it rained, everyone on the roof was sliding off (very dangerous, I know). There was no grip in the rain at all, this is why when you by shoes/boots with inferior versions of these products they also don’t grip.
Caring for your rubber soles is simple, you just wear them. The heat created within the rubber from walking keeps them pliable. This is why when you don’t wear rubber sole shoes from a long-time they go hard, as the “plasticizers” which make rubber soft and flexible bleed out.
There are many ways to care for your leather soles in the form of creams/oils, protective soling, toe plates, hardwearing tanned leather (Oak Bark), resting and rotating.
So where do you start and what is best for your shoes?
Number 1 thing to do, is to rest your shoes for 24hrs after wear. Insert your cedar shoe trees or newspaper, lay them on their side away from direct heat. This will wick away built-up moisture from sweating, rain etc. This will also stop the leather from rotting on the inside-out. I’ve seen many boots and shoes with cracked uppers, worn-out inners and sock-linings due to this. You can wear through a leather sole in 6-12 months if these steps are not followed and this will not be down to faulty leather.
How do I know which protective product to choose for my shoes?
The best way is to wear your shoes every second day for a whole week, in doing this you will see how you wear the soles. Not everyone is the same, some are heavy on their toes, others on their heels and even on their forefoot.
If you can see wear on the toes there are two options; Topy/Vibram protective soling (moderate longevity) or in-laid Lulu/Triumph toe plates (longevity). The toe plates are in-laid to keep a flush/flat surface for you to walk on, if they are raised or put on top it takes away the area of the surface you are walking on, thus raising the slip potential. Having both protective soles and having in-laid toe plates are an option also available. Some are against rubber protective soling due to “old wives tales”, but I assure you they will not ruin or harm the integrity of your shoes.
*Note full rubber soles with a rubber mid-sole can not have in-laid toe plates, if they have a leather mid-sole it is possible*
The protective soling is best if you are hard wearing on your forefoot, walk on slippery or rough surfaces or are getting in and out of a car etc.
Hard-wearing wearers will be protected from wearing through the leather soling and only need to replace the protective soles.
The soling adds grip, thus stopping unfortunate accidents and injuries whilst walking to work etc.
When you are getting in and out of a car, you pivot off the leg that exits first. This twisting motion can wear a hole in the sole of your shoe, whilst the other side still remains hardly worn.
Leather choice, especially “oak bark tanned” options have been known to last longer and wear less. This is due to the tanning process which takes up to 12 months, the end result is a strong yet flexible leather. Brands to look out for are Joh Rendenbach (JR) and Bakers.
Soling oils/creams have mixed reviews, some swear by them, while others say they make the soles more slippery. A quote from reputable shoe care specialists Saphir says “ Sole guard oil will easily protect against water and salt damage, this will extend the life and optimise the support of your feet”. I think this one is more a trial and error type option to use and possibly not for everyone.
Heels are very straight forward and usually what will wear through quicker than the soles. This is due to your heel always being the first contact to the ground in your gait. Heels can be full rubber, full leather or a combination of both called “¼ rubber heels”. Caring for your heels isn’t necessary, they will wear regardless. Some use plastic “blakey” plates but again they can take away your surface grip.
Repairing your soles:
When it comes time to repair your soles there are different options for each leather and rubber, whilst the other types you’ll have to check with a cobbler (not all cobblers are equal or skilled the same). Rubber soles have to be replaced as a whole. Unlike leather, rubber can not be spliced with a half-sole and hold as one solid piece. Leather soles on the other-hand can be replaced with a full or half-sole. This will depend on the condition and wear on the “waist (narrow middle)* of the soles.
*Note; mid-soles don’t always need to be replaced, again depending on the condition.*
If you choose rubber-soled shoes, they can be turned into full leather and visa-versa. It is best to find a quality cobbler with a broad range of capabilities or check to see if your shoemaker offers repairs. Many Herring shoes can be sent back to the manufacturer for a repair so always ask them before seeking a cobbler.
Buying quality shoes/boots with welted or blake stitched soles can be replaced a lot more times than cemented. It is also a lower cost per wear, thus saving you money in the long term, provided you follow a few easy maintenance steps. You will pay more money for a pair of shoes that have a variation of Goodyear welting or Blake stitching, they have been better constructed and can be repaired instead of being thrown away (not to mention they also look a thousand times better than your standard cemented soled shoes).
Look out for the next article in this series were we have a good look at Boot styles for the colder months from the Herring collection.
In this edition, we focus on caring for your quality leather shoes. Yes, there are many articles related to this subject (as detailed by Herring already in previous posts) but this will be a more detailed version on how to do this for longevity, from a beginners point-of-view. I will show you a few tricks I have learnt from experts and trial and error, plus what to look out for in products that could harm your footwear, instead of protecting them.
What you will need:
A quality rejuvenation cream; natural ingredients are best for leather. Look for ingredients like; beeswax, mink oil, and lanolin. With all products, the smell shouldn’t be one similar to harsh petroleum or stripping products, unless that is your outcome. The beeswax in the cream will give you a light shine finish and a mild waterproofing.
A brush to remove excess product and another to shine; this can be any soft natural haired and firm bristle brushes. Key is to remove the product that doesn’t soak into the leather, a harsh bristle brush will seal the wax and start creating a sealed shine. This is better on the finishing steps.
For those with experience, a coloured or neutral wax polish. I say experience because applying this product takes finesse and time. It is easy to over-apply, thus making a cloudy and in the future cracked finish. (For now, best leave this out until you have practised). Again, the ingredients should be natural, avoid petroleum-based turpentine. Brands like Saphir use natural pine turpentine instead.
Old t-shirt or similar rag. This is to protect yourself and/or surface, but also to apply layers of product. I personally use my fingers when applying neutral products, in-time you can feel the build-up of the product in the leather better.
Shoe trees or newspaper, to hold the shape of the shoes.
This product is something I was taught and not something you would regularly see in videos etc, and that is a 40 denier pair of tights/pantie hose/stockings. You might think “what the hell is he talking about?” But trust me on this, it is ingenious!
To start with, remove the shoelaces (if they have them, undo buckles etc) and insert shoe trees or newspaper. Take your soft bristle brush and brush away any visible dirt (especially in the welt or randing). Next, spray or dampen a rag with water (not soak), then wipe over the entire shoe, do the soles if you like but it’s not necessary. Let dry for 10mins.
Now you are ready to apply your rejuvenation cream. Use a dry part of the rag or fingers and apply about a finger size amount in a circular motion. This will ensure an even product application, you can’t overdo or use too much but if you do it will become costly. Once both shoes have an even amount on them, let them sit for at least 30mins. You will notice that there are always “waiting periods” in between the stages, this is key to getting the right end result. After the 30 minutes use your soft bristle brush to remove the excess cream. You can stop right here and your shoes will be ready to go.
If your shoes have lost colour, this stage is where you can apply a coloured cream wax, just follow the same step above. *Please note, if you can’t get the exact colour/shade and don’t want to make this darker, use a shade lighter than the original. If you don’t mind them darkening then you can use a shade darker. (maybe experiment with using a different colour all together if you’re adventurous).
This step is not for the beginners but the more experienced. The two key elements to applying the top wax coat is a) less is more and b) patience. If you just want to waterproof, then 2-3 coats are all you will need. Apply a tiny (2mm) amount to a rag or finger and rub in a circular motion. You will see the product coating the shoe, once the wax starts to cloud, apply more to another area and so on until the shoe is covered, where you want the waterproofing. Let it sit for 30mins, brush off and apply another coat, let sit for 30mins. At this stage add a drop of water to the shoe, this will help even out the coating to avoid cracking. Once this is done, let it dry (20-30mins) and you can buff with a hard bristle brush, if you want a higher shine use a pair of the stockings by pulling them tight between both hands and with the shoes held either between your legs or an assistant buff away! Mirror shines or “bulling” takes practise and fine layers to fill the leather pores, creating an even flat surface, this is how you get the glassey mirror finish.
Following these steps are key to keeping your shoes at their best for many years to come. I have seen beautiful shoes destroyed in less than 12 months, by wearing them every day, not allowing the leather to rest and wick away the moisture with shoe trees and never applying a rejuvenation cream thus drying out the leather (remember the leather is skin and just like our skin without fat/oil is dried out).
Best way to keep on top of this is to take note of how “tired” your shoes look. Is the leather bright or dull? Has it lost its colour? Does the leather feel hard instead of soft/supple?
This concludes the first section of caring for your quality shoes. The next article we will dive into sole protection and how shoe trees actually work. Some might ask about Suede and Nubuck care, don’t worry it won’t be forgotten!
If you are after a quick bull-shine and time is of the essence, Herring do have a fantastic video on their Youtube channel here.
I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jared Acquaro and I live in Melbourne, Australia. For the past 10 years, I have worked in the menswear industry for companies and brands both locally and internationally. My earlier years were predominantly focused on quality footwear, then onto tailoring through to vintage.
For the past 13 months, I have been training as a cobbler. This job has been very eye-opening in terms of true quality over brand and the many types of construction available around the world.
Today, I’d like to go over a few types of construction that you will find in the Herring Shoe range and what the benefits of each are. This will be the first in a series of educational posts to help everyone keep informed of the different aspects of footwear.
I have listed them in order of popularity.
Goodyear welting is where a welt is stitched though the upper and lining to ribbing (gemming) that has been bonded to the insole. The mid and/or outer sole is then stitched to the welt. It is this welt stitch, holding the sole in place, which we can cut through to remove of the sole without causing damaging the upper. Thus, allowing for maximum longevity. This type of method is very common in high-quality leather shoes.
The Blake stitch or McKay method as it is sometimes known is where the insole, lining, upper and outer sole, are all stitched together from inside the shoe. This type of construction is quite famous for bringing shoemaking into the industrial revolution, as it can only be done by a machine and not by hand. Outer soles can still be replaced, although after a few replacements the innersoles may need to be replaced as well. The benefits of this method are more for the aesthetics, as there is no welt, the shoe is less wide and not as heavy, making for a more elegant profile.
Storm welt construction is a variation of Goodyear welting; this is where the welt has an extended lip on the inside that goes up the upper to seal off where the two meet. This makes for a more watertight construction, perfect for winter and rainy months. Usually, you would find this method predominantly on boots but still the odd country-style derby shoe.
We will continue with a few less known construction methods down the track, but stay tuned for the next instalment where we focus on caring for your quality shoes and how to style them.