When one thinks of “rugged footwear”, it’s not uncommon to default to the style of work boots that adorned the feet of the hard-working men that braved the frontier of the Pacific Northwest. This reputation is well-earned, yet the romanticism that surrounds American heritage boots can sometimes be lacking in terms of historical hindsight.
I’ve always loved chunky American-made boots, but like any good fan I was curious about the origin point of my fascination. I didn’t just want to see where it began; I wanted to experience something that was symbolic of an iconic moment in its history.
While the quintessential work boot style is unmistakably American in origin, the craft that goes into it is not. When settlers first arrived in America, they brought with them numerous skills that carried a distinct British familiarity. This included cordwaining: the stitched construction of footwear. The American heritage brands that we all know and love—Red Wing, Wesco, White’s, Thorogood, etc—can trace the lineage of their skillset backwards along a similar path.
British shoemakers like Tricker’s represent a centuries-old institution that has stayed true to its roots. A quick inspection of their signature Stow boot reveals all the hallmarks of quality footwear construction, while at the same time displaying an aesthetic that is as English as eel pie.
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The Brass Tacks
Model: Stow Acorn Antique
Price: Normally £445 from Trickers (about $560 USD—although you can find other Tricker’s Stow models at US retailers like Division Road and Proconsul, often for less). Bought for $400 on Grailed in like-new condition.
Years Worn: Two
Worn How Often: About twice a week
How I Care for Them: Cedar shoe trees inserted when not worn. Brushed before and after wear with a horsehair brush. Light coat of Saphir Medaille D’Or Renovateur followed by a glaze of Venetian Shoe Cream, every 4-6 months, applied using the Mac Method (apply product by hand, buff with cloth).
A Bit of History on Tricker’s
With 190 years of shoemaking under their belt and a Royal Warrant of Appointment (basically…they make shoes for the royal family) to their name, Tricker’s has remained a family-owned and -operated business for five generations. In 1840, they introduced the world’s first country boot (designed for field work and hunting), which cemented their reputation as the maker of choice for comfortable, strong, durable, and practical footwear. Sustained UK success aside, Tricker’s also holds a significant appeal in the Japanese market, opening their first offshore retail storefront in Tokyo this past April.
To this day, the Burford (a plain-toe derby boot) and the Stow remain the cornerstones of Tricker’s boot offerings, all of which are benchmade in their Northampton, England factory. Tricker’s also has a line of more formal derbies and oxfords, lightweight, unlined footwear well-suited for warmer weather, plus house slippers for those who enjoy looking dapper as they accidentally emit yelps while watching Big Little Lies.
Meet Fashion Legend Grahame Fowler—And His Ridiculous Tricker’s Collection
The Tricker’s Stow is a heavily brogued wingtip boot with a chunky heel and medallion toe that offers a splash of class. That brogueing actually fulfills an important function—the perforations and serrations were originally designed to let water drain efficiently for English countryside trompers.
While the boot’s last is generous, it also sports a sleek enough silhouette to lend itself well to business-casual environments. I love pairing them with light khaki chinos for a dinner, and have also worn them with an open-collar suit at dressier events. The Acorn finish is a lovely shade of tan with golden undertones, and is one of Tricker’s most popular colorways. The depth of color is amazing and only improves with age. With time (and adequate sun exposure), the honey-like hues deepen and develop a butterscotch glaze. My pair looks almost edible! [ed note: I ensured Evigan didn’t eat his boots during the writing of this review; I’m unsure, at this point, if they remain unconsumed.]
This Stow model runs a set of matching brown rounded laces made of thickly braided cotton through the seven antique eyelets. Personally, I’ve always hated it when boots ship with whip-thin laces that end up looking anemic when looped through the eyelets. No such problems with the Stow.
Rating: 8.5/10—I love them, but the heavy brogueing and chunky heel may not be everyone’s taste.
Sizing, Fit & Comfort
Like many of Tricker’s country boots, the Stow employs Tricker’s 4497S last, which is accommodating to most foot shapes. The Stow follows UK measurements, or generally about a full size down from US sizing. Width is indicated by a number, with “Fit 5” being akin to a standard D-width.
I’m pretty much a bang-on 9.5D on a Brannock device and wear a 9D in most American boots; an 8.5UK in Fit 5 on the Stow fits me well with just enough wiggle room. Compared to Red Wing’s boots on the Number 8 last (i.e. Blacksmith, Iron Ranger), the 4497S offers a similar amount of space in the toebox but more support across the waist and heel. The last is (for the most part) very forgiving when it comes to the instep, although you may face issues if you have a particularly low instep.
