In Defense of the Alden Indy: A Response to Rose Anvil
Over the several years I’ve been writing reviews and buying guides, I’ve received plenty of outreach (I love it, by the way, keep it coming!). However, over this weekend, I’ve received outreach like I never have before. Emails, comments, Instagram DMs. Coming in fast.
Why all the hubbub? Rose Anvil, a youtube channel famous for cutting boots and sneakers in half, posted their review of the Alden Indy, a pair I’ve reviewed several times on this site.
His review, titled “Why the Indiana Jones boot is stupidly overpriced” was, as you can guess by the title, very negative. The conclusion that Weston came to was quite different than my own, and people wanted to either get my thoughts, or to just tell me my review was wrong and to remove it.
I felt that, rather than answering each person individually, it may make sense to gather my personal thoughts here, and maybe provide some insight into those who are researching this boot.
The Problem with the Review
The hammer and screwdriver analogy is one that is quite famous. While there are countless variants, they all boil down to the same thing: evaluating a screwdriver based on how well it hammers in a nail doesn’t mean the screwdriver is bad at its job. Rather, it says you don’t understand how the tool is designed to work.
Watching this review of the Alden Indy, I couldn’t help but feeling that Rose Anvil was measuring how deep the Alden Indy Screwdriver could send a nail.
The variety of shoes is kind of amazing. For what is a fairly basic concept – keeping your feet dry – shoes have evolved into solving a variety of issues. They can help us run faster, they can protect us from dropped steel, and they can even make a short guy taller.
Perhaps more important for this piece though, they can be made to fight fires and fell trees, and they can be made to impress friends and clients in a business-like/urban environment. However, it’s extremely unlikely that they can do both. What makes a boot good at one, makes it almost inherently worse at another. In many ways it’s a zero-sum game.
The Alden Indy is a Dress Boot
Despite its origins as a workman’s boot, Alden has not marketed or built the Indy for people doing hard labor for a long, long time. The Indy is a boot for business professionals to wear on casual Friday, or on the weekends. It’s far more at home on the 13th floor of an office building than on a trail.
This means that Alden doesn’t want to compete with the likes of White’s, Nicks, JK Boots, or Wesco. No, their attention is making sure they compare favorably with boots like the Allen Edmonds Higgins Mill, the Carmina Soller, or the Crockett and Jones Galway. In other words, it’s better to think of an Indy as a dress shoe with a bit of leather at the top so it works in a more casual space.
What is important for a boot in this category is entirely different than a boot in the “workboot” range. It also means that the corners which are cut – and unless your boot is more than $2,000 you ARE cutting corners somewhere – are going to be different in order to meet the wants of your consumer.
However, before we get into what the Alden Indys do better, let’s touch on some points of the Rose Anvil Review.
Rose Anvil’s Concern with the Alden Indy
Review Timestamp: 4:17
In this section of the review, Weston’s big gripe is that the leather has a heavy pigment coat. More specifically, he notes that the leather won’t develop “highlights, contrast, and depth of color.” Weston says this as if nobody would possibly disagree that is the goal of any boot. The problem is that, for a lot of people, having a heavy patina on boots is exactly what they are trying to avoid.
To put it another way, we’re all familiar with Andrew Chen’s famous Vibergs. They are a visual dream for kicking around a campsite with your friends. However, if you’re grabbing drinks with a potential client to try and sell them on a large deal, that isn’t a great look.
That heavy pigmentation means that, even years down the line, the Indy can look presentable and take a shine. It’s designed to prevent high contrast. It offers something between the formality of a proper dress shoe and a beat-up pair of work boots.
To be fair, if you take a knife to it and cut through, you’ll see natural leather tones. Nothing about what Rose Anvil did was staged, but that’s true of any form of smooth leather. A hand-made shoe from a Saville Row-based maker will do the same.
All that aside, the Alden Indy comes in a variety of leather options. Rose Anvil chose the one specifically designed to not develop a patina. If you want something that does, the world is your oyster: Chromexcel? Arabica Lux? Suede? Shell? All of these are available on the Indy if you want a more worn-in look.
Review Timestamp: 7:39
At this chapter of the review, Rose Anvil points out that the midsole (and later the heel cap and heel lifts) is made of what is known as leatherboard. To give him credit, unlike others who refer to this as paper, Weston does describe it as what it is.
To be clear, a true leather midsole is superior in every way to leatherboard other than cost. In a perfect world, the Indy would have it. In the world of workwear, where your boots might see fires, flooding, and more, the leather will be noticeably longer in life.
It’s important to remember, though, that the Indy isn’t a firefighting boot. If leatherboard is something that isn’t acceptable to you, here is a partial list of brands you need to cross off your list: Carmina, Crockett & Jones, Cobbler Union, R.M. Williams, Vass, and more. White’s uses it on some of their boots. Hell, even Edward Green and John Lobb use it! In the world of dress-focused footwear, leatherboard is the rule, not the exception.
The reality is that, for the average person, leatherboard will do a perfectly fine job. Further, because it can be molded into a variety of shapes, leatherboard heel counters do a better job with shapely lasts.
When it comes to the outsole, this is an area where opinion is being presented as fact.
