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The Trip to Horween Leather Co that Inspired Nicks’ Latest ‘Casual Adventure’ Boot

Travis Khachatoorian

Boots, Heritage Fashion, News, Journalism

Travis is an Emmy and Edward R Murrow award winning journalist with 10 years reporting experience with NBC and CBS. He's followed stories around the world: into the path of Hurricane Michael in Florida, with Alaskan dogs on the trail of The Iditarod, and in the belly of a C-130 with US Paratroopers off the coast of Australia. Travis left the news to live a less action packed life with his wife and son in Southern California, but he’s still passionate about quality reporting and heritage style boots. Read full bio.

Last Updated: Mar 21, 2024
3 min read

The team at Nicks Handmade Boots took a visit to Horween Leather Company early last summer. The tannery had something new they wanted to show them.

It was a new leather called Shackleton. 

Traveler Shackleton Brown 8

Of course the leather was durable and beautiful. The tannery is well known for that. But this Shackleton leather was also waterproof, without the waxy sheen of most waterproof leathers. It was buttery and soft, but still rugged.

The bootmakers left that trip inspired to create a new classic.

Maxwell Shackleton GreenerPastures 9

The CEO of Nicks, Shuyler Mowe, knew the Shackleton leather would fit right at home among their lineup of ultra-durable boots.

“We saw some samples while walking the production and finishing floor there and meeting Horween’s new head tanner,” Mowe wrote in an email to me. “This leather looked just like a premium heritage leather with the added benefit of the water-proofing, so that was something we hadn’t seen much of on the market.”

Following the visit to Horween, the new Shackleton tanned hides began arriving at Nicks in three colors: Greener Pastures, Cognac, and Brown.

View this post on Instagram

The leather would not just go on any Nicks boot. The team decided this would be unveiled in March alongside a whole new boot design, the Maxwell.

“We created a new configuration in our first 7″ height, the Maxwell,” wrote Mowe. “It has a lower heel stack and is a bit lighter-weight, really intended to be a great light hiker or urban walking boot.  We think the water-proofing goes well with that look, as it’s casual enough that it can fit into an office or social environment but still provides the functionality you’d look for if you were walking to work in the rain or got caught on a hike in a downpour.”

The Nicks team calls the Maxwell a “casual adventure boot.” It’s a striking mix of both a standout logger boot style, with sleek touches to the design that make it also fashionable if paired with quality denim. It’s lighter and more flexible than Nick’s traditional tank-like buildouts, but still features the goods: a burly V100 Lug outsole, handmade construction, and a fully rebuildable and resoleable design.

Maxwell Shackleton GreenerPastures 8

But ultimately, the Shackleton leather is the star of the show.

“It is very supple, first off and has a really nice handfeel,” said Mowe. “It’s got some gloss to it, though not quite as much as a CXL, and would be classified as a mid-pull up leather, in that it’s not as extreme as some that are out there but still has some nice variation in the high pull areas like the toe and the counter.  Of course, the most unique thing about it is the fact that it combines water-proof performance with a really aesthetically pleasing finish across many different colorways, which is not something you see a lot of.”  

It’s always exciting to make the acquaintance of a new boot leather on the market, particularly if it comes out of the esteemed Horween Leather Company in Chicago.

View this post on Instagram

Horween has been tanning leather for about 120 years with a business spanning five generations. These people are leather masterminds. They’re behind the original pullup leather Chromexcel, Genuine Shell Cordovan, and provide the leather for just about every football, basketball and baseball glove you see on TV.

Needless to say, they take great pride in what comes out of their tannery. And it’s not everyday they put their name on a new leather.

Mowe knew this leather was something special, so he didn’t have his team stop at outfitting the Maxwell in the new Shackleton Leather. Their March boot drop also included their classic Traveler Boot with a new upper.

Traveler Shackleton Cognac 6

The Traveler is billed as Nicks “walking boot.” It’s 8” tall, is a bit stiffer and more supportive, and most notably stands on top of a comfortable Vibram Wedge sole.

To me, these Shackleton leather buildouts are drool-worthy. I sometimes find myself walking short hikes and meandering on dirt trails to clear my head after a day in the office. To have a boot that can do double duty, from the office to the trail, in any type of weather is the dream.

LS greener pastures V1 5

Clearly it’s a dream come true for the team at Nicks too, who walked into Horween last year curious about the new leather, and walked out with a vision to bring it to life.

“We were blown away by the final sample boots and could not have been happier with the way this leather turned out. It’s a new leather that combines functionality and form in a way that is not really present in the market so we hope that resonates with people,” said Mowe.


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