I have been a long time boot fan, an interest I attribute to my time in the National Guard in a Military Police unit. I know I may get flack from other current and former servicemen for having been an MP, but it did instill in me a drive to always have clean pressed clothes and nice looking shoes or boots.
I’ve purchased boots from Thursday Boot Company, Helm Boots, Red Wing, Grant Stone and Allen Edmonds. I also discovered a use for Instagram: customized ads and images of my interests. It was on one such Instagram foray that I saw a picture of a stunning looking pair of boots from a company I hadn’t heard of. The quality materials and the interviews with founder Kevin Wilson, in which he described what he was working to accomplish, impressed me. His responsiveness to my questions and customer service sold me on the company.
This review is a compilation of my research and my impressions of the pair of Lisbon Caramel Classic Oiled Shoulder boots I purchased.
Caswell’s Lisbon Boot: The Pros and Cons
Got somewhere to be? Here are the pros and cons of this upstart brand’s signature service boot.
- Quality leathers
- Solid construction
- Sleek last with elegant look but a comfortable fit
- Fairly priced
- Only available in D width
- Narrow last; consider sizing up
- Some purists dislike celastic heel counter (this is being changed in 2023)
- No shock absorbing foam, if you like that kind of thing
Caswell Bootmakers has sourced top quality leather from industry leading tanneries like C.F. Stead, Horween, Seidel and Tanneries Du Puy. The boots are solidly constructed with an eye for detail. At $340, Caswell has priced these very well for the quality and value they are delivering. The last is sleek and elegant, but it’s a narrow fit; I sized up. Our editor, Nick, found his true-to-size boots to pinch his pinkies.
Caswell, The Brand
Caswell Bootmakers Co. was founded in 2019 by Kevin Wilson, who named the brand after Caswell County, North Carolina, where much of his family is from.
Wilson had a rocky road to where he is today. Right after he founded the brand there was a global pandemic that disrupted every single step of the supply chain, then his Kickstarter campaign just missed its funding mark — which meant he got zero of the dollars raised — then his American factory shut down. (Much of this info is from Stitchdown’s lovely profile of the man.)
Now his boots are made in Spain, which is actually good news: like it or not, bootmakers universally agree that once you move production out of the United States, your ability to control for quality, construction, and finishing increases. The few US factories that could have worked with him either would not accommodate the design flexibility and control needed to produce the boots he envisioned or required order quantities well over what a start-up could cover. Kevin was eventually able to find a factory in Spain that provided the flexibility he needed to source all of the components and dictate the design and quality.
The designs take influence from European bespoke shoemakers Vass Shoes Budapest and Saint Crispin’s. Kevin’s idea was to combine the sleeker looks of dressier brands like Crockett & Jones with the more rugged leathers you find at brands like Truman Boot Company. Indeed, at Caswell, you see combinations of leathers and lasts you don’t often see, like bison leather on a dress last.
Caswell’s best known boot is probably the Caramel Oiled Shoulder from CF Stead, another great example of a casual leather on a dressier last. Nick picked up some Grizzly Cattail from Wisconsin’s Seidel Tanning, a burgundy leather that we’re also showcasing in this review.
Caswell’s boots mix casual wear with quality leathers, making a traditionally crafted boot with a sleek, classic style that can be dressed up or down.
Kevin designed the lasts with the assistance of the only remaining last maker in Britain, Northampton-based Spring Line Limited. Spring Line lists Church’s, Crockett & Jones, Loake, and Tricker’s as clients on their website.
Caswell’s Lisbon Boot: Overview
- Made in Spain
- Eyelets: 7 brass eyelets
- Laces: Dark flat laces, extra pair of same included. Rawhide laces available for $11.99
- Insole: Natural vegetable tan leather
- Upper: 4-5oz C.F. Stead Oiled Shoulder
- Lining: 4-5oz standard natural leather
- Sole: Vibram Londra
- Counter and toes: Conformed celastic composite
- Construction: Cork filler with steel shank
- Welt: 360 Goodyear storm welt
- Price: $339 plus tax
The Lisbon is a plain toe service boots available in six leather options. The name Lisbon comes from a characters code name in the show La Casa de Papel.
These boots have a rugged yet elegant style. The Caramel leather, a bit oversaturated by sunset in these pictures but it’s about as orange as you could get, has rich grain character and natural appearance that I absolutely love. The stitching is well executed and the white thread contrasts nicely with the golden color.
White thread is used for sewing the upper together. The single piece back stay and counter is sewn with a tight double row of stitches. The quarters are sown to the vamp with a triple row of stitches. The generous quarters that add to the dressy look by bringing both sides close together when tied by the flat waxed cotton laces that are thread through seven sets antique brass eyelets.
