I’m a very skeptical person. When a men’s footwear brand contacts me about reviewing one of their pieces of footwear from a new heritage line they’re producing, I’m often cautiously interested. But Johnston & Murphy’s new “J&M 1850” line has a surprising gem in it that I feel is worth talking about.
Plus, Johnston & Murphy is letting me run a contest to giveaway a pair of their shoes or boots to one lucky Chicago-area reader (details at the end of the review).
The "Gannett" boot caught my eye for several reasons. First, the boots have a Goodyear welt, which I feel is a necessary minimum for shoe construction if you’re going to be paying decent money and expecting the shoes to present a decent value in the long term. Shoes with a Goodyear welt are able to be resoled more easily, which means you can wear them for a whole lot longer.
Secondly, this pair got my attention because they’re made from Horween leather. This leather, of course, comes from the Horween Tannery in Chicago and has a well-regarded reputation.
Finally, what surprised me is that the boots are priced at $275, which places them well under the price of other Horween leather boots from other competitors by at least $100, if not more.
Johnston & Murphy’s representatives sent me a pair as a review unit and I must say I’m rather impressed. If you’ve been hanging around places like StyleForum for a while, then you know that many of the posters there have a less-than-favorable opinion of the brand’s products from the past decade or so, despite having at one time been regarded as one of the premiere made-in-the U.S.A. men’s footwear brands.
Indeed, these boots were made in India, which may account for the ability to hit a lower pricepoint. Regardless, the quality of materials and construction is — as far as I can tell so far — still there and they’re quite comfortable to wear.
The leather seems about as good as pairs of Allen Edmonds that I own, although time will really only tell how it develops a patina. The suede portion of the boot feels durable and a bit waxy, so I wouldn’t worry about wearing these in bad weather. The interior of the boot is lined with leather as well.
One thing I liked about the boots is that the sole is a bit of a hybrid between a leather sole and a lug sole. Outright lug soles can be a bit clunky looking and in my mind limits them to being worn only with denim. These have a slimmer profile with a semi-lug sole and it’s hidden from view, making them wearable with chinos. Still, I wouldn’t wear them with dress trousers, as they’re definitely a more casual piece of footwear. And I do think they go best with denim.
Naturally, I do have criticisms. I wished the stitching was a darker brown or black colored thread instead of being contrasting — and the stitching could’ve been cleaner, too. This would’ve given the boot a cleaner look, in my opinion. Also, the laces felt kind of cheap and given the extreme amount of tension you’re probably going to put on these, I’d recommend getting thicker laces with better durability.
The break-in period isn’t terribly long and they don’t feel extremely too-stiff to walk in on the first wear. You can even wear them with thinner socks and not feel like your ankles have been rubbed raw. Still, there seems to be enough room for slightly thicker socks for the cold-weather months.
These boots have changed my perception of Johnston & Murphy (much how the Veblens changed my perception of Florsheim) and I think it’s worth taking a look over the future shoes in the J&M 1850 line to see what could be a good value from them — especially if better materials and construction are being used.
And about that contest: I’ve got a voucher for one pair of J&M 1850 shoes or boots at Hanig’s Slipperbox, 2754 N. Clark Street, Chicago. The winner will be mailed this voucher and has to redeem it in-store — so, I’m making this contest for Chicago-area folks only (because if you don’t live in the area it’d be really hard for you to pick up your pair of shoes).
How to enter:
- Tweet this review using the hashtag #jm1850 and the URL: http://bit.ly/TS30YP
- Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your tweet.
- Do both of these things by 12 noon CST, Friday, November 2nd.
- Actually live in the Chicagoland area.
I’ll take everyone’s names, do a random sort, assign a number and then use a random number generator to pick a winner. The winner will be contacted by email for their address so I can mail the voucher to them (or we can meetup in person).
I think a lot of guys get overwhelmed by footwear choices when they first set out to rebuild their wardrobe away from those crappy Rockport hybrid dress/sport shoes or square-toed Kenneth Cole polished leather abominations. If you don’t wear a suit or even a sport coat every day and you’re on a budget, then consider buying a relatively cheap pair of shoes you can beat to death every day with chinos or jeans.
For me, that’s the Clarks desert chukka boot. Easily my most-worn pair of shoes by a large margin and they’ve been going strong for well beyond a year now. The crepe sole hasn’t worn down much — surprisingly — despite the fact that the heels on many of my other dress shoes have shown some very noticeable wear quite quickly.
I tried to think about why I wear them so much, and I came to the conclusion that they lace up and come off quickly. You don’t need to worry about a shoe horn. The suede is insanely comfortable to wear barefoot as it’s unlined. These shoes work great for those quick trips around your neighborhood and fit with the more casual element of your wardrobe with ease.
But I don’t want to shortchange them on their legitimate rugged abilities, either. I know some people freak out when it rains and they’re wearing suede shoes. I used to, until one night I got caught at my favorite (now closed, R.I.P.) Italian restaurant in a downpour that was so bad that raindrops actually hurt when they hit you and puddles were half a foot deep.
Needless to say, I got my shoes completely soaked in water. I stuffed some newspaper in them when I got home and let them dry out overnight. The result: the suede got incredibly softer and they actually felt better to wear. Funny how that works.
I continue to be impressed with the fact it hasn’t fallen apart just yet, nor has the sole started coming off from the uppers. I’ve put other “cheap” shoes through less and gotten way less mileage out of them.
For a shoe you can find from $60-$100 regularly in a wide variety of colors, I think these are a no-brainer recommendation for someone who just needs a decent-looking shoe that’s built for comfort and has classic styling for the modern casual wardrobe.
(“Investment Pieces” is a series about the items in my wardrobe that have gotten the most usage and wear. It’s part review and part paean to the clothes I really would recommend to anybody. These aren’t luxury items or limited in availability — you can get them anywhere at anytime for a fairly reasonable price.)
I'm trying to find a good quality pair of boots for this winter in Wisconsin. I'm a Texas boy so the best pair of boots I have is a set of cole haan's. I've looked through Alden, JCrew (the chippewas look slick) but am trying to stay under 300$. Any recommendations? Or do your followers have any? I don't want to lose any toes while I'm up there.
I got my first ever pair of LL Bean boots after getting advice from you and Tommy, and after reading your guide. I ended up getting the 10" brown/brown unlined version in size 9 (I'm usually a size 10-10.5), which still leaves enough room for thick wool socks when it gets cold. Not having the thinsulate means I can wear it in inclement weather that is not cold. A great buy! Thanks for the help.