/5 FIRST IMPRESSIONS My main first impression was sadly annoyance. The boots mostly looked great, but the leather of the shaft of the left hand boot had some huge ugly wrinkles on it. I’d seen any number of pairs of Wesco’s on their seconds and discounted page that had been rejected by QC for leather flaws and mis-matches far less gratuitous than this. How an expensive pair of custom sized boots could be made with such an obviously substandard piece of leather on one shaft was beyond me. How it could get past QC and expensively exported to a returning customer buying his second $1000+ pair of custom fitted boots was even less comprehensible. I must say after a four month wait at nearly $1000 this killed my new boot excitement stone dead. I thought long and hard about just returning them. Unlike buckles this couldn’t just be swapped out. And such poor QC or cynical penny pinching really needs rebutting just on principle. But in the end the thought of all the hassle the waiting all over again for a new pair outweighed my annoyance and I decided to live with it. They get worn under jeans and as the shafts break in and get creases and grain showing I hoped the defects would blend in more anyway. As if that wasn’t enough, there was another gratuitous flaw with the boots: the upper stitching was meant to be black as per the standard spec, but for some reason this pair had the upper stitching in white! Luckily, although it’s not what I ordered, I actually loved this. It looks much better than black and really makes the vintage style stitching pattern on this design pop. If I’d thought to order white stitching, it it would have been an up charge. So I guess you lose some, you win some... So I did my best to get over and look past the wrinkly leather issue and enjoy the boots. THE GOOD The overall elegant look of the boots with the stovepipe shafts and the MP toe really hits the mark for the smarter/dressier look I was going for with this pair. The practical, grippy but much less chunky sole and single midsole really work too, matching the lower profile of the MP toe. The classy vibe is accentuated by the (inadvertent, but lovely) white upper stitching, especially in this vintage triple stitch lines. It really adds something to the boots and looks great. Needless to say, the custom nickel plated brass vintage style roller buckles are a highlight. So perfect I even subsequently ordered a set from IH to put on my other boots when I find a cobbler I can trust. Likewise my other disappointment on the first pair - the strap leather - was perfect on the new pair. They had a stiff bridle hide type feel to them as I’d expected (but not got) with the first pair. Maybe this is just the benefit of the waxy domain leather which (wrinkled shaft on one boot aside) is really lovely. I love the characterful rich dark brown colour (though one day I’ll have to get a burgundy pair also as I’m sure that is also wonderful). I’ve seen Wesco’s domain leather praised and I can see why... Whilst talking about the leather, I totally love the buckskin lining. It really works and I like it even more than the tobacco one I got in my first pair. Adding a leather lining is one of the more expensive options. But it’s so worth it I can’t see myself ordering boots without it and I think the buckskin colour is a fantastic choice. THE NOT SO GOOD The natural sole and heel edges are very nice and again add a classy touch. But they are completely untreated/unsealed so get rapidly dirty in use. Eventually I got some Saphir natural coloured rénovateur edge dressing to try to smarten them up/seal them, but my execution was not the best. I should really redo it sometime with (hopefully) neater and better results, but i just never seem to get round to it. If I had my time again I’d seal the edges with something clear like sole guard as soon as I get them before they can get dirty, or get them dyed at Wesco.. Whilst the shafts were straight up stovepipes, as I wanted, they were still a bit flappy at the top. This is because these boots are shorter, so they don’t come up to and hug the fattest part of my calves like the taller first pair, so they are looser at the top. They fit under jeans fine just like my first pair, but I’m not really a fan of the gap at the top. So I normally wear them with the top strap one tighter than neutral which helps. Actually, thinking about it, this is probably more about my unrealistic expectations than anything. I don’t think they could go much narrower as clearly shafts need to be wide enough at the bottom to get your foot in the boot and clearly shafts can’t have inverse taper. So this issue is probably unavoidable given the lower shaft height I went for. The workmanship is a bit neater on these than the first pair. Maybe they took more care because the special stitching is more of a feature, or maybe thinner leather makes life easier. Or perhaps I was just luckier with this pair. But it’s still a bit