Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Review – Is It the New Iron Ranger?

Thorogood Work Boots was founded all the way back in 1892 (hence the name of the boot I’m reviewing today) and is currently owned by the Weinbrenner Shoe Company. Headquartered in Merrill, Wisconsin, an interesting fact about them is that the company is employee owned and many of their boots are made in the United States — not all of them, but about 65 percent of them are made in one of their two union factories in Wisconsins.

They’re pretty well known for their moc toe boots but I wanted to try out their 1892 Dodgeville Boots. Why? Well, I’ll just say it: these boots are meant to compete with the Red Wing Iron Rangers. You know it, I know it, they know it. They’ve got the cap toe, the Goodyear welt, and the Vibram lug. But the Dodgevilles also have a few tricks up their sleeve. 

[BUY THIS BOOT ON HUCKBERRY HERE!]

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Boot First Glance

Again, these shoes have a ton in common with Red Wing’s Iron Rangers — the toe cap, the Vibram, the welt, the silhouette — but one big differentiator here is the leather. This shoe is made from Chromexcel® leather, which is extremely unusual for a pair of shoes that cost under $300. More on that in the next section.

The sole is actually a combination of cork, leather, and Vibram, but unlike the Iron Ranger the Vibram sole does not have a smooth outward silhouette. While I wouldn’t say it’s as chunky as a Commando sole, it’s not flat and I can understand why some folks call it homely. It gives it more of a functional and less traditional silhouette.

Quality control wise I noticed many loose threads but truthfully, for boots this price, I’m barely considering those a con. When you pay this much (or this little) for shoes you have to expect they won’t be perfect and overall I was relatively happy with their condition, at least I was when they were fresh out of the box. With that said, I also want to point out that the toecaps were pretty uneven; they look a little like someone just used a pair of scissors to make them.

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville toecap

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Leather

  • Chromexel leather
  • Made by Horween Leather Company
  • Full of oils and waxes
  • Rich depth of color

A lot of folks will be happy about this leather. It’s Horween’s beloved Chromexcel, a combination tanned leather that’s used by just about every reputable North American boot company, everyone from Wolverine’s 1000 Miles to Viberg’s $700 boots and beyond. But it is very unusual to see them on shoes as cheap as the Dodgevilles.

If you’ve read my other reviews you’re probably sick of hearing me talk about Chromexcel because it really is extremely common, but for those unfamiliar with this leather it has a long history in America and was actually used on engine seals in tanks in World War 2.

The reason it has such a devoted following is the unusual depth of color. This leather takes a good 28 working days to make and uses every floor of the Horween facility. During the production it’s “hot stuffed” with a huge variety of oils and waxes, including beef tallow and marine oil, to product a very lustrous, moist leather that’s pretty hard wearing and ages beautifully.

Thorogood 1892 discoloration

The downside with Chromexcel is that the top finish scratches relatively easy and while it’s not the end of the world when that happens — a good conditioning and brushing can help remedy it — I have to say I prefer the oil-tanned leather used on the Iron Ranger. But its undeniable that if you like prettier, shinier leather, Chromexcel is hard to beat.

That said, I had a very unusual issue with these boots. After just a week of wear I noticed the counter on the right shoe had darkened much, much more than the counter on the left. I had a hard time figuring out why, I could only surmise that Thorogood’s leather selection isn’t the best in the industry. I now have pretty darn asymmetrical boots, so I have to say this is a con for the brand, but again it’s not all that surprising given the cost.

Thorogood 1892 boot counter

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Leather Care

  • Top finish scratches pretty easily
  • Condition with Venetian Shoe Cream
  • Saphir’s Renovateur works for shinier appearance

I’ve written a whole article about the best way to take care of Chromexcel but the long and short of it is to first grab a quality horsehair brush with which to clean the shoes. There are a couple of reasons for that: the thin hairs do a better job of penetrating the leather’s pores, plus a vigorous brush heats the leather, moving around the oils and waxes and helping to cover up scuffs and scrapes.

You can add some saddle soap to the brush if you’re planning to condition them afterward, which you should do every few months depending on how often you wear them. If you’d rather not get so fancy with your cleaning, you can just clean it with a damp cotton cloth and leave it to dry in a well ventilated area at ambient temperature.

Thorogood 1892 top view

Now there are a lot of ways people take the next step. If you’re really committed to making the shoes as water resistant as absolutely possible, I recommend reading my guide to doing so right here.

For most guys, you should be happy with using that cotton cloth to apply some Venetian shoe cream. It’s full of a bunch of different waxes that serve different purposes (shining, preserving, etc.) and it’s a great all-purpose conditioner for most kinds of leather. The makers of Chromexcel recommend either Venetian shoe cream or Saphir’s Renovateur if you want boots with a bit more shine.

