The Stitchdown Patina Thunderdome is the preeminent event fostering both community and friendly competition in naturally-developed footwear patina. The Dome starts on Oct 1 2021, and at the end of it all our esteemed, leatherbound judges will select a few dozen winners who will get the opportunity to select from almost $15,000 in prizes (mostly boots).

The top-level rules are simple: 1) become a member of the way-better-than-you-even-imagine Stitchdown Premium community, 2) pick your favorite new pair of boots or shoes, 3) wear them hard but lovingly for seven months.

But of course there are a few more rules. Seriously, just a few! After much back and forth, the judges and I have decided to come down firmly on the side of: let’s not overcomplicate this. And I think we’ve succeeded in that. So here they are.

Any further questions can be directed to, but our sincere hope is that this covers it.

And you should definitely check this out: a statement from each of the esteemed Thunderdome judges on what they’ll be looking for in the competition.

Important Rule #1: New Boot/Shoes Required

All shoes or boots entered into the competition MUST be new. Yes, they can be tried on INSIDE (seven months in a pair…you gotta make sure it fits, right?), but if there is any severe creasing or scuffs/scratches/etc, the boots (and you) will be disqualified.

If you’re wondering if your shoes or boots are eligible, please email

Important Rule #2: Resoles?

Resoles on new boots prior to competition ARE allowed. Yes they are. This one has come up a lot. But just make sure they look good and brand new as well. ALSO, resoles or re-heels throughout the competition may be necessary, and are also completely allowed. Ideally, in-contest resoles will be done with the same sole as the original boots/shoes for consistency, but it’s not required.

Important Rule #3: Conditioning? Sun-Fading? Etc??

The esteemed judges will decide which boots have developed the best honest, loving, natural patina over the seven-month period. That’s it. We’ve debated endlessly about outlawing sun-fading, and excessive conditioning, and artificial PEDs (patina enhancing drugs like sandpaper and crazy stuff along those lines).

And our decision is: contestants can do what they wish. But just know that if you attempt to do anything unnatural to your boots or shoes, the judges will know. These are people who understand leather and footwear and how they develop naturally and beautifully better than anyone in the world. They cannot be fooled.

And again, I think it’s very worthwhile to read through what each of the esteemed Thunderdome judges will be looking for.

What Each Esteemed Thunderdome Judge Will be Looking For

Important Rule #4: Photo Submissions

Each month, all contestants must submit photo updates to mark the evolution of their footwear. Photos will be submitted through a portal that all contestants will have access to.

Photos are to include the front, back, and each side of the shoe/boot (see examples below), along with one optional “chef’s choice”/on-foot shot. All contestants must ONLY upload these 4 to 5 photos.

Proper, consistent lighting will help you highlight the evolution of your footwear—we recommend picking a set spot and time to take your monthly photo updates to best illuminate the footwear’s journey.

Editing photos is strictly prohibited (although cropping is fine). Judges may ask for a quick video of your boots as well if the lighting or color seems somehow curious in the photo update.

The photo update submission portal will be live for five (5) days at the end of each month of the competition. If photo updates are not submitted in any (read: all) months of the Thunderdome, the contestant will be removed from the competition.

All photos for general entry must be submitted by Oct 1-5. Due to various production delays that potential participants are experiencing, there will also be a secondary late entry window of Nov 1-5. But all boots for late entry must remain unworn (outside of trying on inside) before Nov 1-5.

Important Rule #5: Tell Your Pair’s Story

For the final month of the competition, all contestants must submit a written story of their boots/shoes and the journey you’ve been on together. This can be as short as 1 word (but seriously try harder than that) and no more than 200 words. The joy of great footwear extends far beyond how it looks, or even how it feels—it’s about that journey. So let us in on it.

Important Rule #6: SDP Membership Requirements

All Patina Thunderdome contestants must be members of the (fantastic, btw) Stitchdown Premium community throughout the entirety of the Thunderdome. SDP membership supports all Stitchdown and Thunderdome efforts, costs $5/month or $50/year, and gives you access to the Stitchdown Discord, home to the best footwear conversations on the entire internet (really!).

Important Rule #7: Multiple Pairs?

You can enter one pair of boots or shoes per Stitchdown Premium membership, and can hold a maximum of two Stitchdown Premium memberships. This means that you can enter up to two pairs of boots / shoes, but will need to hold two separate memberships to be eligible for each.

Important Rule #8: Treat the Judges Right

If you annoy, harass, attempt to gain undue sway with, outright bribe, or otherwise vex our esteemed judges, you will be disqualified. So don’t do it! Same goes for doing those same things to other contestants.

Important Rule #9: Have Fun Dammit

Have some damn fun. That’s 100% what this is about. My guess is that the contestants who embrace the unlimited fun and community this contest has to offer—as opposed to espousing some no-holds-barred competition approach—will be the ones who take home prizes. Enjoy yourself, and your boots/shoes, and each other, and this inaugural Thunderdome will be a blast for all.

If you haven’t already, get involved in Stitchdown Premium, get your pair together, an get ready for the Thunderdome to begin…