In 1968, Yvon Chouinard, piled into a VW van loaded up climbing gear, surf boards, and a bunch of mates, en route from California to South America, living a wild outdoors life along the way. Four years later Yvon Chouinard would call his fledgling clothing company, Patagonia, in honour of that and later trips to the region. Patagonia's Boaris shoe is also a homage, of sorts, to hogs. "The feral pig is one of the finest examples of adaptation - they can survive nearly anywhere and on very little. We think the same way of our Boaris Limited [Edition]."
I was rather surprised when an early sample pair arrived on my doorstep, to wear test , courtesy of Patagonia Footwear. Normally I wear shoes that have more overt performance attributes. I was therefore dubious how this shoe, apparently designed for light hiking, albeit with a skater-like appearance, would hack it.
Photos: REI and Patagonia
At first my doubts seemed well founded, the Boaris hurt to wear for more than couple of hours. But then I noticed I had overly long toe nails. Some judicious pruning later, and the fit and comfort was vastly improved. (Sometimes there's no accounting for user error!)
As an ex-product manager I've spent years thrashing gear, including boots and shoes. I was kind of expecting these casual looking numbers to give up the ghost quite early on in the piece. For stitching to give way, soles to wear thin, and the like. Now after diligently wearing the Boaris Limited every chance I've had for the past three or so months. Nothing. They look as new.
Only available in the in-your-face Green Flash colourway, the uppers the full grain leather uppers sport stain-proof pigskin panels, with a embossed feral pig motif. I was sure this would get dirty (being a light green/yellow colour) from the get-go. Nup, Nada. Okay, but they will after the stainproofing rubs off, right? Well three months of near constant use and dirt, grass, light mud and the usual detritus of walking in the bush keep sliding off. Much to my consternation. What's the good of testing a product if you can't find its Achilles Heel?
If wasn't in the shoe's performance, which belies it's street shoe visage (although a little more room in the toe box would help on the long steep descents), maybe the Boaris' weak link was in its eco credentials?
The footbed contains 70% recycled Poli-cork and the insole is 100% recycled materials. And the wicking lining was of a fabrics called Trek-Dry, which is infused with bamboo to improve absorbency. But that appears to be it, in terms of the blatantly green construction. For instance, the Vibram sole, although long lasting and effective at not clogging up unduly, does not contain any recycled content. So I went back to Patagonia Footwear to see if maybe I was missing something. Their response was that "Durability and Quality are very important environmental hallmarks."
This is true. An eco product is not solely the sum of its green materials content. Remember the old adage: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? Reducing consumption is way more important than buying new product, just because it has recycled content. Based on my experience so far, I would expect this well made shoe to outlast many others in its price and and performance class. Patagonia Footwear also cited 'Versatility' as an eco-attribute, "One shoe that can do it all vs.. 2-3 pairs to get the same functionality." This is a street shoe that can easily cope with getting amongst the rough stuff, leading a Clark Kent/Superman dual existence. Tho' I imagine it's striking colourway would limit its use for more subdued activities, like working in an uptight office environment.
I was also informed that the leather was sourced responsibly from "only the best of the best tanneries with the highest environmental standards." But I know for past experience this doesn't cut the mustard with a small element of our readers, who often berate us with comments such as, "Why is this on TreeHugger? It's made of leather. Leather is NOT green."
So I decided to give Patagonia the right of reply to such thoughts, sending them a series of questions, so they could clarify their position regarding the use of leather for footwear.