First, as someone who has worn through the outsole of an Indy, I’ve never slipped in one. From 2′ snow storms, to hurricanes, and everything in between, these soles have done as well as anything without a lug. I’m not sure where he gets “hydroplaning out of control.” This is just outright wrong. Though, it looks like the pair he has were only worn a day or two, so it’s likely this was just a misunderstanding.
More importantly, as he mentions himself, the sole offers the visual thickness of a leather sole, with slightly more grip. Claiming that it doesn’t have the same grip of something like a Vibram 100 is missing the point entirely. There is a reason why leather soles are still the norm on most dress-focused shoes. Some people just want a slimmer profile. The cork nitrile offers a thinner look, without the drawbacks of leather.
Further, like the above, if cork nitrile isn’t for you, the Indy comes in a lugged form, a crepe form, or even leather if that’s your preference.
What Rose Anvil Missed
OK, so far it seems like I’ve been making excuses for a lot of these. Sure, you can justify using the cheaper materials, but why does Alden still charge $600 for these boots? Shouldn’t these cheaper materials mean they should be cheaper than the brands he mentions?
For the purpose of this section, I’m going to be comparing the Alden to a few of my Pacific North West Boots. The Alden’s and my White’s 350 Cruisers are two of my most worn boots in my collection. I adore them both, so don’t take this as me attacking White’s. Rather, showing that both brands needed to cut corners, even at this price point.
Stitches per Inch
Stitches per inch, often referred to as SPI, is exactly what it sounds like: how many stitches are there over an inch. When building a boot, a higher stitch density takes additional time, and additional training. Most people see it as a sign of finer craftsmanship, even if it doesn’t have a major impact on durability.
Speaking only on the upper – we’ll get to the construction later – the White’s and the Alden’s are simply in different leagues. Where the White’s has a SPI of around 7, the Alden’s is much tighter at around 12. The Alden’s are also much more consistent, with even SPI throughout the boot.
This takes time, effort, and leads to more wasted pairs that end up trashed or sold as seconds. In other words, it increases the price.
If the stitching on the upper is different, the stitching holding the outsole onto the boot is an ocean apart. The stitching that holds the Alden’s welt to the outsole is almost eerily even. Other than a few smaller stitches at the very ends of the welt, all the stitches are within 1.5 mm of one another across both boots. If I didn’t know for a fact these were Goodyear Welted, I could be convinced the welt was fake.
The White’s are… not. The stitching on the White’s welt ranges from around 4.1 mm all the way to 1.2 cm in length, and you can find everything in between. The stitches get larger and smaller as they go, and each stitch line stops at a different point.
While none of these will impact the longevity of the boot, getting the stitching that even again takes time, training, and adds to the cost.
On the Alden Indy, the cuts on all the leather are basically perfect. To clarify, when I mean cuts, I don’t mean clicking, but the actual shape of the leather – how far the end of the quarter is to the welt, how far it is from the center of the back of the boot to the first eyelet, etc.
In other words, on the Indys, the boots are essentially symmetrical.
The White’s? Well… they are not. Panels are slightly mis-aligned, the pull loops are slightly different sized, etc. Nothing like my first pair of Truman, but noticeable enough that it makes them less appropriate in a business setting.
Much like the others, these slight mis-alignments do nothing to impact the wearability of the boots. These are not lasted at an angle or anything like that. At the same time, slowing down and making sure everything is lined up (plus tossing out the slight misalignments), again, takes time, training, and cost.
Without going into the debate about which is better, stitchdown or Goodyear welt, there is no debate that Goodyear welting a shoe is more expensive to make. Moving away from White’s for a bit, which has an even more labor-intensive construction method but a higher price than the Indys, the other boots Rose Anvil compared them to were traditional stitchdown.
Sitchdown definitely has tough look to it, and I own plenty of stitchdown boots, but at it’s core it is a fairly simple method of construction. A Goodyear welt takes more material and more time to do. Again, more cost to make the boot that isn’t accounted for in the brands he compares them with.
Should You Write Off the Alden Indy?
Look, I won’t fault you for saying you don’t care about SPI or panel alignment. Saying that they don’t impact the use of the boot is 100% accurate. Further, other than the thing about cork soles hydroplaning out of control, nothing Rose Anvil said is inaccurate. The leather won’t patina, the leatherboard will crack if exposed to elements for an extended period, and the cork nitrile outsole won’t grip the way a lugged Vibram will. If you want a boot to go hiking, put out fires, etc. (or a boot that looks like you want to do that), the Alden Indy isn’t the right one for you.
I personally own White’s, Nicks, and more specifically because I do want something to wear during those times.
However, I would never wear my White’s or Nicks to the office. They just were not built for that. To judge them for their ability to work with pressed chinos or a sport coat is as pointless as it is unfair to the brands.
When building the Indy, Alden decided to redirect funds that would be spent on making the Indy a better outdoorsy boot, and making it a better dress boot. Save $15 on an insole, and spend it on cleaning stitching, that kind of stuff. For many people, that is a trade off that is entirely worth making.
Ultimately, if you wanted the Alden Indy to be a workboot or hiking boot, Rose Anvil’s video may help point you in another direction. However, if you wanted an Alden Indy to do what an Alden Indy was made to do, nothing in that video should change your mind.