Work boots are not a new thing. Heck, even their resurgence in popularity is not a new thing. The market is pretty saturated, and there are many solid options at all pricepoints, from $200 to over $1000 and everywhere in between. Even so, Truman Boot Co. has exploded in popularity in this crowded space – how? Well, it turns out that by approaching a common product in a new way – and by not being a huge toolbag – it’s possible to offer something that feels exciting, even amongst all the other choices out there. I stopped by to say hello to Vince and the Truman team a few weeks ago in their new Boulder home – here’s a glimpse inside.
Update 2/18: a lot has changed at Truman since this post – they still make their boots in Boulder, but have moved away from made-to-order and also removed some design options, while focusing more on in-stock boots and wholesale accounts at boutiques.
I first chatted with founder Vince Romano over a year ago, back when the new company was based in Pennsylvania and had just 2-3 employees (including Vince). Since the company’s 2014 launch, they’ve moved to Boulder, opened up a workshop, and upped their head count to about half a dozen – smaller than any other shoe brand I can think of, but big enough to keep on top of the rapidly expanding orders. Truman Boot Co. specializes in made-to-order footwear, where the user can select from a multitude of material, hardware, and style options. This customization is quite exciting to nerds like me – after all, I usually have a long list of must-haves for any potential purchase, so being able to pick my own options is always appealing. With that said, Truman has been rapidly expanding their stock collection, which allows for customers to shop from several popular styles without having to wait 3+ months to wear them.
The leathers favored by the Truman team hail from around the globe, with many familiar tannery names like Horween, Stead, Guidi, and more. Although they do offer classic choices like Horween’s Chromexcel, they tend to lean towards more unique materials, like leathers with interesting textures or color variegations. All of the options are very wearable, but many have a little something extra that will set them apart in a sea of brown work boots. Vince has recently been very excited about some of the products coming out of Italian tanneries, which he thinks are more open to making unique leathers. He also spent years working in Italy, so a working proficiency of Italian has presumably helped him navigate a world not overly friendly to outsiders. All told, I think that the exciting and ever-changing range of leather options is another aspect of Truman Boot that has made them appeal to both novice and “advanced” boot purchasers.
As for the construction, Truman boots are made using the stitchdown method, a resoleable welt style commonly seen in logger-style boots like Danner and Viberg. Their small team is divided up into different task stations – clicking, stitching, welting, etc – so that each employee specializes in a certain part of the bootmaking process. If you own a pair of Trumans, there’s a pretty good chance that every single person at the company touched them at least once.
With the trifecta of heavy customization, uncommon materials, and small-batch production, it becomes a bit less surprising that Truman Boot has carved out a niche for itself in a crowded space. It seems like the combination of internet-savvyness and old-school craftsmanship have struck a chord, and I’m excited so see what they come up with in the coming years. I’ve been jonesing for a pair myself, but customization is as double-edged sword – every time I think I know what I want, something more interesting is released.
Of course, the long wait for a custom product can be a bit of a turn off for some (especially when you can’t easily confirm your size first), but this is incredibly common in the footwear industry. Their wait times aren’t really any longer than powerhouses like Crockett & Jones or Alden, and I tend to have a bit more sympathy for small companies that have to answer emails along with making the product than large brands operating an entire factory. As for sizing, I had a brief moment to try on a pair and I found them to fit fairly true-to-size: I generally wear an 8.5D-9D, and both of those sizes felt pretty good to me.
If you’re looking to get into a pair of Trumans, the best way is still to order through their website (assuming you don’t live in Colorado, where you can stop by to try on a pair). With that said, Truman Boot recently started a collaboration with Oakland’s own Standard & Strange, and I think we’ll start seeing them pursue more opportunities like this. I do know that they want to keep things small scale, though, so I doubt the company will look to expand dramatically from where they are now.
All told, I have a lot of respect for the Truman team for making something played out feel exciting again. Their products aren’t cheap, but they dovetail in quite well to their competitor’s pricing, and offer a much more personal feel. They’re putting out some great products if you don’t mind the wait – which, let’s be honest – is the hardest part.
Tools of the trade – some of the equipment needed on each pair of boots.
One of the many dogs in the Truman Boot workshop – the company is actually named after one of Vince’s dogs.
Cut pieces of Marrone horse rump – one of Truman Boot’s most popular leathers – are ready to be assembled.
Natural veg-tan leather on a plaintoe pattern
A rare shade of Horween shell (no. 4 I believe) getting ready to be connected to the sole.