The Tricker’s Stow Antique comes with a double leather outsole, a nod towards traditional outsole design. Compared to rubber outsoles (e.g. Dainite, Vibram, etc.), leather offers more pliability, and break-in comes more quickly. However, this expediency comes at the cost of reduced traction (more on that below, in the Outsole section).
Rating: 9/10—As straight-forward as footwear fitting can be (for me, at least). Although, it would be better if narrower widths were catered to as well.
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My Stows required close to zero break-in, being comfortable right out of the box (worth noting: I felt very much like I was sized correctly). The leather upper isn’t excessively thick and molded to my foot wonderfully, while the full leather single-layer midsole combined the cork-filled leather insole (a practice dating back to Tricker’s fledgling years) provides a very comfortable platform. One thing: there is a distinct lack of arch support. While this never affected me in spite of my familiarity with boots that offer plenty (like White’s), I would recommend making adjustments in sizing for orthotic inserts if you need them.
The pair I got on Grailed was only worn once around the house and subsequently put up for sale due to a mistake in sizing, so technically it wasn’t “brand new”. Nevertheless, it slid on like a well-worn boot. Not hot-spots, pinching, or rubbing. The calfskin upper conformed to the shape of my feet very easily (I’ve heard of people getting away with wearing dress socks with their Stows). This is especially evident with the heel cup, as it basically felt like a silky glove compared to the ones on my other cowhide boots.
Rating: 10/10—Virtually no issues whatsoever.
Leather & Care
This model of the Tricker’s Stow features a calfskin leather (other models sport kudu, cross hatch-grained, and suede) that sports a combination tannage: it’s both vegetable- and chrome-tanned. Chrome-tanned leather is known for its soft touch, heat/water resistance, and color vibrancy, while veg-tanned leather is prized for its breathability, hard-wearing characteristics and unique appearance (no two pieces end up the same).
With combination tannage, the leather gets the durability and aging potential of the veg-tannage along with the flexibility and shine of chrome-tannage. Tricker’s also employs a proprietary process of oil infusion, waxing, and fat liquoring to give its leather a distinct finish. The leather is supple to the touch, with a smooth glaze that is not at all waxy. Color is uniform throughout but changes with lighting (nothing huge but noticeable nonetheless). Tricker’s plays it close to the vest when it comes to where it sources its leather, but the quality is undeniable.
Caring for the calfskin is simple enough. I’m a strong advocate of the “Mac Method” when it comes to leather care. Initially conceived as a care regimen for shell cordovan, plenty have found that it applies beautifully to other leather types as well. Aside from plenty of brushing and a “less is more” approach to product use, the Mac Method also advocates product application by hand instead of a dauber brush, and subsequent buffing with a cloth.
I’ve had plenty of success of using Saphir’s Renovateur from their Medaille D’Or product line for cleaning and conditioning, and the famous Venetian Shoe Cream for the top glaze. Either would likely work fine as a standalone product, although I prefer Venetian Shoe Cream for a slightly better shine. If you’re skittish about applying a turpentine-based cleaner/conditioner to your leather, then the Renovateur’s mink oil compound would make for a better choice instead.
For those who wish to use a dyed product to preserve the original shade of the leather, Tricker’s does sell its own line of care products. If you use non-proprietary products that are neutral in color, there should not be any change in color or shade. I use “should not” since you can never really be certain how a given product will react with leather until after the fact, so the move of testing a small amount on a discrete area beforehand really comes into play here. With my pair, the application of Venetian Shoe Cream did deepen the color of the leather along the shaft—but I actually quite like it!
Note: When applying product, ensure that the excess doesn’t end up collecting in the brogueing. A q-tip works wonders for those hard-to-reach spots. Also, stop using them in your ears, man! [ed note: Good advice, I’m sure, but that’s going to be tough, for me at least.]
Rating: 9/10—Tricker’s calfskin is highly durable but keeping the brogueing clear of excess product requires effort.
Bonus!!: Below are a bunch of pictures of different worn acorn Stow Boots, that show you how they can age wonderfully over the years. The first very excellent gif is from Division Road’s Patina Post, in which you can also see Vibergs, Wescos and more age beautifully over time.
The basic Tricker’s Stows come with one of two outsoles: leather or studded Dainite rubber. Mine sport double leather accompanied by a combination heel. As opposed to simply tacking on a heel tap, the combination heel retains the streamlined silhouette of a traditional stacked leather heel while providing an appreciable amount of traction, and makes for a more level heel-to-ground sensation.”
Style rules aside (this is a boot, after all…) the most notable difference between leather and rubber outsoles lies in how the materials interact with their environment. City pavement and roads tend to be more demanding on leather outsoles, as debris has a way of accelerating deterioration. Leather outsoles are also notorious for faring poorly on wet, icy or otherwise slick surfaces.
