Bonobos Made in Italy “The Blake” Lace Up Boots – $208.60 w/ BETTERLATE ($298)
About the Author: Adam Terry is Dappered’s resident shoe & denim expert. He’s a thirtysomething Technical Trainer in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, and raw denim. He’s also a new(ish) dad!
As the temperature continues to drop and the skies turn that lovely shade of dull grey, you can be certain that we’re officially in the depths of autumn. Luckily for us, that means we get the opportunity to bust out the modern menswear style heavyweight champs – thicker denim, flannel shirts, chunky cardigans, insulating outerwear, and boots!
With the holidays and family gatherings right around the corner, now’s the time to shore up your boot game. I’m a huge fan of earthy brown suede boots this time of year. That little extra pop of color and texture brings some much needed warmth to an otherwise cold and flat appearance. Bonobos recently launched a collection of shoes and boots including some lace-up cap-toes and some Chelseas. Today we’re taking a look at their Blake Lace-Up Boot in brown suede.
Made in Italy. Blake Stitched.
- Brand: Bonobos
- Style: Cap-toe 6-eyelet boot
- Size: 10 D
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Blake stitched
- Leather: Brown Italian suede
- Sole: Grooved rubber half-sole and rubber/leather combo heel
- Details: Removable padded foam insoles, cushioned upper, and patterned pull tabs
- Extras: Two cotton travel dust bags, extra braided cotton laces
- Country of Origin: Italy
- Price: $298 USD
About Adam’s Scoring System: The Adam Shoe Scale of Justice (A.S.S.J.) is as follows: 5 – Excellent. I am in love, worth it at full retail. 4 – Above Average. Nice product, probably worth it to most. 3 – Average. Ok product but wait for a sale. 2 – Below Average. Not worth your money unless on deep sale and you’re desperate. 1 – Poor. I wouldn’t gift this to anyone I care about.
Nice and versatile cap toe style.
Bonobos shipped the Blake boots from their warehouse in Chelmsford, MA to my house outside of Nashville, TN via UPS Ground, and they were delivered within three business days. Not bad!
FYI: Bonobos has free shipping and free returns on unworn orders within 45 days of delivery. Store credit is available after 45 days and up to 90 days from date of purchase. Just make sure you try them out on carpet.
Obligatory box shot.
The boots arrived in a pretty standard subdued navy box sans branding. Inside you’ll find the normal extras you should expect to receive at this price point – a pair of cotton travel/dust bags and a spare set of laces. The laces are the braided cotton type. The shoe bags in particular are emblazoned with the Bonobos logo in white and are long enough to store at least two Seawolf class attack submarines end to end.
Roomy shoe bags.
Fresh out of the box, these boots look a little lighter in color and less textured than the online photos would suggest. The Bonobos website leads you to believe the color is more of a cocoa powder or pecan brown. In the shifting light of day, the actual product leans more gingerbread or the Allen Edmonds color “coffee”. The suede itself is an Italian product with a fine nap, a little softer and flatter than the online photos would suggest. Neither of these are deal breakers for me, but something to be aware of. Looks wise, the overall shape, color, and texture lend the boots to an upscale casual vibe perfect for nights out with your friends or family. Personally, I’d pair them with slim cuffed denim, a simple tee, and an earthy green chunky cardigan for a date night out on the town.
Good suede. Nice looking welt.
From the outside looking in, neither boot has any noticeable construction issue that would classify them as “seconds”. The stitching is clean, the cap-toes are attached even and straight, and the dark brown edge dressing along the welt line is well applied. I’d wager that these are mostly machine made boots, due to the uniformity of everything. Again, that’s not a knock or a negative strike against them…
Removable insoles… which cover up some concerns.
…however, once you look a little deeper, you can start to see that some of the materials used in construction are rather cheap for this price point. If you remove the insole, you can see the Tecno Board fiberboard insoles that feel like thick construction paper. They’re nailed in with six roughly cast nails; you can actually feel a few of the nail heads through the insole. Towards the toe, you can see the woven fiber pad and half-moon leather toe piece stitched in at the top. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I normally shy away from Blake/Rapid stitched shoes because I can feel the stitching or layers of material around the inside of the toe box when I’m walking. It feels like you’re walking around with something in your shoes and you can’t shake it out. Without that puffy, padded foam insole covering it all up, this would be a deal breaker for me.
Fiberboard under the insole. Nails that could be felt by some.
Looking past those issues, the leather lining feels great and I really like the extra padding sewn in around the ankles and tongue. It’s a nice, subtle effect that feels really nice. The colorfully patterned and puffy foam insole was surprisingly comfortable to me as well, though it does start to feel a bit thin and may not hold its form over time. It is removable, should you wish to change it out to something else in the future (and no, removing the insoles doesn’t fix the tightness issues which we’ll get to).
More components that might not last as long as you’d like?
The leather outsole is covered with a thin, grooved rubber layer for some added traction. We don’t get a ton of snow around these parts, but plenty of ice and freezing rain. I imagine this sole working pretty well in those conditions. If you live somewhere that gets regular snowfall, I’d recommend something with a chunkier sole with some actual grip. The heel is a leather and rubber combo piece, nailed to what I believe to be a compressed wood fiber (aka MDF – medium density fiberboard) heel stack. Most boots in this price range use layers of leather stacked on top of each other. Honestly, I just don’t believe that some of these components will last more than a few years of regular wear and tear.
Score: 2/5 – Would like to see better shoe construction materials used at this price point.
Fit, Sizing, and Comfort:
Following the leaf-strewn path of let downs, the Blake cap-toe boots have some very weird fitment or lasting issues going on. Trying to fit into these felt like Donald Duck trying to slide his webbed walkers into Cinderella’s glass slipper – it is just not going to happen. The rounded almond toe shape looks absolutely perfect from above, but it has a very strong taper and feels short and way too narrow on the inside. I *think* this issue is happening during lasting, where the leather upper is being stretched around the molded form, before the insole/outsole is stitched on. Odds are the lasting machine is pulling the upper too tight and causing the boot to feel small – this size 10 feels like a size 8. This is a real problem, and an odd issue being that Bonobos built their business on (pants) fit.
Fit is where these boots really go off the rails.
Runs weirdly small and tight. This size 10 felt like an 8. My feet aren’t getting in these. I tried.
Comfort is entirely subjective, so if you have narrow feet, these might be a win for you. If you decide to give these a try, I strongly suggest trying them on at a local Bonobos Guideshop or ordering a full size up from your normal size.
For reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most dress shoes, including Alden’s Barrie last and Grant Stone’s Leo last. I take a 10.5 E in Allen Edmonds 65 last, as that last runs too narrow for me. I also take a 10.5 in Vans and an 11 in most Adidas or Nike sneakers.
Score: 2/5 Stars – Something funky is going on with this boot design. Very narrow and tight.
I had some high, high hopes for these boots when they were ordered. They are some of the best looking boots I’ve seen in 2019, and had they fit well and been made with quality components, they would have been a real contender for my Boot of the Year award. Sadly, they just didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped and left me wondering whether cost cutting or the new corporate ownership is at fault here.
At almost $300 USD, there are similar or better options out there from Meermin ($250), Grant Stone ($295), Suit Supply ($299), or… with a bit of saving and stretching… Carmina ($555) and Alden ($615). If you do decide to test out the Bonobos Blake Lace-Up Boots, wait for a deep sale and let us know what you think!
Avg. Score: 3.5/5 Stars – Size/fit and construction issues, not worth full retail. Might be worth it on deep discount IF they fit you well, and certainly NOT on final sale (no returns).