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Horace batten - a review

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
This is a review of ordering an receiving a pair of bespoke Horace Batten Jodhpur riding boots. It's an unusual story because of the long wait and the outcome. It's also a story of perseverance, patience, politeness and a rather unusual form of customer service.

The first episode started just before I answered a forum members' question (Renton) about Horace Batten, it can be read
here. I felt obliged to finish that story with some pictures.

Ordering
December 2011 I stumbled upon the website of Horace Batten Bootmakers, looking for Jodhpur boots that would fit me. I wear a UK size 13 (US14), nice RTW shoes in my size are hard to find so I'm used to shopping around and ordering MTO.

Horace Batten had a very attractive offer for a strap Jodhpur that would suit me perfectly: bespoke Jodhpur riding boots for a reasonable price. I wrote an email and got a reply that overseas bespoke were an option with the footprint foam box they would send over. A standard last would be adjusted for my particular foot shape.

First disappointment was that the price was not the advertised 350 U.K. Pounds, but 475. Apparently the website wasn't updated for a while. A 35% price increase was somewhat disappointing, but love is blind. I decided to go along with it anyway. It was still affordable (semi) bespoke. I placed the order. ETA was "mid to end February". I requested a few features, amongst others a chiselled soft square instead of the standard round (I included an example of an EG 888 last) and if possible, a narrow waist. Tim Batten conformed it all was no problem.

Early January the foam box arrived. I sent them back and I made a deposit. Confirmation took a while but then, all what was left was to make the boots. Then a long period of silence set in.

Early May my impatience grew larger than my politeness and I inquired about progress. We were at double production time then. The answer came, "uppers are made just need the soles to be put on. say about 3 weeks".

Late June, about eight weeks later, I inquired again. I was informed that they were "just ready to ship" and was asked to await instructions. Early July I emailed again. The answer came: the boots were waiting to ship. The balance was paid.

Of course I wanted to know what went wrong here, taking 6 months instead of the promised 6 to 8 weeks. I got the answer: "when we put the shape into the vamp part of the foot (blocking) on an old machine, we had problems that the machine was designed to go up to a size 12, not 13". They actually had to adjust the machine first to be able to make these boots. But later it turned out to be that was not the only problem my big feet had caused.

Balance was paid, the boots were sent. Tim Battens' remark in the last email "lets keep our fingers crossed that they fit" sounded a bit strange but I understand it in hindsight.

This boot is not a fashion item, nevertheless I relied on pictures of boots and the production process while making a decision. Unfortunately, the toe shape ended up being round, blunt and clunky. It sort of bulged and did not have the shape we agreed upon.The waist was far from narrow. Sizes did not match my feet.I was thoroughly disappointed by this anticlimax.

What had happened?

The answer amazed me, after 6 months and 21 emails between us. The answer came as follows, caps lock on (as was frequently so): "To make your full specification we would need to have made new lasts. We used the only size 13 last available (obviously a very outdated one. m.) with modifications to fit your foot."Coming to a brilliant conclusion: "I think we would need to meet up with you regarding the last shape and have that approved before we start to remake the boots.

Tim Batten offered a full refund. I considered that but declined because of the frustration at both ends and the effort so far. I decided to push a bit more.

Having his last remark in mind, I suggested to make that last using the services of Spring Line, one of the few remaining last makers in the UK. Tim Batten promised me to make inquiries and asked me to send an example of a boot that fit me, and if possible a pair of lasted trees. So I sent over the pair of
battered Rider boot shell chukkas, and the size 13 Martegani 3B last trees with it as an example. It was October by now.

Another long wait set in. We had some emails between us again, where he made clear that the last was being produced by Spring Line. By end of November, the last was finished. We had some email conversation about the adjustments to my specific foot shape and finally, they went into final production phase. Early February 2013, over a year after the order was placed, the boots were delivered, along with the old chukkas and trees.

Review

The boots are a perfect fit and comfortable without the need of breaking them in. I chose the leather that seemed the thickest and most durable. It turned out to be quite supple. As you see in the pictures, I couldn't resist taking them out for a spin. I've taken out the trees for the pictures.

Leather quality
It is not the 'smooth allover' kind of calf leather you´d get from a top end manufacturer. Especially where the straps meet the upper. It is top quality though. It is cut from one hide I suspect. "Natural' would be my description. You see the small hide wrinkles near where the straps are fixed to the boot, at the instep. That might come from the blocking process or from the hide itself. This instep part is also the thickest leather, I can imagine that would be beneficial for a pair of riding boots. The leather is developing quite nicely as I am wearing it, denting and creasing in a very natural way, like it is following the natural hide structure more than my movement (especially the quarter).




Last shape
I suspect that they copied the lasted Martegani trees and made them into a boot last. The fact that they are not as 'sharp' might come from the leather choice and the welted construction instead of Blake/rapid Martegani's. I also requested a bit more room at the ball of foot. The shape itself is not as stylish and sharp as, say, Gaziano & Girling or Vass but more down to earth. Nevertheless they have a style that is quite unique.



Construction
These boots are rock solid. Not clunky or heavy but they have a very solid feel to them as you walk on a hard surface. Both the sound and feel of the heels and soles touching the ground are different from what I have experienced before. My Sutor Mantelassi's come close. Solid construction, thick leather and comfortable.

The soles have closed channels. Heels are attached with six pair of nails. Shank is slightly visible in the way the waist bulges. slightly bevelled waist.

Finishing (stitching, leatcher edges, sole side waxing etc.) is functional and durable. Not sloppy, but also not aimed at pleasing aesthetics.




Conclusion
These boots are one of a kind. Made by an English bespoke bootmaker, using an Italian last, I think I have something that I will never come across again.They are very well made, with very durable, top qualty materials and are very comfortable.

The effort Horace Barren took to bring this to a satisfactory end amazes me. I am still somewhat puzzled by the smoke curtains that were produced, obscuring the real problem and making me wait so long. Saying 'sorry, no' is not what they like best apparently, whatever the consequences. But then again, not being British, I might have missed reading between the lines somewhere.

In their favour, instead of sticking to a refund they made a completely new last on my specification. At no extra charge, just to get it right. That really amazes me. This, together with the end result which is best described as a solid and stylish riding boot with an Italian twist, makes me forgive and forget all the discomfort and waiting.

Would I recommend it? You'd have to be a nut case to go through all this and come out happy, but I am certainly happy with the end result. I think that for smaller sizes, they wouldn't have any problem following specifications and do it right the first time. As for me, as Mrt. Batten put it, "we have your last now so if you need any more boots we should be able to cut down on our delivery time". I just might take him up on that.


Edited by Maessive - 2/10/13 at 4:55am
post #2 of 2

More recent review of Horace Batten:

 

http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/riding-boots-leather-horace-batten/

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