I’m finally reviewing one of my absolute favorite boots: the 350 Cruisers from White’s Boots.
I’ve taken these boots up a volcano in Guatemala and, a little less awesomely all over Minnesota and New York as well. But to get as much information as possible on these boots, I’ve interviewed the CEO of White’s for this review.
To sum it up: I’ve found the 350 Cruisers to be a really nice midway point between low-profile city boots and the overbuilt, bulky work boots that you’ll often find coming out of the Pacific Northwest.
When you’re in this realm of Pacific Northwest boots, footwear that are known for their extreme heft and thickness and durability, it’s important to know what you’re actually buying them for. A lot of guys go for the heaviest monster they can get, but I know from experience that chunky, high heeled, high-arched, lead-heavy footwear can sound a lot better on paper (or an online checkout page) than real life.
If you need your boots for work then have at it, but if you’re just attracted to the look, it’s easy to wind up with boots that are heavier and more overbuilt than you actually want.
My point: if you like the look of Pacific Northwest boots and want to be able to use them both for work and for casual usage, the 350 Cruiser is the best pick.
[SHOP WHITE’S BOOTS 350 CRUISER HERE]
White’s 350 Cruiser: The Design
- Medium-high arch
- Logger heel
- Flat, wide toebox
It’s true that Whites says these are “a staple for outdoorsmen and sportsmen in the Pacific Northwest and around the world”, but White’s doesn’t really sell this a work boot and I don’t wear it as one.
Braden McGlone, Marketing Director at Whites, described it this way:
From a historical standpoint the Cruiser, specifically the 6-inch boots, were created back in the early 1930s because Otto had all of the miners and loggers coming to him and saying ‘Look, we love the 10-inch 12-inch boots on the high arch 4811 (last), but we’d love something a little less aggressive for when we’re not on the clock and on the weekend.’ The legend goes the 350 cruiser and the 6-inch silhouette, those patterns were created as a more weekend-style boot for those loggers and miners, and that’s the original purpose of cutting down the upper and moving it to a more moderately arched last.
[Check Out: Is White’s Perry Boot the Best Value Moc Toe?]
So while White’s says it’s a good work boot, by their own admission this is a cut-down, lighter, easier-to-wear version of a really outdoorsy boot. It’s meant to be a casual boot and you can find it in the Lifestyle section of their website alongside their Perry and MP Sherman boots, both of which we’ve reviewed before.
But it’s still a pretty meaty boot.
The most significant way this 6-inch boot differs from the iconic Sherman boot (called their MP Service boot when I bought it) is that the Sherman has a block heel, a lower arch, and more of a streamlined toe — it’s a dressier boot on a dressier last — while the Cruiser has a logger heel and a wider, flatter toe. I should point out that the toe on the Cruiser is usually structured, but when White’s Creative Director and Instagram boot celebrity Brent Whaley sent me these boots (which he calls his favorite pair ever) he sent them with an unstructured toe.
“Most likely, if Whaley was helping you out with your order, he specified an unstructured toe,” says McGlone. “A lot of people who are buying that boot as a more casual boot versus an actual work boot will go with an unstructured toe box because right out of the box it has more of a sleek, low profile look that the lifestyle market tends to lean toward.”
So you have the option of getting a structured toe that’s made with a plastic-impregnated material called celastic or an unstructured one you can wiggle your toes around in.
We also need to talk more about the last, the foot-shaped mold boots and shoes are built around which determines just about everything with regard to the fit. The Cruiser is made on White’s 55 Arch Ease Last, while the Sherman is on the MP last, which has a lower arch. These are the brand’s second and the most popular lasts, respectively.
“The last itself it was developed in the early ’30s and Otto White had a way of developing a last — plus uppers and patterns — and truly he is the one who put his attention to the arch and what makes a boot fit the right way,” says Eric Kinney, the CEO of White’s. “A lot of our boots are built with a high arch and that was his doing back when he started in early 1915 or something like that, he and his dad came over from West Virginia to start White’s. So it’s a high arch last, it’s not quite as high as the 4811 (and there’s) a little more toe room than the 4811. There’s definitely more room in there for your toes compared to some of our lasts, especially the 4811 lasts, (the 350 Cruiser) is more squared off. More room for the ball, a little more toe volume as well.”
So the 55 doesn’t have as dramatic an arch as their most popular 4811 last, but the arch is higher than the MP. The idea is that it’s less tightly fitted so it’s more ideal for weekend wear.
White’s 350 Cruiser Sizing
- Order half a size smaller than your true size (ie. your usual boot size)
- Available in D and EE widths
Since we’re talking about the way it fits, we should quickly touch on sizing: get your usual boot size: half a size down from your true size and a whole size down from what your sneaker size probably is.
I’m an 11D in this boot, in Red Wing, in Wolverine, Grant Stone, just about all of them. The boot comes in D and EE widths.
I’ve already said everything about the roomy toe box but it’s worth emphasizing that the lower arch — lower than a lot of PNW boots, anyway — has helped this to not have an especially tough break-in. I don’t want to be too definitive on that because break-in is often just luck of the draw, but I didn’t have much of a break-in with these at all.
White’s 350 Cruiser Construction
- Hand sewn stitchdown
The upper is attached this here is a handsewn stitchdown, and Kinney had some interesting stuff to say about why he went with this.
“It’s just more rugged; it’s gonna last longer,” he says. “You’re actually handsewing the vamp into the insole and through the middle of the insole through the outside of the vamp, which is gonna be more secure than any construction. A true stitchdown is a good boot but in the end if you pit the two against each other which one’s gonna last longer, the handwelt is gonna last longer.”