While it may seem that Dainite is the wiser choice, a double leather outsole will last almost as long as a quality rubber one, while also offering a decent amount of water resistance. Ultimately, I recommend using your area’s climate conditions as your deciding factor. Lots of rain or snow? Go with the Dainite for better traction, unless you’re great at walking reaaaallllyyyyy carefully.
I went with leather soles more for the sake of variety than anything else. My existing boots sported either a Vibram or Dainite sole, so I wanted to see what I was missing out on with the OG stuff. The experience has been a mixed bag: I enjoy the earthy feel of the leather sole, but am always wary of being too carefree with my footwork whenever I step on to a surface that’s even slightly slick. The streets and pavement really put the wear on my soles. However, I’m happy to say that the leather has held up fine. The only thing that gets on my nerves is the crunching sound the sole makes whenever a pebble gets trapped underneath.
For the record though, the soles on my Stows provide absolutely zero traction on upwards/downwards-riding moving walkways. Letting go of the handrails=me sliding slowly in a comical fashion. I’m quite a sight at malls and airports.
Rating: 9/10—Whether you end up going with leather or rubber, both choices are hard-wearing and will last for years with frequent rotation.
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Construction & Durability
One of the first things that stood out was the calfskin leather upper. The clicking of the leather (through which specific sections of the hide are selected and cut) is top-notch, with no discernible creasing even after rigorous wear. Many lower-tier shoe manufacturers tend to be less particular about which parts of the hide get used, in order to extract more value. Unfortunately, this can result in unsightly creasing when weaker parts of the hide are used in high-pressure spots. I’m happy to say that there’s no such issue with my Tricker’s. Rain and salt stains really depend on the color of your leather; my Acorn pair reveals darkened spots when water meets the upper, but it fades in a minute or so.
The next thing that caught my attention was the recessed open-channel stitching on the outsole. Aside from its neatness, the act of carving a little recess is a subtle yet admirable show of dedication to optimizing durability. With less labor-intensive (and therefore less costly) open-channel stitching (in which the outsole stitching is exposed), the thread is more vulnerable to wear. While this by no means insulates the thread from eventual deterioration, it should extend the stitching/sole’s lifetime by a fair bit—a commendable feature on Tricker’s part. With my pair, you can see just how chewed up the leather sole is—but the amount of fraying on the sole stitching is relatively minimal.
Being a country boot designed to take a beating, it’s no surprise that Tricker’s employs one of the most prominent welts I’ve ever seen on a boot (second only to Grenson’s slightly obnoxious Triple Welt line). Tricker’s uses a Goodyear storm welt that runs 360 degrees around the boot’s edge. With this method, the rib of the welt is elongated and extends up against the bottom part of the upper. Combined with the additional cork filling in the insole, this construction improves upon the already impressive water-resistant properties of Goodyear welting (just don’t ford any rivers in these!). The trade-off is a slightly chunkier aesthetic and and more sole stiffness.
Rating: 9.5/10—Only because a perfect score would indicate an indestructible boot (which unfortunately does not exist).
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It’s been said that even the finest of American luxury footwear lags (slightly) behind its English brethren. Despite my love for American-made boots, I’m inclined to agree. The combination of rock-solid construction, leather quality, and versatility at this price point is hard to beat.
Most people tend to associate Alden with dressier American boots (Red Wing also appears to be showing some interest in that area with their recent Williston offering) and they certainly have their own unique appeal. I own an Alden Indy makeup from Leather Soul, and I compare it to the Stow, as both fit the “dressy work boot” archetype so well. Both brands have oodles of history behind them and inspire a fervent following, which is honestly a beautiful thing.
However, if I had to choose between a new pair of Tricker’s or Aldens, the choice would most certainly lie with the former, on the grounds of finishing. To be fair though, Alden wins flat out in terms of fit due to the sheer number of lasts they have at their disposal, but that’s something that’s kind of wasted on my ho-hum feet.
Rating: 8/10—Pricey when you consider how a similar aesthetic can be had for cheaper with other Goodyear-welted brands. Worth it when you consider history and the processes behind the cost.
The Stitchdown Final Take
If you’re looking for a brogued boot, it’s hard to go wrong with Tricker’s Stow. With a near-zero break-in period and an exceedingly accommodating last shape, it’s as practical as quality footwear goes. The premium calfskin is as durable as it is attractive, and the variety of colorways and outsole options means that there’s a boot for just about any occasion. If you’ve got the closet space and have always wondered what footwear from across the pond feels like, it’s hard to go wrong with Tricker’s Stows.
Final Rating: 9/10