Fall is coming at long, long last.
As if 2020 hadn’t jerked us around enough already, this summer has seen scorching temperatures around the globe, with unprecedented heat waves from Japan to Phoenix, AZ and even a potential hottest temperature seen anywhere on Earth in well over 100 years as Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, August 16.
Autumn means respite from the heat, mosquitoes dying off by the millions, cherished seasonal beers returning to stores and taps, and of course the chance to finally put on jeans, a button-down, sweater, or handsome light jacket, and to step back into a damn fine pair of boots. Because is there really any type of footwear half as excellent as a great boot? Supportive, comfortable, protective, and great looking to boot (sorry), when you find a pair that fits just right and suits your style, you’ll start your outfit and your day off right, literally from the ground up.
Ah, but what boot to buy? You can’t go wrong with a Heritage Collection boot from Red Wing Shoes, to be sure. Or an OG 1000 Mile Boot from Wolverine. But those fine boots will set you back nearly $300 and nearly $400, respectively. If only someone made a comparable boot for (much) less money!
Well, guess what? Did you guess that someone did? You’re right.
This fall, the primary pair of boots you’ll find strapped to my feet are from Milwaukee Boot Co., a new kid on the block in some respects, an old hand in others. Milwaukee Boot Co. has only been open for business since last year, having opened a retail shop right in downtown Milwaukee (surprise, surprise, right?) in 2019, and even now in the late summer of 2020, the brand’s website is still partially under construction. But behind this new brand comes three generations of shoemaking experience, not to mention more than 165 years of leather working heritage boasted by the city of Milwaukee itself, once arguably the world capital of leather manufacturing.
From boots to saddles to aprons to bags, Milwaukee tanneries and leather workers have been crafting high quality goods for generations, so why not go ahead and name your boot brand after the spot? And in fact, these guys took things a step further, too, naming each brand of boot they offer after a landmark, neighborhood, or native son of the town, including the Pfister, the pair on my feet right now and that I’ll be focused on for the rest of this review.
The Milwaukee Boot Co.’s Pfister boots are made from rugged full-grain leather, and as a quick primer on leather grades, “Genuine leather” essentially means cheap and flimsy, “top grain” is short-hand for OK but not great, while “full grain” leather is the spare no expenses, ages well over time, resists water and attracts attention variety you want. Nay, you demand. Yet rugged as these boots are, they were comfortable the very first time I pulled them on and laced them up, something that involves handsome brass hardware.
And after many a step taken, they are only getting more comfortable as they break in. The footbeds are made using a padded leather that is slowly taking on the shape of my feet, while the outsole is a tough Goodyear (yeah the tire guys) rubber with a moderately aggressive treads pattern, something I appreciate as so many boots have smooth soles that offer so little traction.
The Pfister boot definitely skews a bit closer to work boot than to stylish boot, but its rugged, simple design is plenty handsome nonetheless. Besides, when there’s work to be done, you want a boot that’s ready, not that’s shiny. My pair, which is in the Gaucho color that has a rough finish (other option is a more reddish “Scotch” that’s smoother) fits my size 12 feet perfectly and look best under a pair of jeans, sometimes with a slight cuff. Currently, the company only offers boots in medium width, and in half sizes from 8 to 13. (Well, no 12.5, actually.) The tall collar offers decent ankle support, while the unlined upper resists water and will spare you most of the pain from a stubbing or a dropped hammer.
Milwaukee Boot Co. boots are priced well in range for most gents who care about fine footwear but also want to keep things reasonable. And compare their price point — which is currently between $149 and $179 depending on the pair you choose — to the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot, which sells for close to $400, and you’ll consider these a deal. And having worn a pair of Wolverines for several years, I can tell you that my Pfister rival those absolutely excellent boots in most regards, with the price being a major selling point.
If you’re looking for a great pair of boots for 2020’s fall season, then Milwaukee is a good place to look. Because you’ll still be enjoying these boots in the winter and spring of 2021. And fall 2021. And fall 2024. And so on.
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