If this winter has taught me anything, it’s that I’m stubborn. For no good reason, my winter shoes of choice are a pair of beat-to-heck, white hi-top Converse All-Stars. Yep, the retro basketball shoes with zero grip, zero support, and zero waterproofing.
It’s been a snowy winter here in Baltimore and needless to say, my pragmatism (or pigheaded tendency) has rewarded me with wet socks on the morning walk to my car that persist through the entire workday. Not to mention my resemblance to an ice skating baby giraffe whenever an icy patch crosses my path.
I finally reached a breaking point. No amount of love for the classic style of Chuck Taylor’s was worth the discomfort I was subjecting myself to. It was time I bought some durable, winter-equipped, grown-man boots.
I’ve seen ads for Taft boots for years and was always struck by their bold designs and evident quality. Intent on pampering my cold, damp feet after years of duress I picked up a pair of Taft’s Dragon 3.0 boots in Rust.
Taft Dragon 3.0 Overview
The Dragon 3.0 boots are Taft’s workhorse, do-all style. Handcrafted by artisans in Spain who are “generational shoemakers”, Taft has spared no expense in ensuring that the entire design and construction process of these boots is guided by human touch.
Featuring Goodyear Welt construction these waterproof boots are an investment in longevity, as I’ll explain later on, and perfect for facing the trials of an icy winter day.
Taft was founded out of a two-bedroom apartment in 2013 by husband and wife duo Kory and Mal Stevens. Their vision is simple: make beautiful and unique footwear that offers the best service and value possible.
The direct-to-consumer boot brand has achieved wild success in short order, including a Forbes feature in 2017, the Earnst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and consistent free endorsement from celebrities and athletes.
Needless to say, it’s time to see if the hype matches the product.
Things to Consider Before Buying Taft Boots
The largest consideration in purchasing Taft boots is price. They make the rest easy:
- Do you want boots crafted by Spanish artisans? Yep.
- Do you want boots that can be worn with a suit and survive assorted lumberjack activities? Yep.
- Do you want boots that make puddles cry? Yep.
Which leaves us with what you’re willing to shell out from your wallet. Among other boot brands, Taft is actually evenly priced on average. Where Thursday Boots, Chippewa, and Red Wing average $200-$300, Taft comes in with a rough average of $275.
The Dragon boot is a bit above this, at $350, but that’s due to the combination of calfskin lining and hand construction by generational shoe-makers that make these boots slightly more refined and luxury than their competitors.
If you’re keen to buy some statement boots that turn heads and affections, Taft has an impressive lineup deserving of their slogan, “Boots for the Bold.” As I’ve said many times before, footwear sets the tone for the outfit. Those looking to add an extra dash of flair, sophistication, and mystique will do well to check out Taft’s unique offerings.
Taft Dragon Review
At first sight, Taft’s packaging is impressive. The shoe box itself sits nestled in a pre-constructed cardboard slot that’s part of the shipping box, ensuring the shoe box is secure during transit. The golden lettering of Taft’s logo is striking and lends a sense of sophistication, class, and simplicity.
The Dragon 3.0 boots are made with sueded leather uppers and a buttery soft calfskin lining that guarantees a snug, comfortable fit. Right out of the box these boots have a well-loved, rugged look that is still handsome enough to be worn in classy environments.
I appreciate this duality of purpose. The boots give the sense that the wearer knows the finer points of chopping down massive trees but can also discuss the nuances of economic policy while riding a motorcycle.
With regard to styling, these are great casual date night shoes. Paired with black jeans or black chinos and an off-white sweater, you’re ready to hit the streets with style and comfort.
I’ll also use these for more casual settings such as running errands. Black or blue jeans and a crisp white tee make this your go-to outfit for getting things done, especially in spring and fall.
Most importantly, gone are the days of cold, soggy socks and sub-optimal sidewalk traction. These bad boys have grip to spare. The unique sole design gives traction where it’s needed and confidence on those slippery mornings.
Of note, Taft includes a complimentary shoehorn and boot bag with each order. I love these additions, especially because I never would have bought a shoehorn for myself. The boot bag is wonderful for traveling and keeping dirty boots away from clean clothes.
This part of an animal’s hide is just below the hair and has not been buffed, snuffed, or altered in any fashion. The grain on the Dragon is very tight and resists moisture well, making it ideal for a do-all boot.
Best of all, full-grain leather will look nicer and get stronger over time. The Dragons are essentially an appreciating asset. Looking for the next financial vehicle to be idolized by WallStreetBets? Look no further.
Every Taft boot is made exclusively with vegetable-tanned, chromium-free leathers. If you’re wondering how we went from talking about boots to horticulture and chemistry, let me explain.
Vegetable-tanned leathers are those that are tanned with tannins. No, you have not stepped into a Dr. Seuss book.
Tannins are vegetable extracts that are used in the tanning process to stop the natural process of decay. Their use makes the leather resistant to moisture and leaves the leather supple and pleasant.
Besides vegetable-tanning, chrome-tanning is a popular and efficient way to finish leather. Dating back to 1858, this process involves dousing leather in water, chromium salts, and tanning liquor for several days to stop the aging process.
While these tanning methods largely have the same effect on the leather, chrome-tanning has been decried due to health issues. If not managed correctly, substances like chromium, lead, arsenic, and acids from chrome-tanning can seep into the local water supply. This has widespread, dangerous effects.