Keep this up and Chromexcel will age like a fine wine.

Thorogood 1892 sole

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Sole

  • Combination Vibran, leather, and cork sole
  • Great grip
  • Not a “classic” aesthetic
  • Goodyear welt

This is what you might call a combination sole: leather and cork with a Vibram lug on top of it.

Vibram is a really high quality Italian rubber that works great in slippery conditions while also being pretty good at absorbing shock. Vibram also makes serious Commando soles, the type you see on Truman boots or most hiking shoes, but the sole used on the Dodgeville is a little more subtle — but just a little.

As mentioned, it’s pretty conspicuous when viewed from the side and it definitely makes the shoe look more outdoorsy than you may want them to, particularly since the dark color of the rubber contrasts with the cork pretty noticeably. But it does make for a more functional, workboot-type shoe.

But hey, you can easily replace the sole if you don’t like because it’s made with a Goodyear welt. That’s a method of attaching the upper to the sole that involves putting another layer (usually rubber or leather) between them, which makes it easier to resole.

With the Dodgevilles the thread has been sewn right through the sole, and as you can see from the picture above, some if it has started to wear away with use. That’s why I prefer recessed stitching when possible.

But it’s still a good quality sole. Particularly since this has a 360-degree Goodyear welt, which makes it a little more water resistant than the more popular 270-degree welts.

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Fit & Sizing

  • Order a half size down from sneaker size
  • Only D width available
  • Very easy break in

Like most boots these run large: on a Brannock device I’m between an 11.5 and a 12, but as is the case with my Red Wings and Thursdays and Wolverines, I’m a size 11 D in Thorogood.

The D refers to the width, which is considered “normal,” and I couldn’t find any other widths available. That’ll be a bummer for folks with unusually thin or wide feet but they may have success just picking a larger or smaller size.

For me, the shoes fit very well. It’s made on what they call the No. 60 last and I found it pretty comfy, not all that different from Iron Rangers (maybe a little snugger), and for a boot that costs under $300 it has quite a lot of heft to it. It’s not as heavy as a Viberg or Alden but the shoe does have weight and not just in the heel, it’s along the toe box as well. I liked that.

I didn’t find they needed breaking in which was great, and while some folks like to wag a finger and say that anything comfortable out of the box won’t last very long, I haven’t worn the shoes for years so I can’t attest to that. But given how many loose threads started coming out after a couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not my longest lasting boots.

[Read more in my research-backed ultimate guide to how boots should fit!]

Thorogood 1892 boots dangling

Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Price

This can change at any time but right now the shoes cost $270. They’re honestly a bit tough to find online; they’re not on Amazon and for some reason Thorogood has two websites which are both absolute dumpster fires that are really hard to navigate.

I managed to find the boots on Huckberry. That’s where you should buy them. If you like ’em, BUY THE BOOTS ON HUCKBERRY.

In any case, these are pretty inexpensive boots. They’re not as cheap as Thursday, but with most people considering any quality boot to cost at least $300, I found these shoes to be pretty reasonably priced. It’s about the same cost as Chippewa’s shoes but in my opinion, this shoe is better quality.

Thorogood 1892 standing

The Verdict

These shoes have very nice leather, good grip, they’re pretty comfy, they have a good weight, and their biggest pro is that they’re inexpensive relative to the high quality boots that dominate the market and relative to Red Wing’s Iron Ranger, which run at about $320.

The downsides are the scores of loose threads, the lack of widths outside of Ds, the homely and informal sole, and the fact that they’re not all that versatile. They look outdoorsy and with some QC issues (like wonkily cut toecaps) coupled with the overall aesthetics, they have trouble fitting in in dressy situations.

But look, these boots have worked out better for me than the 1000 Miles, which are a good hundred dollars more expensive. In my opinion, this is an underrated boot.

4 thoughts on “Thorogood 1892 Dodgeville Review – Is It the New Iron Ranger?”

  1. Hi Nick,

    I appreciate your boot reviews. I’ve been a boot fan for years. Just wanted you to know I don’t think you wasted your time reviewing these boots. I read your review before I picked up a pair of the cognac Dodgevilles a few weeks ago. I got them on sale and I think they are great! The pair I received did not have any quality control issues that I could find, however there are a few loose threads after wearing them for a couple weeks. I have had numerous pairs of boots from different brands over the years and I agree, while not perfect, I think this is an underrated boot.

    Reply
  2. Just bought a pair on Nordstrom rack for 150 and feel like I got a steal. It was nice to see a review here before, I am definitely comfortable with those flaws at that price point.

    Reply

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