Tricker’s – Monkey boots review

I’ve been a fan of Tricker’s for a long time, and, being an owner of three pairs of their country boots – all purchased between 2010 to 2011 – I’m able to say with some confidence that their shoes are well made and durable. Founded in 1829, and still owned by the Baltrop family today, RE Tricker specialises in British brogue work boots and shoes, and is one of the world’s most long-standing footwear manufacturers.

Given Tricker’s is a decently sized Northhampton shoemaker, it may be surprising to learn that Tricker’s country range is built on only a handful of tried-&-true models that haven’t changed a whole lot over the years – the Stow, the Bourton, variations of the Grasmere (‘Super Boot’), etc. Many of their stockists design interesting permutations of these basic models every season, some with mismatched leathers and other with sports/wedge soles, but IMO most of these don’t add any more value to the base models and usually don’t have the same classic, lasting appeal.

That being said, I have been lusting after Tricker’s seldom seen lace-to-toe “Monkey” boots for some time now. Having found this particular make-up at Superdenim (thank Cthulhu it didn’t have a wedge sole), I present to you my first pair of monkey boots!

Overview

I’ve been told the Monkey boot was made famous during WWII as infantry shoes of the Czechoslovakian army. There are, of course, similarities to boxing boots of old, though I am not sure if a direct lineage exists.

From what I gather, after WWII monkey boots moved toward two differing directions. In the US, makers such as Endicott Johnson Company and Weinbrenner Shoe Company adopted the design and produced what we now refer to as “roofer” style work boots in the 1950s. In the UK, various fashion/lifestyle groups chose a short version of the monkey boot as their footwear uniform, well into the 1980s.

Today? As a member of Generation Y, I don’t believe I’ve seen anybody wear monkey boots in real life. They remain popular in Japan among certain fashion circles, and to an extent in our own workwear/denimhead/’heritage’ clothing communities. In Japan, it seems people prefer the American version of tall monkeys – even the Tricker’s monkey boots being sold there are the 9 eyelet versions, as opposed to the standard 7 eyelet version featured today or the even short 5 eyelet shoe version.

Shape & Fit

These monkeys are best described as lace-to-toe low work boots.

With 7 eyelets lace-to-toe and standing only 4.5 inches (to the mid-sole), these are shorter than the average boot from Tricker’s, which usually measure 1 inch taller.

Despite the added bulk on the sides due to the lace-to-toe construct, these boots don’t look overly bulky from any angle.

Tricker’s monkey boots are usually made with their 5402R last, which runs slightly small/narrow. Noticeable too is the slightly low toe box.

In terms of sizing, I would recommend sizing up half from your Stow (4497 last) size and sizing up one from your Bourton (4444 last) size. To put it another way: I am UK 8 with the Stow, UK 7.5 with the Bourton and UK 8.5 with the Monkey.

I could have even gone with a UK size 9 and wear them with thick boot-socks.

Overall, an elegant country boot profile that would work well with jeans and chinos. Certainly not nearly as bulky as real tradesman footwear, but I wouldn’t call these boots ‘sleek’ either.

Comfort levels are good, and I experienced no discomfort in the toe box even if they are narrower than other Tricker’s boots.

Leather

The leather is one of the main characters today: a double tanned calf leather from Tanneries Haas, one of the major producers of Hermès’ Barenia leather. (The Baranil from Tannerie Degermann had been featured earlier this month.)

This French calf is very interesting, the vegetable re-tannage giving it similar properties as the more commonly encountered Horween Chromexcel leather.

Due to the leather being fundamentally chrome tanned, it has excellent water resistance. The vegetable re-tan gives the leather more character and a nicer grain. It then goes through intensive stuffing, filling the leather with oils, resulting in a very responsive leather with a flexible temper. There are patches of waxy bloom on the surface of the leather, which brushes away readily.

This French calf, however, is more consistent and more finely grained compared with Horween’s CXL, and doesn’t have the random dark spots or splotches that plague CXL.. More ‘upmarket’, or ‘luxurious’, if you like – likely due to the process and the younger age of cattle.

