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Should this have been caught by John Lofgren QC?

Bender

Familiar Face
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69
Just took delivery of a pair of Lofgren M43 Service Shoes 10th Anniversary in Italian veg-tan horsehide. Bought through an authorized dealer, per the Lofgren website.

The boots are beautiful, but there is a section of leather on the left boot’s inner heel area that looks a little weird to me. Basically a spot with raised lines and wrinkles. When I mess around with them with my fingernail, they feel almost like thin tubular bubbles, like very thin raised portions of the leather that have separated from the lower portion of the hide. They feel kind of like how I hear loose grain described.

Whatever they are, I’d always read that Lofgrens were supposed to have very high standards of QC, so I’m a little unsure what to think about this. Pics below… first two are of the boot in question, third is of the same area on the other boot which is pretty flawless.
 

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Edward

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If it were only cosmetic, I'd ignore it, but if the surface of the leather seems to be separating, I'd drop the dealer a line and see what's what. Hope you get it sorted.
 

Bfd70

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I had a pair of lofgren engineers where after a few weeks the right boot had no graining and the left had very loose graining on the vamp. Exclusively cosmetic but for $900. I contacted the point of purchase. They thought it looked off. They sent photos to Jon who said “i wouldn’t pay $1,000 bucks for those, send them back.” I did and got a replacement pair. The retailer sold my boots as scratch and dent seconds. If the boots were $150 i’d say roll with it. For $1,000 i think you deserve better. Great boots btw. Didn’t know they could still be found.
 

Bfd70

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I actually sent a pair of Whites back last month. Welt was trimmed very poorly. Those were “only” $650 so i guess to my previous post, 150.. maybe $200 is the cutoff
 

Bender

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I had a pair of lofgren engineers where after a few weeks the right boot had no graining and the left had very loose graining on the vamp. Exclusively cosmetic but for $900. I contacted the point of purchase. They thought it looked off. They sent photos to Jon who said “i wouldn’t pay $1,000 bucks for those, send them back.” I did and got a replacement pair. The retailer sold my boots as scratch and dent seconds. If the boots were $150 i’d say roll with it. For $1,000 i think you deserve better. Great boots btw. Didn’t know they could still be found.
How long ago was your issue? That sounds like great customer service…
 

Bender

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69
That’s awesome your issue was sorted.

Apparently things have changed in the last few years. Nobody at John Lofgren responded to my email. The dealer I bought from was able to get ahold of them… and apparently I’m out of luck.

The first response from someone at John Lofgren stated that the split in the welt was fine. I hadn’t mentioned the welt at all, but rather given the same description of the mismatched leather panel as I did in my post here. When the dealer reiterated to Lofgren customer service that I wasn’t concerned about the welt, but the piece of loose grain leather above it, the reply was:

“Judging by that picture it's absolutely not a flaw. It's the character of the leather."

Dealer said that response was from John Lofgren himself.

Since I’ve posted this thread, I googled images of this particular boot. Mine is the only image of the boot I’ve found with any mismatched panels out of the box, and the only with a wrinkled portion of leather featuring raised puffy bubble lines… every other boot features perfectly smooth leather panels, no loose grain in sight. I’m speaking of customer pics too, not just stock or dealer photos.

To me, a “character” implies something regularly occurring. A “flaw” would be an aberration or rarity. Judging from the photos of other M43 Anniversary boots, my pair appears to be the latter.

So the good news is that most people did get a perfect pair, which does speak to high quality control standards being the norm.

I’m disappointed my boots don’t adhere to that level of QC. But even more disappointed by the resolution. I’d really thought Lofgren would do the right thing. As you say, they are pricy boots. In fact, I was so sure of the level of quality control they adhered to, and anticipating an excellent customer service experience, I wore the boots a few times… I just couldn’t help myself, ha ha. I figured they’d most likely be repaired or swapped out and sold as dent-and-scratches anyway. So now I can’t even return them straight out, LOL. Guess that’s on me, I shouldn’t have assumed anything. Stupid move on my part. Well, I’m stuck with them now.

Live and learn, I guess. I just wish the lesson wasn’t so expensive.
 
