About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the heating and manufacturing industry. He enjoys bourbon, boots, sneakers, denim, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Boot Season has officially arrived for most of us who live in the United States. It’s that time of year where the heat waves have started subsiding, cooler days are wafting in, and the sun starts setting earlier and earlier each day. Fall is man’s best style season because it allows us to break out our favorite outerwear, sport coats, flannel shirts, jeans, and of course, boots! The name of the Fall style game is layering and a good pair of boots helps round out the outfit.
My favorite go-to pair of boots for Fall are my Alden Indy boots in Horween’s Chromexcel leather. They are made in America and crafted with sturdy construction, high quality components, and a generous and comfortable last. However, you probably already know that Alden boots command a serious premium in the market and it’s understandable that not all of us can afford something like that. Some of us are working with a smaller budget; some of us are elementary school music teachers, not tenured archaeology professors with a robust 401K.
With that in mind, today we’re reviewing Banana Republic Factory’s homage to the Indy boot. These suede lace-up boots are about as close to a replica as you can get without running into patent infringement. However, Banana Republic Factory isn’t well-known for robust quality. So, the big question remains: are these boots worth their near-$200 MSRP? Let’s find out.
An attempt to replicate the timeless Alden Indy, in suede.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Excellent! No issues and highly recommended.
- 4 – Good. Above average, but not perfect.
- 3 – Average. Minor issues, might be good at the right price.
- 2 – Fair. Below average due to defects, flaws, or imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price.
- Brand: Banana Republic
- Style: Moc Stitch Boot
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Glued
- Upper: 100% “Genuine” Suede
- Sole: Rubber
- Details: Metal eyelets, cotton laces, faux welt
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $170 USD, but BR Factory is “always” running a sale of some sort.
Note the traditional “Indy Stitch” across the upper quarters.
My pair of not-quite-as-fortunate-man’s Indy boots were ordered on a Thursday afternoon via Banana Republic Factory’s website. They shipped out via USPS Parcel Select on the following Wednesday and were delivered the next day. I was surprised to see no movement in the tracking number for a handful of business days, especially since the package was handed off to the Postal Service at some point and the distribution warehouse is just on the other side of town. Given that standard and “no rush” shipping fees cost between five and nine dollars, I’m a bit annoyed that it took so long. If shipping isn’t free, retailers need to make a notable effort to get stuff shipped out the door and delivered in a timely manner. Target and Amazon are better.
FYI: Banana Republic Factory gives you up to 30 days from the ship date to return or exchange items. Note that returns and exchanges are free when you use a prepaid return shipping label (online purchases only), or when you return to a store of the same brand. IE: You can’t return a Banana Republic Factory item (like these boots) to a local Banana Republic store.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Easy ordering, but shipping was delayed and returns are complicated.
The extent of the unboxing experience was… a bag.
This pair arrived in a bag. That’s the tweet. There was no shoe box; the boots were literally stuffed with tissue paper, bound together by elastic, wrapped in an outer cocoon of plastic, and stuffed inside a poly mailer to cut down on shipping fees. Gap, Inc’s wallet must be hurting this year. (Gap down 10%, ON down 13%, but BR up 9% In Q2 2022!) Keep in mind that the MSRP on these boots is $170; even with a hefty discount, shipping these boots in a plastic bag is just, bananas. Banana Republic Factory – you need to do better.
Score: 2/5 Stars – This unbagging experience was less than ideal, especially at this price.
Fresh out of the bag, I notice the weight, or lack thereof. These boots are relatively lightweight, which isn’t always a bad thing. I don’t think anyone enjoys lugging around ten plus pounds of leather and rubber when you’re out and about in the city. However, in this case, you can immediately tell that there’s not much substance here as compared to similar boots from J.Crew, Huckberry, or Grant Stone. They feel about as heavy as a pair of desert boots.
There’s a muted texture to the suede due to the short, uniform nap.
The overall design aesthetic is pretty straight forward. We have an over the ankle moc toe boot pattern that features six pairs of eyelets and two sets of speed hooks finished in dark nickel. The upper is made of very evenly manicured suede in a versatile and unobtrusive khaki tan color. Suede boots typically have oodles of visual texture which tends to pair well with crispy denim and buttery soft flannel or Oxford cloth shirts. These boots have a more muted texture as the nap is trimmed down very, very short and uniform across the surface of the boot.
