*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Buy new or repair old: Blundstone boots?

Don't buy them anymore.

There's no reason for soles to split and crumble, except it's an inevitable part of sending your manufacturing offshore.  By all reports, now Doc's also blow entirely, for the same reason.*  China is the only place I have seen workers hammer in screws.  Company PR both during and after laying off people making a living wage in the brand's country of origin will deny abandoning their workers to poverty, and eschewing quality, but the facts stand.  The only encouraging point is that we left-wingers no longer need to make humane arguments to people who don't care, instead: offshore products suck.

Blundstone's PR is to blather their soles can suffer from 'hydrolysis' if left unworn too long (summer), or in a place too hot; however, I have had plenty of other boots survive a Japanese summer.  A shoe shouldn't degrade from storage in a dry place.  Heat?  Fucking boots were supposed to be for Aussie stockmen.

I've had both black 'chisel-toe' #63 for five years and original brown #500 four.  I take very good care of my leather: boots and bikes saddles.  The soles of the 63's are dead; however, the narrower fit fits my foot far better than the 500's, or the 558's I'd considered replacing them with, so I looked into resoling them.  A resole is quite expensive: about 9500Y, $100CAD, or just as much if I mailed them back and forth to a US cobbler to fix them: half the price of new, full price, but a lot more if compared to getting them on sale.
I'm getting the 63s resoled.  I did look into buying soles and doing the work myself.  It's a surprise how much of your own handiwork you can do, if you don't require perfection the first try.  The Internet makes it easier than ever to erode the wall of mystery surrounding technique.  The reality was that it would cost me half the going rate to do it on my own, and the results would be disappointing.  I'm getting the 63s resoled at a shop for these reasons:
- they fit better than the 558s will (pattern of my 500s)
- resole is still cheaper than new
- throwing out good uppers is a crime
- the new soles will be better than shit Blundstones are now shod with

Good footwear, well cared for, ought to last nigh to indefinitely, apart from worn soles which must be repairable.  I'm going to start paying real money for footwear made nowhere in mainland Asia.  I expect it will last long enough to be better value.

*Solovair are still made in the UK, on the same lines as the old Doc's, by the same manufacturer.


  1. Bought a pair of Timberlands a couple of years ago for $60 US and they're still holding up nicely...

  2. I went back to the shop to complain about a pair of Docs I'd bought and the girl in the shop actually said the quality has gone downhill since they started manufacturing them in Vietnam (ie. no offer to repair or replace them). They can make too much money selling pretty, shiny boots to the kiddies who don't care about quality to worry about making good boots now.

    Blundstones, yeah, used to be good boots once.

  3. We can see from your photo that those boots were manufactured in Australia in March of 2001. The soles have eroded due to the process known as hydrolysis, you’ll find the science on that here http://www.blundstone.com/au-news-and-events/facts-about-hydrolysis. We began manufacturing these boots outside of Australia in 2007 and we converted all soles on this boot type to thermopolyurethane which is highly resistant to hydrolysis in 2010. We offer a two year’s manufacturer’s warranty on all our product from the date of purchase, not manufacture. So that means that if you’ve bought boots within the last two years which are affected by hydrolysis, we’ll replace them, no matter when they were manufactured. Those are the facts. In the interest of fairness to the many customers and employees of Blundstone, we hope you’ll publish this.

    1. Show me the fucking money. Oh, a two year warranty that has expired, even though changing the lines implicates the company. The next pair of Blundstones I buy will be never. I suggest all readers choose the same, because: they screwed their Australian staff, and, the brand is unreliable. "Those are the facts."

      Besides, 'Anthea' Blundstone Golgafrincham, I already called bullshit on 'hydrolysis' in the post: there is no excuse to make boots where this would happen, witnessed by the fact it has never happened to other footwear in my forty-odd years. Hell, I'd never heard of it before I looked for an explanation about your shit soles.

    2. "We offer a two year’s manufacturer’s warranty on all our product from the date of purchase," but your boots won't fall apart in the first two years of use.

  4. I've had a pretty good run with Rockport. One pair I got about 12 years ago has only just given up the ghost after being resoled a couple of times, which is pretty good going considering I've done absolutely fuck-all in the way of other care or maintenance.

    Their social-media team might not be quite so diligent, but, perhaps most importantly, I trust their sizing so buying over the internet works. Just bought a new pair, so we'll see just how the whole golbalization thing affects quality soon enough...

    1. Zamberlan hiking boots: on my fourth pair in two decades, two of them in present use. Only one wore out, from a decade's use in mountains and Toronto's salty winters. One retired when all boot makers switched to lighter materials over a decade ago. And here you go:

      "Does Zamberlan still produce in Italy?
      Since 1929, Zamberlan has proudly been manufacturing products in Pievebelvicino di Torrebelvicino, in the company facilities. Today, there are two production lines running where the top end products are manufactured by expert craftsmen, keeping high quality, knowledge and skills? With (thanks to) their knowledge and skills."


  5. Always enjoy reading your blog, thank you.
    Boots. I've had 5 pairs of Danner. Worth every penny. All still going strong.
    Docs. The shoes are appalling. 4 pairs in 2 years; split soles, collapsed insoles, split leather. Terrible. But the boots are altogether much better made (go figure), 4 pairs in 4 years, no issues, all still going strong.

  6. I still can't reconcile myself to disposable small appliances. Anyone who's used a toaster or a circular saw from the Fifties knows how crappy the contemporary stuff is. But this is all in keeping with a global trend: What the Japanese did for mass-produced automobiles, and the British did for rock music, the Chinese are doing for planned obsolescence: taking an iconic American innovation and kicking it up to a whole higher level.

  7. I have had the same problem with the Blundstone soles. Hydrolysis is just a fancy technical term for the breaking of chemical bonds by water. The water molecule is split and the hydrogen is incorporated into the compound that the water is reacting with. Boot sole material should not react with water in this way. Yes I have done a bit of chemistry at uni. So it seems like Blundstone is in damage control and 'trying to fool em with facts or baffle em with bullshit'. These are work boots not ice sugar sculptures. My boots were hardly worn in 18 months and definitely not in a hard work environment. The first day back on-site I noticed the soles had failed. I am trying a pair of Steel Blue Boots now. P.S. Best boots I've had so far were from a Canadian company called Canada West. Owned them for over 15 years and could put them away for a few years and use them again in hard environments no problems. Like putting my foot through a cage of reinforcing steel that was not tied properly. Canada West make work boots and the whole range of riding/western boots. Check out their website. They are still family owned and Canadian made. They will be worth it.

  8. Good choice to resole your 63's, wish I'd thought of doing the same now. My pair circa '02, made in Oz, were still fantastic - thick supple leather and great fitting but the soles ended up falling apart.

    So recently I decided to give a new pair a go. Boy what a difference! Thinner, plastic feeling leather and the fit is really sloppy over the foot & the provided insole laughable. Even chocked up with a really thick insole the fit isn't that great.