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Bfd70

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Not the best. Fwiw VERY few brands put out a perfect product. If you spend a moment on wrist watch forums you’ll quickly find people pointing out imperfections in new $10,000 Rolexes. While i agree it’s frustrating try and think about the point that after 6 months of wear there is going to be so many scuffs and creases it won’t be noticeable.
 

Bender

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Not the best. Fwiw VERY few brands put out a perfect product. If you spend a moment on wrist watch forums you’ll quickly find people pointing out imperfections in new $10,000 Rolexes. While i agree it’s frustrating try and think about the point that after 6 months of wear there is going to be so many scuffs and creases it won’t be noticeable.
I hear you, and good points. Perfection is rarely possible.

Honestly, if it was just a scuff, scratch or leather that was mismatched by nature of a stain, coloring, shade or whatever, I’d probably be a little disappointed, but not overly so. Like you say, that stuff happens after a few months anyway.

However I expect these raised bubble-like wrinkles, being as thin as they are, will probably be scuffed open eventually, revealing the center of the hide. I could open them now pretty easily with my fingernail. It’ll be ugly when it happens, but with any luck, the damage will stop there, and enough of the hide will remain beneath a given bubble/wrinkle that it won’t wear all the way through or split. We’ll see.

Still a bit shocked at the outcome. Can’t believe this is really John Lofgren’s response. I mean, I guess it’s understandable. With everything going on these days, we are all a little out-of-sorts, and not at our best.
 
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Aloysius

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2,177
This is unacceptable, but the Lofgren fandom and dealers are often very drunk on the Kool Aid. Reminds me of last year when a certain dealer got a whole batch of Lofgrens in a completely different color than the customers had paid for. They didn't even offer a discount for the mixup; just said this is the nature of Japanese leather. (Absolute nonsense.)

Faulty leather is a bigger deal than just sending the wrong color. (Though I can't imagine any of the British bootmakers– or even American ones– I have ordered from, at any price point, hand wave sending the wrong color…)

I would try to reach out to Lofgren Co themselves; may as well get it from the horse's mouth. Sometimes the embarrassment of being contacted directly causes action to happen.
 

Bender

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69
This is unacceptable, but the Lofgren fandom and dealers are often very drunk on the Kool Aid. Reminds me of last year when a certain dealer got a whole batch of Lofgrens in a completely different color than the customers had paid for. They didn't even offer a discount for the mixup; just said this is the nature of Japanese leather. (Absolute nonsense.)

Faulty leather is a bigger deal than just sending the wrong color. (Though I can't imagine any of the British bootmakers– or even American ones– I have ordered from, at any price point, hand wave sending the wrong color…)

I would try to reach out to Lofgren Co themselves; may as well get it from the horse's mouth. Sometimes the embarrassment of being contacted directly causes action to happen.
I reached out to Lofgren Co directly, but didn’t get a reply.

The dealer has been excellent throughout this process- they were able to get responses from Lofgren, and, in the current absence of a solution there, today offered a steep discount… or if I choose, to even take the boots back, although I have already worn them twice. I have declined those kind offers for now, as I don’t believe this is the fault of the shop, and I don’t believe a smaller shop with smaller margins should have to bear the financial responsibility of something that is not their fault… particularly not with a close-to-$1k pair of boots. I try to support good stores.

I suppose I’m still holding out a little hope that this is all somehow a big misunderstanding, and Lofgren will end up coming through with the sterling customer service and dedication to quality control that the brand was built on. I guess we’ll see.
 

Edward

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I had a pair of lofgren engineers where after a few weeks the right boot had no graining and the left had very loose graining on the vamp. Exclusively cosmetic but for $900. I contacted the point of purchase. They thought it looked off. They sent photos to Jon who said “i wouldn’t pay $1,000 bucks for those, send them back.” I did and got a replacement pair. The retailer sold my boots as scratch and dent seconds. If the boots were $150 i’d say roll with it. For $1,000 i think you deserve better. Great boots btw. Didn’t know they could still be found.

