Although founded in 2013, Taft Clothing has quickly earned sufficient critical acclaim to garner a significant cult following. Celebrated for its radical yet studied boot styles and traditional craftsmanship, it’s grown to become one of the most recognisable footwear brands in the USA.
In this guide, we will review Taft Clothing in detail so you will discover whether they’re worth the hype by learning about their background, their best models as well as shoe construction processes:
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Taft Boots & Shoes Collections & Reviews
Before we provide a full review of Taft Clothing with a detailed breakdown of their background and manufacturing processes, we’ll take a close look at a few individual footwear offerings. Currently, you can read about the following boots and shoes:
It was when we first clapped eyes on the Branson that we immediately realised that we wanted to review Taft. Reminiscent of early 20th-Century spats used to protect shoes from mud, the Branson creatively marries plaid wool with Italian full-grain calfskin leather.
The results speak for themselves and the boot is breathtakingly mesmerising with its brass buttons and brogue details. Furthermore, the broguing is a rich detail yet remains subtle.
As you can see, it consists mostly of perforations without any pinking while leaving the cap toe blind rather than adding a medallion. Consequently, it’s an aesthetically balanced boot, which exudes a certain elegant eccentricity while simultaneously retaining elegance.
Finally, the boot is made with a full Goodyear welt construction, which offers excellent long-term wear, weatherproofing as well as durability as it can be resoled.
Fit & Comfort
Firstly, Taft are known among footwear fanatics to occasionally run a little large. As we’ll highlight later in this article, the brand indeed implies that they’re aware of this by suggesting that you order a size down when between sizes.
We ordered a size 9 US (42 EU) for the author who is regular as they come in this size. Fortunately, he didn’t have any complaints and felt that the boots fit well overall. However, he did add that it provided some wiggle room for thick socks, which we’d see as a positive thing overall!
Furthermore, the boots are fully-lined with soft calfskin leather. Therefore, they’re quite comfortable inside the shoe and retain a supple fit after breaking in. Similarly, the breaking-in time was quite short for Goodyear welted shoes.
Finally, bear in mind that the brass buttons are decorative. Rather than having to undo them individually do remove the boots, a zip on the interior side allows you to just kick them off.
Value For Money
Overall, we’re very impressed by Taft Clothing’s competitive price point. Indeed, it’s quite an accomplishment to offer Goodyear welted boots crafted from premium materials like full-grain calfskin leather for less than $300!
Between the quality craftsmanship and materials as well as the exciting design, Taft offers exceptional value with the Branson boot. Additionally, it’s a boot that will offer long-term value thanks to the durability of these materials and their construction.
The Saint was another boot that immediately caught our eye and not just because we’re Roger Moore fans. In fact, it was the handwoven leather that impressed us, which is a rare feat for many brands.
Indeed, hand-weaving leather is a laborious and costly process to such an extent that few factories continue to do it. With the Saint boot, the woven leather has been integrated into the uppers as inlays and framed by full-grain calfskin broguing.
As a result, the Saint boot is an elegantly complex creation with a rich aesthetic. Given the sheer cost of this feature, the boot is crafted using a Blake stitch method instead of a Goodyear welt. Therefore, Taft have been able to retail it at the same price point as their other creations.
In all honesty, this is a perfectly fair and understandable exchange. While the Blake stitch is cheaper, it’s still offers long-term wear and can be resoled a number of times.
The only veritable downside is that blake stitching offer less water resistance. Nevertheless, we are talking about a boot made from woven leather so water resistance isn’t really something that you would expect here.
Fit & Comfort
You can feel the difference between the Branson and the Saint as soon as you put them on. Firstly, the Saint is more adjustable since it has laces rather than brass snap fasteners.
However, the biggest difference is the Blake stitch construction. Thanks to a slimmer profile, it offers a greater degree of flexibility. Similarly, it was quicker to break in and provide its optimal level of comfort.
