I've learned quite a bit during my pursuit of impractical transportation over the last few years. Most of the tid-bits I've picked up are hopelessly tangled to the internal workings of vintage carburetors (that I still can't figure out), or technical specifics that pertain exclusively to quirky Italian vehicles and motorcycles. Admittedly I've also learned a few life lessons here and there and some more universal pieces of knowledge such as if you're going to purchase an rare eclectic 4WD, also acquire a pair of sturdy boots that match the part. When it breaks down (and it will) you're going to need them.
My criteria for a pair of boots mimicked that of the vehicles I drove, they needed to be stylish, rugged, and most importantly rebuildable—or in the case of boots, recraftable. Danner, based in Portland, Oregon, is one of the few companies still crafting boots in the United States and just happened to meet all of my chosen criteria with their latest collaboration with Tanner Goods, the Mountain Trail Left Bank.
The Mountain Trail Left Bank is the latest boot in Danner's Stumptown line, a nod to the Portland-renaissance of American-made craft goods. Each boot included in the Stumptown collection is made at Danner's factory in Portland and is reminiscent of a classic style that the company produces. The Left Bank is based upon the Mountain Trail, a timeless design that has been with Danner since the early 1970's and is still popular today.
This is the second design collaboration between Portland-based companies Tanner Goods and Danner Boots. Both of which share a passion for high-quality materials and craftsmanship, which evident from the first moment you pick up the Left Bank. The first thing you notice is stunning exterior of the boot—constructed from durable Russet Chomexcel Leather from the famous Horween Leather Co., based in Chicago, Illinois.
There are two decisions to make as soon as you pull them out of the box. The first being the color of laces you desire. Included with purchase are two options: forest green, and a muted white. Your first choice plays a tell-tale role of what your second choice will likely be. Are the boots destined for a life of cruising city streets and to kept in pristine shape—or will they be used as intended and get dirty? I chose green laces as there was no way these boots would end up having an easy life, and it would be less likely to show dirt.
I found the leather to be just as prone to scratching and scuffing as any other leather boot I've owned. There was one major difference though, the scratches and scuffs on the Horween leather ends up building into what could possibly be the sexiest patina to see a boot...ever.
The inclusion of a Vibram® Gumlite outsole was...interesting to say the least, and there were times when I loved it along those when I didn't. My first impression was "Wow, these suckers are light" followed with "Damn, I wonder if it will actually hold up." The lightweight and forgiving outsole is perfect for around town as it makes the boot just as comfortable as a running shoe; and while I thought the granite rocks on the hiking trails near my house would tear it to smithereens, the pliability of the Gumlite actually aided with traction, and I saw no more increased wear than I would with a traditional rubber bottom. It still left me a bit uneasy—I wouldn't set out to climb a difficult succession of mountains with this particular stumptown model, but there are others in the collection that I wouldn't hesitate to do so with.
From the drivers seat to the trail and a possibly an embassy in between, the Danner x Tanner Mountain Trail Left Bank is a fashionable choice for a boot that's Made in America. At $350.00 it isn't the most cost effective solution, but for those who appreciate the finer things in life and understand the importance of owning a recraftable boot it's perfect. Treat it right and this is the last boot you'll have to purchase...unless you become a Danner addict as I have become.
I'd recommend the Danner Mountain Trail Left Bank to anyone looking for a great all-around boot with a bias towards fashion and style. If you're looking for something a bit more durable with a traditional sole, check out the Mountain Light 80th Anniversary.