Every now-and-then, someone writes to me to ask, “I can’t seem to squeeze on standard patrol boots. What companies offer boots that will fit me?” Some have also asked, “do you know any manufacturer of tall patrol boots that have a zipper in them?” Some men prefer or want a zipper so that the boots are easier for them to pull on or remove. It’s darn hard sometimes to get tall boots to fit beefy legs. Most patrol boots come with one standard calf circumference (width), so from their perspective, you can either buy them as made and try to squeeze them on, or forget about it.
Boot manufacturers have strong concerns about zippers on backstays of boots, so I thought I would share their views as I have heard them, and address the overall question about patrol boot sizing.
Tall patrol boots are made to be worn over breeches. While there are times I have worn tall patrol boots with regular dress pants that I wear to work in my office, I know that is not how the boots are designed to be worn. Tall patrol boots are meant to be seen — the entire gleaming shaft rising up from the commanding style of the foot. Nothing says “motorcop” more than that style, which is admired by cops and non-cops, like me, around the world.
Well-made cloth breeches can require about 1/4-inch (0.64cm) to 1/2-inch (1.3cm) more calf circumference in a boot beyond the circumference of the leg. Leather breeches worn by some “leathermen” (and old leather-lovin’ dudes like me) may require even more room in the calf, up to 3/4-inch (1.9cm) because leather is thicker than cloth. That is why it is always recommended to measure your legs for patrol boots while wearing the breeches you will wear with the boots, so the full circumference including breeches is measured.
Sometimes “stock” calf circumference of patrol boots can be too small to accommodate a muscular (or “beefy”) leg and breeches. Some men, therefore, look for ways to deal with that. Some major commercial patrol boot manufacturers offer these methods to accommodate this concern:
1. Make boots made custom-to-measure. Major patrol boot manufacturers such as All American and Dehner Boots offer that service — of course with a steep up-charge for custom boots which can easily double the cost over stock, off-the-shelf boots.
2. Provide varying calf circumferences based on foot size — the larger and wider the foot, the wider the calf circumference. Dehner boots seems to be the only major patrol boot manufacturer that does this with public knowledge.
3. Chippewa “Hi-Shine” engineer boots also have a wider calf circumference (about 3/4-inch–1.9cm) for boots that come in the “EE” (wide) foot width, but they do not make that known publicly. I found that out myself by trial. If you like the style of Chippewa Hi-Shine boots but the circumference on D-width boots is tight for you, try ordering them in one-half size smaller foot but EE width. This works for me!
4. Provide a “1-inch wider” option for stock patrol boots. Dehner boots and Intapol boots offer this option, which for me has accommodated my personal needs. (See the Dehner boot sizing chart linked in #2 above.)
If none of these options work, some men have considered buying boots with a zipper in the backstay, or having a zipper added by a cobbler. A zipper can provide a means for a guy with wider calfs to be able to wear tall patrol boots.
When I have had the pleasure to meet and speak with Jeff Ketzler, current head of the Dehner Boot Company, and also with the owner of Kroops Boots (nearby where I live), both have strongly advised NOT to have zippers added to the backstays of boots. Why?
Their primary concern is that a zipper significantly reduces the integrity of the boot. The boot becomes less stable and more likely to break the zipper during regular wear. Zippers made of metal can oxidize. Zippers made of plastic can break quickly.
That does not stop some men from buying boots with zippers in them or having zippers installed. If installed correctly by a competent cobbler, the boot circumference can be widened by approximately 1/2-inch (0.63cm). Between the two — a zipper and calf-widening — a guy whose legs have gotten wider as he has aged (and, of course, become more muscular [wink]), can get a few more years of life out of an old pair of boots.
Do I recommend adding a zipper? Well, I have done it for the expressed purpose stated here — to get more life out of an old pair of boots. However, I do not recommend doing that on boots that will be worn for duty where boots are “worn hard”. That is, boots worn while operating a heavyweight motorcycle must have all the structural integrity available because of the frequent foot-up/down movements when operating a motorcycle.
I hope this information has helped educate you about patrol boots and sizing options, as well as whether or not to get boots with a zipper or to have a zipper installed.
For more information on how to measure the fit of patrol boots, see this past post on this blog.
Life is short: know your patrol boots and boot options.