It’s Thunderdome season, baby.

Last year, we saw over 800 contestants enter into the Stitchdown Patina Thunderdome, and we’re expecting another big turnout for our third-annual contest with a ridiculous lineup of over $40k in prizes.

From October 1st through 10th 2023 (or November 1-5, if you need to make a late entry), you can register an unworn pair of boots or shoes in the Thunderdome using the Patina Project app. After the contest wraps up at the beginning of April 2024, the pairs with the best patina will be considered for a slate of fabulous prizes.

Thunderdome veterans have already been gearing up for months in anticipation of Year 3 (some of them even ordering their pairs before Year 2 concluded). While the window is probably all but closed at this point for getting a fancy custom MTO shoe, it’s not too late for newcomers to jump into the Dome! There are plenty of makers and retailers out there with ready-to-wear options that could easily get you to the top of the podium (or at the very least, some incredibly handsome-looking shoes).

Need some help brainstorming potential contenders? We’ve got some ideas below. (Check out last year’s list of suggestions, too!)

whites division road 350 cruiser olive waxed flesh

White’s Boots x Division Road 350 Cruiser in Olive Waxed Flesh: $745

The beauty of waxed flesh is in how the top layer of wax rubs off from wear in different areas, giving each boot a rugged appearance that is unique to the wearer’s use. This wedge-soled White’s from Division Road is a great option…

trickers division road burford java waxed flesh

Tricker’s x Division Road Burford in Java Waxed Flesh: $625

…as is this Burford boot from Tricker’s, if you’re looking for something that’s not wedge-y.

Tricker's Stow Acorn Antique

Tricker’s Stow in Acorn Antique: $795

THE classic boot, in THE classic leather, from one of Northampton’s most classic makers of them all. The Acorn Antique is far from some rapid-moving stunt leather—you need to know you’re going work this stuff over to get it cranking on the patina front. But the results can be downright stunning if you do…

crockett jones division road sandhurst dark brown waxed suede

Crockett & Jones x Division Road Sandhurst in Dark Brown Waxed Suede: $645

Waxed suede will offer similar results to waxed flesh, albeit with a slightly less nappy look. If you’re into that aesthetic, these Crockett & Jones cap-toe derbies would definitely fit the bill, and come equipped with some cleated Vibram soles that will serve well in the autumn/winter ahead.

easymoc division road scout boot db natural chromexcel chocolate grizzly

Easymoc x Division Road Scout Boot DB in Natural Chromexcel and Chocolate Grizzly: $405

We’d be remiss if we didn’t also highlight Horween’s Natural Chromexcel, their signature combination-tanned leather that is just brimming with patina potential. This DR-exclusive Easymoc Scout Boot—which also features some of Seidel’s Chocolate Grizzly for contrast—would be a great showcase for this undyed leather.

crockett jones division road pembroke natural hurricane hide

Crockett & Jones x Division Road Pembroke in Natural Hurricane Hide: $695

Speaking of natural leathers, we’re still highly intrigued by this Horween-developed Hurricane Hide from C&J, which looks great here on the Pembroke brogue country derby pattern. We need more shoes in the Dome! And they definitely stand out with the judges.

whites boots c350 cruiser black double shot

White’s Boots C350 Cruiser in Black Double Shot: $575

When White’s began rolling out the standard stitchdown versions of their legacy boots last year, they introduced them in a new-ish leather from Seidel: Double Shot, a combination-tanned leather with significant pull-up character and teacore potential. You can find it on classic models like the Cruiser…

whites boots c355 logger brown double shot

White’s Boots C355 Logger in Brown Double Shot: $595

…or the newer seven-inch Logger.

whites boots perry 8 inch select tobacco stampede

White’s Boots Perry 8” Select in Tobacco Stampede: $400

You can also find Double Shot on the premium versions of White’s Perry moc-toe boots, but we’d also recommend checking out another Seidel leather, Tobacco Stampede—an oil-tanned article that can take a beating and look amazing once worn in.

