Ask any Australian to name a boot and they’ll say R.M. Williams. They probably don’t know it’s a Chelsea boot. They don’t care. It’s a boot. You put it on, go to the office, go to the farm, go to the pub. A bloody boot mate. Polish? Polish is for poofs. It’s a bloody boot mate.
I’ve been on a shoe research expedition lately, learning about welts, and leathers, and models and makers. There’s a whole world of shoe-dom out there and you can spend months getting a sense of what’s on offer. Initially I was drawn to the Chelsea boot through inertia I suppose, but the more I learned the more I moved away from the Chelsea.
Australia is also the home to the bogan. I know, I was one. A small part of me is still a bogan. Every so often my bogan tendencies emerge, usually accompanied by AC/DC or Sepultura. Often we buy things based on the projection of the way we want to be perceived. Since I’ve been moving away from boganville, I decided I didn’t want a Chelsea and I did want laces. Last thing I wanted was a pair of bloody R.M.s. Black was out and brown/tan was in.
I spotted the ‘Hugo’ by A Fine Pair of Shoes early on and after a early glance didn’t pay it much more attention. I since purchased a pair of Alfred Sargent Cambridge boots because I’d run out of shoes and winter was fast approaching. I had my heart set on a pair of Crockett and Jones Conistons but they were out of my budget. A Fine Pair of Shoes offered great service, competitive pricing and fast shipping. The Cambridge are excellently made. My anti-bogan itch had been half-scratched.
I still wasn’t ready for a black chelsea but then the ‘Hugo’ went on sale on the Fine Pair of Shoes website. Curious, I asked Julian on the Styleforum affiliates thread to expand upon the Hugo and provide some ‘in the wild’ photos. He obliged immediately. The photos were great. I was nearly convinced.
The white photoshopped background on the Fine Pair of Shoes website tends to make all their black shoes look deep blue. These were definitely black. My inner bogan had blood pumping into it. Like the evil nuclear physicist played by Peter Sellers in Dr Strangelove, I had to restrict my right arm from lifting towards the heavens in a slayer salute with index and little finger aloft.
I swapped a few emails with Julian at a Fine Pair of Shoe about sizing and decided to sleep on my decision.
Next morning I checked their website again and saw there were only two pairs left in my size. I sent a few other messages to Styleforum aficionados who agreed that a Chelsea boot to this fine a specification with lasted shoe trees for less that $400 AUD was a bargain. Don’t forget these are made by Alfred Sargent. Heart pounding, I pressed ‘purchase’. I ordered on Friday and they arrived on Monday afternoon via Fedex.
Truly, I can’t see how A Fine Pair of Shoes are making any profit on these. Either that or they’re annoying the hell out of their suppliers. The finishing is superb. The sole edging is beveled. The leather soft, stretchy and exacting. They are not over-polished so you’re not getting a moon shine finish, although they do reflect light well. The last is classically shaped, the toe nicely rounded. The stitching all around is nearly flawless. Once on, the boot feels more like a sock than a brick.