Waxed Flesh Boots – Five Plus One
Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
In my mind, waxed flesh leathers are some of the most interesting on the market — not only are they hard-wearing, water resistant, and easy to break-in, but they look fantastic both new and with serious wear.
Waxed flesh is a roughout leather that has been heavily waxed, usually by the tannery, so that the leather’s natural nap is matted down. As waxed flesh is worn in, every scuff and scrape will bring the leather’s nap back to the surface, which creates a super unique patina. Some people enjoy seeing how much they can beat-up their pair, while others choose to re-wax their boots to keep them looking fresh and new — both routes have their benefits and detriments.
Whichever route you take, waxed flesh looks great with age. There aren’t a huge number of waxed flesh leathers out there, but with so many companies working with waxed flesh these days it is easy to find a boot that is just to your liking.
1) Red Wing for Wrenchmonkees: 4545 Iron Ranger in Black Spitfire
S.B. Foot produces almost all of Red Wing’s leathers, and their roughouts have always been among their most touted. That’s why it came as no surprise when Foot began producing a waxed roughout leather for Red Wing. A few models exist using this new Black Spitfire leather, but the 4545 Iron Ranger is a particular standout.
Seeing what is arguably Red Wing Heritage’s most popular style of boot, the Iron Ranger, being produced with a hyped new leather was exciting to say at the least. Unfortunately, this particular model was only produced for Europe — you may be able to import it, or if things turn truly desperate, find someone to proxy a pair to you. Whatever you have to do to get a pair of these in your hands, I doubt you’ll regret it.
Available for €320 (~$348) from Red Wing Amsterdam.
2) Truman Boot Company: Java Waxed Flesh
For the most part, there are two colors of waxed flesh leathers available from Horween, brown and black, which is why it is so exciting to see Truman Boot Company working with a less popular colorway. Sure, the Java Waxed Flesh may be only marginally darker in color than the famous brown waxed flesh, but that’s something! And for those of you concerned about its patina potential, worry not — the Java wears down to a range of brown and tan tones just like brown waxed flesh. Like all Truman boots, you can customize these to your liking — just select the sole type, hardware finish, eyelet/speedhook configuration, and so on from their ordering page. Just don’t blame us when you spend half of your night figuring out your perfect build.
Available for $470 from Truman.
3) Oak Street Bootmakers: Commando Trench Boot in Black Waxed Flesh
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Blue Owl knows what its customers want. Their collaborations are adored by those who shop there, and I see no reason why their newest custom order from Oak Street Bootmakers would be thought of any differently. This time around they’ve built a Trench Boot out of Horween’s black waxed flesh, and finished it atop a commando sole, which is ideal for wet or snowy weather. They only made twenty-four pairs of this latest collaboration, so don’t sleep on these for too long!
Available for $513 from Blue Owl.
4) Viberg: Country Derby in Brown Waxed Flesh
When most people think about Viberg’sboots, their minds go straight to the Viberg Service Boot. It’s a great style to be sure, but that doesn’t mean their other boots should be ignored altogether. The 6″ Country Derby is too often overlooked in my opinion — it’s based off of British hunting boot patterns, and in my mind works better for a lot of workwear outfits than many of Viberg’s sleeker service boots. Like most of the boots on this list, the waxed flesh used for this pair is produced by Horween; the brown waxed flesh is slightly lighter than the Java waxed flesh used by Truman, but still darker than any of the black waxed flesh leathers on this list.
Available for $700 from Viberg.
5) Yuketen: Maine Guide DB Lace to Toe in Black Waxed Flesh
Yuketen is well known for their slightly out-there designs and use of interesting leathers, so I can’t say I’m surprised that they’ve started producing a handsewn lace-to-toe boot in waxed flesh. Personally, I think it’s a fantastic idea — waxed flesh has a great texture to it, which is only accentuated by how the leather dimples where it is hand stitched. This particular pair is extra interesting because of its blacked-out color scheme, but fear not if that isn’t for you: they also produce a brown waxed flesh version that isn’t quite as monotone.
