White’s 350 Cruiser: Classic Pacific Northwest
Price: $675 [Check eBay for sales]
The White’s 350 Cruiser is a Pacific Northwest boot in it’s purest form – overbuilt, supportive, customizable, and extremely chunky.
Why Stay Away?
The White’s 350 Cruiser is pricey, even compared to it’s peers, and it’s weight can dampen some of your enthusiasm for the support it offers.
|Material||Chromexcel Upper / Vibram 700 outsole|
|Weight||1,216 g / 2 lb 10.9 oz|
|Construction||“Stitchdown Hand Welt” / Goodyear welt|
|Country of Origin||United States|
White’s Boots really do seem to have a boot or shoe for every occasion. At least, according to them. They have boots for firefighting, motorcycle riding, and hiking. They even have a boot designed for people who work behind a store counter. But what about people who just want a regular, classic Pacific Northwest boot? For them, White’s has this – the 350 Cruiser.
The 350 Cruiser is one of White’s oldest designs. Originally a modification on the timber boots done nearly 100 years ago, the 350 Cruiser was designed to be a lighter, more wearable option. Knowing that, I don’t think it’s unfair to say the 350 Cruiser is one of White’s first lifestyle-focused boots.
Of course, since then the explosion in options from White’s means that you’re not limited for choice in lifestyle options. With so many more models now available, does the 350 Cruiser still offer a good value? Or are there better options out there? Let’s find out.
The White’s 350 Cruiser upper is about as classic as you can get. This is a boot designed before almond toes and elegant lasts were all the rage. It’s round, it’s thick. It looks like it’s designed to get something done.
Up front, a plain toe – unstructured unless you customize – keeps things looking tidy. Without any structure or toe cap, these should collapse quite a bit over time. That is a look that I personally like a lot, but it also means you shouldn’t expect any sort of protection on your toe.
Moving back, the open lacing system means classic quarters, with an elongated heel cap making a fairly bulbus boot look much more balanced. As with many PNW Boots, White’s defaults to a branded stamp near the collar.
The fully gusseted tongue is covered by laces running through a combination of eyelets and speedhooks. The spacing on these is a bit unconventional, with 4 closely bunched eyelets, followed by 3 spaced out speedhooks, and topped off with a single eyelet. It isn’t my favorite design in the world, but the spacing does prevent the bulge from the stacks of layers on top of your foot other White’s boots consistently have.
The gusseted tongue can make them a bit harder to put on, so thankfully White’s has added a leather loop to help full them on – though it will catch on your pants every now and then. This particular pair has a small cut on one loop – definitely plan on keeping an eye on that long term.
The make up on my pair is black Chromexcel leather from Horween, though you can get it in a number of colors and materials. There was quite a bit of creasing right out of the box, but that is pretty typical for Chromexcel. If you want something with less creases, it does come in roughout.
Mid- and Outsole:
The midsole on the White’s 350 Cruiser can probably best be described as “chunky.” From the welt to the bottom of the outsole, these boots are nearly 1 inch thick! I’d say it’s their defining feature. Definitely the first thing I notice when I look at them. Visually, the leather midsole and rubber outsole are about evenly sized, giving a nice balance between the two.
The heel is a logger heel style – meaning it is cut in at a curve – and is on the higher side, even for this type of boot. Measuring at around 2 inches from bottom of outsole to the top of the midsole, it’s 4 lifts are very noticeable.
The welt itself is extremely wide, more than a half inch around the toe of the boot. Double rows of white(ish) stitching help break up the width of the welt. This stitching is really the only major complaint I have with the boot out of the box. While it’s much more even than White’s normally is, there is some pretty nasty staining on it. If you count both boots, there are parts where the stitching is stained red, pink, blue, brown, or black. I’m not against multicolored footwear, but I would prefer it to not be on my black boots.
Underneath, the boot features a Vibram V-Bar sole – though White’s opted to use Quabaug heel rubber instead of the matching Vibram piece. Both of these fit the look of the boot well.
The White’s 350 Cruiser comes with black kilties and two different types of laces: a pair of black waxed laces and a pair of rawhide leather laces. The black waxed looks fine, but White’s makes some of the best rawhide laces in the business. Just be sure to have a knife or scissors handy, they are always about 6 inches too long – at least in my opinion.
