There are shoes, there are boots, there are boot-shoes. And then there’s the Viberg 145 oxford.
And it’s back. As of right…now.
It went away for a minute, despite being arguably (Ha! You kinda have to say that but c’mon…) the greatest of all shoes that’s built like a boot, and feels kinda like a boot, and certainly chonks like a boot, but is definitely a shoe.
Viberg temporarily sunsetted the 145 oxford—a derby shoe which is most definitely not an oxford and hell even that intentional misnomer is part of why it’s so great—almost a couple years ago now. To let it breathe a bit, and rethink what it should mean, and deeply infuriate a whole bunch of incredibly wise 145 cultists (yes I am extremely firmly one of them, so feel free to take any of this article with any grains of salt if you wish. Or, better: don’t!)
Now they can be happy once more, because these suckers are GOOD.
Plenty of legends come back as a shadow of their true selves (although I’ve heard the new Top Gun is quite good. The Viberg 145 oxford comeback is not that. These things are every bit as well-executed as could’ve ever been hoped for, powered by two major factors: 1) Viberg’s also largely/unfortunately forgotten 110 last, and 2) Horween workshoe horsebutt.
Horween Workshoe Butt
Let’s do that workshoe butt first; it’s one of the Chicago supertannery’s rarest, most outright bulletproof leathers, and truly one of the great rugged footwear leathers in existence.
Unlike standard horsebutt—which sometimes does and sometimes doesn’t—Horween workshoe butts all include the unique shell layer. In the quickest possible shorthand, that layer of the…well, horse’s butt…is what makes shell cordovan so damn special, and which often causes the leather to roll instead of truly crease on the shoe’s vamp (or any other part).
Horween’s workshoe butt is typically combination-tanned: chromium salts and tree bark extracts working one after another on hides to create a finished product. The black leather in this release indeed deploys Horween’s standard workshoe butt Chromexcel combo tannage, but the Essex and Dublin are fully veg-tanned, with these hides made special for Viberg.
Viberg’s 110 Last
Viberg’s 110 last, meanwhile, is a lovely goddamned dinosaur, used for years—even then sparingly—but rarely seen in the last few. It’s got a lovely round toe shape, especially when put together with stitchdown construction and an unstructured toebox, which all three of these 145 oxfords offer. It’s BIG (EEE) and certainly accommodating, and yet somehow not overly roomy.
And man does it feel great if it works for your feet, which encompasses a wider range of said feet than most Viberg lasts. Our pretty hard and fast sizing recommendation is .5 down from Brannock for D+ to E+/EE feet—sizing down another .5 at less-wide D or C might even work! Can’t say from experience though.
Anyway these shoes are fantastic and we do not say that lightly at all. Each of these three styles will be offered only once, in a very limited run: about 20 pair per style is what we’ve been told.
Again, everything’s on Viberg’s 110 last, and all have unstructured toe boxes.
Alright let’s do it.
This is one serious blackout. Name something on these shoes, and it’s black: the brogue cap toe, the Lactae Hevea outsole, the five eyelets, the midsole, the thread…oh laces too.
I’m honestly unsure why (someone DM me if you can leather-explain!) but Horween’s natural Essex workshoe butt comes out significantly darker than its standard initially bone-ish colored, non-horsebutt form.
The only plain-toe model of the trio, it counters the straightforward upper leather color by tossing some contrast at you with the lightly stained midsole and white stitchdown thread. The imminently capable Ridgeway sole makes this just about the perfect chunky, casual brown-ish shoe.
These ones are the wild ones. The dark rubber Dublin workshoe butt should offer a bunch more visual variation up front from pair to pair (so please be very ready for any pair you order not looking exactly like these), and should take plenty of twists and turns down the road as well, depending on use and care. Perforated cap toe and Ridgeway sole as well here.
So that’s the story. It’s a very good story. A story that makes me just stupidly happy.
Will there be more Viberg 145s in the future? I imagine there will, almost certainly. When they appear is anyone’s guess. But this brief shining moment in boot-shoe history is a needed one. Over here, we’re going to just revel in it for a moment.