For the first direct collaboration between Oak Street Bootmakers and Dr. Sole, they’ve put together a boot that speaks to their mutual love of classic, durable American military wear and denim: a natural indigo-dyed Field Boot bottomed with a pair of Dr. Sole raw cord soles.
The Field Boot is Oak Street’s interpretation of the WWII-era N-1 Marine Field Shoe, commonly known as a boondocker. The boondocker pattern stands apart from other service boots by having a triple-stitched external heel counter along with a quadruple-stitched quarter piece, and is typically combined with a roughout leather and a pair of raw cord soles. The original raw cord soles of the mid-20th century were made out of repurposed car tires that had leftover cords of nylon left in them. The reproduction raw cord soles made by Dr. Sole replace the nylon with hemp to replicate the original look and to add traction to the nitrile rubber compound.
There are some other details to these Field Boots that add up to a highly convincing homage. Oak Street has swapped the Field Boots’ standard brass hardware with dark painted eyelets, and the boots are hand-lasted with a 270 flat welt. Additionally, this makeup utilizes Horween’s Natural Chromexcel Roughout, which is extremely similar to the Horween Marine Field leather used in the original boondocker. Also, though it’s not a true Munson last like the one used for many military boots, Oak Street’s Elston last is similarly accommodating for many foot shapes.
The biggest obvious difference between these boots and the original boondocker is, of course, the fact that the leather has been hand-dipped in a natural indigo dye. Natural indigo is different from the synthetic indigo used in most denim or other indigo-dyed garments you see today. Unlike synthetic indigo, natural indigo arguably delivers a much more deep and intense color of blue, along with hints of violet and aquamarine.
Oak Street has previously produced a few runs of indigo-dyed leather boots—they just released an indigo Trench Boot earlier this year after a multi-year hiatus from the concept. Things are a bit different this time around; for one thing, Oak Street is using a darker, deeper indigo pigment than they have before, saturating the leather with a midnight-blue look. Plus, the indigo is actually sourced from North Carolina (rather than Japan, as in previous runs), which is sort of a subtle nod to denimheads—North Carolina was home to Cone Mills’ White Oak denim plant, which produced fabric for Levi’s and other notable denim brands until its closure in 2017. Indeed, this leather will actually behave much like denim in that it will fade over time in areas of heavy wear, giving it a sort of a unique teacore effect. (Also, whereas light-colored leather boots often absorb indigo from raw denim rubbing on them, these indigo Field Boots will likely bleed and give off dye of their own, so watch out for that!)
Both Oak Street and Dr. Sole are selling runs of these limited-edition Field Boots from their own stores, but depending on where you buy your pair from, each will be a little different. Oak Street applied a layer of charcoal edge dressing on these boots, which masks the white flecks of the raw cord soles. While this dye will wear off with time, Dr. Sole wanted to highlight the flecks on their soles, and chose to strip off the dye. Ultimately, both runs of boots end up looking the same after some wear, but it’s a detail worth noting.
This indigo-dyed Field Boot is going for $572—somewhat surprising, given the breadth of materials and labor that have gone into producing it. Each pair will come with a set of black flat waxed laces as well as some indigo-dyed cotton laces courtesy of Dr. Sole. Neat stuff.