Chippewa was founded by two German immigrants in 1901 out in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. At the time, Chippewa Falls was a burgeoning logging town so demand saw the company grow pretty quickly and eventually they became the large company they are today.
Most of the boots are made in the United States, though the company actually got in some hot water for using the words “Handcrafted in the U.S.A.” in their marketing. They were hit with a class action lawsuit in California for sort-of-maybe implying the boots are completely assembled in America, since some of the parts are manufactured elsewhere.
Still, most of their products are put together in the United States and the company states their shoes are “built to honor the guts and determination of the loggers and engineers who paved the way, built the roads, and constructed our buildings.”
While the company was built on hardy work boots, the Service boot is a little more fashion focused. Let’s take a look at the most popular version, which is made from Crazy Horse leather.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Overview
First of all, this leather is gold. If you check out the image used on Amazon or on their official website, Crazy Horse leather looks light brown, but I’d describe these boots as mustard, or a faded yellow. There’s nothing wrong with that — color wise, they’re not too dissimilar from Taft’s Dragon boot — but most people who discuss this boot online found the color a surprise.
Form-wise, the Service boot is typical of the American work boot aesthetic: it’s got a round toe, a Goodyear welt, and a classic-looking cork midsole. The outsole isn’t cork or leather, though, it’s made from Vibram, a kind of rubber that’s a little less classic looking but offers way better grip.
There’s honestly not a lot else to say: it’s a pretty simple shoe, a quality that many will find appealing. It’s mostly single stitched, though there’s some triple stitching by the laces, and the only unusual or eye-catching part of the boot is the big old Chippewa logo at the top of the 6-inch shaft. Personally, I’m not a fan of big logos etched into my shoes, but you’ll have it mostly covered by your pants.
The term most often associated with this boot is “entry level.” It’s relatively cheap and while a lot of boot aficionados aren’t blown away by the quality, there’s a vocal contingent that believe it ‘s a worthy buy for the price point. Personally, I loved the aesthetic, though a few issues arose as I wore them in.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Leather
- Crazy Horse leather
- Made with a wax that strengthens the fibers
- Reported to age quickly
These boots are made with pretty thick Crazy Horse leather, which got its name because for a time, it was a very popular material for horse saddles. It’s not made from horse, though, it’s full grain steer leather.
The term “full grain” means that the leather comes from the top layer of the animal’s hide and it’s pretty widely considered the best kind of leather for durable boots. It’s strong and it ages well, although I do want to point out that a common complaint with these boots is that they wrinkle pretty quickly and noticeably. As you can see in the image above, I’ve picked up a few wrinkles myself.
When I spoke with Chippewa’s customer service representative she told me this leather is oil treated, but Crazy Horse is really known for the wax. It’s made by applying a kind of wax to leather that’s been smoothed out (or “corrected”) a little, and the wax strengthens the fibers to the point where the color changes when it’s rubbed or scratched. Running your hand over the boots results in streaks of darker or lighter color that can easily be smoothed away. All of this makes for a really rustic, vintage look that a lot of people love, and Crazy Horse is often seen in .
The leather does look great, although it’s worth pointing out that a scratchy blonde boot doesn’t work that well in formal situations. But these shoes can really spruce up an outfit like khakis and a denim shirt, which I wear in the video above.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Leather Care
- Use a cream conditioner
- Chippewa recommends Apache cream
- Aquaseal can be used for waterproofing
Cleaning your shoes of dust and grime is pretty straightforward. This is some pretty tough leather, so you can feel comfortable using a horsehair brush on these, though a wet dish rag is a fine choice when they’ve really been put through the ringer.
Because this is an oil treated leather, you want to treat it like an impregnated leather and use a cream conditioner to maintain the moisture. Chippewa recommends an Apache cream, though if you really don’t want the leather to darken at all, you might be more interested in a Venetian shoe cream.
