Horween Waxed Flesh, Roughout, and Reverse Chamois Leather

Horween's diversity of resilient leather

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.

Heel counters of roughout and waxed flesh boots

Heel counters of roughout and waxed flesh boots

Scuffing of toeboxes on reverse chamois, waxed flesh, and roughout

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.

Horween's Reverse Hunting Green Chamois before applying Neatsfoot Oil
Reverse Hunting Green Chamois before applying Neatsfoot Oil
Post application of Neatsfoot Oil on Reverse Chamois
Post Neatsfoot Oil and a couple of days of drying

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.

Viberg x Palmer Trading Co "Bad Seed" Waxed Flesh brand new before wearing.
My Viberg x Palmer Trading Co “Bad Seed” Waxed Flesh Service Boots brand new before wearing in 2015.

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.

Roughout and waxed flesh are turned “inside out”

Water Resistance

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

Close up view of a Viberg Brown Waxed Flesh pair of boots

Alden Color 8 Shell Cordovan Patina and Aging

Three pairs of Alden in Horween Color 8 Shell Cordovan
Three pairs of Alden in Horween Color 8 Shell Cordovan

Ever since I have owned my first Alden pair of shoes in Color #8 Horween Shell Cordovan, I’ve noticed the color patina to a lighter shade over time. I’ve observed it happens most prominently with Alden’s Color #8 Shell Cordovan because the color starts very dark. I believe that Alden treats their Shell Cordovan (from Horween) with their own glaze that provides sheen and glossiness. On the other hand, their color 8 chromexcel brightens up much more quickly.

Details:

These are three Alden shoe pairs pictured and their dates purchased:

  • Alden x JCrew Color #8 Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot (10/06/2013)
  • Alden x The Bureau Belfast Color #8 Shell Cordovan Longwing Blucher (12/28/2015)
  • Alden x Epaulet NYC Color #8 Shell Cordovan Tanker Boot (11/30/2016)
Alden x JCrew Color 8 Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot
Alden x JCrew Color 8 Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot
Alden x The Bureau Belfast Color 8 Shell Cordovan Longwing
Alden x The Bureau Belfast Color 8 Shell Cordovan Longwing
Alden x Epaulet Color 8 Shell Cordovan Tanker Boot
Alden x Epaulet Color 8 Shell Cordovan Tanker Boot

My shoe care routine for these three pairs of Shell Cordovan have been the same:

1. Wipe down with damp microfiber cloth after every so number of wears
2. Brush with a Horsehair Shoe Brush

Every 6-12 months, apply some Venetian Shoe Cream to the cordovan sparingly, letting it dry, wipe down any excess cream, then back to brushing.
 
For any scuffs, I apply a small drop of Venetian Shoe Cream in the area and then use a Polished Deer Bone to rub circularly with light pressure. I’ve tried the Deer Bone without any cream and noticed it doesn’t do much. You can also use the back of a metal spoon to achieve similar results.

I’ve yet to need to apply any wax based polish to the shoes.

Color depth variance on color 8 shell cordovan
Color depth variance on color 8 shell cordovan

Recently, I feel that Alden’s Color 8 batches have been much darker than I remember. The color looks almost black unless in direct sunlight. I believe much of the reason Alden re-dyes their Color 8 is to minimize any blemishes/scars the leather may have.

I’ve yet to determine what causes the lightening of color in the Color 8 Shell Cordovan. It might be pigments naturally degrading with age or even direct sunlight playing a role. Either way, we each have our own perceptions of what Color 8 Shell Cordovan should look like – whether a very dark burgundy or a deep, vibrant red, Color 8 will always be king.

Oldest pair of Color 8 shell cordovan from the top
Oldest pair of Color 8 shell cordovan from the top
As color 8 shell cordovan lightens, the leather shows great character.
As color 8 shell cordovan lightens, the leather shows great character.

Alden 403 Indy Boot Brown Chromexcel (5 year review)

Alden Indy 403

I keep an Excel spreadsheet of the dates and price purchased of almost all items in my wardrobe. After several wardrobe overhauls involving selling my used pieces on eBay/Grailed, the Alden Indy 403 Boot in Brown Chromexcel is the oldest footwear that continually holds a spot in my wardrobe.

The TruBalance Last. Alden Indy 403 on the left.

Let’s take a journey back to the year of 2012, when I obsessively browsed /r/malefashionadvice and had just graduated college. The Alden Indy boot was the bee’s knees back then on Reddit (and probably still is!), the boot that Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) wore. The footwear I recall owning at that time were a pair of Allen Edmond Strands in Walnut, Clark’s Desert Boots in Beeswax, and Red Wing Beckman in Black Cherry Featherstone. I had just purchased the Beckmans a few months prior from Amazon. The Beckmans were robust and very toe structured, and gave my heels quite a time breaking them in. However, I wanted a pair of quality boots that had a slimmer toe, were made in the USA, and were also versatile in many outfits as I was still trying to find comfort in my own style!

