Someone wrote to me recently asking about Laredo Tunica cowboy boots. These boots are made under the Laredo name by the company that makes Dan Post Boots, McRae Industries. (More info here). His question was, “it states “leather-like shaft”. What does that mean? Is the boot shaft 100% leather or only synthetic leather?”
Here is an example of a description of another pair of Laredo boots. I found this description on a boot/shoe aggregator/retailer’s website: Leather foot with lizard print bucklaced wingtip and a thirteen inch leather-like shaft.
What would I do if I saw this? Answer…
Seeing that, I would definitely question the quality of the boots. Anytime you see the words, “leather-like” or “leather upper” it means that the foot of the boot is made of leather, but the shaft of the boot is made from synthetic materials. Exotic “print” also means that the material looks like some exotic skin, but is synthetic (aka “plastic?”)
This phrasing occurs surreptitiously on many websites offering inexpensive boots. You may see “leather-like” or “leather upper” or “leather upper/balance man-made materials.” You may also see the term “exotic print.”
At least when you see the third statement (leather upper/balance man-made), the vendor is being honest and truthful, and is not trying to hide anything. But most vendors, particularly the boot/shoe sale aggregators, attempt to hide why the boots are so cheap — made by underpaid off-shore labor with cheap materials, bringing the vendor a much larger profit margin over retail sales of all-leather boots. I will not say who these boot/shoe sale aggregators are are because I do not want to refer business to them — but any company that offers dozens of different makes of boots is by any other term a “boot/shoe sale aggregator.
Most major boot manufacturers of today, including Dan Post, Justin, and now even Lucchese, offer lines of “entry-level” — or shall I say, “cheap” boots — so they can remain competitive on the open market. Think about it — when people are trying to find good value and are on a tight budget for discretionary products (you have to admit, boots are discretionary), they often search all over the internet for boots that cost less.
In my opinion, boots that are priced today of less than US$200 are probably both made using cheap, low-wage labor, as well as with synthetic materials.
I cannot fault boot manufacturers for offering lines of cheaply-made, low-quality boots because that is what the internet shopping masses have created — unwittingly, a demand for “cheap cheap cheap”. But I can fault buyers who do not do their homework and buy these things then become dissatisfied, angry, and upset.
The old adage is true, “you get what you pay for.”
Why do I rant about synthetic materials on boots? Because:
1. These materials do not breathe, thus the boots feel hot.
2. The synthetics are often thin, so they boots will not stand up on their own.
3. The synthetics also degrade quickly, with resulting cracking, breaking, or falling apart.
I have to differentiate a little bit, though, about boots made in Mexico. I have several pairs of boots made there, and all of them are made of good quality leather and craftsmanship. Most boot manufacturers in the U.S. have offices or plants on the Mexican border, and have boots made south-of-the-border. The boots, then, cost less to be made. Some (not all) manufacturers then make the price point lower for those boots. That is, in my opinion, okay — provided the boots are made of all leather (or a combination of true exotic skins and leather).
But I cannot recommend boots made in China or Pakistan. That is why I often point out that Frye Boots and Harley-Davidson branded boots are not worth the cost. Made with low-wage, non-union labor with inferior materials, these boots are NOT what they once were when made in the U.S.
Summary: caveat emptor. Buyer beware. An educated shopper saves up his discretionary dollars (pounds, Euro, etc.) and purchases boots made of all leather (or with true exotic skins, not exotic prints) made in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, France, Italy, and Germany.
Life is short: be a savvy, well-informed shopper.