This afternoon I received in the mail a pair of vintage Vivienne Westwood engineer boots, as made famous by the Japanese manga Nana. They were a bit dusty, so I gave them a much needed wipe down with some saddle soap and leather lotion, and then decided to inspect the differences between the original ripple sole engineer boots vs the newest version that is currently sold by George Cox. Even after all this time, the main construction and overall design is pretty much the same. The key differences are in the stitching, the amount of buckle holes, the ripple soles, and the brand stamp/tag in the insole. I took numerous side by side photos to see the comparisons.
When I originally ordered my George Cox re-issue boots from a Japanese supplier named FACE (aka 666 King Mob), I was slightly baffled, as the soles of the boots had the ripples going in only one direction, instead of the distinct two directions. In fact, I was so confused about it, that I called the George Cox customer service number in the UK specifically to ask what was up. They explained to me that the company they use to manufacture the rubber ripple soles had recently moved their factory out of the country, and instead of continuing business with them, they decided to destroy their rubber sole moulds and import the Vibram ripple soles from the USA. They said that they decided to make this change as the Vibram soles are easily available in most shoe repair stores. The boots are constructed to last a lifetime, and being able to easily replace the ripple sole will make them last even longer with proper maintenance. Whereas the original ripple sole was nearly impossible to replace once it was worn down, forcing people to use the vibram soles at the repair shops anyways. The change is relatively new though, so some websites that still sell the boots haven’t yet updated their stock photos on their websites (I’m looking at you FACE!).
Otherwise most everything is pretty much the same. If you’re considering spending way too much time and energy hunting down a pair, perhaps it’s more cost effective to go with the re-issue engineer boots. One thing I have noticed when I started looking for a pair, is that this style is primarily sold in Japan, thanks to a large Vivienne Westwood and Nana fanbase. Even though the boots are made by George Cox in England, to buy them you would have to order from one of the Japanese retailers who have them custom made in batch orders for their shops. They cost about 50,400y brand new, or roughly $490/£295 by today’s exchange rates. You can sometimes find the re-issues for less on auction. The original vintage Vivienne Westwood ripple sole engineer boots on auction tend to go for about double or even triple the price of a new pair of re-issues, making them more of a luxury collector item, rather than a functional boot. I managed to score my pair on auction from a seller than had it listed for a relatively low buy it now price. Quite a lucky find, especially considering that after spending years hunting down a vintage pair, I finally gave up and ordered the re-issue boots, only to have a vintage pair pop up on auction a few months later. I haven’t quite decided yet if I’m going to sell my re-issue boots and just wear my vintage boots, or if I’m going to save my vintage boots for collectors purposes and just wear my re-issues. I guess the deciding factor will be which pair is the most comfortable.