In fact, it’s reasons like this that we’re occasionally on the fence in the great Goodyear Vs Blake debate. While we tend to have a preference for the Goodyear welt as it does ultimately outlive the Blake, the difference can be marginal if you take care of them.
Value For Money
Interestingly, the Saint boot is actually $20 more expensive than the Branson. However, this can be quickly explained given the material and production cost in the uppers. Therefore, the resulting albeit modest price difference is quite consistent.
Stylistically, the Saint does offer excellent value for money. Woven leather shoes are rare but boots are even rarer. It was an intuitive but bold creative decision by Taft and we applaud their execution.
If you don’t mind exchanging this added visual detail for a Blake stitch, then they’re well worth the investment.
We’ll be perfectly honest, we were initially somewhat sceptical when we were first told about the Grail shoe. While we love Taft’s bold creativity in mixing materials, we felt like the metal chain over the cap toe was a step too far.
Yet, we’re comfortable to admit when we’re wrong we’re quite relieved on this occasion. Although just a small detail, the metal chain is far more audacious than Taft’s usual daring design features.
Nevertheless, it blends in well with the rest of the shoe, which is an otherwise classic cap toe brogue. Again, no pinking as been used, but the ridges are perfed and the cap features a toe medallion.
On this occasion, the shoe is constructed using a Goodyear welt for a premium finish and long-term performance. Meanwhile, the shoe is crafted from vegetable-tanned box-calf leather.
Fit & Comfort
As this was the only shoe that we tested, it was interesting to see just how they compared to Taft’s boots. Firstly, the fit wasn’t quite as generous as the boots and felt truer to size.
Similarly, a full calfskin lining is present inside the shoe, which adds a smooth and supple comfort. As for the Goodyear welt, it breaks in relatively quickly and the shoes soon mould to the shape of your feet.
Value For Money
Firstly, you may be asking why the Grail is retailed at the same price as the more premium boots in the list. Indeed, shoes are typically cheaper than boots. However, it’s important to note that the Grail is crafted from Box calf as opposed to regular calfskin.
Box leather is actually a more premium variety of calfskin. Traditionally, it’s produced only from black calf hides. Overall, it’s remarkably soft, supple, and quite thin. However, it’s durable and retains its shape.
Furthermore, it features an incredibly fine grain with a rich and vivid pattern. For these reasons, it’s often prized by high-end shoemakers who will often use it for premium footwear.
Originally, box calf used to be tanned using chromium salts. However, as it’s environmentally harmful, Taft have opted for a costlier vegetable-tanned leather instead. Consequently, the material cost of producing these shoes is higher than even the most expensive boots listed here.
Taft’s signature model, the Jack Boot cleverly combines textile fabrics with leather to produce a unique piece of footwear. Furthermore, it’s available in a variety of colourways of which some are quite modest whereas others can get rather wild!
We opted for the understated black Jack boot as it’ll be more versatile for everyday wear. In all cases, the Jack boot is crafted from 100% raw wool and full-grain calfskin leather, which are both sourced from Italy.
Like the Saint, the Jack boot is made using a Black stitch construction, which is perfectly fine and resoleable. Furthermore, it features both the soft calfskin lining and hand-cutting and stitching like the other models.
Fit & Comfort
On this occasion, we ordered the boot is a size 15 US for Bespoke Unit founder Paul Anthony. As he his somewhat large feet, he often laments that he’s unable to test the majority of brands that we review. On this occasion, we were delighted that he didn’t miss out.
Usually, the large sizes from other brands are quite tight for him as they’re on the very upper limit of what they can produce. However, Paul was quite at ease in the Jack boots and enjoyed having a little breathing room for once!
Value For Money
Like the Saint Boot, the Jack is made using a Blake stitch construction. Therefore, you don’t get quite the same value for money given that we’re still in a similar price point. As mentioned above, the Saint compensates for this with its hand-woven uppers.
