RM Williams is an Australian icon that evokes images of the vast Australian outback, of Banjo Patterson and the Man from Snowy River. They have been making boots since the 1930's when Reginald Murray Williams learned the art of leather saddlery and boot making in the South Australian outback from a fellow known as Dollar Mick. From time to time questions arise on the forum about RM Williams boots. They have a good website (http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/) but it is strangely lacking in detail and too much of it is advertising hype. So I thought I would write a post that would help those of you internationally to choose the best boot for your tastes and needs. Construction The thing that makes Chelsea boots by RM Williams a rare bird and highly collectable is that they are a wholecut Chelsea boot. This is what RMW are famous for and what makes them stand out from the crowd. Note the following Tudor boot from the JL current catalogue I picked up in New York: Great boot but notice the seam on the side: this is not a wholecut. Ditto for the Chelsea boot from EG (from the Skyvalet website http://www.skyvalet1.com). The seam on the side is better hidden but it is definitely there: One of the most authorative books every written on men's shoes is "Alles Ã¼ber Herrenschuhe" by Helge Sternke: http://www.amazon.de/gp/product/3894...305401-6924534 In this monumental book twice the size of Flusser's Dressing the Man, Sternke writes (my translation): Whoever takes a look at the boots on offer will discover two different vamp constructions. The usual boots will have underneath the elastic inserts, a vertical seam, whereas the finer and costlier models come without this additional vamp seam, because the vamp is made of only a single piece of leather. Only a few remaining traditional makers offer such boots - and mostly then only on special enquiry. One of the few which still carry them in their regular catalogue is the Australian firm RM Williams, who usually leave the shaft unlined. The one piece shaft has a clear long ridge running down the front of the boot resulting out of the time consuming process of blocking the shaft, during which the form of the shaft is pre-formed before it is stitched - an additional step which certainly adds to the cost of the boot but permits a decidedly better final form over the upper and assures a better fit. Without the blocking step the leather crumples on walking and the resulting rolls of leather press on the foot (Quoted from page 242) The ridge running down the front of the boot is only apparent when it is brand new and disappears with wear. Far from being a defect, it is proof that RM Williams uses an old fashioned high end manufacturing technique usually found in bespoke boots: The overall quality of their boots can be best described as basic high end comparable to AE and superior to Loakes. They are amongst the most comfortable footwear I have ever worn, doubtless largely as a result of their whole-cut boot construction for which they are rightly famous. They are Goodyear mostly welted. They are also one of the few bootmakers left that make a RTW boot with a brass screwed leather construction. It results in a much sleeker looking boot than the equivalent Goodyear welted model. RMW also makes storm welted boots. As far as the construction of screwed vs welted boots go I have heard from boot makers that a screwed construction is just as good or even better. The construction of their boots is as shown in their catalogue: The follow picture from their current catalogue shows what is clearly a hand-guided process of machine welting. Leathers The leathers they use on their dress boots are mainly yearling, kangaroo, veal calf as well as suede. I have only ever seen them use full grain leathers. Yearling is their basic leather and is a highly attractive leather. It is a soft and mildly grainy leather. Yearling is thicker than either kangaroo or French veal calf. It comes in three colours: Black, chestnut, dark tan and tan. Chestnut is a handsomely dark shade of brown, perhaps slightly lighter than the Dark Oak available from EG. The RMW Dark Tan is a medium brown with only the faintest tinge of red in it. The tan is a lighter medium brown. It is darker than the sand colour that you might at first conjure up. Kangaroo is said to be the toughest leather weight for weight in the world and for this reason RMW chooses thinner skins. Kangaroos are as common as rodents in many parts of Australia - contrary to popular misconception overseas they are not an endangered species: http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/kangaroos.html Kangaroos skin is much more coarse grained than other skins because they are left to roam around in the wild and accumulate small scars during the animal's lifetime. It is suitable for casual wear. If choosing kangaroo leather it is advisable to choose a narrower fitting boot because the thin and supple leather makes the boot run a half width wider. The black kangaroo looks moderately grainier than the yearling, thinner and lighter but highly durable. The chestnut kangaroo is a stunning leather that looks faintly darker and significantly richer than the chestnut yearling. For some reason it looks finer grained than its black counterpart. Kangaroo comes only in black and chestnut. French veal calf is taken from a younger animal and is available in black and chestnut. It is imported from France because the recent droughts in Australia have made it too difficult to source the leather here consistently. The main attraction is that it is a very