Discovering a brand, especially one fairly new to the bootmaking game, is always fun. So, when I was given the opportunity to try out a pair of ORO Chelsea boots, I jumped at the chance. I found a striking, stylish boot with uncommon, underrated design choices like a Blake construction and leather sole — choices that match very well with a Chelsea boot.
ORO, based out of Los Angeles, has been designing Spanish-made boots for about six years now. Their boots lean toward the modern, stylish, and fashionable side of things. Think python leather harness boots, delicate suede, and almond-shaped toes, more fashionable like Carmina than rugged like Red Wing.
While I would not call them luxury boots, they impressed me as a strong entry to mid-level Chelsea that performed quite well when worn in dressier settings, filling a gap in my rotation but too delicate for everyday wear in rural areas.
But to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with that! I wouldn’t expect cordovan wingtips to weather a hike or work boots to dress business casual.
ORO Boots Pros & Cons
If you’re in a hurry, not a problem: here’s a quick summary of ORO Los Angeles Chelsea boots.
- Stylish design ideal for less rugged wear
- Lightweight and flexible construction
- Leather outsole is soft, breathable, and lightweight
- Blake stitch is more susceptible to water and the elements
- Suede upper leather scuffs and discolors easily without a protectant
- No half sizes
- Leather outsole is less durable than rubber
ORO Los Angeles Chelsea Boots First Impressions
- Stylish boot
- Clean lines
- Flattering, almond-shaped toe
- Blake construction
- Leather soles
When handling the ORO Classic Chelsea for the first time, I was immediately struck by a few things. First, this is a really pretty boot. The leather is soft and supple. The lines are clean and thin. The toe is a classic almond shape that is very flattering. I appreciated several of the unique design choices, such as the long, narrow shape of the elasticized gores and the clean vertical stitching that runs along the gore. I saw no obvious signs of poor construction or production issues.
The overall impression is a sleek, fashion-forward, elegant, and perhaps even a delicate boot. Part of this is because of the Blake Construction and leather outsole.
Despite the ORO’s obvious appeal, I worried about its limitations. I live in the country and gravitate to sturdier boots. The ORO Chelsea is designed for the city rather than for the country — perfect for a dinner at a nice restaurant paired with an elevated casual fit like jeans and a blazer. These are not boots you’d wear for walks in the country.
What is Blake Construction?
- Flexible and elegant design
- Simpler construction compared to a Goodyear welt or Stitchdown construction
- Less durable than a Goodyear welt or Stitchdown construction
- Less water resistant than a welted boot
- Difficult to resole, requires a specific machine
Most high-quality boots I wear are built using Goodyear-welted or Stitchdown construction, which always represents to me the best options for hard wearing, laboriously constructed footwear. This is my first experience with a boot made using Blake construction, which is common for dressier boots like these.
Blake construction is actually a much older and more storied method than I realized. Developed in the 1850s, it was the first type of shoe construction that allowed for the machine-made, mass-production of footwear. It uses chain stitching to attach the insole to the outsole with the upper and lining in between.
Unlike Goodyear welt construction or Stitchdown, Blake is a much simpler, more efficient, and relatively inexpensive way of making footwear. It also results in a significantly lighter and more flexible shoe because it has minimal filler, such as cork, and also lacks a welt.
However, it is not without its drawbacks. Because it lacks a welt, the boot is far more susceptible to water and the elements. Additionally, the stitch passing through the outsole and insole to the inside of the boot allows water and moisture to get in more easily.
It can also be harder to find a cobbler who can resole Blake stitches, because it’s a more difficult operation than resoling a Goodyear welt. Still, just call ahead to your cobblers if you need to — worst case scenario you’ll need to ship the boots off.
I discussed the choice of Blake stitch with ORO, and they said they prefer this construction method because it contributes to “the sleekness of our designs” and because they “believe it is more comfortable to wear.”
This is a common sentiment: Blake stitches are more lightweight and flexible, plus they save on labor costs.
They added that ORO customers “generally do not really care much about the sturdiness and rigidness that a Goodyear shoe offers” and that “they choose to wear our boots for the aesthetics of a more light, modern, sleek, and unique boot.”
These are fair points; Blake stitch is popular as a construction for dressier boots. Some may see a lighter-weight boot with maximum flexibility as a benefit rather than a drawback, and not all customers want a boot that is stiff and heavy, or built for the kind of rugged wear you don’t intend them for. There’s a strong case that Goodyear welts are sometimes unnecessary.
- Delicate suede is naked, use a suede protector if needed
- Spanish and Italian leather
One of the most striking things about the boot is that it is made with a very light-colored suede. I wore these out to dinner with a friend who declared that while he thought my boots looked amazing, he said he could never own a pair like them. When I asked why, he said he would be too apprehensive to wear them and afraid they would show every stain, scratch, or scrape. It would “be so easy to ruin them,” he said.
While I understand where my buddy was coming from, I believe he and many others simply misunderstand suede. They think of it as a more delicate leather that cannot withstand the elements and needs to be treated more carefully.
I personally wear my suede boots just as hard as all of my other boots and have found them to perform extremely well. I also believe they tend to look better with wear, and I don’t get worked up about a few scuffs.
ORO’s website does not state what tannery their leather is sourced from; instead, it simply states that it is “genuine calf suede.” I reached out for more information, and the company stated that they source their leather from ILCEA Tannery Vecchia Toscana Group S.p.A. in Italy and Curtidos J Vazquez S.A. in Spain and that they used a combination of “chromium-tanning and a traditional vegetable-tanning method.”