I have discovered that this leather marks and scratches quite easily (not unlike CXL), though any markings are easy to buff away due to the double-tannage and the high oil content.

Given the light colour and the significant oil content, this calf leather will likely darken significantly over time.

This Haas calf is 2.0 mm (5 oz) thick, with the tongue being thicker at 2.2 mm.

Construction

These monkey boots are bench made with a 360 degree machine Goodyear welt and a Barbour (Storm) welt for increased water resistance.

The body of the boots feature single and double row stitching, with tonal threading. The stitch is dense and fairly neat.

The outer Haas calf leather is finished with rolled edges.

The Barbour welt is done very well, and is more rounded compared with the Alfred Sargent Hannover boots recently reviewed. The natural midsole unit is nicely put together, with 2 layers of leather cleanly cut and polished. The welt stitching is regular – more so than most American makes – but not quite at the level of finesse of bespoke makes.

The quarters consist of two pieces – the additional piece being a top layer running down the lace-to-toe and connecting with the mid-sole – a signature trait of Tricker’s monkey boot.

A similarly layered build is also noticeable at the back, with the backstays sewn on top of the quarters, and the counters again layered on top of both the quarters and backstays. This beefy back-portion does require a little breaking in, causing some irritation for me in the first few days.

All the panels are nicely put together, and the two shoes look very symmetrical side-by-side. The are no irregularities in the stitching or assembly, and no notable damage to any part of the leather.

Sole Unit & Misc.

The tongue is neatly and solidly made, and has a pinked top and cut-in loop for threading laces.

The tongue is backed with natural calf leather.

One thing I dislike about Tricker’s boots in general is that they do not have full- or half-bellowed tongues. The simple attachment to the throat is not secure enough to stop the tongue from shifting to the side during wear.

The inner is nicely constructed and, other than the heel, is fully lined with natural calf leather.

The brass eyelets are nice quality and securely attached.

The twill pull-tabs are made with waxed cotton.

One small complaint is that the supplied cotton laces are at least 15 cm too short for full lacing of the boots. I had to skip the top eyelet :-/

The natural leather heelstacks are nicely polished. The Dainite heels and soles are, of course, outstanding as a compromise between the sleek profile of a leather sole and the ruggedness of a full commando sole.

Opinion

This Tricker’s monkey boot is one of the nicest and most well made monkey boots available, and it features a very interesting French calf too!

If you are after a pair of monkeys, I’d recommend Tricker’s version without any hesitation.

It would seem to me that there has been no discernible decline in the quality of manufacture as far as Tricker’s footwear goes, even with the advent and now decline of the workwear/heritage fashion trend. The same cannot be said of many of our favourite footwear brands.

Blog friend and leather craftsman Ray purchased this same pair of monkeys, and also praised this boot – in particular the solid construct, outstanding even among his excellent American work boot collection.

Apart from a couple of small complaints – the tongue configuration, short laces – these monkeys are as good as I could ask for. Unreservedly recommended!

Now I want a dark green pair ;D

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7 thoughts on “Tricker’s – Monkey boots review

  1. Thanks for the review & great pics! In fact, I ordered a pair in (hopefully) my size from Superdenim the same night. I’m actually a bit nervous about the sizing, as it’s my first pair of Tricker’s.

  2. Looks like Superdenim sold all their stock in both colours (gold and a beautiful dark brown calf also by Haas that went by the name of Nastar) soon after your review. When I looked a minute ago the Nastar was still listed but all sizes greyed out and the gold one has entirely disappeared.

    BTW my pair arrived incredibly fast (slightly over 24h from Leeds to my German doorstep) and to my great relief it also fits really well. I have a narrow heel and low volume instep, which seems to go well with the last used on these boots.

    The leather looks and smells lovely and is surprisingly thick and tough for calfskin. I’ll post some pics on SF when I catch some sunlight – the past days were too cold and salt-infested for these boots and the Dainite sole isn’t ideal for walking on ice;-)

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