North America, Europe, and Japan offer some of the best boots money can buy, but the most revered brands from these countries can easily cost over $500 for a pair of boots and often, particularly in the case of Japanese boots, over $1,000.
But if you haven’t heard yet, Indonesian boots are making a splash in the global boot scene, producing models that easily compete with the greatest established brands on Earth without the prohibitive price tag, making them one of the best value propositions in boots today.
Why Indonesia? When the Dutch colonized the archipelago in the 19th century, they brought and imparted the trade of European shoemaking with them. (The relationship and colonization was obviously vastly more complicated than that, but we’re just restricting the discussion to boots, here.) When the Dutch left after World War 2, the shoemaking industry remained and eventually concentrated in the city of Bandung in the West Java province.
- 4 Reasons to Consider Indonesian Boots
- The 8 Best Indonesian Boot Brands
- Things to Consider When Buying Indonesian Boots
Why Indonesian Boots Are Worth It
Most of the makers in this list are found in Bandung, but before we get to that, there are several compelling reasons for Indonesian boots that you might wanna look at.
If you know a thing or two about boots, you know that’s half the price you’d expect to pay from American made boots, and you’re not getting knockoffs either — you can get Indonesian boots with Horween leather, Dainite soles, all the hallmarks of high quality American boots. You can get boots practically identical to 500- or even thousand-dollar boots for much, much less.
But you can get more than inexpensive Goodyear welted boots — that’s just the bare minimum for a solid pair of footwear. Many shoemakers in Indonesia specialize in rare, old world, highly coveted and extremely laborious methods of constructing boots.
Many shoemakers in Indonesia specialize in rare, old world, highly coveted and extremely laborious methods of constructing boots.
You can get handwelts, which isarevastly more difficult and labor intensive than Goodyear welts. You can also get Norwegian welts, a really old fashioned way of practically waterproofing boots that was used by explorers in the 19th century. Practically no one makes them anymore, but you can find them in Indonesia. Some of these boots make you think of mosquitos preserved in amber from tougher times, and Indonesia’s a great place to find boots that require a ton of skill that isn’t taught in most places anymore.
[Related: Handwelt vs Goodyear welt – Which Is Better?]
Most, if not all Indonesian brands essentially offer a made-to-order (MTO) service where you can personalize a lot of aspects of the boot.
They usually have several models that you can start with, and most of them also let you change the last, and some even adjust the last based on the measurements of your foot — so guys who always complain about having trouble finding boots that fit their wide or narrow feet can find what they need in Indonesia.
In addition, you can customize the leathers, soles, lining, tongue, eyelets, and every single other aspect of the boot. Plenty of companies in the US, like Wesco, do this as well, but at a much higher price.
With Indonesian boots, you can easily create a boot that’s truly yours.
Speaking of bang-for-buck, if you’re looking for that modern service boot aesthetic without the eye-watering price (we’re looking at you, Viberg), Indonesian bootmakers can give you just that. A lot of their creations are inspired by North American work/military boots and you can get very close to them — replica territory — without spending as much.
For example, I bought my Santalum plain toe service boots for $280, which already included the cost of shipping to my country. It came with all the hallmarks of the famously pricy (but famously high quality) Viberg service boot: Dainite soles, Chromexcel leather, stitchdown construction, flat waxed cotton, a flat-yet-wide toebox… but for well under half the price. It may not be a carbon copy but for less than half the price, it’s very difficult to complain.
The Best Indonesian Boot Companies
Onderhoud has been touted lately by several boot aficionados online because of their high level of craftsmanship, especially for the price. Rizky Afnan, the founder, really cares about the quality of his boots — he and his two apprentices finish just two to three pairs a week. Despite the longer turnaround time, his customers simply sing his praises because of how well made the boots are.
They mainly create casual boots such as service boots, lineman boots, packer boots, engineer boots, and apron-toe split toe boots. You can order them in domestic, Italian, American, and Japanese leathers, and with leather or rubber soles as well.
SVC01 boondocker boots, LCV02 lineman boots
How To Buy Onderhoud
- Instagram: @onderhoud.handmade
Unfortunately, they’re very hard to buy. Onderhoud doesn’t have a website, so you just have to message them on Instagram o ask if they’ve opened up their ordering yet. Onderhoud only accepts orders every now and then, and Rizky recently started using a lottery system, choosing customers at random from the comments of his latest Instagram post.
You’ll either find this frustrating or tantalizing.
[Related: The Best Cordovan Boots You Can Buy]
Benzein is based in Jakarta instead of Bandung, but they make some of the most elegant casual boots out of Indonesia. Their laceless (i.e. chelsea, jodhpur, and engineer) boots are very sleek and can even be mistaken to be from a European or American maker. Their service boots are no slouch either and work really well in smart/business casual outfits.
They can also accommodate custom designs not available in their catalog and can make them in a wide variety of local and imported leathers. Stridewise contributor Humphrey Tsui even got a pair made with pure white leather.
The Seventh Chelsea boots, The Keeper Engineer boots
How To Buy Benzein Boots
No website at the time of writing, but you can try:
3. Sagara Bootmaker
Sagara pretty much covers the whole range of refined dressy to rugged casual — lace-to-toe boots, wingtip boots, plain-toe derby boots, and even Italian hiking boots. They let you customize pretty much the whole boot, but from time to time they’ll have some ready-to-wear stock available through their site.
