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John Lofgren M43 Boots Review: My Thoughts After Testing

Buster is obsessed with fabrics, weaves, men’s heritage and vintage garments, particularly indigo denim and boots and how it all melds together in the culture we create. These are the things that keep him going, that keep him interested and inspired. When he isn't obsessing over clothing, he's taking care of a growing plant collection, working on a graphic design project or reading a good manga. Read full bio.


Last Updated: Apr 3, 2024
10 min read

If you’re having a tough time finding a great service-style boot, the John Lofgren M43 might just check all your boxes.

Dive in to learn why I believe it’s one of the best on the market.

The heart stealers
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John Lofgren M43 Boots
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Bottom line: John Lofgren makes a fantastic boot for your coin and the M43 are a prime example of a pleasing to the eye and versatile military-style boot for the common person. John Lofgren's (possibly) most popular boot boasts a solid grippy sole to a durable rough-out suede all sitting on a comfortable Munson last. These classics stole my heart, and they may steal yours next.

Ratings: At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Design At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Quality of Materials At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Craftsmanship At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Fit & Sizing At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon  Value for Money At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon At a Glance Feature Image/Icon
Pros:
  • Beautifully supple heavyweight Horween rough-out suede that's tough-wearing
  • Goodyear welted USA-made Vibram soles
  • Completely handcrafted by Japanese artisans
  • Completely military-spec features that make for a stylistic and versatile boot
Cons:
  • Price may put them out of range for some
  • Sizing can be a bit tricky due to the somewhat narrow last and the unstructured toe.

John Lofgren boots cost a pretty penny, but there’s legit reasoning behind the price.

Completely hand-made from start to finish by artisans in Japan, JL doesn’t cut costs or labor in their creation. “We begin by choosing leathers of the highest quality and perfectly suited to the character of each product.” The rest of their ethos on creation can be found on their website.

So, if you were ever curious about one of the best repro militaria boots out there, then this review is for you.

In this review, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this boot—including the construction, pricing, a little history of the boot, and some of my personal opinions. By the end, you’ll know whether it’s right for you.

John Lofgren Boots Overview

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John Lofgren grew up buying vintage. Engrossed by this world of old clothing, in college he worked at a second-hand clothing store where he met a lot of Japanese buyers interested in the same niche he was.

This was quite the revelation for John, as he grew up on his father’s farm wearing the same hard-wearing clothes his father and his father’s father did – never could he imagine there was a whole world out there of people interested in the clothing that him and his family wore every day.

Not too long after, in the early 2000’s, he started a vintage store called Honky Tonk Vintage in Japan where he curated personal vintage finds and sold them to the same niche crowd he met in college. Eventually he opened up the store Speedway Sendai and premiered his boot brand by his own name ‘John Lofgreen Bootmaker’ proudly donning ‘Made in Japan’. 

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John Lofgren Bootmaker was made of this drive to create the perfect replica boots, with small twists, of course, for the many people who loved the same things John did. This meant it needed to be created by the finest artisans he could find who would obsess over the smallest details like he wanted. 

He just so happened to be in the country where such artisans were in abundance. You can imagine why these boots are so sought after.

Things to Consider Before Buying

JL M43 boots

The first thing I see talked about often for Lofgren boots is the price. They’re not cheap and they definitely aren’t meant to be. They are a bang for your buck though if you’re wanting a shoe that’ll last you years and years. As someone who owns four pairs, it’s incredibly easy for me to recommend them to you. 

Then again, if you’re a die-hard Red Wing fan, or you’re perfectly happy with your Thursday boots (and their pricing), then these could be a bit of a stretch for you. If you’re looking for an absolutely solid boot in the $480 – $1300 price range then you get the pick of the litter. I do think Lofgren has a boot for everybody’s taste, but the downside is they are not the easiest to buy. 

They’re frequently sold out and sell out quickly when put on sale. I’ve scored a few from eBay successfully so I always recommend checking second hand first. You’d be surprised at how many people make sizing mistakes. Another dude’s ill fitting boot can be your treasure.

My Hands-On Review

First Impression

styling JL M43

I’m going to come out and say it—my experience with the M43 Service Boot has been superb. Honestly I bought these second-hand nearly new from an eBay seller when I saw they were my size. I love vintage military clothing so seeing this boot in particular was a must-buy for me. 

