Review: Eastman Tanker Boots (6 months)

by Gen Padua June 24, 2020

Introduction

Howdy, for those of you who don't know me, I'm Gen - one of the shopkeepers here at Standard & Strange. The Eastman Tanker Boots have been a grail boot of mine for years. So naturally, I picked up a pair for myself the day they landed, and I've been been faithfully wearing and beating them up for the last 6 months. Out of the box they were comfortable and they have quickly become my favorite pair of boots in my rotation.

A Brief History of the Tanker Boot

The original Tanker Boots were rumored to have been produced at the request of General George S. Patton himself in 1937. As the name implies, these boots were originally produced for tank operators, who needed specially equipped footwear to navigate both the battlefields of Europe and the tight confines of the tanks they crewed. Laces and eyelets were dangerous inside of a tank, and were liable to catch on things or melt. Straps made for a safer boot, and are still used to this day. The boots themselves are taller, with gusset rising to nearly the top of the boot, making them waterproof and resistant to the deep mud of WWII.

One of the other primary functions of the Tanker boot was to have a tall and protective boot that could still be easily and quickly put on or taken off. This was a key part of the final design, and is where it differs from many pull-on boots of today. The tanker boot is essentially a very tall lace-up boot where someone swapped all the laces for straps and buckles. This was a sort of best of both worlds, the comfort and ease of a pull-on boot, with the security and fit of a lace-up boot.

Sizing and Fit

The Eastman Tanker boots are built on a custom last and fit big - you’ll want to go 1 size smaller than your Brannock device size (your Brannock device is usually your sneaker size).

If you already own a pair of John Lofgren Engineer boots - these fit bigger - go 0.5 size smaller than your John Lofgren Engineer boot size.

If these are your first ever pair of pull-on boots, there are a few details about the fit that you should expect. In general, pull-on boots will have some amount of heel slip, and generally it will be more noticeable than what you might feel in a pair of lace-up boots. This heel slip can feel strange at first, but it doesn’t cause any pain or discomfort if you’re wearing the correct size. Much of the break-in process will involve stretching out the instep (by wearing the boots) and collapsing the leather insole and allowing it to mold to the shape of your foot (also done by wearing the boots).

Compared directly against the John Lofgren Engineer boots, the Eastman Tanker boots are a bit wider in the forefoot, somewhere between a D and E width, and very accommodating for wider feet. The instep is a little bit more shallow than the instep on the John Lofgren Engineer boots, but still has a comfortable amount of room for most feet, even before breaking them in.

The shaft is much more narrow than the John Lofgren Engineer boots. This is due to the way the shaft is built like a lace-up boot rather than a pull-on boot, where the straps function as wrap around laces, essentially. This results in a more secure fit from the ankle up, and greatly reduced heel slip (when compared to other pull-on boots) due to the way the boots can be securely fastened all the way up to the opening in a way that other pull-on boots cannot.

Styling

On their own, the Tanker Boots can look pretty intimidating. But once they're on your feet, they look very sleek and just plain different. What's most surprising about these boots is how shockingly versatile they really are to wear with different outfits. This is in part thanks to the design, as these are a pull on boot that fits much like how a lace-up boot would, which means that the opening of the shaft can be strapped down to a perfect fit around your calf, allowing these to be worn under slimmer or more tapered pants than you’d be able to with some other pull-on boots.

Starting with the basics- they look great with jeans and a tee shirt. Indigo and black denim both pair exceedingly well with the Tanker boots, but I also recommend your favorite WWII-era trousers (or reproductions of your favorite WWII-era trousers). The real beauty of the Tanker boots is their aesthetic balance- they maintain a distinct visual interest without being too loud or in your face. They pair just as well with denim jeans as they do with chinos, and even patterned fabrics, like wabash, hickory stripe, or camouflage.

I do recommend cuffing your pants high and showing off the whole boot, but they’re just as handsome even when mostly hidden beneath your pants. You can also take it one step further and wear them with shorts, but what you do in the privacy of your own home is strictly your business.

Comfort and The Villain Noise

Right out of the box, a new pair of Tanker Boots should be stiff, snug, and a little squeaky for the non-burnished horsehide versions. The stiffness eventually gives way to a softness, the snugness relaxes a bit, and the squeaking gets a little less squeaky and a little quieter.

Breaking these boots in took about one full week of wearing the boots all day, every day. There weren’t any days where I felt the need to wear something different for the sake of my feet, nor did I employ my age-old tactic of just taking his shoes off and working in his socks. After one week, any stiffness was gone and I wore them daily without issue. After six months, they're the most comfortable pair of boots in my rotation - a mix of the soft, supple horsehide leather, the ability to adjust my instep tightness much better than a standard engineer boot, and a damn good last. In Before Times they were my go-to travel boot - comfortable, stylish, and easy to get on and off. Once the dust settles from the pandemic and I feel comfortable traveling again - these will be my loyal airport companions.

Lastly, that squeaking noise I mentioned above, at the shop we call it the Villain Noise because it sounds like you’re a villain in an action movie. The only way to describe it is that the boots make a subtle “leather noise” when you walk, calling it a “squeak” doesn’t properly do justice to the sound, nor is it really accurate to it.

The Tanker Boots aren’t a beginner piece of footwear, but they're surprisingly easy to style and comfortable as all get out to wear. While they can certainly be an acquired taste, the comfort and quality speak for themselves, and if you’re at all curious, I wholeheartedly recommend giving them a try. Don't be afraid of them - they're a great way to branch out your style.

The Eastman Tanker Boots are available in Russet Horsehide, Black Horsehide, and the new Burnished Havana Roughout.