About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the construction industry. He enjoys whiskey, watches, boots/shoes, family time, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
A friend and former co-worker of mine was recently promoted from a call center technical support role to a technical trainer position. This new role involves more direct contact with customers where he will be teaching a classroom full of adults about the ins and outs of this company’s products. This new role also comes with a change in dress code because the trainers usually wear “smart” business casual outfits that typically feature button-down collar dress shirts, flat front slacks or chinos, and some sort of “smart” footwear that isn’t sneakers. Jumping from a t-shirt and jeans to an elevated and stylish outfit can be hard for some folks to grasp, so let’s start with an especially versatile pair of boots that can help bridge that style gap.
Today we’re taking a look at Nordstrom’s house brand Blaine chukka boots. From the stock photos online, these boots look to be pretty dashing and a more chic version of desert boots. Best of all, the price is just $120 USD delivered to your door, so let’s see how they stack up
A versatile and stylish boot that can perform well in various style scenarios.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Outstanding! Very nice and well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.
- 4 – Very satisfactory. Above average, may have very minor issues but still worth it.
- 3 – Satisfactory. Average at best. May have notable issues, may be OK for some.
- 2 – Unsatisfactory. Below average due to defects, flaws, or other imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price. Avoid!
- Brand: Nordstrom
- Style: Two-eyelet dress chukka
- Size: 10.5
- Last: N/A
- Upper: Suede
- Sole: Studded rubber (faux/replica Dainite sole)
- Details: Blind metal eyelets,
- Extras: N/A
- Country of Origin: China
- Price: $120 USD
The “Brown Falcon” suede is a mix of khaki tan, earthy brown, and ash grey.
That welt stitching is almost certainly just for looks.
My pair of Blaine chukkas was ordered on a Sunday afternoon via Nordstrom’s website with free delivery. This package shipped out on the next business day (Monday) through LaserShip, a relatively new competitor to other common carriers like UPS and FedEx. It arrived on my doorstep a few days later (Thursday) with tracking updates provided through Nordstrom only.
FYI: Nordstrom is the last major department store standing with an open-ended return policy. They handle returns and exchanges on a case-by-case basis with the ultimate goal of making customers happy, regardless of time frame, with the expectation that customers won’t abuse the system. Generally speaking, returns are free and can be made either through the mail or through your local brick and mortar store if you’re lucky enough to have one nearby. A+++
Score: 5/5 Stars – Nordstrom is simply the best there is. Easy ordering, quick shipping.
The average unboxing was not a surprise.
But they shipped free, and they could ship back for free if you so choose.
This pair arrived in a basic, black Nordstrom shoe box. I’m fairly certain that this is the same box that fills the shelves at Nordstrom Rack and is used for those pairs that are missing their original boxes. In any case, it’s not packed with pleasant features or worth saving for storage. Inside, the chukkas are simply wrapped in a few sheets of translucent tissue paper and are stuffed with a few dollops of stuffing to help keep the toe shape during shipping. There were no extras or extravagant luxuries to speak of; no spare laces, no shoe bags, and no care products.
Score: 3/5 Stars – The unboxing experience was totally average, but meets expectations.
Fresh out of the box, these chukka boots look great and seem to fit neatly into the smart casual realm of men’s style that is at the center of the relaxed casual and traditional business casual halves of a fashion Venn diagram. The overall silhouette, simple design aesthetic, and thoughtful material selection all lead to a versatile and stylish boot that can perform well in various style scenarios. Dress them up with a button-down collar Oxford shirt and twill trousers for an upscale and sophisticated office look or dress them down with a simple polo shirt and chinos for a casual and comfortable outfit that’s ready for whatever the weekend brings you.
Nice shape. Sleeker/dressier than a desert boot.
The Blaine boots feature a simple two-eyelet upper design with an above the ankle shaft and an elongated almond-shaped vamp. This silhouette helps keep them within that dressy realm; a taller and more rounded toe box paired with a shorter or blockier shaft would push them closer in design to the more casual desert boot options from brands like Clarks, Astorflex, or Nisolo.
The upper is made from a uniformly split, neatly trimmed, and evenly colored suede leather. Nordstrom calls this shade “Brown Falcon” – I have no idea what that is, but I keep imagining that it’s a better description of what happens after a sack full of Taco Bell or excessive drinking. For me, this color is the amalgam of khaki tan, earthy brown, and ash grey that was designed to be as versatile and unobtrusive as possible. It works! The faux welt, welt stitching, rubber outsole, and heel stack all feature warm brown tones, too. This package will pair well with a wide variety of other earthy tones such as navy blues, olive greens, and every shade of brown. The upper design is simplistic, but has some charming design points. The tongue is a two piece design for a better fit at the bridge of the foot. The eyelets are backed with blind metal reinforcements for strength and the double rows of stitching help distinguish the design. All of the upper’s stitching is done in a tonal brown thread and it all looks neat and tidy throughout.