soft, fine grained leather that polishes up beautifully. RM Williams recommends it for dress boots. They charge around $60 AUD more for it. The potential disadvantage is that it is softer and more delicate. Other leathers include suede in dark brown. Exotic leathers for men's dress boots worthy of mention include ostrich and crocodile. They are available on special order and are top quality but rather pricey. I have seen a pair of crocodile Craftsman on sale for over $5500 AUD. The ostrich Craftsman retails for $1800 AUD. Another leather, less commonly used by RM Williams is willow. It is a slightly grainier leather than yearling and less expensive. It is used mostly in the cheaper range of boots. Sizing of Standard Catalogue Models How to Find Your Size: 1. Based on the Fit of a Allen Edmonds Park Avenues (Nr 5 Last) AE PA size minus one and drop down one width (RMWs run wide). Example for if you wear size 10s in an AE Park Ave: AE PA size 10EE = RMW size 9H AE PA size 10E = RMW size 9G (medium) AE PA size 10D (medium) = RMW size 9F AE PA size 10C = RMW size 9E G width is medium width in RMW sizing. D width is medium width in US sizing. If you drop down one width and you normally wear AE D width your best width is F width in RMWs. I wear size 8D in AE PAs so my size in RMW is 7F. This conversion also works for other AE models made on the Nr 5 last. For US based forum members this is rapidly becoming the method of choice for choosing your RMW size and works best for the veal calf and kangaroo Craftsman. Yearling leather is a bit thicker and less stretchy so you should consider going up a width. 2. Based on Other Allen Edmonds Lasts AE lasts other than the Nr 5 run wider. The Nr 5 is the narrowest and longest of their lasts. If you base your sizing on shoes made on lasts other than the Nr 5 you should go up a width: AE size minus one Example for if you wear size 10: AE size 10E = RMW size 9H AE size 10D (medium) = RMW size 9G (medium) AE size 10C = RMW size 9F Check to see if your AE shoe has a bit of looseness side to side. If so consider dropping down a width, especially if ordering in thinner, softer leathers such as veal calf and kangaroo. 4. Based on the Your Size in Loakes Shoes If you know your UK size in a Loakes order that (ie US size - 1 for most guys). Loakes and RMWs are identical in length but RMWs run wider. If you wear a medium (F) width in a Loakes choose the narrower F width in the RMW. 5. The RMW Recommendation This is what RMW recommends: This formula works best for yearling leather which is thicker and less stretchy than French veal calf or kangaroo. 5. Based on Your John Lobb Paris Shoe Size My experience with JL is that they too run narrower than RMW even though they are in UK sizes. Again order the same UK size but drop down one width. Shoes Widths: RMW widths are: C=extra extra narrow D=extra narrow E=narrow F=medium-narrow G=medium H=wide There is only one RMW last that is available in a C,D, or E width and that is the rounded toe last. AE Widths are: B = extra narrow C = narrow D = medium E = wide EE = extra wide EEE = extra extra wide Lasts and Heel Shapes These have to be discussed together because even if the last shape is the same (eg chisel toed) they have a different last code depending on whether the boot has a flat heel (FH) or a high heel (HH). Here are the basics of what most forum members will need to know: 1.\tMost of us will only be interested in the flat heel. The only other heel I can recommend is the higher so called "˜Block Heel', which looks less exaggerated than in many photos. The so called Ladies Block Heel lacks the taper (don't know why it's call a Ladies Block Heel as it looks more masculine because of its squareness to me). 2.\tRemember that lasts for high heels have different numbers. 3.\tThe B543 chisel square toed flat heel last of the Craftsman is the best known and is a classic. Available only in F, G, H widths 4.\tThere are three classic round toed lasts. The widest is the B531 Extra Wide flat heel toe last in an H fit. The medium fit one is called the B530 Wide Toe flat heel last and is available in F and G widths. The narrow fit last is the B529 Medium Toe last, available (confusingly) in a C,D,E,F,G and H fit. The B531 looks fat and clunky but the others are definitely classics. If you prefer a sleeker look consider going up a size and down a width or two. 5.\tThe B555 Narrow Medium Toe flat heel last is also very elegant. It is a slightly pointed narrow nosed last, but unexaggeratedly so. Looks sharp combined with the Block Heel on the B522 Narrow Medium high heel last. The following is the full catalogue detail of heel shapes and lasts. It is quoted for completeness only, because it is rather confusing. If you decide you want a nailed boot, or one with a rubber sole (or any other non-standard combination of leathers, heels, construction method) you will have to decipher it yourself to see if it is feasible: The Standard Catalogue Models I will limit myself to the ones relevant to forum members only. 1. Goodyear Welted Ankle Boots The Craftsman An absolute classic made using the B543 chisel toe last. It is usually routinely available in a wide range of leathers: Infosheet on the Kangaroo Craftsman in PDF format: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...6E0E05845F03EC PDF Infosheet for the French Veal Craftsman: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...5D37B6CE27C353 PDF Infosheet for the dark brown suede Craftsman: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...DA964B6ED2ED0E PDF Infosheet for the yearling