Available for an unknown amount from American Rag Cie Hong Kong, Coggles, and Pronto via Yuketen.
Plus One – Oak Street Bootmakers for Scout Seattle: Forester Boot in Brown Waxed Flesh
It’s very rare for us to feature the same brand twice in the same Five Plus One article, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. I love waxed flesh leather, handsewns, D-ring eyelets, Vibram 2060 soles, and padded shoe collars, but I can see how some people would find these details to be too much when they’re all put together — heck, even I wouldn’t make these one of my weekly pairs. But there’s a strange type of beauty about them, in a tech-wear I-like-to-think-I-like-to-hike kind of way. And to me that’s what the Plus One spot is all about — I might not be in love with the product, but I’m glad it’s out there because I know it’s perfect for someone.
Available for $408 from Scout Seattle.
Horween Waxed Flesh, Roughout, and Reverse Chamois
The three Horween leathers with such resilience that they will accompany you to even the world’s end: waxed flesh, roughout, and reverse chamois. These leathers won’t need any conditioning for a long time. The wax makes the roughout very resilient to rain, scuffs, and other elements.
I did, however, decide to apply 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil to my pair of Aldens in Reverse Hunting Green Chamois. Neatsfoot oil is a yellowish oil made from the shin bones of cows and is typically used to soften leather such as breaking in a baseball glove. The color of the boots out of the box seemed a bit too light for my liking. Neatsfoot is known to darken leather and it definitely darkened it to a deep forest green. The reverse chamois leather feels “damp” and cold to the touch, and surprisingly, it’s really, really supple compared to a roughout leather.
The brown and black waxed flesh arrived with their nap completely waxed (brand new black waxed flesh pic below). Waxed flesh when new feels both smooth and rough. You can see in pictures now that some parts of the boots still remain smooth.
What happens over time is that the wax comes off with wear, kicking objects, or even computer chairs rubbing against the heels. The brown pair (which started off a very dark brown) has areas lightened up to a medium brown with the nap/texture revealing itself. The black waxed flesh has revealed shades of grey underneath.
To test out the water resistance of every pair, I poured water on all of them. I wasn’t too thorough in scientifically testing them because in hindsight I would have weighed each boot before and after pouring an equal amount of water on them. That way, I’d be able to figure out which boot absorbed the most and which repelled the most.
From observation, the reverse chamois had the greatest water resistance. But it was likely because that boot was recently oiled. If all the boots were brand new, I’d say the order would go from Waxed Flesh > Reverse Chamois > Roughout in water resistance. Of course, all these leathers innately have high water resilience so the difference is negligible.
I wouldn’t hesitate to bring any of these pairs in rain, snow, or slush. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards!
Close Up Shots
The Leather that has 3 Names
One of my favorite leathers, that sees relatively little production, is an article that we call Huntsman - or Waxed Flesh or French Waxed Calf. I would define it as high performance suede, but it's not suede at all. This leather is made almost exactly the same way as our Chromexcel, instead we finish it on the flesh (or suede side). This colors, waxes, seals, and lays the nap of the flesh flat.
In the side-by-side photo included below, you can see the back and the front of the same piece of leather. The dark brown side is actually the side that's typically left unfinished (or sueded) and the natural brown color is the grain, or traditionally finished side, of the hide.
This creates a textured look that's great for casual applications, and striking in more formal uses. The Yuketen Maine Guide Boots shown in this post are an example of an unlined shoe, which is a particularly good use of this leather. I mean, the inside of the boot is usually the surface used for the outside.
In the past we made Chromexcel for use in military boots that the Marines wore. The soldiers would then themselves heavily wax the outside of the shoes which would darken them and make them more water resistant - we point here for the inspiration for this tannage.
Flesh black waxed
.Truman Boot Review in Java Waxed Flesh!!
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