There was a certain point in 2018 when every cool guy started wearing tan Common Projects Chelsea boots.
Now, I own plenty of $400, $500, and even a few $600 pairs of boots.
But I still can’t understand spending $500 on the Common Projects Chelsea.
When I came across the New Republic Sonoma, I was intrigued—it looks nearly identical. But it costs less than $100. That’s a huge bargain.
So I decided to get a pair for myself and give New Republic a try. Keep reading to learn whether this suede Chelsea is right for you.
New Republic Sonoma Overview
The New Republic Sonoma suede Chelsea boot is the brand’s most popular boot, and I picked mine up in the popular “Tan” color.
It even end up on my list of best Chelsea boots for men.
All versions are suede, and it features a crepe sole, which is usual. Crepe soles have some benefits and drawbacks, which I’ll get into later, but from a style perspective, the Sonoma has a trendy and fashionable look that’s hard to find at the sub-$100 price point.
The Sonoma is full leather lined and has a cemented sole construction. Like most other Chelseas, the elastic gore panels on the sides and nylon pull tab at the back make this boot easy to slip on and head out the door.
Things to Consider Before Buying New Republic Chelsea Boots
The New Republic Sonoma is a pretty blatant copycat of the much more expensive Common Projects Chelsea boot.
And honestly, it’s a much better buy than Common Projects.
I’ll discuss more in-depth later, but I find it difficult to justify spending over $400 for a boot with a crepe sole. Crepe soles are comfortable, but they get extremely dirty very fast. It’s one of my biggest issues with the New Republic Sonoma, too. But at least the Sonoma is under $100.
The New Republic Sonoma also has a cemented sole construction, which means the upper is glued to a leather welt, which is then glued to the crepe sole. Because there’s no stitching running between these parts, there’s a chance the glue can separate.
However, I didn’t read much of that happening in other reviews, so I’m going to assume it’s not a problem in the first year.
Just know that you’re getting what you pay for. While I believe the New Republic Sonoma is a much better buy than the Common Projects Chelsea boot, I also think there’s a middle ground where you can find a similar style, fantastic construction, and a sole that won’t look nasty after two weeks of wear (hint: it’s the Thursday Cavalier).
Make sure you read my “Alternatives” section below to get the full scope of what I mean.
New Republic Chelsea Boots Review
I picked up my New Republic Sonoma’s in their most popular color: Tan. I really like the light sandy suede color and it’s an amazing leather option for spring and summer looks.
I first saw the Sonoma while walking around town—some dude was wearing them and I asked, “are those Common Projects?” He gave me the details and I was pretty shocked to learn that they’re under $100. From a style-perspective, the two boots are nearly identical (minus the gold foil numbers on the Common Projects).
The Tan Sonoma pairs well with light wash slim fit jeans, and also work as a counterpoint with crisp blue denim. However, because the crepe sole soaks up dirt like a sponge, these boots lose their clean, classy look fairly quickly.
After four or five wears, they’re much more casual looking, as that’s when the sole starts to turn a bit grey at the sides.
Leather Quality and Care
The suede on the Sonoma is decent—it comes from a genuine leather hide, which is generally considered to be lower quality leather. However, that’s not much of a surprise considering the price.
When I compare the quality of this leather to other boots at a similar price, the New Republic Sonoma is far better.
I was surprised to learn that the genuine split leather lining runs throughout the entire boot, which is uncommon for boots under $100. Usually there’s some sort of cotton fabric around the toe, which can wear out and cause durability issues. But New Republic does it right with a full leather lining.
Genuine split leather is pretty poor, but the addition of some sort of natural lining helps boost the durability of the suede tremendously.
Considering the price, the amount of leather on the Sonoma is impressive. The quality isn’t outstanding for the upper or the lining, but it’s still better than any other sub-$100 boot I’ve seen.
Because the Tan suede is so light and has a relatively thick nap, I’d baby these boots. They’re likely to pick up water and dirt stains if exposed to moisture, so I’d reserve them only for the clear days.
The New Republic Sonoma has a crepe sole, which has some distinct benefits and drawbacks.
On the positive side, crepe soles are super comfortable. If you stand a lot throughout the day, you’ll notice a significant difference in comfort with a crepe sole.
On the negative side, crepe soles also soak up dirt and tend to turn grey fairly quickly (like within a few weeks).
You’re basically walking around on a big pencil eraser. Crepe is porous, which makes it soft and squishy, but also makes it a total dirt-magnet.
Interestingly, there’s a leather welt on this boot, but it’s still made with a cemented sole construction. That means the upper is glued to a strip of leather, which is then glued to the crepe sole.
I’m always a little wary of this type of construction because you’re just relying on the strength of the glue to keep your boot together. For a boot under $100, that method is standard, but there are much better construction choices if you’re willing to invest a little more.
The gold-standard of the boot industry is a Goodyear welt, and you can find a fantastic Goodyear welted boot for under $200. Sure, it’s double the price, but you’ll easily get an extra two or three years of wear from your boots, and you don’t run the risk of your boots falling apart on you within the first year.
I’m not saying the New Republic Sonoma will fall apart, but if the manufacturer mistakenly applied the shoe cement unevenly, it could cause issues like sole separation. And you wouldn’t find out until a few months in.
The crepe sole is what makes this boot a great Common Projects alternative—without the crepe sole, it doesn’t have the same style.