Wesco Hendrik British Tan Domane Roughout

Wesco Hendrik in British Tan Domane Roughout: $665

Only one pair left of these in sz 10.5! But the price is extremely right and the leather will do exactly what you’re looking for.

rolling dub trio standard strange 11 inch engineer natural horsebutt

Rolling Dub Trio x Standard & Strange Roots 11” Engineer in Natural Horsebutt: $920

Horsebutt leather connoisseurs (or “buttheads”) prize this equine leather for its scarcity, durability and beautiful aging character. It’s not an easy leather to find in RTW models, but at the moment, Standard & Strange has plenty of it! You can find horsebutt at S&S on models like this exclusive engineer from Rolling Dub Trio…

rolling dub trio roots 6 inch boot brown horsebutt

Rolling Dub Trio Roots 6” Boot in Brown Horsebutt: $900

…other RDT staples, like the 6” Roots lace-up boot…

attractions standard strange engineer black horsebutt

Attractions x Standard & Strange Engineer in Black Horsebutt: $1300

…or these classic engineers made in collaboration with the super-stylish, “vintage-admiring” brand Attractions, which feature a black teacore leather that will reveal a lighter brown color as they get good and beat up. Black isn’t the most obvious Thunderdome leather, but can absolutely be one of the most rewarding especially if you’re gonna run ’em hard. 

Jim Green Razorback—Fudge Crazy Horse

Jim Green Razorback in Fudge: $189

The best priced boot on our list, the Jim Green Razorback is a funkily handsome, 100% made-in-South-Africa boot that’s ready for either the Work or Open Dome—and the fudge nubuck is just dying to get wacky with things.

grant stone traveler penny butter suede

Grant Stone Traveler Penny Loafer in Butter Suede: $312

This Butter Suede from Grant Stone has just the right taupe-y, off-white color to not stand out too much at the beginning—but its lighter shade means that it’s a great canvas for some excellent patina.

grant stone dirty buck

Grant Stone Dirty Buck: $328

Similarly, Grant Stone’s revamped Dirty Buck is just begging to show off some wear. Gotta live up to the name somehow!

franks boots wilshire brown domain

Frank’s Boots Wilshire in Brown Domain: $610

Seidel’s Domain leather provides a subtle but rewarding patina. Frank’s offers a plethora of custom options, and their turnaround times for custom orders are relatively quick, but they’ve got a lot of stock at the moment—including wider sizes!—of their Wilshire boot.

oak street bootmakers trench boot whitewash overdye abetone

Oak Street Bootmakers Trench Boot in Whitewash Overdye Abetone: $536

A stunt leather? Almost certainly, but there’s no better venue for leathers like this one from Italian tannery Volpi than the Patina Thunderdome. A few sizes remain in this unique Trench Boot.

oak street bootmakers trench boot brown overdye natural veg tan

Oak Street Bootmakers Trench Boot in Brown Overdye Natural Veg Tan: $536

There’s also a few pairs left of these Oak Street boots in Tempesti’s overdyed veg tan—an option that won’t stand out as much as the white boots above, but no less potent in their patina abilities.

john lofgren combat boot natural chromexcel roughout

John Lofgren Combat Boot in Natural Chromexcel Roughout: $890

Horween’s Natural Chromexcel Roughout, while tough, will have plenty of stories to tell from all the dirt and grime you will put these boots through.

meermin chelsea rust waxy commander

Meermin Chelsea in Rust Waxy Commander: $260

Meermin offers great bang for your buck, and some of the leathers they offer, like C.F. Stead’s waxed suede, are an easy path towards patina.

nicks boots overlander brown waxed flesh

Nicks Boots In-Stock Boots

While it typically takes Nicks Boots at least eight weeks to build their made-to-order models, you can find a variety of different ready-to-ship one-offs or samples from their In-Stock section, which is always updating with new pairs.

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