All that to say, Taft is creating boots with the highest-quality leather and most responsible processes. Besides enjoying an excellent pair of boots, you can sleep well at night knowing your boot leather didn’t cause a public health crisis.
I’m a sucker for the feel and smell of good leather and the Dragons scratch that itch. It’s also a good feeling knowing that the leather will patina beautifully over time.
The outsole of the Dragons is made with the seldom-used Ridgeway Style. Where previous versions of the Dragons used Dainite studs, the Dragon 3.0 has embraced this unique and versatile sole style, and I’m a big fan.
Paired with a sizeable heel stack, these boots achieve a more aggressive, rugged profile that suggests preparedness and capability. I prefer the Ridgeway sole to Dainite, as I have a greater sense of stability since the Ridgeway has more substantial points of contact with the ground.
The Ridgeway sole also features more extreme edges than the Dainite, which gives me confidence that my boots would catch quickly in icy conditions.
Also of note, the Dragons are the first Taft line to feature Goodyear Welt construction.
You may be asking, “Goodyear what?”
Goodyear Welt refers to a style of shoe construction that increases the longevity and functionality of the shoe.
Most shoes are constructed by gluing the leather upper directly to the outsole. This is simple and cost effective, but makes it difficult to have your shoes resoled or repaired.
Goodyear Welt construction adds a long, thin strip of leather that gets adhered first to the upper, and then stitched to the outsole. This makes it easy to slap a new sole on the shoe and also makes the shoe largely water resistant.
Since, in all likelihood, your soles will wear out before the full-grain knapped leather, the Goodyear Welt extends the longevity of your boots by making it easy to have them resoled so you can get back to stomping anything that crosses your path.
It’s an investment in your future. So long as you occasionally rehab the leather and get your boots resoled, they’ll be your best buds for decades to come.
Fit and Sizing
Taft boots run on the large side. I’m typically a men’s size 9 and ordered as such, despite reading reviews that warned of the larger sizes. Most reviews suggested ordering a half size down, but since Taft doesn’t make half sizes, I figured I’d rather have too much space than too little.
On trying them on, I had nearly an inch of room in the toe box. That being said, the fit elsewhere is snug and comfortable enough to not make the extra space uncomfortable.
I could live with it, but seeing as I was trying to treat my feet right, I returned the order for a size 8. And man did that make a world of difference! (It’s worth mentioning that Taft offers free shipping and exchanges within the United States. My experience of their customer service is top notch!)
The Dragons only come in standard D width. My feet aren’t particularly wide, so the shoes fit snug and comfortable. Those with the extra stability provided by wide stompers may find this problematic, however.
As for the break-in period, the Dragons were comfortable and molded to my feet after about two lengthy periods of wear. This is better than I expected considering the use of full-grain leather.
My general expectation to become truly acquainted with a new pair of boots is about a week of mild discomfort, so this was a pleasant surprise.
What do Other Reviewers Say?
My review is one thing, but what do others have to say about the Taft Dragons?
I read a wide swath of reviews and found similarities in sentiment, both positive and negative.
In general, reviewers love the Taft Dragon 3.0 for its full-grain leather, calfskin lining, and Goodyear Welt Construction. Some reviewers have bought multiple pairs, and many cite their love for the aging process as the leather patinas and their boots get more comfortable.
Common complaints focused on the lack of half-sizes and wide widths and the tendency for these boots to run large. The latter is something I can attest to, and would recommend ordering the next whole size down if you ever wear half-sizes.
My Thoughts Overall On Taft Dragon 3.0
What I Like
High quality materials like full-grain leather and calfskin lining ensure the quality of these boots.
They’re constructed by hand by generational shoe-makers, which makes me confident that I’m wearing a well-constructed boot.
The Goodyear Welt construction makes these water-resistant and allows them to be resoled easily.
They’re durable and ideal for rough conditions, like snowy,slippery winters in Baltimore.
The boots are versatile between outfits and formalities, meaning they have plenty of use beyond trudging through snow.
Taft provides thoughtful free inclusions, like a shoehorn and boot bag.
What I Don’t Like
The sizing can be misleading as Taft boots typically run large.
Who is the Dragon 3.0 for?
The Taft Dragon 3.0 is for the boot enthusiast who appreciates premium materials and construction techniques.
If you’re looking for a pair of boots to make memories with, the Taft Dragons are for you. The quality in construction and materials is evident from the second you open the box. Full-grain leather and the Goodyear Welt construction will take these boots through significant duress and keep you looking good while doing it.
Due to the overall quality, these boots aren’t cheap and therefore aren’t for everyone. A seasoned boot enthusiast who can appreciate the finer details and inclusions will probably wear these to bed.
For those who are new to the world of boots, buying Taft’s Dragon 3.0 can seem like a daunting expense. If you can view this purchase as an investment, and your boots as an appreciating asset, they’ll certainly pay off over time.
Are Taft Boots worth it?
Taft Boots are worth it if you appreciate full-grain leather, hand-construction, and a Goodyear Welt.
Are Taft Boots waterproof?
Certain Taft Boot styles, like the Dragon 3.0, are constructed with waxed, sueded leather and a Goodyear Welt that makes them very water resistant, if not waterproof all together.
How do Taft Boots fit?
Taft Boots fit large. If you typically or even sometimes wear a half size, size down to the nearest whole size.