It fits the vintage vibe that I can rock with my Army pants but is also a versatile silhouette that can be worn with most things. But this boot isn’t for everybody. It isn’t necessarily ‘sleek’ like a Chelsea or dress boot, so if that’s what you’re looking for it might not work for you. But wow – these are damn good looking boots.

After lusting over these for a while, when I finally got them I wasn’t 100% sure on what to expect. I have had a pair of Lofgren’s before these but they were a vastly different boot. I think once I got to really wear these in, I was blown away by how comfortable and versatile they were. Definitely a pretty penny for a brand new pair if you wanted to start your own M43 boot journey. 

John Lofgren M43

John Lofgren makes a fantastic boot for your coin and the M43 are a prime example of a pleasing to the eye and versatile military-style boot for the common person. John Lofgren's (possibly) most popular boot boasts a solid grippy sole to a durable rough-out suede all sitting on a comfortable Munson last. These classics stole my heart, and they may steal yours next.

Check Price

Leather Quality and Care

John Lofgren M43 close up

This particular model has a really nice chestnut brown Horween Chromexcel rough-out suede that ages beautifully, however JL has been known to make these in a Shinki or Horsebutt if you have a more exquisite taste. I’m one to beat up my boots so the suede has aged well for me. The suede can be tricky if you’re one of those boot fiends that want them to be clean and conditioned all year. 

I’ve put these through the ringer, though, and while they are beat up, the suede has only gotten more beautiful to me. The only downside of this, is that dirt will stick harder to the suede and the scuffing will leave certain parts of the shoe looking worse for wear. 

John Lofgren M43 toe

But this being said, I keep a suede eraser and brush handy at home and it helps keep these suckers clean. If you’re really particular and wanna keep these just that much cleaner, grab a good suede protector spray.

A bit of sauce on them? Some dirt? A wipe and a brush and they’re good. Not exactly soldier material, but they get wear! I even brought these boots as my only footwear during a two-week stay in Europe. 

Sole

John Lofgren M43 sole

The 705 USA-made Vibram sole is doing good work. Great traction, comfortable, and has shown barely any wear. I’m not one to drag my feet, but living in a hilly city—I end up smacking my feet around on sidewalk cracks and concrete more than the average person, yet the soles are still immaculate and straight. 

No wonky uneven wear to be seen, either. Thankfully down the line when they do need to be replaced, we got the Goodyear welt, baby. Which like most good boots have, makes for a boot that can seriously last you a lifetime if taken care of. Sole starts to wear down after enough mileage? Get those suckers replaced. After wearing mine for nearly two years the soles have held up incredibly well. 

There is little to no serious wear on the soles yet. I can see if they were my daily drivers then perhaps there would be—but keeping these in rotation, you can expect them to last quite a long time. Vibram soles don’t mess around. 

Fit and Sizing

John Lofgren M43 boots

The M43 is on the Munson last, which was originally created by a military doctor after studying the best sole type for soldiers. Pretty cool, yeah? I do a lot of culinary work and I’m standing on my feet for 8-10 hours sometimes. While I shouldn’t be wearing these in a kitchen (don’t snitch!) they have held up insanely well. 

The munson last should lead you to choosing one size smaller than your brannock size. This rings true to me, as well. Normally, depending on the boot and last of course, I am around a 10.5 to 11.5, but in the M43’s I wear a 10.5. 

Because of the unstructured toe, they can feel a bit slim in the toe box for some, but I think they’re a comfortable boot and work well for my foot structure. Although I’ve known people with a wider foot having an issue with this last, so if this is you, I’d do some research beforehand. 

John Lofgren M43

John Lofgren makes a fantastic boot for your coin and the M43 are a prime example of a pleasing to the eye and versatile military-style boot for the common person. John Lofgren's (possibly) most popular boot boasts a solid grippy sole to a durable rough-out suede all sitting on a comfortable Munson last. These classics stole my heart, and they may steal yours next.

Check Price

Break-in Period

model wearing John Lofgren M43 boots

I wish I could talk in length about this process, but when I bought my pair they were slightly broken-in for me already. But due to the unstructured toe box and supportive last I can imagine these should be a cake-walk. 

After walking miles around different cities in the snow and rain, mine are still beautiful and comfy. (If you have a sensitive back or feet, there’s definitely some room for insoles, so that’s something to keep in mind, too.)

JL M43 close up

With the supple soft suede, you’re definitely not going to feel like your feet are in little leather cages. From the break-in that I’ve personally had with these, it was mostly in the bend on the top of the shoe, in this case when I crouched down there wasn’t a lot of give. 

But over months it drastically improved and virtually there is no tension there anymore. I imagine the shaft of the boot might be the tough part for most. 

John Lofgren M43 Alternatives

Oak Street Bootmakers Trench Boot

oak street trench boot in horween chromexcel roughout after patina

I’ve owned the Oak Street Trench Boot and it is a very different boot. That being said, if you’re looking for a good classic repro-but-not-repro style boot, then this might scratch that itch. 

The Oak Street trench boot is priced at $462 which is about half than the JL M43. Oak Street is still going to give you a solid construction with their 100% US-made production, Horween Chromexcel leather and fully recraftable Vibram soles. 

These also tend to be in stock more often so they are more accessible to purchase. But being that the price is what it is, it’s more affordable and still a fantastic price for what you’re getting—but you can’t expect the ‘completely made in Japan by artisans’ quality. If you want a solid boot that fits the bill and is versatile in style, then Oak Street is a good choice.

Oak Street Trench Boot

Built with thick 3mm Horween leather, the Oak Street Trench is rugged---even for a service boot.

Check Price Read Our Review

Grant Stone Diesel

Grant Stone Diesel profile view

Grant Stone’s ‘Diesel’ boot boasts itself as something not flashy, but more so long-lasting and tough. While it doesn’t share much with the JL M43 you can argue that the Diesel is a military style boot similar in design, but more similar to the Oak Street Trench boots with its shape and plain toe. 

Sitting at $380 you might be thinking it’s a no brainer for a Chromexcel, goodyear welt boot with a triple-stitch construction. Well, you might be right – the Diesel boot certainly holds its own in comparison to its competitors. As of writing, the boot holds nearly 140 reviews most of them 5 stars.

Their production is in China, which I see a lot of people take issue with – realistically there’s a lot of bad quality goods that come out of China, this is simply because there is a demand for that bad stuff. Grant Stone’s boots on the other hand rival many USA-made boots in quality. On top of this they age gracefully as well. 

Grant Stone Diesel

The Grant Stone Diesel is a no-frills mid-weight boot built with superb attention to detail and materials. The quality is comparable to other boot makers who retail for $450-600, but the Diesel is much less expensive. It’s one of the better price for value buys you’ll find.

Check Price Read Our Review

My Thoughts Overall

What I Like

  • A beautiful suede that ages gracefully even with rough wear.

  • Tough and pleasing to the eye military-grade laces and eyelets that complement the color of the boots leather and soles.

  • A comfortable last for standing and walking often with soles that are hard-wearing and solidly grippy.

  • A damn good silhouette for many versatile styles.  

What I Don’t Like

  • John Lofgren’s return process can be a bit rough and quite muddy—if bought from most US (or local) retailers, you’re better off if you have a sizing mishap, as their Japanese retailers like the JL website or Speedway Sendai will charge you an arm and a leg for shipping or returns. 

  • Not super easy to grab a pair in your size unless you’re quick. Their special collection boots fly off websites and shelves before most can get a pair.

Who is the John Lofgren M43 for?

The John Lofgren M43 is for you if you appreciate a beautifully Japanese artisan-made boot. Or, if you’re a huge fan of military repro’s, or you just want an excellent, comfortable and versatile boot.

The Verdict

John Lofgren makes an impressive and beautiful boot.

The price isn’t bad considering other options with this quality can run you a couple hundred more (i.e Clinch / custom bootmakers ‘Flame Panda’, Brian the Bootmaker, etc). But it won’t be the most accessible price for everybody.

There isn’t a lifetime warranty so if your boot falls apart on you years down the line, you’re gonna have to pay someone to fix ‘em up. But JL does stand by their quality, so if there is something wrong, you can reach out and they’ll most likely fix it.

It’s a safe bet getting these boots for your military repro option or just as a casual smart boot based on its silhouette and comfort.

John Lofgren M43

John Lofgren makes a fantastic boot for your coin and the M43 are a prime example of a pleasing to the eye and versatile military-style boot for the common person. John Lofgren's (possibly) most popular boot boasts a solid grippy sole to a durable rough-out suede all sitting on a comfortable Munson last. These classics stole my heart, and they may steal yours next.

Check Price

FAQs

Are John Lofgren boots good?

They’re absolutely solid boots, and I’ve never had an issue with mine.

How do John Lofgren boots fit?

Definitely a bit larger, so it is recommended to size down.

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