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 email@example.com 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).