The search for the perfect black boot, part one

Augggghhhh. My favorite (actually only) pair of black ankle boots are darn near worn out.

A moment of silence for a truly great pair of shoes. Read the review here. Except for high summer, I have worn these boots at least three times a week for the past five years. Comfortable enough to wear all day long on a tradeshow floor; classy enough to wear to a business dinner with a suit. I wear them with jeans on the weekend, and knit dresses and swingy skirts as well.

Munro manufactures its shoes in its home state of Arkansas.

Munro manufactures its shoes in its home state of Arkansas.

I hate to give them up. They were made by Munro American, which is one of the few remaining shoes companies that still manufactures in the U.S. That alone is reason to love them, but there’s more: Munro makes narrow widths. They make wides, too, but those are more common. Narrows are much harder to find, and happen to be what I need, so I talk about Munro in near-reverent tones.

Of course they were the first brand I thought of when I needed a new pair of black boots, but unfortunately, none of the styles I ordered fit exactly right. One was close, but a bit tight in the toe box. I like to wear something  thicker than a trouser sock with my boots. And, if I’m being perfectly honest, while the boots were all attractive, I wanted something a bit edgier this time around, and that is not Munro’s strong suit. Back they all went. I felt like a traitor, because I do believe in buying American wherever possible. But I also believe in getting what you want. Munro offers free shipping both ways and exemplary customer service, and I will definitely order from them again.

You can't tell from the photo, but the back half of the boot is fur

You can’t tell from the photo, but the back half of the boot is fur

I ended up back at my old standby: Zappos. I ordered three pair: Michael Kors “Patrice,” Rachel Zoe “Rory,” and Isaac Mizrahi “New York Straps.”

All of them were lovely. However, I could barely keep the Michael Kors and the Isaac Mizrahi on my feet, even though reviewers had mentioned they ran narrow.

Size-wise, I fared a little better with the Rachel Zoe, but decided to send those back as well because of the haircalf leather. Haircalf uses the furry side of the cow; it’s also called “hair-on leather” or “ponyhair” sometimes. While theoretically, a manufacturer could use a calf or pony hide to create haircalf/ponyhair leather, they almost always use regular cow hide, so the names are deceiving.

The more I ran my fingers over the soft, glossy black hair portion of the boots, the weirder I felt. I eat meat, and I wear leather shoes, and plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. But seeing hair-on leather forces you to confront those choices. It reminds you in a very real way that the leather we wear came from a living, breathing being. It doesn’t change my mind about wearing it, but it does remind me to approach my leather purchases with a certain amount of respect and scrutiny.

So I’m still bootless for now. Stay tuned.


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