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Why spend so much on quality mens boots?

Footwear in general and men’s boots in particular vary tremendously in price. One can solve the problem of bare feet for less than $20 to more than $4000.

Quality over Quantity

While more affordable boots may be cheaper in the short term, this does not take into account how long each pair of boots will last. The well made, more expensive pair of quality boots will likely last longer than the cheap pair, thus negating any gains made by the short sighted purchase of cheap boots. This is often quoted as the Vimes Boots Theory as written by Terry Pratchett in Men at Arms:

The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

While the Vimes theory reasons that it is actually cheaper to spend more money on higher quality boots, it doesn’t go into detail as to how and why this is possible.

Manufacturing

The most expensive part of a boot purchase is not the boot itself, but rather the time and ability of the human who made it. While it doesn’t contribute directly to the longevity or quality of the piece of footwear, the treatment and working conditions of the maker should absolutely weigh in your boot purchasing decisions. Buying a very cheap but unethically produced good is doing nothing to better the situations of these workers and as seen above, isn’t even saving money in the long run. Coincidentally, ethical treatment of workers correlates these workers taking pride in their work and thus producing finished products of higher quality. When shopping for footwear it is best to look for shoes and boots manufactured in first world countries with

Materials

The most important elements of a piece of footwear are the materials from which it has be made. These materials, if high quality and hard wearing will outlast (in appearance and strength) those of poorer and cheaper quality. When dealing with leather boots, one must be conscious of the quality of the leather as most of the boot is (likely) made of it. Leather quality can be particularly difficult to judge as the terms surrounding it make everything sound like the best. In general, quality boots will be made with full grain leather, that is to say leather that has not been corrected or split. This leather, thicker with all of its fibers in tact, will both wear longer and look better with age than corrected grain ‘genuine leather’ or top grain leather.

While the leather is generally the largest raw material going into a boot, one should also be on the lookout for quality outsoles, thread, and any metal that goes into the construction of a boot.

Construction

The way in which the pieces of leather are cut, sewn and ultimately crafted into a boot can vary greatly in terms of longevity, appearance, feel, and weatherproofing. While even the cheapest boots have their leather uppers sewn together, the real indicator of quality is where the upper meets the sole. Low cost boots have their uppers cemented or glued to their soles whereas more expensive (in both labor and cost) boots have their uppers stitched through a series of layers of leather called soles. This stitching can be done in various ways from blake stitching in which the upper is sewn through the insole, upper leather, and a midsole, to goodyear welting in which an extra piece of leather is sewn to the upper to facilitate easier resoling. A stitched sole is a requirement of a quality boot.

Resoling

A stitched construction allows for a boot to be resoled- a process in which a worn outsole (often rubber) is replaced with a new one. Resoling drastically extends the life of high quality boots as it allows one to wear down a number of outsoles without needing to replace the core boot. Each of these resolings essentially provides the life of new boot for the cost of a resole (anywhere from $60–$120 depending on location and cobbler). While finding a local cobbler to perform resoles sounds like the key to eternal boot life, even the highest quality leather uppers will eventually be worn out but this will likely be long after you’ve gotten your money’s worth.