ORO Suede Boots Care
These OROs are dressier boots, and if the goal is to keep your suede boots looking as fresh and scuff-free as possible, it is very easy to treat them with a waterproofing spray. In the past, I have had great success with Tarrago’s “Nano Protector,” but there are numerous other water and stain repellents on the market.
I did not treat these Chelseas with any protectant because I wanted to see how the leather would wear and how easily things would get marked up. Over two months, the suede noticeably darkened in several places, particularly on the boot shaft.
I shied away from raw denim and other pants that would transfer dye and often paired them with lighter-colored khaki denim or chinos. The heels and toes also took on several scuffs, which again did not bother me but could be off-putting to some.
ORO’s Leather Outsole
- Single vegetable-tanned leather sole felt thin compared to rubber
- Suited for dressier, urban environments
- Slippery at first, needs scuffing on the soles
These have a single, vegetable-tanned leather outsole rather than a double, which felt something like a concession to efficiency and simplicity compared to heavier, harder wearing boots I’ve owned. Again, I recognize these are dressier boots more geared toward comfort.
I had mixed feelings about choosing a leather outsole for this boot. A leather outsole is a more formal choice, making it much easier to dress these boots up and wear them with business casual attire to the office or perhaps even a suit than short walks down muddy paths.
This design is far less versatile and limits their ability to perform in poor weather or when walking anywhere besides the pavement. I initially wished the maker had chosen a studded rubber sole, which would have provided more durability and grip. The leather outsole felt more appropriate for a dress shoe. This shoe is meant for the pavement and not the mud.
Over the first couple of wears, I found that the outsole had worn down gently and provided adequate grip. Plus, leather soles do breathe better compared to rubber.
[Learn More: The Pros and Cons of Leather Boot Soles]
ORO Boots Fit & Sizing
- One full size smaller than your sneaker size
- Snug but sleek and slim appearance
- No half sizes available
According to ORO, these boots run slightly large, and “you should order one full size smaller than sneaker size,” and those who wear half sizes should size down to the nearest whole size. Since I wear a 12D in my running shoes (11.5 D on Brannock Device), an 11 was what was recommended for me.
When first trying on the boot, I thought they were too tight, especially where the forefoot meets the midfoot. Ultimately, however, after about 2-3 wears, the suede stretched out nicely, and the boot became much more comfortable and more molded to my foot. Overall, however, the fit remained more on the snug side.
This tighter feel extended to the shaft of the boot, which was far narrower than other Chelsea boots that I own and tended to hug the ankle and calf much more closely. While this meant that the boot was sometimes a bit more difficult to slip on and off, the look that it created was very attractive, especially if you prefer a more tapered pair of denim like I do. All of this once again created a very sleek, slim appearance, which I appreciated.
[Further Reading: Do Boots Run Big or Small? Your Guide to the Perfect Fit]
At $325, I considered the ORO Classic Chelsea to be a more moderately priced choice for those beginning to enter the world of high-end footwear. The more inexpensive construction method is balanced because the boot is made in Spain and imported to the United States for the Los Angeles-based company. They’re European made, not cemented, and the leather is good quality. The price isn’t mind blowing, but it’s very fair.
I found myself questioning the affordability of the boot when considering other brands on the market, such as Thursdays, which offer resoleable Goodyear-welted Chelsea boots with more substantial outsoles for under $200, although they’re made in Mexico with Mexican leather.
Personally, I prefer chunkier welted boots to elegant Blake stitch boots — but that’s just me. Again, many guys prefer the lighter weight and easier break in of a Blake stitch. If you are willing to spend more on a more unique and eye-catching boot, ORO is the brand for you. Just be aware that to a certain extent, you are choosing fashion over function. But hey, you could say the same thing about wearing anything that isn’t a Goodyear welted boot — that’s not the only kind of footwear that exists!
[Learn More: Reviewing Thursday’s Chelsea Boots (Duke vs Cavalier)]
So Are ORO Chelsea Boots Worth It?
In the end, I view the ORO Chelsea as something of a niche boot. They are certainly more bold and stylish than your average Chelsea. You will likely get lots of compliments, and if you are careful about where and when you wear them, they will serve you well. For some who perhaps live in the city and spend much more time in an office or a subway, this lack of versatility may not be a major concern.
Ultimately, I viewed them as a unique boot that didn’t have a ton of versatility. If you frequently travel between town and country like I do, these boots may not be for you. But for guys who perhaps live in the city and spend much more time in an office or a subway, this lack of versatility may not be a major concern. They’re stylish and sleek, and there’s certainly a market for boots like these. Just ask yourself how you intend to wear them.
Do ORO boots run big?
The recommended sizing for ORO boots is to size down a full size from your sneaker size.
Should I size down for ORO Chelsea boots?
The recommended sizing for ORO boots is to size down a full size from your sneaker size.
Where are ORO boots made?
ORO boots are made in Spain.
Do ORO Boots have free returns?
ORO does offer free returns, but only for shoes purchased at full price and returns must be made within 21 days of receiving the product. If you bought them on sale, you can only exchange them or get store credit.
How are ORO boots for wide feet?
ORO boots do not have wide sizes and will be too narrow for wide feet.
Which brand is best for Chelsea boots?
There is no best brand for Chelsea boots. Thursday boots make durable, resolable Chelsea boots for under $200. If you want dressy Chelseas, consider Carmina or RM Williams.