This is not done by a machine like a regular Goodyear welt is: when hand-sewing a boot they last, welt, and bottom it by hand. I’ve done that all myself and let me tell you, it takes a lot more skill and time than regular Goodyear welts, and that’s why these boots aren’t especially cheap.
I’ve been around a couple of YouTube cobblers who have resoled White’s boots. I did a whole video at Bedo’s Leatherworks, and the other was with Trenton and Heath. Both said the construction is very weird on White’s — not bad, just unusual.
If you look real close, there are two layers right under the toe: a fine layer, and the midsole layer. The layer that’s the second layer down is actually the upper, while the piece on top that looks like the upper is actually a second piece of leather that’s almost stitched on, like a Goodyear welt, but it’s actually hand welted through.
The main thing to note is that the thin layer is welted and curled over so the stitch is so thin it’s basically squeezing it really hard, which results in this somewhat “puffy” look.
Some guys hate that puffiness — so much so that one sent his into Trenton & Heath to have it resoled just to get rid of it. If you don’t care and you probably don’t, then don’t worry about it, but for some guys that puffiness is a dealbreaker.
White’s 350 Cruiser Soles
- 4 to 4.4-millimeter thick midsole
- 4 to 4.4-millimeter thick insole
- 4.4 to 4.8-millimer thick leather shank
“So you have a 10 to 11 iron leather insole,” explains Kinney. “On top of that, you’ll have a 10 to 11 iron leather midsole, and then 11 to 12 iron leather shank. So in that boot there’s just one leather midsole and then the rubber outsole, which is usually a Vibram product. You can also order that boot with a triple sole, which is basically a double midsole.”
“Iron” is an old way of measuring the thickness of leather and each iron is a little larger than an ounce: 10 to 11 iron is 4 to 4.4 millimeters thick. Boot uppers are typically 2 to 2.2 millimeters thick, so both the insole and the midsole are twice as thick as a good boot upper.
It is a very solid, sturdy feeling walking around in 350 Cruisers. If you’re used to cheaper boots, these will feel like cinder blocks. I saw but the break-in wasn’t nightmarish, to be honest. I saw a guy on Reddit say,
It’s like my boots giving me a gentle but firm massage like a handshake but for your feet.
The boots make themselves known when you’re wearing them, more than most other boots, but it’s not uncomfortable. The fact that the arch isn’t crazy and the heel isn’t two and a half inches tall like my pair of Nicks Urban Loggers is part of why the boot’s actually fairly comfortable: you don’t feel very lifted off the ground or like the boots are walking you.
Whites 350 Cruiser Leather
- Available in 11 leathers
My leather is British Tan Chromexcel. To me, it’s an exciting color, as I have approximately one billion brown Chromexcel boots but this is lighter than the darker, more reddish-brown you get with brown Chromexcel.
If you don’t like it, this boot can be bought in ten other leathers right now: five Chromexcels, three waxed fleshes (including the famous Cinnamon Waxed Flesh), and two kinds of roughout.
As a side note, it turns out volcanic rocks are extra sharp and after wearing these up Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala, the rocks scratched the Chromexcel in what I’m pretty sure is a permanent way. If I’d gone with roughout this wouldn’t have been an issue, so take this as a reminder that smooth leathers can scratch.
[Related: The Complete Guide to Chromexcel Leather]
White’s 350 Cruiser Price
They are made in America with American leathers and by hand as well, which combined with the remarkably thick leather midsole and insole should justify the price to the discerning buyer.
They’re still cheaper than Vibergs and if you know your way around American boots, you’ll know that this is a standard price for what you’re getting here.
That said, White’s are known to go on sale for 20 to 25 percent off a few times a year, usually through their website and Baker’s Shoes. If you keep an eye on the Final Few section at Baker’s Shoes, that’s where returns and seconds wind up at a discount. If you’re not super picky about leather or model and visit that page every few weeks, you’ll find boots there for one or two hundred bucks off RRP.
Whites 350 Cruiser Pros
- Very thick leather midsole, insole, and shank
- Handmade to an extremely skillful degree
- Perfect balance of work and casual
- Completely made in USA
White’s 350 Cruiser Cons
- Takes months to be made
- Can’t be dressed up
- Not American owned (White’s is part of Tokyo-based retailer ABC-Mart)
They’re gorgeous boots that’ll last forever and are made with primo materials, a ton of leather, the construction is superb, and there’s a lot of labor and skill and time that goes into this particular kind of construction.
Handsewn stitchdown is nothing to sneeze at. It’s a big deal and will result in tremendous durability and water resistance. Stitchdown is a little harder to resole, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find a cobbler who will do it.
I really do want to emphasize that if you want a Pacific Northwest style boot but you are justifiably wary of the giant heels and uber-high arches and heavy weight that they tend to be made with, this is a really good way to get a PNW boot that is distinctly PNW but isn’t as unwieldy as serious, dedicated work boots. I think this is a great way to kind of have your cake and eat it too: Pacific Northwest style but without the overbuilt-ness that puts off a lot of guys.
The downsides are mostly the price and the fact that it takes months and months to make. Right now it says 20 to 24 weeks. That’s the worst thing about Whites, and Nicks and Wesco and Russell and these smaller, ultra-American, ultra-handmade type companies. It’s a long wait.
Just remember that these boots will last you decades, so in the scheme of things, it’s not that long.