White’s as also recently updated their box to a much more modern design. It’s objectively better in look and feel, but it does lose some of that “small town bootmaker” vibe that the old white boxes gave off.
Most boots these days aim to have their visual weight towards the heel. A thinner toebox and block heel focuses the eye to the back of the boot. These do the exact opposite – a big thick welt and a curved heel pushes the eye towards the toe and away from the heel. I think this fits this style of boot extremely well, but does take some getting used to if you’ve got a closet full of Vibergs.
You definitely won’t want to wear these with skinny jeans or a suit, but you probably already knew that.
Fit & Comfort:
White’s sizing is a bit tricky to nail down for a few reasons. First, unlike many manufacturers, White’s does not use combination lasts. A combination last means that the toebox and the heel are built on different widths – with the toebox being wider. If having questions around width were not bad enough, the high arch of most White’s boots means that your foot will end up being shorter than in other shoes. In other words, both width and length may be different in a pair of White’s compared to other footwear.
Thankfully, both White’s and Baker’s offer sizing advice where you can send in measurements. I strongly recommend that you do this on your first pair of White’s. The internet is littered with conflicting advice, and while I’ll provide insight for pairs I’ve reviewed, everyone’s feet are different. Returns are also a pain from just about every retailer.
With that out of the way, I found that the White’s 350 Cruiser built on the 55 last is generally long and narrow compared to other boots. For me, that meant sizing down a half size in length and up one size in width. In other words, I’m an 11.75 D on the brannock and took these in an 11.5 E. I’ve found that the heel is a bit loose compared to other boots (see the combination last information above), but it isn’t unwearable.
When thinking about comfort in these boots, it’s important to clarify that comfort can mean different things. To some people, the ideal comfort in a boot is the R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman. They want soft, stretchy uppers, a padded insole, and a flexible outsole. If that is what you want in a boot, the White’s 350 Cruiser is not the boot for you.
The White’s uses thick, and fairly unforgiving, stacks of leather underfoot. There isn’t even a foam pad under your heel. Really – these boots have almost no compression or shock protection. When you first walk in them you can actually hear a “clack” as they smack the ground, though that does go away with time.
There is another side of comfort, though, and that is support. It’s here where White’s boots outshine anything else I’ve ever worn. That same stack of leather that keeps things from compressing too fast does an outstanding job of supporting your foot.
This is especially noticeable with the arch support. When you first put them on, it can affectionately be described as standing on the rung of a ladder, but after a few hours of wear the arch support takes the exact shape of your foot. For anyone who has pain in their arches at the end of the day, it is simply divine.
Of course, I can’t talk about the comfort without mentioning the weight. These things are heavy. That gives a sense of security, but it can also be pretty draining if you’re marching around in them all day.
Materials & Construction:
White’s are known for their high quality materials, and the 350 Cruiser are no exception.
The uppers are made up of thick cuts of Chromexcel leather. A lot of people might not be aware, but Chromexcel isn’t a single product. Instead, it comes in a number of different thicknesses (typically listed in ounce). The different thicknesses will impact the way the patina develops over time, so if you’re into the details it’s important to look beyond just the name, and investigate a bit deeper.
Elsewhere on the upper, real metal eyelets and speedhooks keep the premium vibe. Coming out of the box unlaced, you can choose between waxed cotton or rawhide laces. The waxed laces are fine, but White’s makes some of the best raw hide laces out there – slightly waxy and incredibly soft.
While the upper is nice, it’s really the midsole where the magic is in these boots.
Under your foot, you have multiple layers of thick leather – making up both the insole and midsole. In addition, you have an even thicker leather piece under your arch, and another acting as a shank. For those counting, that is up to 4 cuts of leather under at least some of your foot.
This leather should compress slightly, and take the shape of your foot more than any other boot design – so long as you give it time to compress. Without a layer of cork, it will take much longer than most other boots to reach their final shape.
Below that is a Vibram “V-Bar” 700 sole. This sole aims to achieve high durability and flat look, though it won’t have the same grip as a lugged option. As mentioned above, the heel rubber is a Quabaug piece of rubber – nailed down.
Along with changing their boxes recently, White’s also began to change the way they talk about their construction. For years, they called their style of construction a type of Goodyear welting. However, they now call it a “Handsewn Stitchdown” construction.
