Initial Impressions, Stitched Footwear, Viberg

Viberg Service Boots in Workshoe Butt: All Hype?

Highlights:

  • Price: $700 [Sold Out]
  • Pros: Great Materials, Great Design
  • Cons: Fits even larger than normal, price isn’t for the faint of heart

Specs:

ColorTan
Height6″
Size12 E
Weight973 g / 2.1 lb (each)
MaterialsHorsehide “Workshoe Butt” Upper / Vibram miniripple
ConstructionStitchdown

Contents:


History:

Viberg Horsehide
Viberg X Huckberry Horsebutt Service Boots

Viberg Service Boots almost need no introduction. After breaking onto the scene during the Americana/workwear craze around 10 years ago, they have been the yardstick that many others are graded on. Since that time, countless others from the pacific northwest have followed suit. White’s, Nick’s, and others owe much of their recent success to Viberg.

While often compared with boots that have been around for ages, the Viberg Service Boot is actually a fairly recent addition to their lineup. It wasn’t until around 2008 that Viberg switched from classic pacific northwest styles – big chunky heels, packer toes, etc. – to the more contemporary cut.

Really, the history of this boot deserves more than a few paragraphs. I suggest checking out the sitchdown history here.

This particular make up is really an outgrowth of just how popular the service boot had gotten. Buyers were bored with brown chromexcel and dainite soles. Viberg started to look into materials such as horse leather, ripple soles, brighter colors – and that is how this Huckberry collab was born.


Looks:

Upper:

Workshoe butt leather
Tan, slightly loose, leather

The first thing you notice about these particular Viberg service boots when you pull them out of the box is the mid-tan colored upper. It’s eye catching, but not so loud that it’s obnoxious. It’s the perfect color for someone who already has a pair of brown boots and black boots, and wants something that stands out.

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The stitching on the upper is mostly clean overall. With no toe cap, the only real stitches are the triple stitching along the vamp, and the double stitching around the heel counter. Unfortunately, there were a few loose threads here and there – particularly where the tongue meets the toe. Both boots had several loose threads here, some as much as an inch long. While these are easy to cut or burn away yourself, for a boot priced at this amount it’s worth noting.

When it comes to detailing, these boots feature a pull tap on the back, though small enough I’m not sure an adult man would be able to use them. Viberg also used their typical tongue design which sticks out just slightly higher than the rest of the shoe. The eyelets are a matte brass, fading into the rest of the boot.

Inside, the shoe is unlined on the shaft and lined up front. You can see the Horween stamp – more on that later – which is always a favorite of mine on unlined shoes.

There are two real drawbacks I did notice with these boots. First, and I’m guessing this is due to the material, the back of the shoe is almost straight up and down. One of the biggest draws to the service boot for me is the curve of the heel counter. Something these simply don’t have. Further, after just a single try on, the leather started to develop a loose-grain like look on both boots. I worry this might not age very well.

Mid- and Outsole:

Viberg Stitchdown
Clean Stitching on the Stitchdown Toe

Starting on the midsole, these Viberg service boots feature almost entirely clean stitching along the toe. A few years ago Viberg let their production quality go downhill on their stitchdown boots, but that isn’t the case anymore. Around the toe the stitching is even and tight. The only real issue is on the back of the left boot the stitching does go off center slightly on the midsole, but it’s a fairly minor complaint.

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Speaking of that midsole, it is a full length leather midsole running the entire length of the boot. It’s just slightly lighter than the upper, and gives a really appealing contrast. Below that, the shoe features a Vibram miniripple sole in a slightly offwhite color. Between the two is a white wedge that doesn’t quite match the outsole.

In pictures this outsole doesn’t seem that different, but in person it makes a very different impact than a typical Viberg service boot outsole. It’s much, much more casual. Some people may like that, and others might not. Personally, I wanted these to be a more casual boot compared to what I already had, but it might not be the best choice if it’s your only pair of boots.

Accessories & Presentation:

Viberg laces
Brown Waxed Laces; Great color matching between the different types of leather

Inside the box, Viberg didn’t skimp out. The shoes come with two pairs of laces: flat waxed laces (pictured), and thick-cut rawhide laces, as well as 2 shoe bags. They also come with a small bottle of venitian shoe cream that has its own little branded shoe bag.

The boots also came with a polishing cloth, as well as a couple of cards explaining what stitchdown construction is as well as how to take care of the leather.

Overall, the presentation was A+. It’s probably the best unboxing experience I’ve ever had with boots. Both Alden and White’s could learn a lot from them in this space.

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Speaking of presentation. I have to give a shout out to Huckberry. Their shipping was free, but that doesn’t mean they cheaped out. I was updated every step of the way, from the shoes being boxed, to dropped off, shipped, day of arrival, time of arrival and more. For someone who is excited about getting their boots it was a dream.


Fit & Comfort:

Horween Work Shoe Butt
Size 12, 2030 last; Note the HORWEEN-USA Stamp

We’ve all read that Viberg service boots fit big, but these fit really big. Normally I’m an 11.5 in the 2030 last, but can make a 12 fit with thicker socks. These are a 2030 in a size 12 (the only size left when I ordered) and I am absolutely swimming in them. I think the thick leather is partly to blame (withered fig makes a note that thick leather boots fit larger), but more is the lower heel of the miniripple sole.