However, if you can’t already tell, I don’t like crepe soles very much. I’d rather have a much more sturdy leather or vulcanized rubber sole.
Fit and Sizing
Finding the right fit was a fairly easy task—the New Republic Sonoma should be the same as your sneaker size.
I wear a 10.5 in most of my sneakers and picked up the same for these Chelsea boots. They fit really well and are comfortable. I don’t feel any tightness at the ball of my foot or in the instep. There’s a bit of rubbing in the heel, but nothing major.
If you’re used to wearing boots, you know that boots typically run large. That’s not true for the New Republic Sonoma. They run small for boots, and are much more in line with typical sizing for sneakers and dress shoes.
New Republic doesn’t offer any E, EE, or EEE sizes, so if you have wide feet, I don’t recommend these boots.
There’s almost no break in period with the Sonoma. When you combine the genuine suede and crepe sole, there’s very little resistance to fight through.
However, they’re quite narrow, and you might have a snug fit at the ball of your foot at first. So long as your toes don’t start tingling, I wouldn’t worry about it.
I felt some snugness at first, but within three wears, the upper had stretched a bit and my boot fit comfortably.
What do Other Reviewers Say?
Other reviewers are generally happy with their New Republic Sonomas. I did see a review that showed the upper separating from the sole, which is one of the main concerns I have with cemented sole construction.
But I only saw that on one review, so it’s not something that appears to be common with New Republic.
Many reviewers were also shocked at how quickly the crepe sole grabs dirt and becomes grey. This isn’t New Republic’s fault—all crepe soles do this (which is why I’d never spend $400+ on the Common Projects Chelsea’s with their crepe sole).
That said, the majority of crowd-sourced reviews I found were positive. The slim, narrow style is the big winner in most positive reviews, and I agree on that front—these are good looking boots.
New Republic Sonoma Alternatives
Most importantly, the Thursday Cavalier has a leather sole, so it won’t change colors on you and will continue to look classy for much longer than the Sonoma.
The Thursday Cavalier also features a Goodyear welt, which is a much sturdier and reliable construction method compared to the Sonoma’s cemented sole.
The Cavalier is about double the price (at the time of writing), but it’s a much better boot in every respect, still has a slim and stylish profile, and offers tremendous value for money.
The Thursday Cavalier is Goodyear welted, leather lined, and offers excellent value. This particular Shadow Grey version is forever battling it out for the title of my favorite casual everyday Chelsea boot, and even with 20+ pairs of shoes in my closet, it's very often my go-to.
Common Projects Chelsea Boots
If you want to go all in on a pair of crepe Chelsea boots, and you refuse to be caught wearing anything but designer clothes, then the Common Projects Chelsea Boots are the only way to go.
Personally, I think the New Republic Sonoma makes the Common Projects Chelsea boot obsolete.
They look nearly identical, and while the Common Project Chelsea has far better construction and materials, there’s no getting around the fact that the crepe sole will turn grey after a few months of wearing.
But if you’re looking for the original crepe sole Chelsea, the big name is Common Projects.
My Thoughts Overall On New Republic Chelsea Boots
What I Like
If you must get a Chelsea boot under $100, this is the best option I’ve seen.
I like the look and texture of the Tan suede—it’s solid considering the price.
With its slim and stylish profile, the Sonoma is a fantastic alternative to Common Projects Chelsea boots.
What I Don’t Like
I’m going to wear the Sonoma sparingly because the cemented sole construction isn’t the most durable.
Crepe soles are comfortable, but they tend to get dirty and turn grey quickly.
Who is the New Republic Sonoma for?
The New Republic Sonoma is the perfect boot if you’re looking to pick up a pair of stylish Chelsea’s that you plan on wearing once a week or so with light wash slim jeans.
The New Republic Sonoma is my favorite Chelsea boot under $100.
That said, I recommend doubling your investment and getting the Thursday Cavalier instead.
While the Sonoma offers solid value for money, and it’s an awesome alternative to Common Projects Chelsea boots, I’m always hesitant to spend money on cemented construction boots.
I prefer some sort of stitch between the upper and sole—it offers another layer of protection should the glue separate. The Sonoma unfortunately is completely reliant on the glue keeping the upper and sole together. There’s a chance you’ll get a year of wear with this boot (or even a little more).
But with a Goodyear welt, you’re practically guaranteed several years of wear.
That’s the main reason I’d choose the Thursday Cavalier over the New Republic Sonoma. Also, because the Cavalier has a leather sole, the sole stays the same color. With crepe, that nice cream-colored sole turns grey within a few weeks—it’s unavoidable.
If you can spare a bit extra, I think you’ll glad you did.
Does New Republic run big?
No, New Republic shoes run true to size. If anything, they run a bit small.
How do New Republic Chelsea boots fit?
New Republic Chelsea boots fit like standard sneakers. Order the same size as you would with your sneakers. They fit a bit snug at first, but the leather stretches and they become more comfortable after a few wears.
What kind of jeans do you wear with Chelsea boots?
Chelsea boots looks great with jeans—the best kind of jeans to wear with Chelsea boots are slim fit jeans, either in a dark indigo or a light wash. Many guys like to wear skinny distressed jeans with Chelsea boots, though I only recommend the style for guys in their 20s and younger.