Based out of Massachusetts but working from a small factory in Maine, New England Outerwear Co. have been making a name for themselves with their high-quality, hand-crafted footwear. The company utilizes some of the most premium materials in the U.S. like Chromexcel leather uppers from the Horween Tannery in Chicago, vegetable-tanned midsoles from Wickett & Craig in Pennsylvania and Vibram outsoles from Massachusetts. Part of what makes this company so unique is not only are the shoes made in the U.S, but all of the materials come from here as well resulting in a shoe that truly is Made in America. Working with machines from the early to mid 1900’s, NEOC pays homage to the heritage and art of shoemaking by using the same tools and techniques which have endured for generations. Each pair is hand-made by a craftsmen with over 20 years of shoemaking experience and the love for their craft is apparent by the quality and attention to detail in their product.
After NEOC hosted a contest on their Facebook page to win a free pair of boots, I was shocked to learn not only had I won, but I could choose any pair I liked! Naturally, I hopped onto their website and began the arduous task of selecting just one style from their vast catalog. After going back and forth for a while, I finally decided on the Burgundy Chromexcel Quarter Boot. I chose this style for a couple of reasons… I really didn’t have a boot like this in my wardrobe and since Fall I’ve been on the lookout for something in this color. After receiving (an subsequently living in) my L.L.Bean Boots, I wanted a boot which was more suited for day-to-day wear and not just for trudging through the slush of downtown Buffalo. The Bean Boots are great, but they don’t transfer from a work boot to a going out shoe as effortlessly as the Quarter Boots do. So naturally theses were the perfect choice for me.
Because the shoes are made-to-order and NEOC is still a relatively small operation, it can take up to 4 weeks for your shoes to arrive once your order has been placed. Since ordering my shoes, NEOC has sort of blown up on the internet, being featured on several blogs and even getting a shootout from Instagram which thrust their production into an unexpected overdrive. This, in turn, led to my shoes arriving slightly later than I had hoped, but they were free so I was hardly going to complain. Fortunately, after opening the box and gazing upon my hand-crafted beauties for the first time, I knew they were well worth the wait.
The first thing you notice when you open the box is how the smell of the leather fills the air. As you pick up the shoes and get sense for their weight, you realize they have the perfect amount of heft to them; not too light, but not too heavy. Because of their handmade (and some-what expensive) nature, I was inclined to be delicate with them. But these shoes are hard-tested to withstand the harsh climates of New England and made to last, so my fears of their fragility were quickly laid to rest. The design of the boot is simple, classic and rugged. Stripped down to the bare minimums, there are no special frills or needless add-ons. To the keen eye you can see a stitch or two may be slightly off, but this hardly detracts from the shoe. In fact, it enhances it because you know these were made by hand, not by some machine. Thanks to the use of Mckay stitching on the full leather insole, each pair comes with one free re-sole should you ever need them replaced. Meanwhile, the Chromexcel leather upper is meant to mold itself to the shape of your foot and provide a truly custom and superior-fitting boot.
Sizing was the final obstacle. I was hesitant to order my normal shoe size because I knew how Chromexcel stretches and my sizing for boots have been all over the place lately. Per NEOC’s suggestion, I went a half-size down from my regular shoe size. With thick socks on the fit was pretty snug, but with regular weight socks they fit like a glove. The Vibrum sole feels like you’re walking on air and after a few days wear the shoes are already breaking in nicely and fit more comfortably. I might actually suggest ordering your regular shoe size, just so you have enough room in the toe if you need it. I think I’ve just gotten use to having all that extra toe room because I’ve been wearing my Bean Boots so much.
If you’re in the market for high-quality outdoor footwear, I cannot recommend New England Outerwear Co. enough. Their pricing may be slightly higher than average, but hardly unattainable. In return you’ll be getting a pair of shoes which are made in the U.S. from some of the finest materials this country has to offer. If you want to find out more about what goes into making their shoes, check out this great post with some incredible photos by Simple Threads, as well as this post by Well Spent.