Thursday, January 10, 2013

Doc Marten's "Made in England" UK Vintage boots - part II

My first post comparing the UK, Thai and Chinese Doc Marten 1460's generated a lot of controversy (and still gets tons of hits) - so much so that I had to turn off the comments, which had veered towards outright racism before I deleted a bunch of them. Some people seemed quite threatened by my conclusion, which was that the then-new line of reissue "Made in England" Doc Martens boots sucked. And they did - I haven't worn my first pair of them in years now, though I do still own them.

But I decided to give them another shot with the 25% off year-end sale DM always runs. Part of my problem with my earlier pair was that DM's sizing is wrong. I wear a US size 12, which DM's sizing chart tells me should be equivalent to a UK size 11. But I found my Made in England Docs to be smaller than both my US 12's and my UK 11's from Thailand and China. They still technically fit, but they were a bit tight due to an odd shape that would have required feet shaped like a hockey stick to feel comfortable, and they left no room for me to insert an aftermarket insole, which I found necessary to combat the rock-hard insoles they came with.  So this time I went up to a UK size 12, expecting they might be a bit big but knowing I'd have room for a gel insole if needed.

Well, I was surprised when my boots arrived - the entire experience is different, starting right with the box they come in:

That's actually gold foil lettering. DM is obviously trying to go for kind of a premium experience with the Made in England line now - my earlier pair just came in a standard cardboard box with black and yellow stenciled lettering on it. (Sorry, it wasn't even worth keeping, so I didn't get a pic before tossing it.) It was not the same as the totally plain Asian boxes, but it wasn't premium by any stretch.

In the guitar world, we call stuff like this "case candy":

That's a little pamphlet explaining what's different/better about the MIE's and why you want them (basically they are supposed to be better constructed, hand stitched, etc). It also gives some tips on shoe care, which surprisingly don't try to push you into buying DM's own shoe care products. In other words, this is actually kind of useful info. The pamphlet itself is printed on heavy paper and feels more expensive than a simple throwaway leaflet.

As soon as I put the boots on, I knew that DM had made major changes to the whole boot. The shape is straighter now - for better or worse (depending on how much of a purist you are), the shape is now very close to the Asian version.

Vietnamese on the left, new UK in the middle, old(er) UK on the right. The older UK boot looks almost like it's made for someone with club foot, and trust me, it feels like it too.

Btw, those relative sizes are accurate - the back of each boot is on a line, so that's the size difference between an Asian 11, new UK 12 and old UK 11.

The insoles are spongier - probably pretty close to the way they were in the old days, and miles better than the concrete slabs they put in my earlier pair of MIE's. The sole itself is also thicker and made of a different rubber that's lighter in color.

The leather is also different. Look:

Old on the left, new on the right. That's neither an illusion nor is it due to wear. I said in my earlier post (or maybe in the comments) that the leather on my original MIE's was thin and hard. But the leather on these new ones is thick, and definitely softer even when new. My old MIE's basically never broke in; I'm still working on these new ones but I'm pretty confident they will. And the leather does definitely feel better than the Thai or Chinese ones.

I think these are keepers. I might still put in an insole, but it's actually more for sizing this time - I wish DM made these in half sizes. 11 is too small for me and 12 is just a smidge too big. But the latter is preferable. DM should update their sizing chart, or just make the UK and Asian boots consistent. Size 11 in the Asian version is fine for me. Size 11 in the UK version is torture.

I gotta give props to DM, though, for making the other changes they needed to make. I don't follow them that closely so I don't know if any of these things were really publicized, but to me it's immediately obvious how much better the MIE's are now than when they were first reissued. I wonder if they read my earlier post!

Here's my DM "family" at the moment:

Closest to furthest, those are my old UK 1460's, Vietnamese 1460's (same as Thai/Chinese), new UK 1460's and Thai cherry red 1490's. My two favorites are the new UK ones and the Thai 1490's - something about the 1490's just feels better built than the other Asian DM's I've had, and they've lasted me about 4 years now (not with daily use - as big as they are, they look kind of clownish if I'm not careful).

I hope I don't change my mind again after a few months or a year, but at this point I feel like I've gotta update my original conclusion based on this new evidence and recommend springing for the Made in England DM's now. They're overpriced at $200 (they were originally $180), but if you can get them for $150 like I did, I think they're probably worth it. The Asian DM's are still a pretty good deal at under $100 (with a coupon for, but I do chew through those things at the rate of about a pair a year for my daily wear black boots. If the new UK ones last me an extra 6 months - and longevity wasn't one of the problems I had with my earlier pair - they'll have paid for themselves.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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