Editor’s note: The following is a guest post from Mark Lai, a college student based abroad and a longtime reader who’ll be offering his own take on the world of menswear in the coming months. For further guest posts, click here.
The Clarks Bushacre 2 in Beeswax Leather was my first pair of #menswear shoes, and indeed, my first pair of shoes purchased with the consideration of quality and style, rather than based solely on a label. I’ve long been on the hunt for a pair of the best chukka boots for men — and the best boots for men, period — and I might have found them. A year and a half later, they’re still looking good, especially considering their cheap price tag. If you want to invest in a pair of leather boots, you can still do that — brands like Alden have long made investment-level boots.
In terms of construction, the Bushacres are made with full-grain leather uppers (albeit of a lower grade than more expensive shoes), featuring what appears to be a fabric lining. The main difference between these and Clarks Desert Boots are the rubber soles used in the Bushacres, which are harder than the soft crepe soles used in the Desert Boots. Due to the pillow-like comfort of crepe soles, many choose the Desert Boots over these. However, I chose these for what should be better durability than crepe. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong with some of the best chukka boots on the market. Besides, the tendency for crepe to become dirty and discoloured was one aspect that I decided I’d be better-off without. As the photos show, the soles are holding up pretty well, with only the back of the heels showing signs of wear. I’m highly considering getting these resoled with Dainite soles after they’re worn down.
Sizing-wise, I bought these as a US 8, a full size down from my usual US 9 shoes. Despite this, I encountered some uncomfortable heel slippage the first few times I wore them out, with the heel counters proving to be especially hard on my heels. They gradually broke in, and are now one of my more comfortable shoes. They run wide, which is perfectly fine with me as that’s how my wide feet like my shoes to fit.
Although the Bushacres may draw flak for their (relatively) sloppy, unstructured aesthete and their non-Goodyear welted construction, they’re a great option for anyone just starting on their sartorial journey. I know for one that these taught me how to take care of my shoes, which has served me well in handling more expensive ones.
The leather uppers are capable of holding a nice shine, but tend to smudge more easily than my other full-grain shoes, which a good buffing will solve easily. Taking care of your favorite boots is crucial, after all. Also, the insoles are stitched to a layer of canvas, which is then cemented to the sole itself, making these resoleable, particularly if the uppers are cared for properly. In this case, we see two qualities that stand out refreshingly from the vast majority of sub-$100 shoes: full grain uppers and resoleability, as opposed to corrected grain uppers and fully cemented soles. The best men’s chukka boots feature a lot of these qualities nowadays, which is refreshing to see.
Personally, I prefer wearing the Bushacres with trousers that have a wider leg opening (the leg opening of the denim above is about 7.5 inches), as they cover the top of the boots and make them look less clunky. I find that wearing cropped, overly-slim trousers with them like this causes the Bushacres to look disproportional and somewhat high street-ish, or maybe that’s just my obsession with details speaking.
As for my care routine, I polish them monthly. I first brush the shoes to get rid of any dust, following that up with the application of a layer of Collonil 1909 leather lotion (Saphir products would do fine as well, as would Kiwi Leather Lotion. After roughly 20 minutes wait for it to be absorbed, I brush them lightly again to remove excess lotion. Another application of Collonil 1909 neutral-coloured leather cream succeeds this, another wait, and finally, another brushing to bring out the shine. I also place shoe trees in them and brush them after each use.
At the end of the day, it boils down to one simple principle: buy affordable men’s shoes made with good materials, take good care of them and they’ll look great. Besides, would you rather your shoes looking like mine or like this?
What have your experiences been like with the classic shoe? Considering picking up a pair for yourself? Where else would you go to buy some of the best chukka boots for men? Let me know!