Craftsman: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...45F2A8706FAAAE There are a few variations on the Craftsman worthy of mention. Of these the Turnout is available in a wider variety of widths because it is made using the round toe lasts (B529, B530, B531). You can get them in widths from E to H, although narrower widths are available as a custom order. Those of you who felt the Craftsman is lacking in sleekness should try going up a size on the Turnout and dropping down a width or two (as narrow as the equivalent AE size allows). PDF Infosheet for the Turnout: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...FCF73ACF17ED69 The Yearling in the narrow nosed B522 last with the block heel is a very attractive model. It looks particularly good in black. Narrower widths are available as a custom order: F width with a flat heel and E width for a high heel. The medium G width feels as wide as the chisel toe in the equivalent sized G: even though it looks narrower, they fit the same. If you like the pointier toed last but prefer the flat heel then there is the Macquarie on the B555 last. PDF infosheet for the Yearling: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...94AC8B8A9BF02B PDF Infosheet for the Macquarie: http://www.rmwilliams.com.au/product...C25838DE1C017F The Stockman is another attractive boot made on the B543 chisel toe last. It is a strap jodhpur model. I have seen a similar model from JM Weston in person but the RMW last is so much more elegant, that even if the Weston has somewhat better leather and the construction more refined, the huge price difference (about $1000 for the Westons) is hard to justify. 2. Equestrian Top Boots RMW makes some very handsome looking traditional equestrian style top boots. They like you to be measured out by a trained person at one of their store for the full on made to measure equestrian boots. Most of these are hard top equestrian boots, making it impossible to walk in, and unsuitable as dress boots: Other models can be ordered without a serious measuring process and a couple may interest some of you. There are plenty more models (women's models, cowboy boots etc) and for these I refer you to the RMW website. I have also deliberately missed out the Simpson boot as the G Joey last is sadly really wide and snub nosed. They can only make lace up boots on this last but I cannot recommend it. If you must order it you should drop down a size because it is so wide and comes in only one width. Worse still they insist on stamping this (and only this) model with a RMW logo. The Forum Special I put this configuration together in response to a couple of valid criticisms about the standard offerings from RMW. The first was that they were insufficiently sleek. The second was that the construction lacked refinement. The result was that some have expressed concern that they were too much of a country style casual boot to be worn as a city dress boot with a suit. I have tried to address these point by putting together a configuration that brought together all of the strengths of the maker in one custom order model. Firstly, I have chosen French veal calf. It is their best quality leather. All boots made with it look notably more refined and the leather polishes up beautifully. Next, I decided to find a last that was the sleekest that they offered. To make it even sleeker, I decided to go up a whole size from my usual Craftsman and drop down on width to compensate. I tried the size on, and it fit me like a glove with a very similar fit to what I subjectively get from Park Avenues (my yardstick for comparing sizes). The result was one of the most elegant round toed RTW last available from any makers. Lastly, I noticed that the brass screwed leather soles had almost no lip jutting out from around the edge of the shoe. The fact that RMW are one of the few RTW bootmakers around who still offer boots utilising this construction method made it even more attractive. I have heard that many Austro-Hungarian bespoke bootmakers still favour the technique. The heel is a flat heel on the B529 last. With the brass screwed soles only a leather sole is possible. RMW say that the brass screwed leather sole is replaceable and the brass screws wear down with the leather. Boots of this construction are, of course, suitable as dress shoes. I have confirmed that this is indeed the case with RMW in South Australia. This position agrees with the information on their website and catalogue. A forumite was mistakenly told by an ill informed salesman at the NY RMW store that it is meant only for riding boots. Aesthetically, the brass screwed boots are much more pleasing than the RMW Goodyear welted boots: This is what it looks like. Just to emphasise how sleek they are I have placed them side by side with a pair of UK size 7E Canonbury boots from John Lobb on their famous 7000 last. Incredibly, in terms of sleekness, the RMW Forum Special model (on the left) scarcely loses anything to its illustrious rival: Even more surprisingly, the the Forum Special has a less prominent lip jutting out around the boots than the Goodyear welted John Lobbs: If anything the Forum Special may arguably be a touch sleeker than the John Lobbs on their 7000 last. If You Know Your Size in the Craftsman Already Go up a whole size and down two width letter Craftsman size 10H: Forum Special size would be 11F Craftsman size 10G: Forum Special size would be 11E Craftsman size 10F: Forum Special size would be 11D Working Out Your Forum Special Size Based on Allen Edmonds Park Avenues 2. The Standard Formula. Order your usual AE PA size - just order exactly