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.
Today on Dappered we have a rare two-for-one feature! Huckberry recently updated their ever-popular Cooper Chelsea boots from their in-house Rhodes Footwear lineup. Renamed the Jackson, these new casual slip-on boots are a slight departure from the dressier Cooper boots and come in two flavors that feature differing upper leathers and rubber outsole options.
On one hand, you have a pair with a waxed suede upper and more aggressive “heavy” lug rubber soles. On the other hand, you have a pair with a very smooth and marbled leather and more subtle “mini” lug rubber soles. Which pair, dear reader, should you choose? Is one pair worth $50 more than the other? Well, let’s unbox these puppies and find out together.
One name, two versions, and two costs. What’s the difference?
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: Huckberry’s Rhodes line
- Style: Chelsea boots
- Size: 10.5 US
- Last: N/A
- Construction: Goodyear welted
- Details: N/A
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: Leon, Mexico
- Upper: Alfamex Glasgow waxy suede
- Sole: Vibram 100 Montagna lug outsole w/ stacked heel and Vibram topper
- Price: $298
- Upper: LEFARC’s Article Trooper leather (per Huckberry)
- Sole: Vibram 430 mini lug outsole w/ stacked heel and Vibram topper
- Price: $250
My pairs were ordered on a Monday via Huckberry, they shipped out the next evening via UPS Ground, and they were delivered on that Thursday. Unlike some items from third party brands that have to be ordered and drop shipped, Huckberry’s Rhodes boots are an in-house, white label line so they’re usually in stock when you go to order them. Ordering from the Huckberry site is as smooth as one could ask for and they typically get your orders sent out really quick.
FYI: Huckberry offers free returns and exchanges on unworn, unaltered goods within 60 days of delivery. Orders placed during the November 1st to December 31st holiday season are eligible for return by January 31st of the following year. Nice! As usual, make sure you’re trying on new shoes at home or on a carpeted surface to prevent sole scuffs and excessive upper creasing.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Easy ordering, fast shipping, wonderful return policy. Fantastic!
High five to Huckberry for their fast shipping and generous return policy.
Both pairs of Jackson Chelsea boots arrived in Huckberry’s Rhodes Footwear navy blue boot boxes. Inside, each boot was wrapped with a layer of basic white tissue paper and stuffed with a few more sheets as if they were little turkeys preparing for a holiday dinner. As these boots don’t use laces, we didn’t get any spares or any other notable goodies inside the box. Boo!
The boot market is tough and there are a ton of fierce competitors around this $200-300 price tier. You have Thursday Boots on the lower end who feature a relatively basic unboxing experience. Oddly enough, I think Thursday Boots and Huckberry’s Rhodes boots are close cousins; more on that later. In the middle of the field, J.Crew offers similar boots and may occasionally toss in shoe bags or a small shoe horn, leather coaster, or other miscellaneous accessory. On the higher end of this price range, you have Grant Stone who knocks it out of the park and makes every purchase feel truly special. Grant Stone usually includes flannel shoe bags, a mini metal shoe horn, a large polishing cloth, and a signed thank you card. Overall, this Huckberry unboxing experience falls somewhere in the middle; it’s OK for the price you pay.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Overall decent, better than some but can’t meet the Grant Stone bar.
Fresh out of the box, I notice that both pairs are very unique. You can immediately tell that the suede pair is going to work better with more weekender casual, heavily textured outfits – think crispy raw denim, heavyweight flannel shirts, etc. The other pair with the smooth, marbled leather is a touch more elegant but still fits in this casual realm. I think this pair will work better with monochrome or evening-focused outfits featuring slim black jeans or slacks, a neatly pressed button-down shirt, buttery soft merino wool sweaters, etc. I think both pairs have a place in your shoe rotation, so maybe the answer to the opening question of “which should you choose?”… is… both!
One pair might be better suited to evening focused attire, the other to casual weekend outfits.
Design wise, the Jacksons are classic examples of simple but well designed Chelsea boots. The uppers are cut from just two pieces of leather – one larger piece for the vamp and front half of the shaft, one smaller piece for the rear quarter and heel. This blueprint is typical for Chelsea boots in this price tier. It’s also inherently a bit more casual and unlike the more elegant (and more expensive) wholecut option that higher quality makers like RM Williams and Carmina deploy. Both pairs feature contrasting black elastic gores, black twill fabric pull tabs at the front and rear, and a very dark espresso brown welt and edge dressing along the midsole.
Shown here with Alden Indys, which are roomier and more forgiving than other boots.
The Jacksons with the “heavy” lug sole feature the softly textured Glasgow suede from the Alfamex Tannery in León, Mexico. This waxed split suede feels like a nice cut of top quality cowhide, allegedly sourced from American cattle. The factory in León shaves down the suede to achieve a uniform surface before re-tanning it to add oils and waxes for waterproofness. I believe this suede is also aniline dyed a warm shade of “umber” brown and coated with a layer of silicone to help seal in the goodness and create a hydrophobic surface that repels liquids.
This pair of the suede version of the Jacksons had some quality control issues.
My pair had a few issues that I’d like to point out. The right boot had a few spots on the vamp where the waxed suede was burnished a bit too much, which caused these areas of darker color to develop. It was barely noticeable on foot, but you can see it in the hand. The left boot had a roughly finished outer welt edge that had slivers of leather hanging off in various places, as well as a lot of excess glue (or other substance) around the inside arch area. The right boot had loose threads and excess glue at the medial welt joint. You could probably spend a half-hour cleaning all of this up, but as the consumer you shouldn’t have to do your own QC.
The marbled character of this Lefarc leather creates shifts in colors depending on the light.