The cleanly stitched heel stay is simple, and does not include pull tabs.
The upper is assembled well and is single needle stitched throughout, including the traditional “Indy Stitch” across the upper quarters. The moc toe border is raised, similar to how the hand-stitched Shell Cordovan Indy boots are made. In contrast, most moc toe boots have a visibly machine-stitched vamp. Speaking of contrast, the cream or off-white stitching used across the upper assembly helps to define the boots shape and structure against the smooth backdrop of wheat brown suede. At the back, we have a simple heel stay with no pull tab. The flat, smooth cotton laces are surprisingly nice and a real high point in this review.
Lighter, contrasting stitching and surprisingly nice laces.
Peering inside, you’ll notice that the interior lining is made from a sueded fabric instead of leather. This is one visible area of cost cutting. Fabric linings tend to hold moisture which can lead to funky smells of mold growth over time. They also don’t hold up as well as leather when it comes to abrasion and durability. The insoles are technically not removable, but they are lightly glued down and you could easily remove them if you wanted to install aftermarket units with more support. The factory insoles are thin and made from closed cell foam and topped with a thin layer of what looks to be pigskin. While the initial comfort might be fine, this thin layer of foam won’t stand up to regular wear and tear. Peeling up the insoles, you can see the hard fiberboard midsole unit that everything is built around. Fiberboard insoles are typical at this price point, so that’s not news, but it just confirms that these boots aren’t made to last. The interior is simply lackluster; this is what your feet come in contact with, so you would expect to have components that could withstand a bit more usage. Unfortunately, I doubt it.
Forgoing the currently popular lug sole makes these smart casual appropriate.
The molded rubber outsole has some decent traction without looking like you’ve stepped on an Alligator, by which I mean that these could be worn in a business “smart” casual environment without looking like you’re wearing hiking boots. The sole checkering is notable and should provide for some decent traction in most day to day conditions. The heel portion of the sole unit is only half-checkered. This sole unit is glued to the fiberboard midsole and uses a fake stitched welt to add some spice around the beltline. Odds are you won’t replace the sole.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Average at best. The suede is OK, but the interior is less than ideal.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried this pair in a 10.5, and with my usual light to medium weight Darn Tough socks, they fit alright. I notice that they feel slightly too narrow at the toe as it tapers in, but not enough to cause any discomfort. I assume some break-in time will help stretch this area out. If you typically need a wider width, or you’re on the wider side of the standard “D” width, you’re probably out of luck here as they don’t offer any other options. Sizing up a half size may help.
Cheaper glued on insoles and a sueded fabric lining may quickly affect how comfortable these boots remain.
For size reference, I am a 10.5 D/E on a Brannock device and usually take a 10 D in most roomy 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 Converse/Vans and an 11 in most athletic sneakers from Adidas or Nike. Have a size question? Email us!
Comfort is always subjective, but these feel alright – nothing bad to note, but you can tell that the initial comfort will degrade over time and these won’t feel as good (long term) as other brands that use a higher quality insole or cork fillers underneath. If you step down hard enough, you can start to feel the hard fiberboard insole tucked underneath that pig suede-topped insert.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Boots run true to size but initial comfort is just OK; won’t last long.
Wrapping this one up, I think these Indy-esque boots look great from the outside and are comfortable enough for your average Joe to wear for a few months. They’ll look great with a crisp pair of dark blue jeans and a hearty flannel shirt. I’d even wear them with a navy sport coat, light blue Oxford shirt, and semi-casual khaki chinos for a “smart casual” look on a budget. However, I think you might be disappointed long term if you’re going in expecting this pair of boots to be on par with something from J.Crew’s house brand stuff, Huckberry’s Rhodes line, or possibly rub shoulders with anything better like Grant Stone or Alden.
All in all, the Banana Republic Factory suede lace-up boots are fashion boots first and foremost. If you’re OK with that and can snag these during one of the seemingly random 50% off sales, I think you’ll be happy enough with them for the price. They’ll definitely look the part.
Avg. Score: 2.75/5 – When on sale, these are decently average fashion boots. Cheap.
Clean looks, but lacking substance for the long term.