workmanlike in places... not an issue for me, but if you expect perfect aesthetic execution, I’m not sure Wesco is for you. Lastly, as per the first pair, the triangle of leather covering the top strap adjustment gap could be wider, though as I have the straps set tighter than neutral it’s less of an issue on this pair. THE BEYOND THE PALE The hugely mismatched and wrinkled leather on the LH boot shaft, which nearly (and probably should have) got these boots returned for a re-make. Even with my forgiving approach to function over form and expectation of workmanlike execution, this feels like a p*ss-take. However, sometimes in life it’s best to take a deep breath and let things go. If you can’t do that (and with $1000 boots who could blame you ?), once again I must caution you Wesco may not be the maker for you... THE FIT AND THE BREAK IN Overall once again they did a really good job, vindicating me getting custom fit (the whole reason I first went for Wesco’s). Whether it was the different leather, the different toe and last or just them tightening the heel cup a little (at my request) from the first pair, the break in was actually tougher, despite a single midsole and lower profile sole. As usual I used plenty of bee oil and took a wear them little and often, building up gradually, approach to break in. But they did not yield easily, even compared to the tank like first pair. But once done, they became a lovely comfortable but snug fit boot with very little heel lift. A (hard fought!) win! The top of the shafts as noted were a bit looser as they came up lower on my legs. This did mean some flapping and rubbing, which got easier as the interface between the shaft and counter/vamp broke in and easier still as the sole broke in. The rolled top from the beautiful leather lining helped. As did wearing socks taller than the boots during break in. It’s not a problem now, though I do tend to wear the top strap tightened one past neutral as I prefer the look. The toe looks elegant, but it’s not as comfy as the super comfy boss bump toe in my experience. It feels more like a high end shoe toe than a boot toe, being lower and a bit more pointed. So I found there was a bit of toe rubbing during break in, unlike with the bump toe which was super comfy from the start. But it did settle down fairly quickly over time. Not a major issue and worth it for the different look. The heel cup had been a tad loose for my taste on the first pair, so I asked for a slightly tighter one for this pair. They nailed it, it was perfect, snug but not uncomfortable from the start and staying that way. It definitely helped reduce heel slip even before the sole started to break in. However, the instep was also snug and in this case a little uncomfortably so. I could get the boots on and off OK, albeit it was trickier than the first pair had been, and I knew this would ease up over time anyway. But once on the instep was pretty firm. This was the part that gave me most concern/discomfort during break in. Occasionally I’d have to take a break from break-in as the boots were winning and breaking my instep in! Anyway, the boots took their own sweet time to give up the fight, but we got there in the end and on the plus side the snug instep helps with reducing heel lift. Thankfully these boots have a single mid-sole and a thinner sole, so that at least worked in my favour for the break-in. I was glad given the rest of the break in was harder than expected. So overall it took a while to break in but they are a great fit with very minimal heel lift and all day multiple mile comfort. Whilst it was a surprisingly harder break-in than the tank-like first pair of Wesco’s, it was still easier than my made in England Dr Martens, so eminently do-able. And in the end I do really love them, the break in and creases have made the wrinkled leather on the LH boot shaft less obvious, and the rest was great from the start. The killer question is: would I buy Wesco’s again? The short answer is yes, not least given my need for custom fitting and their success getting that right. I’ve been tempted to get another pair of Wesco’s - natural leather, English tan, burgundy and horsehide nail down boots have all caught my eye... And I also quite like the idea of a square toe pair too (though I’m not a fan or harness straps). But for now I enjoy my current two pairs (and my 3 pairs of Dr Martens) with is frankly already plenty of boot choices! OK for anyone who is not yet asleep/dead of boredom here, finally, are the promised pictures... please note I don’t baby my boots, they’re engineers. They get plenty of bee oil/bee seal during break in then after that it’s just a case of brushing off any dirt/wiping down with damp cloth as needs be. Maybe once a year I’ll give them a light top up coat of bee oil then bee seal plus. I could polish them up (especially the brown domain’s wax leather ) but I love the contrast stitching and prefer to let them evolve.