Without doubt, the number one topic of discussion in 2020 will be the tales and, hopefully the not too many, tribulations of how we spent our time in isolation. This is certainly the case in our household. There are five members in our household and four of us are working from home. Zoom meetings, internet bandwidth issues, being distracted by other household members being on the phone or in a meeting are all part of life, at the moment.
I live 25 kilometres from the city centre of Melbourne, on the outskirts of the Yarra Valley wine region. It is a cool climate wine region, and is famous for its Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and sparkling wines. As a result, we have some nice places to go for walks and get out of the house for some exercise.
There has been a recent addition to our household. Hank the Tank – the Italian Greyhound. He even has an Instagram page. With a name like Hank, you would expect him to be big and fat, but Hanky is anything but. Italian greyhounds are the smallest of the greyhound breed. Hanky is a little crazy. He is fast and loves to run and needs to be walked everyday in order to prevent him from destroying the house.
It is late autumn in Melbourne and the weather is cold and wet. Where we live, the muddy terrain calls for some sturdy footwear and the quintessential English country brogue boot is the perfect. Not only is the country brogue boot as tough as nails, it is also very stylish. There is no reason why you should not look your best traversing those steep hills or stepping through potholes. In addition, because they are so stylish and versatile, country brogues can be worn everyday as a casual dress boot with jeans, tweed or flannel trousers.
When I’m travelling I typically take two pairs of shoes. One is a dress shoe, generally in a burnished burgundy calf. Burgundy is a favourite colour and is quite adaptable. I find that it compliments most clothing options. Most gentlemen’s clothing colour spectrum falls into a combination of grey, navy, various shades of blue and brown. Burgundy works beautifully with all those colours and if black is your thing, try a splash of burgundy and you will see that I am right.
The other pair of footwear I take is country brogue boots. They are my walking boots. They are comfortable to wear all day, can cope with all weather conditions and look fantastic. Incidentally, I always take a pair of plastic shoe trees and a bit of shoe polish in my travel bag. It ensures all scuff marks are easily dealt with. The plastic shoe trees take up no space, they are light and you don’t encounter issues with having wood products when travelling internationally.
Country brogue boots are in most cases Gibson or Derby designs and have a storm welt which makes them more water resistant than normal Goodyear welted dress shoes. They also have thicker and sturdier soles. Some boots have double leather soles but given the mud and slush I need to traverse, my preference is for the tough, reliable and the go anywhere characteristics of the Dainite sole.
Herring has three style options in their range that fit the bill exactly. As we examine them more closely, you will find that while each variant is the archetypal country boot, they are each distinctly different and complex in their design and characteristics.
The first boot, I have also mentioned in a previous blog. It is the Exmoor. This boot is a favourite of my son’s. And I am also very partial to it as I recently added the Bodmin to my collection, which shares the same pedigree as the Exmoor. The Exmoor is a bold and beautiful boot with a chunky round last. It is tough and robust, there is no doubt, but it also comes with a wonderful twist. And, that twist is that the chestnut calf is contrasted with the Moorland Green tweed. It is the herringbone weave of the tweed that creates a striking texture with a warm colour palette of green, yellow, orange, blue and burgundy. There is no better way to traverse that muddy terrain with sartorial class. It is also a boot that will be an excellent travel companion because the colour pallet of the tweed offers so many clothing styling options.
I will also add, that even though I am concentrating on country boots, the Exmoor boot has a sibling, the Dartmoor. It shares the same last as the Exmoor and like the Exmoor, the Dartmoor’s chestnut calf is contrasted with the same Moorland Green tweed. The only difference is that it is a Gibson shoe and not a boot. So, if the Exmoor makes too much of a statement for you, my advice is to go with it anyway as you will not be disappointed; or go for the more subtle Dartmoor.
I have mentioned at the start why burgundy is my favourite colour. It goes with everything and will give you an edge if you decide to add it to your wardrobe. In my opinion, the only thing better than a shoe or boot in burgundy calf, is that shoe or boot in two contrasting burgundy leathers. Well, this is exactly what you get with the Coniston country brogue boot. It is stunning. All country boots have the quality of traversing boggy terrain with ease, the Coniston does this and traverses not only boggy terrain but bridges the gap between the utility of being functional with a rugged handsomeness.
If the Coniston were an actor, it would be the Hollywood legend and heartthrob, Errol Flynn. The handsome and debonair Gentleman Jim who was just as brilliant as the rugged and swashbuckling Captain Blood. The Coniston shares the same construction and chunky round last as the Exmoor and Dartmoor. These characteristics are the unique domain and beauty of the country brogue.
Notwithstanding, the real beauty and distinction of the Coniston is the interplay and harmony of the contrasting burgundy leathers. It is a thing of splendour with a perfect balance of not only the variations in the burgundy hues but also the texture of the leathers. The darker burgundy leather on the outer is a smooth calf and is contrasted with a lighter burgundy grain calf. This boot is simply exemplary.
Nonetheless, it may surprise you to learn that I do not have the Coniston is my collection, yet. The only reason is, like the Dartmoor, which is the smaller sibling of the Exmoor, I added the Coniston’s sibling, the Cliburn, to my collection last year. Alas, the Cliburn is no longer available, and the lesson here is, do not be slow to quickly secure a style that takes your fancy. The other reason, (which I initially hesitated to include), is that I already have two pairs of burgundy country boots in my collection.
The Langdale II possesses a more traditional or classic persona. It is rugged and tough and shares all the same trekking attributes as the Exmoor and Coniston but it is not as ostentatious. The last is long and slender with a toe more almond in shape, than the rounder and chunkier Exmoor and Coniston. It has a finer slimmer presence and is tight around the ankle.
While being a Derby style boot, it hugs the ankle like an oxford. The leather is a rich hand burnished mahogany grain. The mahogany is eye-catching and stands proud. With time it will develop a unique and coveted patina.
The Exmoor and Coniston are substantial where as the Langdale is more subtle and this is where its inherent qualities and appeal reside. On the subject of simplicity, I have to agree with Oscar Wilde, the simplicity of the Langdale’s character makes it “exquisitely incomprehensible to me”. Like the other two boots, the Langdale also has a sibling. The Grassmere II has the same exquisitely incomprehensible qualities as the Langdale in the form of a country brogue shoe.
Are you drawn to the warm colour palette and versatility of the herringbone weave of the tweed in the Exmoor, the interplay and harmony of the contrasting burgundy hues and textures of the leathers in the Coniston or the elegance, simplicity and exquisitely incomprehensible qualities of the Langdale?