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Urban Shepherd is a company that specializes in handcrafted Portuguese boots, the types of boots that are modeled after the footwear worn by the Portuguese working class a hundred years ago: stonemasons, farmers, shepherds, and so on.
Designed by Portugal native Tiago Maximo, they're made at a small, fifth generation, family-owned workshop in Benedita, Portugal. Here's what they're like.
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* Natural calfskin
* 5.5 inches tall
* Bright red stitching
* Unusual oblong toe
* Based on traditional Portuguese boots
These aren't like any American boots I've seen before, and not just because of the super waxy calfskin. The real standout featured here are the fluorescent red stitching and the unusual, angular toe. It's not sleek, it's not blocky, it's kind of oblong.
I didn't know what to make of it at first, but the more I wore it, the happier I was with it: it's a new kind of casual boot. Don't even think about wearing it with a suit or even business casual.
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* Chrome tanned natural calfskin
* Comes from Alcanena, Portugal
* Waxed with Probtim
* For an extra $150, they can be "fire aged"
Urban Shepherd picked calfskin because it's a bit more pliable than cowhide, but it still has a lot of firmness and tensile strength. Since it's natural (undyed) it shows dirt pretty easily, but it will still develop a nice patina as it ages.
An interesting tidbit is that the business owner will take a BLOWTORCH to your shoes to age them, if you like. Inspired by the fact that shepherds used to dry their boots off inside their furnace, "fire aging" your Urban Shepherds will make them look old and beat up. That's what most people *want* from their boots, and fire aging will get you there a few years faster, for an extra cost.
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The facility that makes the leather also makes the only conditioner recommended for it: Probtim, a colorless, waxy conditioner that you should apply every three to six months to keep the leather from cracking, to maintain the water resistance, and to deepen the color.
* Very soft, not super durable Vibram outsole
* Leather midsole and insole
* Cork filling
* 360-degree Goodyear welt
The outsole is crazy soft and quiet, which is rare for a boot like this, but it makes for great shock absorption. It's not super durable, though, and I lost part of the heel and toe of these boots during my three week wear in. Not a big deal — there are no holes or anything — it's just a natural consequence of a sole being so delightfully soft.
There's also cork, a shank, and a 360-degree Goodyear welt to help with water resistance.
FIT & COMFORT
* Size up at least one full size
* Takes a few weeks to get comfortable
Unlike almost every boot company, Urban Shepherd makes you size UP. I'm an 11.5 on a Brannock device and they told me to get a size 13. That's the biggest size they make!
If your true size is a 12 they'd tell you to get a 13 too, but they don't do half sizes so, alas. So the issues here are:
- You have to size up
- There are no half sizes
- There are no other widths
- If your shoe is bigger than a size 12, you're out of luck
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The price changes a lot. It's usually $260, but sometimes it's $190. And even when it's that cheap, you can use this discount for $50 off!!!!
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* Under $300 is pretty good for Goodyear welted boots
* Unique aesthetic
* Lightweight, quiet, comfortable
* Not everyone likes how unusual they are
* No half sizes or other widths
* Outsole isn't super durable
* Very casual