Moving over to the Jacksons with the “mini” lug sole, these are allegedly made with “Article Trooper” tumbled waterproof leather from Lefarc, one of León’s other major tanneries. I searched high and low for details on this particular leather, but I could not find anything outside of the Huckberry product page. If we zoom out and take an Average Joe’s look at it, this cowhide leather is matte, smooth, and almost feels dry to the touch. Huckberry calls this color soil but I think in person it’s more of a greyish brown marbled pattern with a bit of depth to it. (Editor’s Note: I bought a pair of these for myself during the 15% off sale last month. I concur that they lean gray-er in person, and Adam’s photos seem more real-world-accurate to my eye than those on the Huckberry website.) The colors shift in the daylight from greys and browns to dusty tans; it’s quite hard to photograph these and get a “true” color, which is why my photos do not match Huckberry’s studio photos. If you’re in the market for a pair of boots with a lot of character, you might fall in love with these.
A few QC issues on the mini lug pair as well, like wrinkling, leather pinched in the stitching process, and mis-aligned panels.
This pair also had some minor issues that I wanted to call out. The left boot had a notable section of wrinkled or loose grain on the vamp that you can see when it’s on foot. Leather is of course a natural material and cows have stretch marks and wrinkly skin just as we humans do, but the boot factory clicking team should have used this piece in a spot where it wasn’t so prominent. The right boot had a few stitching issues. The first is more of a minor nitpick; the two leather panels meet on the inside near the elastic gore. At this spot, the stitching wasn’t tidy and there’s a spot where the leather sticks out. The second is inside where the soft cowhide lining is stitched to the elastic gore and to the outer upper leather. You can see that the sewer pinched a bit of the lining leather and it rolled; this is noticeable on foot. Finally, the right boot had a small scratch or rubbed mark on the vamp that wouldn’t buff out.
The interior of the boots features a leather lining, and leather topped insoles that should wear in well.
On our next stop on this boot tour, we look inside. Both pairs feature a soft cow leather lining that extends throughout the upper. In my opinion, leather linings are far superior to cheap fabric ones as leather tends to breathe a little better and expel moisture a little better which helps cut down on the far too common boot stank. The leather topped insoles feel comfortable and they’re attached to a rubber midsole that helps to reduce fatigue and increase comfort. Over time, I do think these insoles will wear in well and should be nicer than cheaper foam insoles.
The suede Jacksons feature that heavy log sole on the left,
while the marbled leather version on the right has a less aggressive sole.
Aside from the upper leathers, the other major defining difference between the two pairs is the choice of outsoles. The waxed suede pair features a Vibram 100 Montagna lugged sole and heel topper combo that would feel right at home out on the hiking trail or the bourbon trail. It inspires confidence when you’re trekking through the day and would be an excellent choice if you encounter foul weather conditions. While I call it a “heavy” lug sole, it doesn’t feel like it weighs any more than a regular rubber Vibram sole. Do note that this sole is a bit chunkier, visually, and the tread can be seen from the side. If you would prefer a slightly more svelte option, the pair with the smooth marbled leather uses the Vibram 430 mini lug sole and lugged heel topper. This option provides for better traction over leather or studded (Dainite) rubber soles, but it’s understated and you can’t see the central lugs from the side. I have this sole on a pair of bespoke Nick’s Boots from 2015 and they’re still going strong. It’s also worth mentioning that both Jackson Chelsea boots feature Goodyear welt construction, so they can easily be resoled by a local cobbler should you wear through the original Vibram rubber soles.
Fun fact: while researching for this piece, I learned that Thursday Boots also use these tanneries in León, Mexico and might just be close cousins to Huckberry’s Rhodes line.
Score: 3/5 Stars – Overall, these are nice but there are some notable QC issues.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement. I tried these pairs in a 10.5 and that feels right. There’s just enough space up front for some expansion over the course of the day and my heels feel locked into the heel cup at the back. There’s not a ton of extra width, even if it looks like that from above, so some may be out of luck. Interestingly, the smooth leather Jacksons with the mini lug soles fit tighter overall. That may be due to the leather and how it stretches during the lasting process, or it may be due to QC. The suede pair with the heavier lug soles feel amazing on foot with just the right proportions.
The leather Jacksons felt tight to Adam, whereas the suede versions felt just right.
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 pretty great right out of the box. The cowhide leather linings feel soft and the non-removable insoles feel supportive without being too firm. As I mentioned above, the suede pair with the heavy lug soles feel great (better than the smooth leather ones) and I mark that down due to the softness and stretchiness of the suede.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Overall solid. These fit true to size and the initial comfort is decent.
Regardless of which sole option you prefer, you’ll probably love your pair of Huckberry Rhodes Jackson Chelsea boots. Both pairs offer a sturdy, yet comfortable leather upper, a soft cow leather liner with a leather topped footbed, and a rock steady rubber outsole that’s ready for whatever the world throws at you. Both pairs offer substantial value for your well-earned dollar. However, note that you might run into some unique leather characteristics or minor QC issues, as we did. These are the first pairs I’ve tried from Huckberry’s Rhodes line with less than stellar craftsmanship; this is not typical, but it is noteworthy and something you should be aware of.
Style wise, if you’re the Oxford cloth button-down shirt and tailored chinos kind of guy, you’ll probably prefer the Jacksons with the Vibram 430 “mini” lug sole. If you’re the kind of guy who lives in heavy flannel shirts and raw denim jeans, you’ll probably prefer the Jacksons with the Vibram 100 “heavy” lug sole. Can’t decide? Flip a coin and order one; you won’t regret them.
Avg. Score: 4.25/5 – Highly recommended, even though we ran into some spotty QC.