Cordmaster lineman boots, Legatant service boots, Legacy boots (reviewed here)
How To Buy Sagara Boots
Their site is god but not great — give it a look, but do the actual ordering directly through one of the other platforms below.
- Website: sagarabootmaker.com
- Instagram: @sagarabootmaker
- Email: [email protected]
- LINE: @sagarabootmaker
Txture has a well-rounded lineup of ready-to-wear and made-to-order footwear, and their designs are among the most refined from Indonesian makers. But they can also accommodate wilder ideas from customers because they have a lot of choices for leathers, which include domestic full grain, roughout, and pebble grain, plus foreign leathers like Horween waxed flesh, C.F. Stead kudu and even C.F. Stead’s Nordic ox. They offer several distinct lasts but they execute their dressy-yet-casual last so well that it works for most of their formal and casual footwear.
Pacific service boots, Chelsea boots, Warhorse boots
How To Buy Txture Boots
Junkard has a good selection of casual boots and shoes, such as service boots, moc-toe boots, brogues, and loafers. All their offerings are made-to-order and there’s a good selection of lasts, leathers, soles, and many other details to personalize.
Their take on the service boot stands out because of its prominent heel and pointy last, which is their SC last. Of course, you can order it with their more-rounded NH last, if that’s more of your thing.
SC2078 service boots, SC Boondocker boots
How To Buy Junkard Boots
6. Renav Goods Co.
Renav Goods Co. is another bootmaker not based in Bandung, but in Jakarta like Benzein. They mainly create casual boots and shoes like service boots, derbies, chelsea boots, and moc-toe boots. They have a wide range of leather options, which include local pull-up, Horween Chromexcel and horse hides, chamois leather, and even bison leather.
Popular Renav Boots
DRB plain toe derbies, BLK service boots
How To Buy Renav Goods Co.
No website for these guys.
But they cover both the dressy and casual side of leather footwear, from plain toe derbies to chukkas to cap toe balmoral button-up boots. Their designs can compete with some of the best shoemakers around the world and they also provide European and Japanese leather options for all of their footwear.
Service Boot in Edlyn last, Made-to-order dress boots
How To Buy Winson Boots
But they’re mostly known for their service boots as Santalum was one of the first Indonesian makers to offer an inexpensive alternative to Viberg. They also let you customize the toe box, where you can choose from an unstructured, partially structured, and full structured toe.
Plain toe/Cap toe service boots, Moc-toe boots
How To Buy Santalum Boots
- Instagram: @santalum_id
- Email: [email protected]
- Whatsapp: +62 8971166778
- Website: www.morebymorello.com/collections/santalum
You can see three of the boot models on the website above, but don’t pay attention to the available sizes and don’t be fooled into thinking the company only makes three kinds of boots. In other words, you can ignore the website, but the pictures might be useful.
Before Buying Indonesian Boots
With their price advantage and unique charm, it’s important to remember that Indonesian-made leather footwear also have their trade-offs. There are several considerations you might wanna look at before pulling the trigger.
Given that most of these bootmakers are very small workshops, they are only reachable via Instagram, Line, Whatsapp, or email. Only a handful of brands have a website that you can order through.
So for the uninitiated, it can take several days or even weeks in between messages to finalize your order. The shoemakers speak decent English, as most details of a shoe don’t really require much explaining, but the latency of communication can be annoying. We’re not saying this will definitely be the case for every boot company you contend with, but tales of days between e-mails aren’t uncommon.
Quality of local leather
Let me preface this by saying that Indonesian leather is not bad at all, and most of it is actually very good. A fine example would be the durable vegetable-tanned leather in Cravar’s F.C. 15, a fully-Indonesian-made messenger bag that’s a total steal for its $399 sticker price.
But given the lower price quote from the bootmakers themselves, just don’t expect it to outmatch the quality of more expensive leather from Horween, Shinki Hikaku, C.F. Stead, Badalassi, or Maryam.
You can specify your US sizing in your order, but they are more familiar with European sizing, which is also different from British sizing. So to truly nail down the fit, be sure to know your European size and how it’s converted from US sizing (given that this is what most of the world is used to).
This would depend on where you live but generally, the further you are from Indonesia, the more expensive shipping would be. Shipping to the US costs around $70 and it might be just as expensive for European customers.
Some bootmakers, meanwhile, would include the shipping in the boot’s price. When I ordered my boots from Santalum back in 2019, I realized that even if $280 was more expensive than other brands I’ve looked at, they also specified that worldwide shipping is free.
Although the shipping is expensive, the boot will still be vastly cheaper than American or European boots.
In addition to shipping, there’s also the waiting time — the undeniable tradeoff for getting high quality leather footwear at a significantly lower price. And depending on the bootmaker, the turnaround time could vary significantly. It might take you less than two months but it can also reach half a year. There are so many factors affecting this and most of it we can’t see, so it’s best to just be patient.
Are Indonesian Boots Your Next Purchase?
To wrap it up, Indonesian boots have distinct advantages with regard to price and customizability, and the best of them can keep up with the best artisinal, handmade footwear from the rest of the world.
Some guys find it a little shady that some of the most beloved brands can only be ordered on Whatsapp. That’s why we wrote this article: the internet has a lot of positive reviews from these brands and you can be comfortable making your next purchase from them. Regardless of price, they might just be one of the best boot purchases you’ll ever make.
Featured image via @benzeinshoes and @junkardcompany on Instagram
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