The boot’s interior is fully lined with a soft natural leather lining and the insole is made of a vegetable tanned leather and topped with a leather half sock liner.
At the time of this writing the Lisbon is available in the following leathers:
- Black Chromexcel
- Caramel Classic Oiled Shoulder
- Chocolate Glazed Shrunken Bison
- Dark Brown Kudu
- Grizzly Cattail
- Waxy Commander Snuff
In the future you can expect some truly world renowned leathers like Toscanello horsebutt, Horween’s Chromepak, and even Shinki Hikaku horsebutt. Expect higher prices for those horsehides!
The Caramel Classic Oiled Shoulder Leather is described as,
a mellow full grain tannage with casual appearance and classic pull-up. A fully-aniline, waxed finish retains the natural appearance and characteristics of the grain.
It’s made by C.F. Stead in England and has great grain character.
Little additional conditioning is required due to the amount of oils and waxes already in the leather. Simply clean off light dirt with a horsehair brush and use Venetian Shoe Cream or Saphir Renovateur for deeper conditioning once the leather dries out. (Probably once a year will be enough.)
Caswell’s Lisbon Boot Sole/Construction
- Vibram Londra Sole
- Veg-tanned leather heel stack with Londra Top Lift
- Island design that is grippy yet sleek
- Similar to the Dainite Ridgeway Sole
- 360-degree Goodyear storm welt
The Londra is Vibram’s version of the Dainite Ridgeway and shares many of the same characteristics that garnered the Ridgeway sole a spot in our best boot soles article.
This sole features an island design that provides a rather sleek profile while providing excellent grip, weather protection, comfort and durability. The Londra’s unique look is a nice change from micro studs and Commando lugs, grippier than the former and more subdued than the latter.
The sole is attached to a vegetable tanned midsole using a resoleable 360-degree storm welt, which offers slightly more water resistance than a regular (though still very water resistant) Goodyear welt. A metal shank is used for stability, with a thick layer of cork filling used to fill the welt cavity. Over time, the leather and cork will conform to the shape of your foot to provide a custom fit.
Caswell Bootmakers’ Sizing/Fit
- Runs US half sizes 7 through 12
- Available in D width only
- Quite narrow; we suggest sizing up
Caswell boots are available from US Men’s size 7 to 12 in a D width.
They recommend going true to size. We’ve found that may be too narrow. In writing this review, we collected feedback from no fewer than three men who have worn in a pair of Lisbons. The consensus: it’s narrow.
Fortunately, I sized up — I’ve found with experience that because of my high-volume instep, it’s best to do so when told to go true to size. Nick (that guy in the burgundy boots) went with his usual true-to-size 11.5 (he’s an 11 in most boot brands) and found the boot squeezed his pinky toes. After a couple of weeks of wear, the leather softened and the experience was downgraded to “slight pressure” on the pinky toes, but he’d have preferred to size up.
Caswell, thankfully, has great customer service and offers sizing help to anyone messaging them on Instagram. Like most direct to consumer brands, ill-fitting boots can be exchanged for another size. Not after you’ve worn them outdoors, of course.
I’m an 11 D Brannock with a high volume foot and ordered 11.5D. The following are the best fit for me, but keep in mind my voluminous instep makes me an unusual case:
- Caswell Wayne Last: 11.5 D
- Grant Stone Leo Last: 11 D
- Thursday Boot Company: 11.5 S
- Helm 415 Last: 11.5 D
- Red Wing Pecos 1125: 11.5 D
- Allen Edmonds 65 Last: 11.5 D
The fit and feel is similar to my Grant Stone Diesel boots in 11D. There has been a minimal break in period and I was able to wear them for an entire work day after two or three half-day wears. The insole started molding to my foot after around six wears.
Currently, Caswell only offers their boots in a D width. This is very understandable considering they are still in the start-up phase and additional widths add considerable costs. They plan on adding wider widths as they continue to grow.
The $340 price tag doesn’t include local sales tax, so unless you live in one of the five states that don’t have one, your local sales tax will be added to the final total.
I am throughly pleased with the look and fit of these boots. I received compliments on them the first time I wore them into work. As I write this, I have already ordered my second pair of Caswell Bootmakers’ Lisbon Boots, this time in Black Chromexcel.
The leather selection provides a rugged look, and when combined with the sleekness of the Wayne last, the Lisbon has an elegant, stylish profile that lends these boots a dressier look than typically accompanies this kind of leather.
They’re very nice boots, but the last isn’t the best part of them: a bit more room at the forefoot should be made, but hey, it’s a brand new brand that’s still refining their operations. For now, size up.
Whether going to the office or out on the town, these boots are an excellent choice for anyone that loves rugged leathers and needs a dressier look.
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