The price paid and subsequent market expectations is definitely a factor; few 'real' A2s indeed would be considered acceptable today, now we're not looking at a churned out, mass-produced product in the hundreds of thousands, but a premium item for big money, from niche specialists... With workboots bought to be worn as such back in the day, tolerances I'm sure would have been much different to nowadays when we spend big money on these things - and often as a result baby them (I'm pointing the finger at myself here - though I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard.) End of the day, for most of us money is a finite commodity, so I don't think it unfair to expect more for our money, even as we are all aware of the law of diminishing returns. With something made from an organic compound like leather, there's always a small element of unpredictability (I've seen the same with guitars for years, among other things). There, often what we get for our money can be as much better QC with lower tolerances as better ingredients to begin with.

This is all easily said, of course: the real grey area is where we draw the line, and each of us may vary on that. Some of us (and I am very much part of this group) will pore over every single millimetre and obsess about a barely-visible flaw that others might not even notice, and all points in between the two polar elements. I have a level of sympathy with companies who have to deal with sometimes unrealistic expectations that a niche market can develop, yet at the same time there also has to be a reasonable level of stepping up and backing your product. For me, the real measure of a company is not that something goes wrong, but how they handle it when it does. There are companies who have won much repeat business from me because of how they handled a problem, while others I've simply never gone near again.
 

Aloysius

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I generally agree @Edward but “Lofgren” charges John Lobb prices for these work boots (no, they are nowhere near Lobb or Edward Green quality, but they have a chokehold on a certain Japanophile market).

Years ago I picked up a pair of boots from Tricker’s in their summer sale. There were no flaws with the upper (like above) but I did think the sole was wearing a bit quicker than it should, a few weeks in. I dropped back in, they immediately sent it back to Northampton for a resole at no expense to me.

This strategy of claiming to provide the ULTIMATE product, then hand waving mistakes as authenticity, is something that places most ‘repro’ and ‘workwear’ brands well behind traditional men’s shops or even fashion companies.
 
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jonbuilder

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Buy US-made White's Wesco Nick Boot made from CXL or better yer oil-tanned cowhide good enough for fire-rated fire fighting and you would not have such an issue. Fashion good at a price
 

Blackadder

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Buy US-made White's Wesco Nick Boot made from CXL or better yer oil-tanned cowhide good enough for fire-rated fire fighting and you would not have such an issue. Fashion good at a price
There are lots of Wesco and White's seconds with loose grain or any other defects. Those were caught before shipment or returned by customers but that is only when you purchased directly from Wesco or White's. Going through a dealer? I don't know. I ordered a brand new pair of White's custom bounty hunter in CXL about 10 years ago through the local dealer. Gave the specs and waited. When they arrived and I was very excited. Beautiful #8 color then I turned them around to look at the sole. The heels are mismatched, one considerably bigger than the other so I placed it on the floor to examine the height. Just when I was laying down doing that, I was told by the local dealer that I should take it easy (literal translation is "not to examine them like an autopsy" from a Cantonese saying) as they are hand made. As if Tricker's which he also carries are not. Then I have been told by many others that these are work boots so...... but then so are Red Wings, Thorogood or Chippewa. I own like 6-8 pairs of Red Wings, 2 pairs of Thorogood and 3 pairs of Chippewa and I have never had a pair of those with mismatched heels at least not one that can be found with a casual glance. I did not contact White's directly as many told me that is not defects. Then I looked at many other White's and agree that that is not defects but usual workmanship.
I don't wear my White's that often so I don't think it is gonna have a lasting effect on my stance or walk.
 
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jonbuilder

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There are lots of Wesco and White's seconds with loose grain or any other defects. Those were caught before shipment or returned by customers but that is only when you purchased directly from Wesco or White's. Going through a dealer? I don't know. I ordered a brand new pair of White's custom bounty hunter in CXL about 10 years ago through the local dealer. Gave the specs and waited. When they arrived and I was very excited. Beautiful #8 color then I turned them around to look at the sole. The heels are mismatched, one considerably bigger than the other so I placed it on the floor to examine the height. Just when I was laying down doing that, I was told by the local dealer that I should take it easy (literal translation is "not to examine them like an autopsy" from a Cantonese saying) as they are hand made. As if Tricker's which he also carries are not. Then I have been told by many others that these are work boots so...... but then so are Red Wings, Thorogood or Chippewa. I own like 6-8 pairs of Red Wings, 2 pairs of Thorogood and 3 pairs of Chippewa and I have never had a pair of those with mismatched heels at least not one that can be found with a casual glance. I did not contact White's directly as many told me that is not defects. Then I looked at many other White's and agree that that is not defects but usual workmanship.
I don't wear my White's that often so I don't think it is gonna have a lasting effect on my stance or walk.
Miss match heal hight does not sound good and I would think a repair is in order that not mis matched grain heal high efect the use and comfort f the boot
 

Edward

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A difference in heel height would definitely affect comfort, though on the plus side, would I think be more easily dealt with than a bad panel...
 

