Non-Dehner Dehners?

After more than a year of trying and failing to give Dehner my money, I’ve come to accept that I probably need to look elsewhere, as no amount of Urad is going to make my geriatric paddock boots and the $15 consignment-store half-chaps I purchased under duress appropriate for any event.

I love the classic styling of Dehners, but more importantly, I am simultaneously a cheap [redacted] and a believer in “buy once, cry once”; if I’m going to spend Tall Boots Kind of Money, I want the cockroaches to be able to live in them after World War III takes place.

So, COTH, help me with Plan B!

Looking for a black dress boot with classic styling and a zipper that will last as close to forever as possible. I’m open to off-the-rack or full custom, though I suspect I’ll probably need custom given my height and conformation. (After searching the hive mind, I did try Ego7s, but my stout and muscular half-Slovenian peasant calves were not about to fit into them.) Budget and break-in time is “whatever it takes.”


A friend has these, lasted for years and years

There’s not going to be any zipper boot that lasts forever. You might be able to buy a front zip model like a dressage boot and get 5 or so years of daily use out of them.

I’m sure someone will chime in that their boots made in 1995 are fine. Sure, they were made in 1995. Boots made now don’t last like that.

Personally, for boots that seem to be made from cows that have survived some sort of nuclear event, my choice is usually Petrie.

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I was window shopping Equestrian Fashion (Factory) Outlet, a Canadian chain. They do Petrie custom boots. On their website they have a selection of one-off “Cinderella Boots” that are obviously custom orders that presumably were rejected by the buyers. A wide range of size combinations.

In Canadian dollars the Cinderella Boots are in the $500 range so on par or cheaper than Ariat. The custom boots are about $1100.

With the exchange rate the Cinderella Boots are going to be in the $300 range for US dollars.

If they have your size that’s an amazing good deal.

You might want to look at vintage/used, then - the leather was MUCH better quality ‘back in the day’ and you might get really lucky.

I had a pair of amazing boots from eBay - they were gorgeous leather, with patent leather trim at the tops. They fit me really well (a little short, but oh well), and I rode them daily for quite some time before I outgrew them. They were as nice when I sold them as when I got them, and they were probably c. 1950s.

I currently have a pair of Tetzel-Jones boots I picked up at an estate sale (Tetzel-Jones became Dehner). Custom made in the 1930s, and the leather is FAR nicer than any of my current boots, including my Petries.

Of course, zippers were not a thing back then.

Eh, don’t feel too bad about missing out on the Dehners. I spent an obscene sum (for me anyway) on a new pair and within a few months the soles were separating. I talked them into fixing them “for free” (which left visible stitches) but I paid more for shipping than I would have spent getting them repaired locally, and within a year I had to get the boots resoled (locally) anyway. I don’t walk around in them, just ride. So far so good with the leather (I opted for hardy stuff, not the calfskin) but I don’t think they will last decades like the older ones did. I did get opt out of a zipper for durability though.

In the fall I found a pair of brand new $1k Koenigs on consignment for a whopping $375 and if those last a year or two I’ll be thrilled! They’re much thinner than the Dehners so we’ll see. I’m easy to fit off the rack though so consignment may be trickier for you.

Putting in my regular non-paid plug for Celeris UK. :slight_smile:

I have an embarrassing number of full customs for them and have yet to pay over $800 USD. My oldest pair is 6 years old, used as my schooling/all around boots, has zippers (front), and has worn like iron with only minimal care on my part. (Seriously, I beat the heck out of these boots and only clean them once or twice a season.)

My second oldest pair are 5 years and worn while fox hunting only–so not year round–but they do see a lot of wear during hunt season. They also have zippers (back). Have been soaked through in rain, coated in mud, scraped against trees…and still look and feel amazing.

It is my belief that zippers in boots are not inherently fail points. It’s zippers in boots that do not fit that have problems. I have had a million zippers blow in off the shelf boots…and not one with an issue in customs.

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I dropped big money on custom Dehners in 2014 and the boots showed up wrong (too big in calf, wrong tops, missing swagger tabs, etc). Hated the fit. Spent a lot of time going back/forth with Dehner about them and we finally came to an agreement, and I lost zero sleep in sending them back. I know Dehner makes a good boot and they have a very loyal following, but it wasn’t my experience. I have two pairs or Ariats that I rotate for daily use, and splurged on some LaMundials (which showed up perfect and are still looking like new) for showing. By then my boot tastes had changed and I wanted something modern/fitted with a zipper.

Also Dehner will put zippers in, but only after telling you 1,123 times that zippers are the devil and you shouldn’t do it.

I’ve seen some nice DeNiro boots, those might be worth checking out and they offer semi-custom options too. The Celeris ones look lovely.

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Thanks to all for the responses! This is awesome, and I really appreciate the notes.

A couple follow-ups:

Yeah, I was unclear on that. I do want zippers because I have a high arch (and, to be fair, for ease of use!) but I also expect to have to replace zippers as a consumable part. So while I want the boots to last, I do expect to have to re-zipper and re-sole.

This does make me feel better that it’s not just me!

For anyone else reading this thread: Can confirm, by the way, that @GoneAway’s predicament has not changed since 2014.

