About nine months ago, I decided I finally needed to get myself a pair of Tricker’s. The English shoemaker’s work had been calling to me, incessantly, for some time, and after spending a few days with fashion legend Grahame Fowler—who did work with Tricker’s for decades and speaks of the brand in deeply reverential tones—it was just a matter of figuring out which.
Grahame had some excellent choices for sale in his studio, but everything I liked had a leather sole. If I was going to pick up a pair of some of the most durable shoes available anywhere, something I’d use to tromp around New York City for as long and often as possible, I needed some rubber underfoot.
So I looked, and looked. And then one day I covered definitive Seattle shop Division Road’s Tricker’s drop. For the next week, I kept going back to the product page on the snuff kudu reverse Bourtons they designed. I kept keeping my eyes open for Tricker’s in other places—and strongly considered going classic with the Bourton, or Stow boot, in Tricker’s famed Acorn leather. But back and back and back again I went to the Division Road page. And then I bought them.
I adore these shoes. As you’ll see as you read, they’re not quite perfect, for me at least—but it’s 100% a fit thing. Everything else is exactly what I want out of a beautiful, well-built, classic-yet-unique shoe. Onto the love-fest…
MORE STITCHDOWN SHOE AND BOOT REVIEWS
- Alden Indy 403C Review: A Three-Year Look at a Near-Perfect Boot
- Thorogood Moc-Toe Boot In Tobacco Leather: Five-Year Review
- Red Wing Iron Ranger: A Four-Year Review of a Timeless Boot
- Tricker’s Stow: A Two-Year Review of a Very Excellent Country Boot
The Brass Tacks
Model: Bourton brogue derby in C.F. Stead snuff kudu reverse with a commando sole, on Tricker’s w2298 last—not the 4444 last typically seen on Bourtons.
Months Worn: Five
Worn How Often?: On average for those five months, at least one time per week. Also worn on two days of a four-day trip to Paris with plenty of walking involved.
How I Cared for Them: Cedar shoe trees inserted when not being worn; brushed every once in a while; that’s honestly pretty much it.
A Bit of History on Tricker’s
Tricker’s has been around. Founded in 1829 by Joseph Tricker (obviously where Tricker’s got its name, although it does manage to sound like a theme restaurant in which they play pranks on you), it’s the oldest continuously running maker from the cradle of high-end shoemaking that is England. In 1904, Tricker’s opened its current factory in Northampton—the cradle of the cradle—where every single Tricker’s shoe is manufactured to this day.
Tricker’s is rightly known as one of the originators and perfecters of the English country shoe, a downright classic and somewhat specific style characterized by a heavy build, beefy welts, and often intricate brogueing. The original function of the brogueing was to allow water to drain when walking around mossy fields and bogs and other places where one’s shoes might get quite wet. Today, it’s largely decorative, as most people wear slightly different shoes when engaging in their beloved bog-walking.
While they also make a very handsome line of somewhat more elegant and lighter-weight “town” shoes, Tricker’s trademark is still those country shoes and boots; along with the Bourton derby, the Stow boot is their other iconic model (see a Stitchdown review of the Stow here). Both are SERIOUS pieces of footwear. Built like trucks (semi trucks, not like a Chevy S-10), they are borderline indestructible, and never let you forget they’re on your feet—in the best possible way.
These particular Tricker’s Bourtons are are uniquely, timelessly beautiful. They represent an ideal—if they were good enough for wealthy bog-walk-lovers, they’re good enough for me, and probably you. In all honesty, I find it very difficult to think of a shoe in the country shoe category that can top the look of this particular Tricker’s Bourton. They’re not dressy (the Commando sole is certainly part of that), but at the same time they bleed class, and sophistication, and a very personal style—especially thanks to the reverse snuff kudu leather upper, which comes from the spiral-horned African antelope whose unique leathers have really taken off in popularity over the last few years.
Let’s talk about that kudu: this is simply one of the most fabulous reverse-side leathers I’ve laid my hands on. It’s not as finely manicured as true suede, but it’s also not getting too crazy from a nappiness standpoint thus far. I’d never compare it to the suedes that, say, Edward Green deploys, but it’s not supposed to be those. It’s wholly rugged but still quite soft, and takes on various different colors in different lighting. These shoes turn significantly more heads, and drive significantly more questions and comments, than, say, my Alden snuff suede plain toe Roy boots.
Now part of that is definitely the wingtip design and brogueing, including the toe perforations that display the trademark Tricker’s heart pattern (which is far less noticeable on these because of the kudu nap and coloration—which, honestly, I don’t mind). But it’s also definitely, definitely the kudu.
Sizing, Fit, and Comfort
Being built like a tank has its downsides. Have you ever tried to break in a tank? No?? Yeah me neither. But I imagine it takes a little while. So even at this point, while the upper is wonderfully forgiving and has been since I first put them on, there’s still some work to do on the breaking in the footbed. I like actually that said break-in is necessary, as it bodes very, very well for the longevity of the shoe. But it’s nowhere close to a slipper (which Tricker’s also makes!), five months in.
Division Road went with Tricker’s w2297 last for this shoe because of the slightly more tapered, extended toe compared to what’s seen on most Bourtons—which, again, are spawned from Tricker’s classic 4444 last. That’s my other trouble spot. When I’m not walking a lot, they’re very comfortable at this point. When I am walking a lot—like when I wore these shoes, still almost brand new, while walking 8-10 miles a day in Paris (see the story from that trip here)—my pinkie toes on both feet start to suffer from rubbing that I wish they wouldn’t.