Between the Alden 403 and 405, many more people recommended the 403 because of the interesting properties of Chromexcel . I wasn’t interested in the 404 because it appeared too rugged for me (Dark Brown Kudu Leather on a Vibram Lugged Sole). The Alden 401 in black, while also very beautiful, wasn’t one I considered because the black color would be more difficult than a brown color footwear to pair with. The appeal of the Alden 403 Brown CXL is that it would patina to show a great depth of color variation. Plus, Chromexcel has the repuation of being quite an easy leather to maintain and to care care. While the Alden 405 in a lighter brown calf/cow were was the pair that Indiana Jones wore, the Brown Cowhide leather appeared a too tan and light colored for me.

Alden Indy 403
I love the color depth with Brown Chromexcel!

It was around the time that Uniqlo had just opened their first west coast store in San Francisco. I scoured the internet for sizing advice knowing that my Red Wing 9011 Beckmans fit well. I came to a conclusion to purchase the same size in the TruBalance last (half a size down from my measured Brannock). I embarked on a journey to San Francisco with the destination of Alden SF on Sutter Street with a determination to purchase a pair Alden 403s.

Cedar shoe trees are important in keeping their shape and absorbing moisture.

I was greeted by one of the sale associates Robert, and I requested that I wanted to try on pair of Alden 403s. I was wearing a pair of Happy Socks (relatively thin cotton socks) and the pair of RW Beckmans. I remember another customer browsing in the store complimented my Red Wings, asking which model it was. I started trying on a size 9D that I knew most likely was my true size. And I also tried on a 9E and a 9.5D. While the 9E felt comfortable initially, I knew that CXL leather would stretch widthwise (but not so much lengthwise) and went with the 9D. Robert graciously threw added in a pair extra cotton shoelaces free of charge.

Alden Indy 403

Details:

Alden 403 – Indy High Top Blucher Boot in Brown Chromexcel

Price: $507.78 USD after CA Tax in 2012

Alden Indy 403

Alden Indy 403

  • Brown Horween Chromexcel Leather
  • TruBalance Last. This last fits large, recommend to size down half
  • Moc toe stitching
  • Neoprene Cork Outsole
  • Full Glove Leather Lining
  • Closed heel storm welt
  • Vegetable Tanned Leather Insoles
  • Made in the USA
Alden Tanker Boot in Color 8 Shell Cordovan next to the Alden 403 Indy Boot

Impressions:

I remember wearing the pair of 403s out the door and I walked a couple blocks to Uniqlo SF and my heels were starting to feel a bit tattered. I waggled my way back to the Caltrain and took the ride home. The Chromexcel leather started to form creases that eventually became permanent. Even though the Chromexcel leather was soft and supple, they weren’t 100% comfortable initially. It took a couple wears for them to break in. But compared to the stiff Red Wing Beckmans I recently broke in, the break-in period for the Aldens was almost negligible!

The TruBalance last is quite wide compared to Alden’s Barrie last. Actually, it’s the widest last that Alden carries and can look quite chunky top down. The TruBalance last was designed for all day comfort, and I do agree it’s the most comfiest last I own. The insole has molded well to my feet, and I can easily wear thick wool socks (Darn Tough or Smartwool) with these boots. The Alden Indy boot used to have a duck cotton lining around 10 years ago instead of the full leather lining it has today.

The stock laces that came with the boots were wide, 100% cotton, and burgundy tinted. The extra pair of laces that Robert added in were exactly the exact same ones I read several reviews that noted the laces felt really flimsy and frayed teasily with the speed hooks that came with the Indys. Feeling the laces, I definitely agreed they felt quite cheap and shortly after I ordered a pair of flat waxed brown laces on Amazon. The TZ laces that I ordered were densely woven cotten and haven’t shown any signs of wear over the years. I’d highly recommend the Brown TZ laces in 55″/140cm length which is perfect for the Alden Indy. Another alternative is the stock Alden waxed laces that come with most Alden Shell Cordovan Boots.

An issue that I have along with several others is that the tongue of the boot tends to slide outwards after lacing. The Indy boot has a free, non-gusseted tongue (a tongue sewn to the upper behind the laces, preventing debris from entering) which most prominently on my left boot tended to slide outwards after walking a few steps. I’ve heard of people who took their pair to cobblers to have them stitch the tongue to be gusseted which fixed the problem. However, I hardly felt any difference in comfort with this issue. My girlfriend once time did notice this issue when I was lacing up and pointed it out.

