In some interpretations of Greek mythology, it is said that the goddess Athena sprang, fully formed and ready for battle, from the mind of her father, Zeus.
Am I preparing to say that I’m a Greek god, because my mind created some boots? Or that said boots it created are a perfect Greek goddess? Of course not! But with the power that Wesco granted me, maybe, just maybe, I’m kinda close. (Or possibly even an actual god. We’ll see. Read on.)
The West Coast Shoe Company has a storied history as a bootmaker for folks like loggers, welders, and motorcyclists, but for the past several years their emphasis has been to bring people’s boot ideas to life through their robust customization program. As sales manager Chris Warren explained in his conversation with Ben, Wesco provides their customers with a mind-boggling palette of options for creating a pair of boots or shoes from scratch.
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To really explore all the Wesco options, look no further than the Custom Boot Builder on their website. After you select one of Wesco’s patterns as a starting point, the Boot Builder guides you through assembling a pair of your very own design. The possibilities are virtually endless—the Boot Builder notes that there are over 309 billion potential builds you can conceive.
Want a pair of Johannes service boots in burlap roughout on a chocolate wedge sole? You can make it happen. Maybe some Jobmaster work boots at a towering 20-inch height, with redwood leather for the quarter panels and charcoal for the vamp and heel counter? No problem! Or perhaps some Romeo slip-ons in British tan roughout with red stitching on the uppers, orange stitching on the soles, a Vibram 100 sole, and a dress toe cap? Um, yeah, I suppose, from a technical perspective, that you can do that too.
I had the chance to visit Wesco’s factory in Oregon a few years back, and I’d played around on the Boot Builder a few different times, but it wasn’t until Baker’s Boots & Clothing had a big sale this past spring that I seriously considered a pair of custom Wescos. While dealers like Baker’s won’t list all the same customization choices that Wesco’s Boot Builder does, you can request certain options when you make your purchase through them.
My approach to building a pair of custom Wescos: draw inspiration from a pair of boots I used to have. When I first started getting into high-quality footwear, one of my first buys was a pair of black Tecovas ropers. They were good boots, and I kept them for quite a while, but I came to realize that the construction and materials weren’t the best at keeping my feet stable and dry. I eventually parted ways with them, but I still wanted to find another pair of pull-on boots in a similar silhouette.
If You Build It, They Will Come…Eventually
With the almighty Zeus-ish power of the Boot Builder, I began by selecting the Morrison, Wesco’s western boot, as the framework. I didn’t need a particularly tall pair of boots, so I chose the shortest height available: 8 inches. Since I was already getting these boots at a discount, I decided to splurge on some premium leather—black horsehide Chromexcel—for the uppers. I knew I wanted an outsole that was hard-wearing but low-profile, so I picked the Vibram 700 full sole.
I kept the default white stitching on the soles, but paid a little extra for black stitching on the uppers. I wanted these boots to keep their toe shape as they broke in, so went with a single celastic toe. Finally—and this wasn’t a listed option—I asked Baker’s for the boots to be lasted with a different toe shape. Rather than the pointy western toe, I went for the broader motor patrol toe. They thoughtfully said yes.
Once I’d made my purchase at Baker’s, months of waiting began. (I think my wait was slightly extended because I waffled pretty hard on my sizing after submitting the order, but the patient staff of Baker’s helped me nail it down.) Unlike Athena, my boots wouldn’t just appear like *snaps fingers*. The bootmakers at Wesco had to actually do things.
This was the first time I’d ever purchased MTO boots, and the wait was honestly agonizing. In the ensuing weeks, I double- and triple-checked the specs on my order, trawled through various Wesco posts on Reddit and Instagram to help heighten my expectations, and resisted the urge to be that guy who bothers the dealer or bootmaker about the status of his order. I knew the boots would be ready eventually.
Finally, they arrived at my doorstep.
The Moment of Truth: Initial Impressions and Fit
As I opened the Wesco box…nerves. This wasn’t a pair of stock Red Wings, or a limited Viberg makeup Zeus’d up by a retailer. Essentially, these Morrisons were one of a kind, and something about that made me feel antsy. Did I make the right decisions about the makeup? Did the factory do a good job? WAIT, DID I ASK FOR ORANGE THREAD?!?
Thankfully there was nothing to really worry about. The boots came out wonderfully and had everything that I had wanted: an 8-inch height, slick black horsehide, tonal stitching on the uppers, the motor patrol toe. I hadn’t requested it, but the factory added black edge dressing to the midsole and heel stack, which I thought was a nice touch.
One thing that seemed a bit off was the proportions of the boots. They were the correct height, but somehow they appeared taller than I had expected. Going back to the Boot Builder and comparing my boots to the mockup, Wesco’s digital representation of the 8-inch Morrison looks much stubbier than the real thing. I suppose for some people this wouldn’t be ideal, but for me, I’m more than okay with it; despite being different than what I expected, I find the proportions to be quite aesthetically pleasing.
Again, I agonized over sizing. Wesco does offer custom sizing based on your measurements for a fee, but I decided to forego this and opted for Baker’s sizing advice instead. Based on my feet, which roughly measure 11.5D on a Brannock device, they recommended size 11D. Wearing merino wool socks, my feet are comfortably snug in these boots, with a slight initial bit of heel slip that has diminished substantially after a few wears.
This is my first hands-on, or dare I say, foot-in impression of horsehide Chromexcel. It has a very smooth hand, and despite its weight, the leather is extremely dense and rigid while also having a moderate degree of pliability. Horsehide is known for being durable, so I’m sure it’ll be able to handle whatever kind of mischief I get into. Also, it isn’t marketed as such, but this is a teacore leather, so as it gets aged and beat up I will get to see some shades of brown shoot through the black. I’m very much looking forward to the evolution.
Looking at the boots’ overall construction, Wesco really nailed these. The sole stitching is wonderfully clean, and the upper stitching is basically immaculate. I did notice out of the box that on the medial side of both boots, the leather had some creases running along the bottom edge of the vamps. For me, this isn’t a dealbreaker, and I suspect that the tensile strength of the leather may make it challenging to last without creating those creases.
Styling: Less “Yeehaw,” More “Oh Hell Yeah”
The wide shaft of the Morrisons can only be covered by pants that are straight, slim-straight, or bootcut. For those who want to wear slimmer jeans with their pull-on boots, I think Wesco could probably craft these with a narrower shaft—for example, their Mister Lou engineers have a narrower shaft than the standard Boss engineers—but I didn’t ask. I typically stick to a casual workwear/Americana style, so wide-legged trousers aren’t out of the ordinary for my wardrobe.
The understated style of these Morrisons works well for someone like me (some schmuck-god who lives in Minneapolis). There’s no toebug or any of the other usual trappings of a cowboy boot. The heel isn’t a sharp Cuban style or a more ordinary block heel; instead, it’s a moderate logger heel. (Compared to the heels on my White’s Cutter boots, the Morrison’s heel shapes are much more restrained.) Under my pant legs, there’s nothing much about these boots that screams “Western boot.” I’m perfectly happy with that—I don’t have enough free time to cosplay as a ranch hand or anything. I think to most people’s eyes, these will come off simply as a pair of handsome black boots with just a hint of flair. And then once that teacore gets going….
The Stitchdown Final Take
From all respected scholarly readings of classic Greek texts, Athena arrived from her father’s mind with the same amount of swagger and style that these boots did. They’re like my old ropers but wayyy more burly, and the leather quality is extremely nice. I’m very much looking forward to putting these ponies through their paces. While I never really felt cut out for the overall responsibility that comes with the job, it turns out it’s pretty nice to play god for a day.