Those look amazing! But after my previous issues with trying for the Dehners, I’d really like something where I can be fitted by a rep, ideally a company employee. I do see they have Zoom consultations, which might be a possibility…

More generally, appreciate everyone else’s recommendations for vintage/consignment, Equitector, Petrie, and DeNiro. I hate shopping and just got done with the saddle hunt for new mare, so I’m a little burned out on used at this point. I will look into the mentioned brands.

In a few older threads, I also saw a lot of people mentioning Vogels for durability–anyone have recent personal experience with that?

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When I got my first pair, I went to a local tack store that measures for DeNiros and had them measure me by the Celeris method. At that point, they were not doing Zoom calls yet. A couple years later, I broke my right leg and needed a new pair of dress boots for hunting, so I re-did the measurements myself for that leg (with my husband–you do really need two people) and then emailed back and forth with them.

Since then, I have done a zoom call with them to just double-check that measurements have not changed when I ordered new boots. They are really great about it if that helps you at all.

Speaking as someone with stout, muscular central European mutt peasantry sort of legs - what are your measurements?

I have Ariat Volants that are likely to survive the apocalypse. They are not as classic in style as you may prefer. However, Ariat is half the price of a pair of custom boots, their full grain leather dress boots will take forever to break in but forever to wear out, and they have an extremely convenient extra wide calf option. They are also having stock issues because of COVID, but if you can wait until they figure that out, the price may be worth the wait.

If you are open to spending more money, Konig. I had a pair of their field boots that I sold to a friend when I outgrew them and as far as I know she still has them 20 minutes later.

Try to find Ariat Divinos. They do have zippers but much more “robust” and the leather is durable, like Dehners of old. They weren’t very popular and you might be able to find a clearance pair. Quality is good.

I’m a little amused that we have come around to thinking of Ariat as durable, though it may be true.

Ariats are the only English tall or paddock boots I’ve ever had (as a re-rider, had only a pair of rubber fake tall boots as a teen). I figure they are good enough for me especially when I get them on sale.

When I joined COTH the general consensus was (accurately) that no Ariat would last as long as that treasured pair of 30 year old Konigs that nearly crippled the owner getting broken in, but fit like a second skin now and had been used on three horses a day all that time.

Now however I think a lot of the custom boots are made out of softer leather, indeed like the currently popular French saddles. I went online and made a list of all the custom options and looked them up.

DeNiro has a local tack store outlet. I didn’t love their sample boots, but the tack store was trying to sell me on the entry level model that didn’t cost any more than the mid range Ariats (in Canadian dollars).

I went home and looked up the DeNiro website, and this lowest price boot was “suitable for riding several times a week.” Going up in price, you then hit boots with different flashy but fragile leathers, meant for competition only. You had to get up to a much higher range I recall in order to get a “pro” boot in a plain leather that was “suitable for every day use.” At that point double the price of an Ariat.

Anyhow, my point being that the soft fitted custom dress boots that are almost all that’s on offer now custom might indeed be very fragile compared to Ariat’s full grain boots.

There still are the big hardened bowed dressage boots on offer from a few makers like Konig, but I can’t see those ever being a good idea on me. I have never tried them on as they are all custom but have poked at them in the consignment store and cringed.

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This reminds me of a story I heard years ago (on some TV show?). I can’t even remember the context anymore. It was about a young man of modest means entering the business world. He scrimped and saved to purchase a pair of very expensive dress shoes. He wore them to work every day. Within a few months, there were holes beginning to wear in the soles and in the shoe leather. He took them back to the store to complain, where he was told, “Sir, those shoes are not meant to be worn every day.”

When I was attending William Woods, circa 1978, Dehners were the boot to have. You weren’t anyone unless you had a pair. Being of modest means, I did not. However, I did have a pair of off the rack Kemptons (sp?) boots that fit like customs. I was walking from the barn to my dorm and a fellow student stopped me and said in a very surprised tone “Spud, I didn’t know you had Dehners” Must have raised my worth a few points in her eyes. I just smiled and said, I guess there’s a few things you don’t know about me, and left it at that.

Yes- I’m specifically calling out their full grain models here. Their softer leathers in the Monaco and so on break in faster and are more comparable to custom high-end whatevers but also wear out faster in the inner calf and I also think have more significant drop. Meanwhile the full grain, in my experience, are bulletproof. This also means you better wear your moleskin breaking them in and do NOT expect them to drop more than a half inch over 10 years.

Hmm. I have Ariat Contours field boots that I bought on deep discount years ago. They are not dropping enough to be comfortable. I should just get a shoe maker to trim them down. Otherwise great.

I got my first pair of Dehners in 1990 and they were a trial to break in but lasted me twenty years. I also had a pair of brown dress boots that lasted twenty years. They were beautiful. I even stood in the water to break them in. When I ordered another pair they were never right. Too wide, too short, sent back, etc. I also have had two pair of strap jodhpur boots that were great. The last pair of Dress Dehners I have never even been able to break in. Got Ariats. No boot pulls, no boot Jack. Perfect. I guess I just am not motivated to deal with all that anymore.

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Ariat Divinos are calf leather. Tissue thin. They will not last for daily riding.

Any calf leather boot will be more fragile than a full grain cow leather. Petrie offers full grain cow, as does Cavallo if I recall. Konig has moved to calf leather so their boots are now more delicate than they used to be. You might still be able to get the more durable leathers from them but it’s not their stock offering.