Blackadder

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A difference in heel height would definitely affect comfort, though on the plus side, would I think be more easily dealt with than a bad panel...
Miss match heal hight does not sound good and I would think a repair is in order that not mis matched grain heal high efect the use and comfort f the boot
True. I just want to point out that sometimes dealers can be a problem too. My fd bought a pair of White's from the same dealer. One of the stacked heels separated after a few wear. He said it wasn't due to misuse and I believe him. He went back to the dealer and the dealer did send it to a local cobbler to replace the heel. The dealer obviously accepted that the boots are defective but for reasons I would not speculate here, he did not send the them back to White's.
The unknown brand rubber heels White's use on his boots also leave marks on floor, so I would advise potential buyers to specify Quabaug heels on their orders.
 
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Bender

Familiar Face
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69
Buy US-made White's Wesco Nick Boot made from CXL or better yer oil-tanned cowhide good enough for fire-rated fire fighting and you would not have such an issue. Fashion good at a price
I have two pair of Wescos, three pairs of Whites.

I’ve been lucky in that all the Wescos and Whites I own (with the exception of one) are perfect as defined within the parameters of what they are- heavy duty, no-frills, old-school work boots. Neither Wesco nor Whites promise boot perfection nirvana, only that you will get pretty much exactly what your great-grandfather would have worn back in the day… Good quality leather with all panels (usually) matching well, and extremely robust and durable build-quality. The stitching isn’t going to be flawless, absolute symmetry between a left and right boot might not be to a thousandth of an inch, and there definitely won’t be any fancy finishing, nor will the components be sourced from a dozen different exotic locales around the globe. But that’s not the point of those boots.

By they way… that one exception noted above is a pair of Wesco Mr. Lous that I bought through the discount shop on Wesco’s site. I knew from the outset that there was a panel of mismatched leather, and the boots were marked way, way, WAY down.

I hate comparing companies, but I will say that the mismatched panel of horsehide on the discount Mr. Lou is just a different sheen and wrinkles a little bit more than the other. Those wrinkles cannot be manipulated with a fingernail, they have not separated from the hide beneath them like the problem area on my Lofgrens. It’s a little weird that Wesco, who unapologetically sells rough and rugged work boots, would consider an aesthetically displeasing but structurally-sound panel unacceptable for retail sale, while if we take things on the face of it, John Lofgren Co’s belief is that a potentially structurally unsound panel is just in keeping with the character of the leather.

But again, I’m trying not to take things on the face of it. I’m still holding out hope that this is some massive misunderstanding. I don’t want to bash Lofgren Co. Everything I’ve heard and read is that their construction is done with an incredible eye for detail, and they produce beautiful boots… I mean, after I posted this thread I had the bright idea to google images of my boots, just for comparison’s sake, and every other photo I’ve seen -stock pics and customer shots- has been of flawless boots with perfectly matching panels. Furthermore, everything I’ve heard and read about their customer service is that when there is a rare problem, they take care of things.

There is a long-running and recently reinvigorated pandemic on. Everybody is overworked. There are a plethora of innocent reasons why my boots could have slipped by QC, why my direct emails have thus far been unanswered, and why the dealer received the replies they did. For instance, I included a comparison pic of my other boot, which is flawless… maybe John Lofgren was accidentally shown that, and he thought I was talking about the leather’s (beautiful) slightly mottled natural dye finish, or something. Their first response to the dealer addressed what they thought was my concern over the welt, after all... this could all turn out to be a game of telephone, fueled by pandemic exhaustion. Who knows.

So while I’m not exactly thrilled to spend a considerable amount of money and have things as they are right now, I’m still giving Lofgren Co the benefit of the doubt, and hoping for a decent resolution. I guess we’ll see how it plays out.
 
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