Inside the boot you’ll find an Ortholite insole, roughout suede in the heel cup, and a part leather/part fabric lining.
Outside is a heel stack that looks like it could be compressed paper fiberboard.
Peering inside, you’ll start to see where the corners got cut. The front half of the boot is lined in a soft fabric “for breathability”, but the back half is lined in a layer of chrome tanned cowhide with the telltale blue edge. The heel cup features a nice layer of roughout suede for extra grip, helping to reduce heel slip while the boots break in and mold around your foot. The insole unit is a multi-layer selection of budget-friendly Ortholite comfort foams with a leather sock liner on top. Underneath, there’s a paper fiberboard base instead of dense cellulose fiberboard or vegetable tanned leather. These paper fiberboard bases are essentially cardboard and tend to fall apart if your shoes see too much moisture, either from internal or external sources. Given what we know about comfort foam insole layers collapsing/compressing over time and paper fiberboard bases throwing in the towel faster than the Chicago Bears do every year, you can see why these boots are priced the way they are. These chukkas aren’t bad per se, they’re just designed to hit a specific price point and were not designed to last a lifetime. Armed with this knowledge going in, you’ll understand if and when the Blaine chukkas start to fall apart in time.
The rubber outsoles are a softer (possibly faster wearing,)
more budget-friendly version of a Dainite sole.
Flipping the boots over will showcase the studded rubber outsoles and heel toplift. These are essentially softer and more budget-friendly versions of Dainite’s eponymous and infamous studded outsoles. Note that this Nordstrom version is much softer and more forgiving than the dense and hard wearing version that’s made in the U.K., but the Nordstrom version requires little to no break in. While I cannot see what the heel base is made of, it certainly looks like paper fiberboard compressed into a brick and it almost resembles paper micarta. Overall, the outsole is a bit softer than I initially envisioned but that does add to some initial comfort out of the box. I do worry that the soft rubber soles will break down and wear out faster than others.
Score: 3/5 Stars – These are budget focused boots with many shortcuts, but good value.
In terms of fit and sizing, I recommend trying your true-to-size Brannock measurement or a half-size down. I tried this pair in my usual 10.5 and, in terms of length and width, they fit OK out of the box. There’s about an inch of extra room up front and I can slide one pointer finger behind my heel, so I could probably try a half-size down and zero in on a slightly better fit. However, the width may also shrink a little and this pair of 10.5s runs about as narrow as I feel comfortable wearing. So, if you’re in between sizes and typically take a normal or narrow width, you could size down a half-size and be OK. If you normally take a normal to wider width, you may want to go true-to-size for your Brannock measurement for a bit of extra wiggle room.
They’re a true balance of lower cost, good looks, and…
corners cut on construction and some of the materials.
And that’s all plenty reasonable.
For a U.S. Brannock size reference, I measure at a 10.5 D heel to ball and 11 D heel to toe. I generally prefer to size down a half-size in voluminous lasts like Alden’s Barrie and Grant Stone’s Leo, but take my “true” Brannock size of 10.5 D/E in the Allen Edmonds 65 last as that typically runs narrow for me. For sneakers, I generally take a 10.5 in Converse and Vans but size up to an 11 in athletic sneakers from Adidas, Nike, etc. Have a size question? Email us!
Comfort is always subjective, but these Blaine chukkas are decently comfortable out of the box. The OrthoLite multi-layer comfort foam insoles are doing a lot of work to protect your foot from the inner workings, as the main structure underneath does appear to be paper-based fiberboard. Long term comfort will probably suffer as the foam layers break down and the soft rubber outsole begins to thin as it wears away, but you should get at least a year of regular wear out of these boots before they end up being too uncomfortable.
Score: 4/5 Stars – Sizing is slightly roomy, might try sizing down. Initial comfort is OK.
Overall, I do like the look and feel of Nordstrom’s Blaine chukka boots. They look a bit smarter and more sophisticated than your average pair of Clarks desert boots and will serve you far better during those times where you need to crank the formality up a notch or two. Just remember that these are value-focused, budget-friendly chukka boots and many corners were cut to get them to an approachable price point. They will not last you forever and they are not welted or crafted from materials that are worth saving once they’ve worn out their welcome. If you know that going in, then you will probably be pleased as punch that they’re just $120 US.
Avg. Score: 3.75/5 – These are OK entry level chukkas for the man on a limited budget.