Maybe a year and a half ago, I started talking with Spokane’s own White’s Boots—the 106-year-old maker of some of the most indestructibly hand-built and yet brawnily beautiful boots one can own—about cooking up a collaboration boot together. We both agreed 1) of course this was a wonderful idea, and 2) we would REALLY need to make it something special and unique.
Well clearly at least we (@tichoblancoshoes, White’s, and I) think we did something right—because that collaboration boot became two collaboration lace-to-toe (LTT) boots, both made with White’s trademark double-row hand-stitched stitchdown construction. Or technically one boot, and one shoe. But a boot-shoe! Either way, one more than expected.
And they’re available for pre-order starting today, with only 50 of each style available (with 10% off for Stitchdown Premium community members!), through Sept 7th, 2021, with an expected delivery of Jan/Feb 2022.
Let’s get into them…
No point in not just saying this right out front: I’ve been obsessed with the White’s x Nepenthes Poleclimbers since they came out. These are an homage and a tribute to those. A veneration, really. Because they are simply one of the more distinctively, intriguingly unique, and just damn fun shoes you could ever find.
White’s makes a damn near perfect and balanced LTT shoe pattern, or as close as one can get. And man does it take that thick Vibram 2021 cavity wedge we chose so naturally. So, great start!
But the lineman’s patch wrapping the medial side of the shoe is what’s been bouncing around my head for years now. It was a must. Rooted in true function (climbing electrical poles is tough on the inside of boots!), like just about everything about White’s, it’s just…special. Distinctive. Different! Powerful. And just really goddamn cool.
As I told my dear friend Giovanni, “when you cross your legs and look at the patch side, you can keep looking at that for hours. It’s absolutely transfixing. I honestly think it helps make it a better, almost MORE normal looking shoe, even though it also obviously makes it a weirder shoe. If that can possibly make any sense at all. But the patch manages to throw the balance of the shoe forward in a really interesting way.”
The Leather: Ticho and I worked very closely with the wonderful people at Conceria Maryam to develop something a little different than either of us had ever seen: taking a slightly thinner split of their famed vegetable-tanned horsebutt—which works really well on the LTT oxford pattern when lined, especially in terms of the patch, where the weight aids with overall flex and comfort—in Maryam’s Muschio color, but reversing it to the flesh side, and adding a wax coating.
The result is really something I’ve never quite seen before. The leather starts out with a largely consistent finish (although with some hugely interesting variation in tone throughout) that renders out as more matte than, say, Horween waxed flesh. Over time though, especially in high contact areas, the wax will wear down and real a tightly napped roughout.
Also I’ve found on my sample pair that impact does some very cool things to this leather—if I end up kicking something (it happens!) darker little marks appear and stick around, but in a way that’s very appealing, especially as they start to accumulate.
In short: these things are absolute patina eaters. And boy are they hungry.
The Construction: Exactly what you should expect from White’s. Double-row hand-welted stitchdown construction (check out this video from White’s makeup masters Division Road to get a closer look at the process) including White’s trademark rolled welt, a leather midsole and shank, and a whole lotta love. Simply put, these are built as seriously as boots can be built.
The Outsole: I’ve found the Vibram 2021 cavity wedge to be among my favorite soles for four reasons: comfort, usability, aesthetics, and, of course, chonk. The 2021 is the thicker brother to Vibram’s 2060 (not sure why it’s the smaller number, but, whatever!) and both offer an honestly fairly plush ride, along with a touch of the appearance of a heeled outsole—this shoe MIGHT look ok with a true heel, but I honestly doubt it. This wedge is where it’s at home.
The 2021 (and 2060) is made from Vibram’s Morflex compound, which is somehow both lighter and harder-wearing than their classic Christy wedge. I love this thing. Even Ticho will love this thing!
The Last and Sizing: These oxfords are built on White’s Northwest last, the flattest the brand uses in terms of arch. There’s still some arch there! More than most shoes I think it’s fair to say. But nowhere near what you get in a 55 or 4811 last. But because of that lack of arch, and just the last itself, going up .5 sizes from your White’s 55 last size is strongly recommended.
I’ve personally found the Northwest last to feel slightly more narrow than the 55 last, which makes that half-size up all the more important. You could consider going one width up as well, although just note that the heel will also be wider—and that the heel on most PNW oxfords isn’t exactly bespoke-snug to begin with. Although over time, as the midsole begins to flex more, heel slip definitely dissipates, and the LTT pattern allows you to lace very snugly up top while keeping things a little looser down the eyelets if you want.
At 11D Brannock, I’ve been absolutely enjoying the hell out of the fit of these in 11D, although be noted I wear slightly thinner socks than normal with them—not quite CHUP thickness, for reference.
White’s classic 6-inch 350 Cutter has always been one of my favorite lace-to-toe boots out there. The pattern—aided by White’s logger heel—has just a wonderful balance to it, the right mix of aggression and classic sure-it’s-a-workboot-but-damn-is-it-handsome aesthetics. But I guess I was just waiting for the right leather and overall makeup to get into a pair.
It’s of course personal (and I’m of course biased), but I feel that the beauty and raw, exciting potential of this boot lies in its simplicity. The leather is eager for action and will go in whichever direction you push it. The pattern is time-tested. The brass eyelets and speed hooks provide a slight pop that should be even more prominent as the upper leather darkens, but they’re not here to be showy.
Is this the ultimate straightforward, just-a-damn-fine-boot White’s Cutter? In many ways I think it will make good on that claim. But that’s for you to decide.
The Leather: Located in Italian leathermaking capital Pisa, Maryam has established itself as perhaps the horsebutt tannery for footwear; it’s at least in the top three along with Chicago’s Horween and Japan’s Shinki Hikaku. While we obviously cooked up something quite unique leatherwise for the oxford, on this boot we took the outlook of: let’s supercharge the natural CXL Cutter—an amazing archetypal boot—with a little more juice.
Which means a natural horsebutt that promises to age beautifully and interestingly. It’s hardy stuff with a glossy finish that really stands in contrast to the Oxford’s leather, and starts off slightly if barely perceptibly varied, but will almost certainly darken significantly and take on deeply satisfying depth of color—consider these boots a palette that will be painted simply by the way you live your life.
The Construction: This is the same as above, but in case you skipped it: the construction is exactly what you should expect from White’s. Double-row hand-welted stitchdown construction (check out this video from White’s makeup masters Division Road to get a closer look at the process) including White’s trademark rolled welt, a leather midsole and shank, and a whole lotta love. Simply put, these are built as seriously as boots can be built.
The Outsole: I love a half-sole on an LTT boot, and the Vibram composition half sole and Quabaug heel really help to weight things noticeably differently than the full-sole version, balancing distinct heft in the front and rear, while taking a little break under the arch. It makes this pattern just every so slightly meaner. Which is a good thing. And the v-tread half-sole up front, while not a lugged work sole by any stretch, keeps on gripping for honestly quite some time, while offering a very nicely low profile. I have it and love it on a number of pairs.
The Last and Sizing: This one’s a little simpler—and while of course this isn’t true for everyone, White’s classic 55 last tends to work best, in most cases, .5 sizes down from your Brannock size—similar to Alden Barrie/Trubalance, Red Wing Iron Ranger, etc. At least, that’s worked well for me personally.
Other White’s lovers have also had success with a full size down from Brannock, and up a width, but I can’t speak to that personally.
Huge thanks for reading all of those words. Obviously I’m excited! I like to think it’s with good reason! I can only hope you can see what I see. If you do, you won’t be disappointed.