Meanwhile, the Jack boot uses 100% natural raw wool made in Italy unlike the Branson, which is made from a more affordable woollen fabric. Therefore, in all cases, Taft are strategic with their construction and materials into order to keep the costs consistent for the buyer while still offering the best possible quality.
Taft Clothing History & Background
In 2013, Kory and Mallory Stevens embarked on an adventure from a cramped one-bedroom Utah apartment that would change their lives. With no funding nor any e-commerce experience, they only had their passion for footwear and craftsmanship to guide them.
With this in mind, Taft was launched with no inventory. Instead, the website presented pre-order sign-up forms during its first three months. Not only did it help reduce initial costs, but it also allowed them to gauge demand and manage their future inventory.
Furthermore, they intentionally under-produced in order to keep costs low for both them and their customers. After all, a large inventory demands significant investment, which impacts both the brand and its followers.
Nevertheless, they realised that they couldn’t carry the burden of all the brand’s operations. Therefore, they outsourced the logistics and accounting to third parties. However, they firmly believed in managing everything related to the products and the customers personally.
Connecting With Their Customers
For instance, Mallory and Kory would handle customer services requests themselves through their personal cell phones. Additionally, they would frequently spend entire nights handwriting hundreds of personal thank you notes to their early customers.
Firmly believing in the sense of community that a brand can create, this tradition continues today with their loyal, returning customers. In fact, they have even developed relationships with customers who have even bought 50 pairs of Taft shoes for themselves!
Similarly, Kory and Mallory Stevens didn’t have the budget for advertising or building up paid online presence. However, social media offered them the opportunity to captivate people’s imaginations with their creativity.
While social media didn’t yet have today’s elaborate algorithms, building social media presence without a budget was still a labour of love to say the least.
However, their hard work eventually paid off and today, their Instagram has over half a million genuine followers! If you take a look, you’ll notice that they even personally respond to every single comment.
As a result, Taft Clothing, having started with a shoestring budget, is now valued as a $15 million business that proudly welcomes 30,000 customers a year.
Who Is Taft?
Unlike Ross & Snow, which is named after geese, Taft is indeed named after somebody! In fact, Taft is the middle name of Kory and Mallory’s eldest son. We’re looking forward to the day that he becomes involved in the family business!
Taft Clothing’s Vision & Philosophy
As passionate shoe fanatics, Kory and Mallory sought to create a brand that doesn’t just provide well-made shoes. Instead, they want to also develop a community that inspires people to be bolder and seize opportunities for true self-expression.
As you may have realised, their shoes are uniquely designed with a radical boldness that embraces individuality. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find similar styles with such attention to detail elsewhere.
Indeed, style is more than just what you wear. To them, it’s a platform for creating cultural change from their very roots. As a result, they could educate, encourage, and inspire people to celebrate their identities.
In order to facilitate this mission, Mallory and Kory firmly decided to exclusively retail their shoes online. Consequently, they have been able to lower the prices of their shoes by $200 to make them more affordable.
Kory and Mallory invested a significant amount of time to find the best factory to start their partnership. During their travels, they sampled and visited a plethora of factories. Eventually, they discovered a family-owned factory in Almansa, which can be found between Valencia and Murcia in southern Spain.
Although the factory already produced shoes for many well-known and prestigious brands, it wasn’t this that captivated them. Instead, it was the workshop’s spirit and sense of community.
Kory affectionately refers to the craftspeople as “artists” rather than “workers”. Indeed, the workshop consists of a tight-knit community of old friends. They often joke and drink coffee together during their breaks, have lunch surrounded by boxes of shoes, and work while listening to pop music.
Taft Factory Artisans
Few workplaces embody such a passionate work ethic and this positive atmosphere is reflected in the resulting shoe quality.
How Taft Clothing Boots & Shoes Are Made
As we highlighted in our individual shoe and boot reviews above, Taft’s footwear may be manufactured using a few different construction methods. However, the overall production and the guiding philosophy remains largely the same.