The brown Chromexcel leather started off as a medium brown and has darkened a bit to a deeper shade of brown. Chromexcel is an easy leather to care of, although it does scratch/nick easily. I always place in cedar shoe trees inbetween wears to absorb moisture and help minimize creases. My typical maintenance care is to wipe the boots down with a damp microfiber cloth and then to brush vigorously with a horsehair brush. The brushing will help bring out the leather’s oils towards the surface and also to provide a shine to the leather. A few times a year I use a small dab of Venetian Shoe Cream, rubbing it in with my fingers (prevents wasting cream by using a cloth) to condition the CXL and follow with a extensive brushing. Venetian Shoe Cream is what Horween Leather of Chicago recommends.

Here’s an example of how easily some scuffs can rub out with a Venetian Shoe Cream and a polished deer bone (you can use the back of a metal spoon to achieve the same effect)

Chromexcel scuffs come out fairly easily out with some rubbing/friction from a deer bone (Left: Before, Right: After)

One issue I will address soon is that the Foot Balance Heel included with the boot have worn away. My Alden x Jcrew Captoe boots with a dovetail leather heel (purchased not long after) are not as worn down as these.

Alden’s recrafting services does not include replacing only the heel, so I soon will have to bring them to a local cobbler. A pair of Foot Balance replacement heels can be ordered through Alden directly either through email or calling their 1-800 number. They cost around $16 for a pair.

 

In regards to keeping the moc toe stitching white, I use several Q-tips with a dab of dish soap and some water to go over each stitch on the moc toe. Some of the areas around the stitching will lighten up because of the soap, but the end I brush the whole area and the brown color generally restore. I don’t use any polish for the Chromexcel leather because I feel that the contrasting stitching is what makes the Indy boot what it is. Some people take Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Preservative, Neatsfoot Oil, or Snow Seal to the whole boot to weather seal them because of necessity for their their climate. In doing so, however, the stitching will likely darken. The Alden Indy 404 in Brown Kudu is a good example of how the boot looks without any white contrast stitching.

The Neocork (Cork nitrile) sole looks quite sleek and is flexible. I wouldn’t recommend this sole for snow or icy conditions, but instead would recommend a commando sole. It is a rubber lug sole that attaches to the front half of the boot. There have been a handful of Alden Indy makeups in the past that have used a commando sole. The Neocork stock sole provides a slight bit more traction than a leather sole, and I haven’t reached the point where I needed a full resole. Since I purchased the Indy, I’ve worn them about once every two weeks. For many people including me, the Foot Balance heel will wear out faster than the sole because of their gait and will need replacement first.

Conclusion:

I’ve owned my pair of Alden Indys for more than 5 years, and even considering the new footwear brands that have emerged in that timeframe, I would still recommend them. Alden’s prices have been increasing by $15-20 dollars every year due to inflation. I jokingly say that Alden’s are worth putting money into as stock. From what I’ve seen, the 403 Brown Chromexcel develops more variation in leather than the 405 Tan Cowhide. For most people, the 403s will mesh well with their wardrobe. You can choose to beat them up like Indiana Jones or Alden footwear is generally not sleek by any means, but the Indy Boot has a much slimmer toe profile than Red Wings (see my past toebox/shoe sizing post).

The Neocork Sole and Heel.
Superficial scuffs on the toe eventually were minimized with some cream and brushing

Alden Indy 403 Gallery

 

Structured vs Unstructured Toe Box and Shoe Sizing

The left three boots have a structured toe box. The differences in toe boxes are minimal with the Vibergs (middle 4) as the 2030 Last is very sleek.
The left three boots have a structured toe box. The differences in toe boxes are minimal with the Vibergs (middle 4) as the 2030 Last is very sleek.

In this post, I will try to explain the difference in construction of a structured toe box versus an unstructured  toe box accompanied with some pics! The brands included in the following pics are: Meermin, Viberg, Alden, Wolverine, Red Wings, Crockett & Jones, and Common Projects.

Viberg Natural Chromexcel vs Color 8 Chromexcel
Viberg Natural CXL (structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (unstructured). Slight collapsing of the left.
Collapsed unstructured toe boxes

Shoes typically fall within one of three categories: an unstructured toe box, a partially structured toe box, and a fully structured toe box. It’s probably best to compare within a brand because of the varying lasts (mold/shape) between different brands.