These boots appear to be both flatter and longer because the heel on the miniripple is lower than a typical heel. I think an 11 might actually be the best fit in this particular make up for me. For reference, I wear a size 12D in Alden’s Trubalance last, a size 11.5E in White’s MP last, and a size 13 in most Nike sneakers.

For a full size reference list of all the shoes and boots we have reviewed, click here.

From a comfort perspective, these shoes are fairly typical of a service boot. They are more on the “supportive” side than the “squishy” side of things, but not as much as someone like White’s. I’ve heard others say that Viberg doesn’t offer great arch support, but I find them to be average or better.

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The upper leather is fairly stiff out of the box. I don’t think it will be much of a bother, but since these boots are a full size too large for me I can’t say for sure.


Materials & Construction:

Materials:

Viberg service boot
A few loose threads, otherwise clean stitching

While I stand by my statement earlier about Huckberry, I will say they did get something wrong about the boot. That being said, I don’t think any buyer would be upset.

On their website, Huckberry says these Viberg service boots use Italian horsebutt leather. However, once you get them in, the Horween stamp is clearly visible. In fact, these are made with what is known as workshoe butt leather. In short, when making horsehide, typically the horsehide is split from the shell and the horse butt boots get the top layers and the shell boots get the bottom. Workshoe butt leather contains both the hide and the shell sections. It features a mix of characteristics from both, and it is a real treat. It’s also very hard to find.

The only part of the upper leather that isn’t this material is the tongue, which is made from a thinner cow leather.

The outsole is made of Vibram’s miniripple outsole. This is a harder rubber compound that should be fairly long lasting for its thickness – though it isn’t very thick. This is something you choose because you want the look, not the durability.

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In between that upper and the outsole is a leather midsole and a shank. Right around the time these boots were made Viberg was switching from steel shanks to wooden. Nobody seems certain which is in these. I’ve taken these through a metal detector, and they didn’t set it off, but it doesn’t catch every shank.

Construction:

Viberg 360 stitching
Only non-fixable stitching issue on the left boot

These boots are made with Viberg’s stitchdown construction. If you’d like a more in-depth explanation of what stitchdown construction is click here, however in short it means that the front of the upper is curved out and stitched directly to the midsole.

Viberg clearly knows what they are doing here, and there are no structural issues with their construction anywhere.


Ease of Care:

Viberg pull tab
Loops, look great – not functional for full size hands

When it comes to horsebutt leathers, particularly chrome-tanned ones like this, they generally don’t need quite as much care as cowhide. There is no specific rule of thumb, but figure on going maybe 10-30% longer in between care regimens.

As mentioned above, Viberg gives a bottle of ventitan shoe cream with their boots and this is what they recommend using. Personally, I’ve always found Bick 4 does just as good a job for less money, but you’re not going to hurt anything by following their recommendation.

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No matter which creams you use, you’ll want to make sure you keep shoe trees in them. I’ve been asked before if you need “boot trees,” before and the only reason to get them is if you like having the little knob stick out the top. They do nothing for creases or drying out the boot, and I’ve found them more of a pain to put in and out.

Of course, you’ll also want to use a horse hair brush on them every few wears to knock off dust and grime.

When it comes time to resole, there is a lot of debate about stitchdown vs. goodyear welt. Most argue that goodyear welt shoes can be resoled more times, however Viberg says that – with a skilled enough cobbler – stitchdown might get a few more. In any case, expect to pay more to resole a pair of stitchdown boots. Viberg themselves cost $130 – plus the cost to ship them to Canada and $25 to ship them back.


Pricing & Value:

Vibram miniripple
Vibram miniripple sole

Originally priced at $700, these were actually priced lower than the typical Viberg service boot price of $710, and even lower than the normal horsehide price of $830. What makes these even better is that, unlike most Viberg stockists that don’t have as much wiggle room, Huckberry will often substantially discount their boots. In fact, I purchased this pair for $485.

Unfortunately, this make up is now completely sold out. When I first started this review there were 3 pairs on ebay, but now it’s down to just a single used pair for $550 [SOLD].

Of course, nearly $500 for a pair of boots is still a lot of money – it’s more than I’ve paid for anything on this website. I love these boots, but I do struggle a bit to see the value proposition from a completely objective standpoint.

For less money, both a retail and typically at sale prices, you can find a pair of White’s MPs, Nick’s Falcons, or the other perennial contender for “the obvious choice” – the Alden Indy. All of these will do almost everything this boot does, and in some cases more. There is also Truman boots for even less, though my personal experience with them has been less than stellar.

That isn’t to say that the Viberg isn’t the best in some ways – if nothing else nobody offers anything that nails the look in the way the 2030 last does. However, if you’re at a place financially where $200 would make a noticeable difference in your life, it would be hard for me to recommend these over any of those first three.


Wrap Up:

Viberg X Huckberry Service Boot
Viberg x Huckberry Service Boot

It’s true that the Viberg service boots, even these more affordable ones, are not the value king. They are expensive, and that is a badge that Viberg wears with pride. The packaging makes it clear that you’re getting a product that the manufacturer views as premium.

However, if value isn’t the most important thing to you, these are simply amazing. From the materials to the look, they give you a special feeling.

I am absolutely gutted that these don’t fit and they are no longer available in my size. Since submitting the return I’ve tried them on no less than 4 more times to make sure. They are still sitting on my kitchen table a week later. I’ve considered keeping them and just wearing extra thick LL Bean Ragg Socks every time I take them out.

That’s what boots like this do. They make you consider making bad decisions. However, it might be worth it – if they fit your budget.

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