Wesco Boots

My Wesco Boots “On” the Bean at Millenium Park

The West Coast Shoe Company, aka Wesco, has been making boots since 1918. Their boots are recognized and know the world over for their rugged design and construction that provides long-lasting — more than a lifetime — of wear. Go ahead, abuse the hell out of these boots. They can take it. Built tough for harsh environments like wildland firefighting (where they got their start) to being worn while riding a motorcycle.

These tough boots are the supreme in the industry, top-of-the-line, with prices commensurate with their quality and USA-handmade construction.

Yes, I have owned and worn Wesco boots for many years. Here are a thing or two I have learned about them…

…these thoughts follow a question that I recently received from a guy in Australia who was preparing to order his first pair of Wescos.

1. Style: personal preference whether you like engineer style (Wesco calls that style “the Boss”); harness boots, which are known for a square toe and the decorative, non-functional, harness straps around the ankle; motor patrol; lace-up boots like the Jobmaster, Firestormer, or Timber styles; or linesman boots like the “voltfoe.” For a biker like me, I prefer boots without laces that can come untied and interfere with safe motorcycle operation. Plus, engineer and harness styles of boots compose 95% of the styles worn by bikers. (Motor patrol boots notwithstanding.)

2. Toe: engineer boots come with a round toe. The older Wesco boots had a “bump” toe while Wesco now offers a choice of either the bump toe or a regular toe. I suggest if you plan to wear these boots while operating a motorcycle to get the regular toe. The bump toe may present a problem with fitting between the peg or floorboard and the shift lever, depending on the space available. Even if your bike has room enough today, your next bike may not. So boots with a regular toe are better for bikers, in my opinion.

3. Height: If you like tall boots, choose them so they come up to, but not at, the height of your knees. I have several pairs of Wesco boots at 18 inches, which for me (a relatively short man), come up right behind my knees. Boot height should not interfere with your ability to bend your knee, or come up so high as to rub behind the knee and cause bleeding sores. (Ask me why I returned 20-inch tall boots… my knees took six weeks to heal completely from the damage caused by wearing boots of that height for only one hour!).

4. Crotch-High? If you’re really into ultra-tall boots, Wesco can make them crotch-high. I had a pair of crotch-high Wesco boots once. They made for interesting observations when worn to a leather bar, but they were completely useless — and dangerous — to try to wear when operating a motorcycle. The leather is thick and stiff, as well as a boot of that size is extremely heavy. The boot interfered with my ability to operate my motorcycle safely because I could not bend my knees or move my legs quickly enough for safe or evasive maneuvers on the motorcycle. My advice: buy three pairs of regular-height Wescos for the price of crotch-high but practically useless boots.

5. Sagging: Do Wesco boots sag after they are broken in? Yes, a little bit, but only a little. Don’t think as I did that 20-inch boots will sag two inches. They don’t — more like one inch (for leather-lined boots.) And as noted above, wearing boots that rub the back of the knee when they are new to break them in can cause injury. Honestly, just get boots a little shorter to avoid this problem. No one will really notice whether you are wearing boots that are 18- or 20-inches high. They’ll just see tall boots. Period.

6. Straps at ankle and top: Wesco offers strapless, one-, two-, or three- straps for the boot tops. How many straps you want is purely up to you. For functionality, you need one strap for adjustment above the calf muscle, and to hold your pants or breeches in them. More than one strap is superfluous, but if you like that look, go ahead and get what you want (for the price, extra straps provide no added value.)

7. Length of straps: Wesco offers to make boot straps longer than the usual one-inch-beyond the buckle. Do you need longer straps? No. Why get them? For personal preference if you like the style and to have boots that will attract attention. But from a biker’s perspective, I don’t like straps longer than standard because I don’t like to have anything flapping in the wind and potentially get caught on something like a saddlebag. (Another story — this klutz actually got a Wesco boot strap stuck on a leather saddle bag. When he tried to walk away, the boot was stuck to the bag and made him fall when it broke loose. No injury, but my riding buddies sure had a good laugh.)

8. Sole: Wesco offers many different sole choices. To cut through the clutter, I recommend either of two soles — the Vibram 430, which is a “mini-lug” sole. This sole is flexible and easy to walk with, yet provides very good traction on wet surfaces. An alternate sole choice is the Vibram 100F “big lug” sole. A boot with these soles is like having snow tires on your feet. They provide ultimate traction; however, they also are not that flexible so they can be uncomfortable to wear if you have to walk a lot while wearing them. Both the Vibram 430 and 100F soles are non-marking. Spouses who worry about tile and hardwood floors prefer that (giggle!)

9. Added mid-sole: Wesco offers to build up the sole by adding a mid-sole. My recommendation is NOT to get this feature. Why? An added mid-sole makes the foot much less flexible and stiff. Thus the boots are much harder to walk or stand. The boots feel quite uncomfortable in a short while. And all for 1/4″ of added height? Not worth it….

10. Leather lining: this feature is highly, highly recommended. A leather-lined boot actually is more comfortable than an unlined boot. It also breathes better for reasons that I cannot explain. What color? No one other than you will ever see the inside of your boots (in most cases, ahem 🙂 ) so a color other than standard beige or black isn’t worth the extra cost.

11. Thread color: other than making sure that you get Kevlar thread for ultimate strength and durability, the color of thread visible in the boot’s construction is purely a personal choice. I choose white for the soles the same color as the boot exterior for the remainder — that is, black thread for black boots, brown thread for brown boots, etc.

12. Color: man, Wesco offers more choices of exterior leather color than ever. Used to be only black, like a Model A Ford. But in the mid 2000s, they began offering brown and redwood, which was welcome by the Men’s Boot-wearing World. Now you can get other colors like burgundy, olive, navy, slate, burlap, and even “vegetable” (whatever that is.) Get what you want; it really doesn’t matter. However, the more ostentatious your boots are, there may be times that you may choose not to wear them because you do not want to have your boots be the center of attention. (Not always.)

13. Sizing: I have found that standard Wesco boots run true-to-size for U.S. measurements for both the length and width. However, consider this: these boots will last well beyond your lifetime. If you want to wear these boots for decades, then you have to consider that your body will change as you age. Your feet will spread as arches fall. Your calf muscles will lose tone. You may gain weight or have some leg swelling due to circulatory issues that happen as you age. My recommendation is to get boots 1/2 to a full size longer (i.e., if you wear a 10, get a 10.5), and one increment wider (i.e., if you wear a D, get an E.) The boots at first will feel big on your feet, but you can always add padded insoles and wear thick socks. As you age and your feet spread, you can remove the insoles and still be able to wear the boots comfortably.

14. Purchase location: I still believe that you will get better value by ordering boots through Big Black Boots than from the factory directly. You get much better personal service and attention, as well as some savings, by going through the professional and knowledgeable guys who run Big Black Boots.

The information above reflects my personal opinions from my own experience. Yours may be different.

Life is short: wear boots!

PS: I no longer can wear Wesco boots because as noted in #13, my body has changed and my Wescos no longer fit me well and have become uncomfortable.