Planning on kicking the crap out of these boots, wearing them in rough situations, subjecting them to all the fire and fury of Earth’s elements? These shoes have a Goodyear welt which is pretty water resistant, but if you want to take the water resistance to the next level Chippewa recommends adding some Aquaseal to the cork.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Sole
- Vibram sole offers good grip
- Cord midsole, steel shank
- Hard, uncushioned heel
- 360-degree Goodyear welt
First of all, the bottom of the shoe is made from Vibram. That’s a kind of rubber that, as I pointed out in a previous section, doesn’t really look as classic as a flat leather or oak sole, but the grip is great. I’ve worn these in some pretty bad weather myself and unlike my Wolverine 1000 Miles and their leather sole, Chippewa’s Service boot had very solid grip.
I’m the first to admit that aesthetically, the Vibram sole isn’t that great, but when viewed from the side it looks perfectly flat and identical to more traditional boots. This isn’t a Commando sole, after all, and the Service boot really does maintain that old school work boot aesthetic despite the modern grip of the sole.
So there’s a Vibram outsole, then there’s also a cork midsole which looks fantastic, and there’s also a steel shank in the midsole for stability and arch support. The insole isn’t really lined. There’s a bit of leather here, but it’s on top of a canvas liner and while that liner does support the boot and you see it in a lot of Red Wing boots, it does make for a shoe that’s pretty stiff.
One of my biggest issues with the shoe is the heel. As you can see, it’s pretty all cork — there’s no layer of leather or rubber or anything else to cushion the impact when you’re walking, and the result is that it feels a lot like walking on wood. My heel didn’t feel well supported.
The sole is attached to the upper with a Goodyear welt, widely seen as the best way to welt a shoe. The difference here is that there’s a layer of leather or rubber between the upper and the sole, which make it way easier to resole when you eventually wear through your Vibram. This significantly enhances a shoe’s longevity, plus it makes them very water resistant, which is a big plus. Note that this is a 360-degree Goodyear welt, meaning it goes all the way around the shoe and the heel. A lot of of boots (like the Alden Indy) use a 270-degree welt because it makes for a slightly slimmer silhouette around the heel, but doing this slightly impairs the water resistance.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Fit & Sizing
- Order a half size down
- Widths available in D, E, EE
- Easy to break in
Get a half size down. Like almost all of my boots, including Thursday Boot Company, Red Wing, Wolverine, and so on, Chippewa runs a little large. I’m between an 11 and a 12 on a Brannock device and the 11D fit me great.
The “D” refers to the width, with D being considered normal. They’ve also got E and EE widths available, which will be good news for folks with wider feet, though if you have extremely wide feet (that’s the EEE width) or if your feet are pretty narrow (that’s B or C), you’re out of luck. Note that you may have some luck just ordering a size larger or smaller if you need to tinker with width, but there are no guarantees, here.
I’m pleased to say that the boots didn’t really need breaking in. Though the leather is thick (more than 2 millimeters), I didn’t have any trouble with blisters or discomfort, which is a big bonus, although they did crease pretty quickly and noticeably.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot Price
You can pick up a pair of these on Amazon for about $280. When people call this an entry level boot, they mean that it costs under $300 and that it’s a little unfair to compare them to boots like theIron Ranger or 1000 Mile, since they hover around $350.
Yes, there’s glue all over the inside of the shoe, sure they crease pretty quickly and noticeably, yeah the heel support isn’t great, and okay, I got some loose threads on the heel in my first week of wearing them. But they look great and they cost a lot less than their competitors. If you’re not fussed with these issues and want a pair of boots with a really classic American work boot look for less, you may find that price worth it.
Chippewa Service Utility Boot: To Buy or Not to Buy?
There are a lot of things I like about this boot. It looks great, it’s relatively inexpensive, it has great grip, it’s easy to break in, there’s a Goodyear welt, and it just looks like a classic. I keep going on about the aesthetics but for the price you’re paying, you’re getting a nice little slice of Americana here.
Sure, there are downsides. The leather creases a lot, the shock absorption sucks, I got some loose threads pretty quickly, and the heel started to separate after a few weeks of wear. I wasn’t crazy about that.
But this is a Goodyear welted shoe, so it’s easy to replace the sole if it wears out and you might have luck with Chippewa’s warranty, which promises no defects but also makes it clear they wont’ warrant soles against wear either.
In any case, whether or not you think the downsides are worth the price is a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. You don’t get as much bang for your buck as you do with something like the Thursday Captain, but for my money, I was expecting a lot worse.
Convinced? Get the best price for this boot on Amazon here.
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