White’s have always gone with a special style of construction for their boots, which is a combination of handwelting (a higher end style of construction similar to goodyear welting) and stitchdown. In short, they stitch the welt directly to the upper, then sew down both the upper and the welt of the boot to the outsole. This is an incredibly labor-intensive process and provides the many of the benefits of both a goodyear welt and a stitchdown construction.
While I’m guessing the change was because brands like Nick’s and Viberg have done a good job associating “stitchdown” construction with “tough,” I’m a bit surprised White’s changed their nomenclature. The White’s system of construction is superior in almost every way compared to a regular stitchdown style. Better water resistance, better protection from cuts and scrapes, and (assuming you use a good cobbler) more resoles per pair. The only real drawback is the higher cost – which will be there no matter what you call it.
It is even more confusing since White’s offers a traditional stitchdown construction as well. White’s themselves even list it as a more budget friendly option, “without the high price of a truly hand-sewn boot.”
Ease of Care:
Taking care of the White’s 350 Cruiser with a Chromexcel upper is fairly basic.
First, you’ll want to make sure you condition them every 6 months or so. I’m personally a big fan of Bick 4 for this. In my opinion it does just as good a job as the other brands, and costs less. I should note that Horween themselves recommend venetian shoe cream. This will, of course, do a great job as well though it is a bit pricier.
Next, you’ll definitely want to get a pair of shoe trees. These will help the boot keep its shape, and are especially important for unstructured toeboxes. Don’t worry, it’ll still collapse, but with shoe trees it will do so evenly.
Finally, when the sole finally wears out, you actually have a few options. First, White’s and some cobblers can remove the soles and resole. Due to their unique construction style, they do require someone with a bit more knowledge. Expect to pay a bit more to someone who can do this.
However, if you’re really put them through the ringer, White’s also offers a complete rebuild. For that, they will actually replace entire worn-out panels from the upper. This does raise the question of the ship of Theseus – if every panel is replaced, is it really your original pair? – but it’s nice to have the option.
Pricing & Value:
Priced at $675 dollars, the White’s 350 Cruiser is not a cheap pair of boots, even compared to their also expensive competition. Nick’s offering in this field is the Robert, which comes in at $549 for a similar configuration. Wesco’s Warren is the closest competitor they offer, and similar builds are even more affordable at around $470. It should be noted that White’s just increased their prices due to supply chain issues, and it’s possible Nick’s and Wesco could follow soon.
The big redeeming feature when it comes to White’s and price is sales. This specific pair was bought off of White’s ebay store for just $360. White’s lists seconds, one off builds that were not paid for, and overstock there when they have it. Boots sell out pretty quickly so a lot of times you’ll click the store link and see no stock at all, but it’s always worth checking.
Additionally, while Nick’s rarely offers anything more than 10% (often with weird limitations) and Wesco almost never runs sales, White’s can be found at 20 to 30% off fairly regularly. This means that if you have time to wait for a sale, all three will end up pretty close in price.
Can the most expensive option represent the best value? It depends on what you’re looking for.
Any of the boots mentioned above – or even something more affordable like Truman – will likely last almost anyone many decades. Originally designed for extremely rough conditions, many are sold to guys who use them to drive to Target for diapers and frozen pizza. Even the ones used for work are probably not using the 350 Cruiser for felling redwood trees. The differences between the various brands doesn’t matter much in that environment. All of the options are great.
However, I’m not sure that summary gets to the point. While many of the buyers of these boots won’t put them through their paces that they were designed for, most – including your author – buy them because they appreciate what makes them different to a pair of Redwings or Wolverines.
It’s for that reason that I’m attracted to White’s. Even among such a sturdy crowd, they stand out. Knowing that with sales they are often equally priced (or less), the decision is pretty easy.
The White’s 350 Cruiser is the quintessential Pacific Northwest boot. Its design isn’t muddled with changes for a specific job, and it owns that.
There are definitely drawbacks. Its chunky design isn’t for everyone, and the price point is hard to swallow for most of those who are left. Even if you can swing the price, you’ll most likely need to wait half a year to get a pair.
However, if you are lucky enough that these fit your budget and you have the luxury of time, you are getting something truly special. From the supportive midsole to the unique construction, these are boots that simply are not replicated anywhere else.