Firstly, Taft take great care in the leather that they source by choosing only vegetable-tanned hides that are free of any chromium. Furthermore, they have partnered with some of the world’s best tanneries who can offer the most aesthetically appropriate hides for their shoes.
Similarly, Taft relish in marrying different materials to produce exciting varieties of textures in their shoes. These fabrics are sourced from premium mills, such as the 100% natural raw wool for their Jack boots.
The leather uppers are often full-grain hides and Taft will usually opt for either calfskin or box calf for their shoes. Meanwhile, all their shoes feature a calfskin lining as well as a stacked leather heel.
This leather is then all hand-cut using a traditional process called clicking. This consists of cutting the leather for each individual part of the shoe by hand. Taft and its partnering factory have preferred to follow a traditional clicking method as opposed to lasers or templates.
Although more labour intensive, it allows the artisans to use their experience and expertise to choose the best sections of the hide for each part of the shoe. Afterwards, the components are all hand-stitched onto a wooden last so it begins to take the shape of a foot.
Taft Clothing Shoe & Boot Construction
While Taft use both the Goodyear welt and Blake stitch construction methods, they have a preference for the former when possible. Ultimately, their choice of construction depends on the footwear’s style as well as the overall cost.
On most occasions, they will endeavour to manufacture the boots and shoes using a Goodyear welt. However, Taft also tries to ensure that all of their footwear are similarly priced.
Therefore, if they are usually particularly premium materials and leathers, they will reduce the cost for the customer by opting for a Blake stitch.
You can learn about the differences between these types of techniques with our shoe construction guide. In short, a Blake stitch is an older, traditional shoemaking method where the sole is stitched directly to the uppers.
Blake Stitching Taft Shoes
Given that this results in a visible stitch at the bottom of the sole, it isn’t as water resistant or as robust as a Goodyear welt. Similarly, it can only be resoled a limited number of times before the uppers can no longer be stitched.
However, the upside is that Blake stitched shoes tend to have a slimmer profile and are easier to break in that a Goodyear welt.
Meanwhile, a Goodyear welt is crafted by stitching an additional section between the uppers and the soles. In theory, this allows the shoe to be resoled innumerable times and also offers greater weatherproofing.
Traditional Bench-Made Shoes
In both cases, these are traditional techniques that were developed during the 19th-Century. Often, with the exception of Taft, shoe brands will claim that these qualify as handmade shoes.
However, due to their use of even old machinery, they are technically regarded as “bench-made” shoes. This implies that some machinery has been used to make the shoe even if a large part of the process is performed by hand. Bear in mind, though, that even the most premium shoes on the market are often bench-made!
Taft use a variety of different soles according to the style of the footwear that they’re producing. In most cases, the boots will feature leather soles with rubber inserts and a stacked heel. Yet, some models will have a full-leather sole or even their lightweight rubber “Commando” sole.
Once the shoe has been entirely constructed, it is then treated by artists with some hand-painting. Of course, all of their leather shoes, if it is part of the style, will be painted, stained, or burnished by hand.
Given that this is a quite a personal process, the resulting effect depends on the artist’s brushstrokes and gestures. Therefore, every shoe will have a unique finish, which exudes Taft’s signature artisanal craftsmanship.
Finally, the shoes are then boxed and shipped. And if you’re lucky, you may even have a hand-written note from either Kory or Mallory!
Taft Clothing is an innovative brand to say the least. With unorthodox creativity and radical designs that marry textures of different materials, they crave attention and turn heads. However, their radical and eccentric styles maintain some restraint thanks to their values in traditional craftsmanship.
If you’re looking for boots or shoes that embody shoemaking heritage while aggressively breaking the mould, you ought to give Taft Clothing some serious consideration.
If you want to see more of what Taft Clothing offer, head to their website. Otherwise, consider checking out some of related guides below: