403C Indy Boots were my first Aldens. I immediately feel so deeply in love that I literally walked out of Alden Madison wearing them. The Alden commando sole, with its combination of all-weather grip and slim profile, was a huge selling point. Which makes what I chose to go with for this resole—JR double leather—all the more confusing!
But I shall explain. I’ve been interested in just, well…trying out some new things with my resoles. My Alden Roy plain toe brown CXL boots I bought from Context Clothing got slapped with Dainite by B. Nelson in Manhattan (check out that Resole Report), which I’ve been very happy with so far, especially as they’ve started to break in and become a little less stiff. So I wanted to give something else a shot, but nothing extreme—like the Vibram mini-ripples that Brian the Bootmaker equipped these Indys with. I wanted to keep a similar classic look.
- Alden Indy 403C
- Thorogood Moc Toe
- Tricker’s x Division Road Bourton
- Red Wing Iron Ranger
- Tricker’s Stow
- Heinrich Dinkelacker Buda Brogue
Secondly, since the time I bought those Indys, my collection has blessedly swelled to a point where I have multiple boots that are very suited for bad weather, which rendered the commando more of a nice-to-have and less of a necessity. And finally, I kinda got talked into it by one of the countless people I chat about shoes with on Instagram all day, a wonderful European gentleman who said “Leather soles are what we wear on all our boots over here. You should too.” To date, I’d purposely avoided leather soles on boots, especially anything I consider to be a travel shoe, or something I want to wear whenever, no matter the conditions. But I also said screw it.
I shopped around a bit, and asked recommendations, and eventually ended up getting a quote from Pekin Shoe Repair outside Chicago: $150 for the JRs, plus $30 for Lulu metal toe taps (plus shipping both ways). I’d liked what I’d seen from their work, and the price was right. I had a number of chats with the excellently bearded Nick Over, who runs things at Pekin, and landed on the JR doubles with a brown edge coating, a stacked JR dovetail combo heel, and white thread dyed brown along a la the edge. I shipped ‘em out, and three weeks later (faster than their quoted turnaround), they were back in hand, and eventually on feet. (After photos of course. The waiting hurt.)
There is New Shoe Smell, an intoxicating aroma if there ever was one. And then there is Freshly JR-Leather Resoled Smell, which almost dropped me on the floor when I opened the box, both in elated delight and for lack of pure oxygen. After restabilizing/acclimatizing, I kept going back in for more whiffs periodically. Gotta soak it up while you can.
So how’d they turn out?
Pretty darn well, I’d say. From the top, all the stitching is quite clean indeed. From the sole side, there are a few irregularities that I honestly wasn’t sure what to make of, so I checked in with a trusted shoemaking source, the one and only, always unequivocally honest Lars Jensen of Østmo Boots.
The discoloration around some (not all) of the stitch edge raised questions. Lars assured me that it was from the presser foot of the sewing machine squeezing and marking the leather as the shoe moves. “When you stitch a sole on, you have to manually angle it a bit around the toe and inside the waist,” Lars informed me. ”So there will be more pressure put on the leather in those areas.” Ok!
Next up: at a few points the stitching threads, when viewed from the sole side, seemed to be inconsistent. Problem? Not according to Lars. “Just some tension fiddlery while trying to match the old holes I suppose.” Would any of this affect anything over the life of these soles, I asked Lars? “Absolutely not.”
Pekin took the time to channel the sole before stitching, creating a recess for the threads to live in, which should prevent them from fraying prematurely and also just offers a cleaner look. Lars also pointed out that “the soles look very well-centered, which is a point where many cobblers struggle.” And we both agreed that the heels looked very good all around.
The final point: the toe taps. I liked the idea of them, partially because I’d never had metal taps on any boots before. And also, of course, to limit the wear on the toe—especially with these monster leather soles that were ready to withstand a heavy beating on city streets over the years to come, I didn’t want the rest of the soles to outlast the toe. The work is very solid but to be honest they aren’t quiiiiite flush, and there seemed to be a struggle getting a few of the screws to get in there with perfect alignment. Says Lars, in his knowing, Lars-y way: “There are few cobblers who do a perfect job with toe taps. They’re difficult.”
There is one final point, and it’s 100% my fault. I asked for the threads to be white, but dyed with the same treatment as the sole edge—the shock of a bold white thread on five-year-old brown boots seemed like a bit much to me. What I didn’t realize—quite foolishly!!—was that in the course of dyeing them, the welt would also have to take that dye as well. The storm welt was far from its original natural color when I sent them in, but it did still provide a bit of contrast that I enjoyed. That contrast, now, is gone. And the boots are beautiful, just…different. So, I’m adjusting! But I’ll get there, and learned something (very, very obvious, in retrospect).
So there you have it. My overall take? I’m very happy with my sole choice, and how it was all executed by Pekin. The comfort of the leather has already been rewarding (even though I took a day trip recently and I’m glad I brought sneakers because it was POURING rain and I had to slosh through huge puddles—although I probably would’ve spared these boots that anyway, even with the commando). The work seems to be very well executed, and the price was right. I’ll definitely be using Pekin more in the future.