the same size number and width letter. For most people if you wear an AE PA size 10D, it means you just need to order a RMW Forum Special size 10D. Easy. Example: If you wear AE 10EEE => RMW size is 10G If you wear AE 10EE => RMW size is 10F If you wear AE 10E => RMW 10E If you wear AE 10D (medium) => RMW 10D If you wear AE 10C => RMW 10C Remember, you can only expect reasonable success when you order in the French veal calf. The yearling is thicker and less supple/stretchy and may feel up to a quarter to half size narrower. The kangaroo is even thinner and stretchier than the veal calf. The boot will still feel subjectively just a tiny fraction narrower. But I like that feel of ankle support and the leather is already soft and supple brand new. As they get broken in that snugness should gradually ease off. The B529 last runs a bit short compared with the AE number 5 or last (or any other AE last for that matter). Here is a comparison of the lengths of the Forum Special in RMW 7.5E vs an AE Park Ave 8D: Here is a close up of the tips of the toes. You can see that the AE Nr 5 last is a very long nosed extended last: 3. If you have concerns about the faint narrowness and shortness relative to PAs of the Forum Special in my Standard Formula, you should order a Forum Special using the Relaxed Fit Formula: Just order the same size as your AE PA size but drop down 2 widths from your usual width Example: If you wear AE 10EEE => RMW size is 10H If you wear AE 10EE => RMW size is 10G (medium) If you wear AE 10E => RMW 10F If you wear AE 10D (medium) => RMW 10E If you wear AE 10C => RMW 10D If you wear AE 10B => RMW 10C This is what Steve is recommending to most of his buyers now. If should result in a comfortable but just slightly more relaxed fit than the standard formula. If basing your size on AE models made using lasts other than the #5 last (which runs narrow) you should also use this formula. Working Out Your Forum Special Size Based On Crockett and Jones Sizing Next for C&J afficionados this is my standard sizing conversion: C&J UK size plus 1 and drop down three widths Example C&J UK 10F (wide) => RMW 11E C&J UK 10E (medium) => RMW 11D C&J UK 10D (narrow) => RMW 11C Working Out Your Forum Special Size Based on John Lobb 7000 Last Sizing Sizing vs the 7000 Last plus 0.5, and drop down one RMW size: 7000 last UK size plus 1 and drop down one width: Example: UK size 10F (wide) => RMW 11F UK size 10E (medium) => RMW 11E UK size 10D (narrow) => RMW 11D You can see that the 7000 last runs much longer than the B529 and to compensate you need to go a up a whole size and drop down in width to compensate. Buying Boots On-line I have scored a minor coup for forum members. Just for you guys I rang up Steve of Nungar Trading Company today (I have NO financial interest in them at all): http://www.nungar.com.au/ Normally voucher pricing is only offered to selected professional organisation members and the like. However, at my request Steve has agreed to sell to all forums members at the voucher prices mentioned on the item details of this webpage: http://www.nungar.com.au/shop/items....126.96.36.199 All you have to do is mention "Style Forum special voucher price deal" when you order. The only minor catch is that RMW has just put its prices up and you will be charged $10 AUD (about $7.50 USD) more than the currently listed prices pending an upcoming website update. Steve said he does not ship tax free (I didn't understand why) and all prices on the site are inclusive of GST (or VAT as it is called in the UK). Steve's prices are much lower than those found on his rival seller's website: http://www.bootsonline.com/ My first recommendation for many forum members will be a pair of chestnut kangaroo Craftsman. Those wanting a sleeker look will be pleased with the Turnout in yearling leather (if you choose a narrow width). Those wanting a slightly more casual look should consider the Yearling. Anyone wanting a jodhpur boot should not hesitate in ordering the Stockman boot, although it will NOT be a wholecut. If you want other combinations of heel style, lasts and leathers you will need to put in a custom order. Try emailing Steve for a quote: [email protected] Ordering the Forum Special Model Steve is offering a 5% discount on special orders for the Forum Special model at a price of $285 AUD (ie 224 US dollars, 172 Euros, or 113 Pounds Sterling at the time of writing). When you e-mail him just mention that you are ordering the Forum Special model (flat heel, B529 last, French veal calf, brass screwed leather soles). For those of you wanting to order in yearling leather the cost is $240 AUD. And for kangaroo it is $255 AUD. For the kangaroo leather I would only use my Stock Standard Formula (AE PA size minus 0.5 and down two widths). For the yearling use the Looser Fit Standard Formula or else use the Alternative Formula. Lastly, other online sellers and RMW will know nothing of the Forum Special model. This is something I have personally created. It is a custom order. 19 Sept 06: added more boot styles and images 20 Sept 06 revised US to Aus/UK sizing guide 30 Oct 06: added & revised quote from Helge Sternke's new book 9 November: major revision of sizing guide 17 November: added link to show kangaroos are not an endangered species 9 Feb 2007: The Forum Special is announced! 10 Feb 2007: Added more details on converting AE sizes to RMW sizes based on lasts other than the AE Nr 5 4 May 2007: Modified FS sizing guide 18 May 2007: Modified FS sizing guide: radically simplified and improved FS sizing guide to produce a sleeker and better fitting boot.