Wolverine 1K Mile vs Viberg Color 8 CXL
Wolverine 1K Mile Addison (Structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (Unstructured)

 

3 footwear with unstructured toe boxes. Alden footwear is typically structured with the exception of their unlined pairs like this Alden 1493 Snuff Suede Chukka.

Structured toe boxes typically have a Celastic material, a plastic fabric that is suitable for toe puff material because it is easily shaped during construction, but inflexible once set. Imagine a ping pong ball that you squeeze, but then returns to its original shape. Other common materials used for toe puffs include leather and canvas. The material is placed between the inner lining and the outside material to help maintain its structure. The fine line between between partially structured and fully structured is the rigidity of the toe box material.

Alden Indy 403 vs Viberg Color 8 CXL
Alden Indy 403 (structured) vs Viberg Color 8 CXL (unstructured)

The recent trend towards slimmer fits in denim and boots has been quite prominent in the recent years. I myself prefer unstructured toe boxes because I tend to wear my denim with a slimmer opening. However, all toe boxes will compress over time with wear, and the major difference is just how the boots look from the side initially.  In addition, shoes with “captoes” have an additional layer of material which also may minimize the shoe creasing.

Structured on left vs unstructured on the right.

 

Wolverine 1K Mile, Alden Indy 403, Viberg Color 8 CXL
Wolverine 1K Mile Addison, Alden Indy 403, Viberg Color 8 CXL

 

3 structured toe boxes – Red Wing Iron Ranger, Viberg Black Waxed Flesh Service Boot, and Viberg Natural CXL Service Boot. Even structured toes will collapse over time.

With some companies such as Viberg, Dayton, and Truman Boot Company offering different toe types, it’s hard to make a choice.  If you have a sedentary job such as working indoors in an office, your boots may keep their structure fine over many many years. However, if you work outdoors in harsher environments, you may want a structured toe or even a steel toe. Unstructured toes tend to appear more casual than structured ones.

Wolverine, Alden, Viberg Side Profiles

 

C&J, Wolverine, Alden, Viberg Side Profiles
C&J Islay, Wolverine 1K Mile, Alden x Jcrew Captoe, Alden 403 Indy, Viberg Color 8 CXL, Viberg Brown Waxed Flesh

Some think that a structured toe leads to a “bulbous, clunky toe”. Red Wings one of the boot companies most notorious for this aesthetic has decided to produce a “Flatbox” model in FW2017 very recently (within the last few months) for the Japanese and Singapore markets.

Bulbous structured toe on Red Wing Iron Rangers compared with an unstructured Viberg Boondocker Boot.

 

Top down view of Crockett & Jones, Wolverine, Alden, Viberg

Some companies even have a relatively a slim structured toebox like the Alden Indy Boot, but regardless, everything will flatten with time. Even my Viberg Natural Chromexcel Service Boots from Mr. Porter with a partially structured toe has flattened out a bit (seen in the first picture).

Common Projects Derby Shine vs Common Projects Achilles

 

 

Top view of the Alden 1493 Snuff Suede Chukka vs Viberg Black Waxed Flesh Service Boot laying on their sides.
Top view of the Red Wing 8085 Iron Ranger vs Viberg Olive Chromepak Service Boots laying on their sides.

 

Top view of the Viberg Boondocker vs Viberg Natural CXL Service Boot laying on their sides.

 

Viberg, Alden, Wolverine, and Crockett & Jones

My advice is that you should buy footwear because you love exactly how they are, not because of what you expect to happen to them in 1, 5, or 10 years. Just wear them; the story is told later on when as the boot ages. I adore the look of all my boots as its part of the process of wearing stuff in!

Here are my shoe sizes including some not pictured that I no longer own. I recommend to measure first using a Brannock Device. The order of shoe sizes listed below is very similar to the order I purchased them in with the oldest starting from the top.

My brannock size is 9.5E

Nike Flyknit Chukka/Racer/Trainer: 10

Red Wing Beckman/Iron Ranger: 9D

Alden 403 Indy Boot (Trubalance Last): 9D

Wolverine 1K Mile Addison Boot: 9D

Common Projects Achilles and Derby Shine: Size 42

Alden x Jcrew Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot (Barrie Last): 9D

Oak Street Bootmakers Trench Boot: 9.5D

Viberg 2030 Last: 9

Viberg 2040 Last: 9

Crockett & Jones Islay (365 Last): 8.5UK

Meermin Hiro Last: 8.5UK

 

Crockett & Jones Islay, Wolverine 1K Mile Addison, Alden x Jcrew Captoe, Viberg Color 8 CXL, Viberg Brown Waxed Flesh, Meermin Mallorca Rapello Suede

Lateral view of toe boxes
Side view of toe boxes