Despite having lived in New York City for many years, I speak with the dulcet tones of a man born in Australia. And every single time I upload a new review to the YouTube channel, my family and friends ask the same question: When am I going to review R.M. Williams?
Today is that day. The Comfort Craftsman from R.M. Williams is not just Australia’s most famous boot, it is a true icon of Australiana. If you’re an Australian male, you own a pair of R.M. Williams or are on your way to buying one. The company is in fact so Australian that they outfitted the Australian army with thousands of black Craftsmans to wear in military parades.
But despite the Aussie roots, the footwear has serious appeal outside of Australia: Bill Clinton even wore a pair to his second inauguration, and today they export to 15 different countries.
They’ve even got a store in downtown Manhattan, which is where I headed to buy my own pair of their signature Comfort Craftsman Chelseas. Here’s what I thought of Australia’s national boot.
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Overview
- Whole cut upper
- Yearling leather
- Rubber sole
There are three main Chelsea boots from R.M. Williams and the main difference is the sole. The Classic Craftsman has a leather sole and is meant to be dressier, the Dynamic Flex has a combination rubber and leather sole, but the Comfort Craftsman has a more comfortable, hard wearing rubber sole and is meant for everyday wear. A notable feature of the boots is the slightly square toe, which is kind of their trademark look.
The upper is made from whole cut leather, so it’s just one piece that’s stitched together at the back. There are no side seams, which enhances this nice, clean look. The leather itself is yearling, meaning the cow was slaughtered at one year of age — it’s not quite calf and not quite steer, making for an unusual leather that’s softer than cowhide but more rugged than calfskin.
[This is one of our top 10 best boots — click through to see the others]
The color of the leather is called Chestnut and while that sounds pretty brown, the color is slightly burgundy, making for something that works great with khakis or jeans — just don’t wear them with grey khakis as I did in these pictures, since it makes them look washed out. (Sorry about that.) If you want something that can be worn with slacks, consider the black leather. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Australian military…
Overall it’s a pretty slim, very uncomplicated boot that’s very versatile and comfortable.
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Leather
- Smooth yearling leather
- More durable than calf
- Softer than adult steer
- Wrinkles finely
Yearling leather is a calf that becomes boots for his first birthday. Not that young, not that old, it’s the perfect leather for guys who just can’t decide between calf and steer. It’s soft, mildly grainy, and withstands anything you throw at it.
Within a week of wear the boots did accrue some wrinkles, as you can see in the picture above, but it wrinkled finely, which consumers will be happy about.
The leather has been chrome tanned, which is why it’s fairly soft and well suited for a Chelsea boot.
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Leather Care
- R.M. William’s makes their own polish and conditioner (but any good waxy conditioner will do)
- Advice is to condition every 4 to 6 weeks (but once or twice a year will be fine)
- R.M. Williams’ factory is able to make repairs
R.M. makes it pretty simple by having their own line of products that includes leather cleaner, boot polish, and conditioner, so you don’t have to spend too much time worrying what kind of products to use. The polish isn’t completely necessary if you’re not bothered about shine, but the conditioner needs to be applied regularly to keep things water resistant. Use a soft cloth to rub it on.
What’s strange is that you’re asked to apply the conditioner every 4 to 6 weeks, which is super frequent. Most boots, depending on how frequently you’re wearing them, only need conditioning every three to six months or so, and anecdotally, I’ve known dozens of guys with R.M.s who seldom condition theirs.
I think it’s fine to condition them once or twice a year.
One cool thing about the company is that they’ll take care of boot repairs for you at their factory in Australia. R.M. says their boots are made to be taken apart and put back together and the facility carries out 21,000 repairs per year. The processes cost anywhere from $50 to $225 depending on what needs to be done: a re-last and back lining replacement is the most expensive procedure, while your standard resole costs $165. That’s a lot less than a new pair of boots, but of course, any local cobbler will be able to resole it for less of a hassle.
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Sole
- Oil resistant rubber
- Goodyear welt
- Fiberglass shank
- Padded heel lining
This is an oil resistant rubber sole that has a mottled appearance that enhances grip. There are no lugs or studs, making for a classic flat silhouette, but the grip is excellent. I wore these all over Brooklyn and had no complaints.
The construction is solid: a Goodyear welt makes it water resistant and easy to resole, but the sole stitching is very subtle and close into the vamp, avoiding the chunkiness you often see with resoleable boots.
Instead of the usual steel, the Comfort Craftsman has a fiberglass shank. This helps to provide stability, durability, and arch support. The heel support in this shoe is also excellent, partly because there’s some padded heel lining that helps to absorb shock.
[On a budget? Check out the best boots for under $300]
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Fit & Sizing
- British sizing runs roughly a full size smaller than American
- Measure your feet to be sure
- No break in period
- Available in Narrow, Normal, and Wide widths
- Very, very, very comfortable boots
The British sizing might be confusing for American customers.
On an American Brannock device I’m between an 11.5 and a 12, and just about all of my boots are a size 11 because boots tend to run large. At R.M. Williams’ Soho store, I had to get sized up on their own sizing device which put me at a 10.5 — which ultimately fit me.
Usually, you can size down half a size from your US boot size, a whole size from your US “true size”, and probably 1.5 sizes from your sneaker size.
The widths can also be tough to figure out: F, G, or H. I found myself to be a G, which is meant to be analogous to a D (or “normal”) width in American sizing.
The good news is that once you have the boots they don’t need any break in and are, in fact, stupid, crazy, insanely comfortable. The arch support is great, the heel support is great, there are no seams anywhere to irritate the foot. They really feel like nice, thick socks. When I come home from work in these, I prefer not to take them off — I swear I’ll lie around in these shoes watching TV.
[Best: Want more boots for wide feet? – 10 Best Boots for Wide Feet]
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman Price
On their website, in-store, and on Amazon, these shoes cost US$539.00 per pair. It’s the same price for their other Craftsman boots.
R.M. Williams Comfort Craftsman: To Buy or Not to Buy?
The Comfort Craftsman is not without its downsides: the pull tabs frequently peek out from your pant cuffs, necessitating frequent rearranging. The sizing is confusing. And yes, they are very expensive.
But they really take Chelsea boots to another level. The leather is a great middle ground between calf and steer, they’ll last forever, the grip is great, and above all these are literally some of the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn.
When a shoe costs over $400 I always have difficulty justifying the price and frankly, I’d have hard time convincing the average joe to spend this much money on Chelseas just because they’re so much more comfortable than competitors. But If you’re willing to spend the dough and have been looking for a pair of Chelseas, you absolutely cannot go past this unique, eye catching, quintessentially Australian boot.