I’ve checked in with Jason from Division Road (one of the most knowledgeable people out there about sizing, but also quality rugged shoes in general), who believes the very thick cork in the footbed will continue to compress, buying some space. He also recommended wearing them in the rain for a while, and doing some real walking in said rain, to give them a little stretch. Which I plan to do! Bring it, rain. But we’ll see.
And going up a half size wouldn’t solve things—the heel isn’t loose-loose, but it isn’t a vise-grip either. So going larger would just exacerbate that. I took a size 10 in a 5-fitting (Tricker’s equivalent of a D width, essentially). While I don’t own any pairs, I’ve sized into Tricker’s 4444 last as a 9.5 pretty confidently. 9.5 here would just produce more toe-rub up front. So for my particular foot, for whatever reason, I’m a little stuck between sizes.
But again, I’ve got hope—and full confidence currently in their comfort on any days I’ll be doing under 2-3 miles of walking. I’m also considering having a local cobbler put some tongue pads on them to keep my foot shoved back. If any or all of these things work, I’m going to be really in business with these things. And they seem like they have the potential to be otherwise infallible for literally 10-15 or even 20 years given my deep shoe rotation, so there’s plenty of time to get them there.
None of this stops me from wearing them. It does, however, limit what and how I use them for, when the original idea was to wear these things to hell and back, and have people compliment me on my shoes the whole way.
What I’ll say for this one is: read the above. They’re very intertwined.
Leather and Care
The full-grain snuff reverse kudu just might be my favorite leather on any shoes I’ve ever owned (or at least my favorite non-shell cordovan leather…). Its color is richer and deeper and just more unique than my snuff suede Aldens (which are also endlessly beautiful). And I’m fairly certain it’s only gotten richer and deeper and more beautiful with time—it’s honestly tough to tell, as it can look about 400,825 different colors in photos. Knicks and scratches can be removed with one pass of a brush or even a simple swipe of the hand—although the leather often looks cooler when you leave them be.
Stead uses the same Janus tannage for this leather as it does for its high-end refined suedes, and it shows. My original idea, stated in this here post, was to spray the suede with a protectant, be wary of what situations I wore them in, and really maintain a beautiful shoe. After talking with Jason from DR about that, I decided: I’m going to wear these shoes like boots. And I have—not really caring what I put them through—and much like great boots, they are only better for the wear. Also, care has been essentially nonexistent, and not needed, and I don’t plan on changing that unless I drop a vat of ranch dressing on them, or something else goes similarly, horribly wrong.
I really, really, really can’t say enough about this leather, even though I will now contradict that statement by ceasing to type about it.
When you toss a true British-made Goodyear commando sole on a brogue wingtip, you create a very specific shoe. I wouldn’t recommend doing it with a black cap-toe oxford! But for this shoe, with its wide country shoe profile, and big honkin’ storm welt, and overall mojo of rugged elegance, it’s perfect. It’s completely capable of whatever you want it to do, fantastic in the rain, and obviously the same on natural, varied surfaces. Once I get the shoe fitting that final bit more perfectly (see Sizing, Fit, and Comfort above), I’m going to take them on hikes and really start to turn things loose.
Two reasons why the commando didn’t get a perfect rating: 1) little rocks tend to get wedged into it, which I knew was coming, but still requires some little-rock-removal especially before walking in someone’s shiny wood floor, and 2) my gait has managed to wear down the outside heels in a way that’ll require a resole just for that, long, long before any of the rest of the sole wears down a lick. Which means I’ll be nailing in some heel taps before too long, although I worry they’ll look a little weird on the commando. But we shall see.
Construction and Durability
The only reason I’m not granting them a 10 rating is because they haven’t actually persevered flawlessly from a construction and durability standpoint over 15 or 20 years yet. However, I’d be absolutely astonished if they did anything but. I literally make people pick them up just to experience the heft; every one of those people has emitted an audible gasp, and also immediately wanted a pair for themselves. The natural Barbour storm welt is beefy but also perfect for the shoe. The stitching is, essentially, flawless all around. I find myself touching the leather lining just for fun—it’s both the thickest and the softest I’ve ever felt. The full leather insole is there to stay.
I’ve owned many wonderful shoes, and many of those come close in terms of construction. But I’d say these represent the most solid construction on any shoes I’ve ever been lucky enough to wear. Bravo, Tricker’s.
I’ll say it like I say every time: value is subjective. But $500 is actually somewhere near the low end of the price spectrum for truly high-end footwear. And when you consider the uniqueness and beauty and durability of the kudu, the updated-classic look they deliver, and the sheer indestructibility of these things, it’s hard to figure out where the value doesn’t land at the top end of the spectrum. The only point deducted is because I’m still not fitting into the shoe in a completely correct and all-day comfortable manner. If it gets there, which means I keep these shoes likely forever, this moves to a 10, and a 10 again, and a 10 one more time after that.
The Stitchdown Final Take
The design/component choices and leather selection work from Division Road and Jeff DePano is dialed alllll the way in. The shoe overall is a head-turner while still being deeply classic. They’re fantastic as my second shoe for traveling—just toss them in the bag, and never worry that they’re going to get roughed up (they are admittedly a little heavy to lug around, but I’ll choose bringing the right beloved shoes over a lighter bag every time).
Tricker’s has been at this for a long time, and it shows. The shoe was finished perfectly and the construction and materials inspire absurd levels of confidence in the product. Literally the only downside to this shoe that I’ve found is my personal fit not being totally dialed in just yet—and that’s the only that this rating isn’t something more like a 9.5 or 9.6. Tremendous shoe, very strong value, checks so many boxes. If you find that Tricker’s shoes fit you correctly, my advice is: take the time to find the style and leather that you want, buy that shoe, and wear the hell out of it—pretty much forever.
Overall Rating: 8.9/10