Review: Nordstrom 1901 Calgary Chukka

I’ve been in the market for an affordable and stylish suede chukka that can easily be dressed up or down. No doubt, I’ve heard of Nordstrom’s 1901 Barrett chukka, but by the time I checked in to buy them, they were out of my size.

It was a couple weeks ago that I was scouring the sales section of my local Nordstrom that the Calgary caught my eye. The website labels them as “Rustic Leather,” but to me it looks like the boot is constructed from suede, with waxed portions on the toe and heel. The sole is a chunky rubber, and appears to be glued as opposed to stitched (but for under $300, that’s to be expected).

Much prettier in person.

From the website, the Calgary chukkas appear very chunky and work boot-like, but in person they are much sleeker. The details establish that the boot will never be able to be dressed up as some other chukkas, but overall the aesthetic is very rugged gentleman; refined yet still outdoorsy and adventurous, and versatile in their own right, like a man who can wrestle with a grizzly bear one moment, then read a book by the fireplace, sipping tea, the next. While they aren’t as sleek nor dressy as Loakes, they aren’t as casual nor clunky as Red Wings.

The first thing I noticed when I put on the Calgary chukkas is how comfortable they are. The size 8 boots easily fit my 7.5E wide feet (or are they 8E?), while still maintaining a slim silhouette. The insole is padded with a memory foam-like material that cushions and molds to your feet, which makes wearing the boots for extended periods of time easy. In fact, every time I wear these boots I’ll catch myself walking with a little extra spring in my step due to the sponginess of the insoles. In the weeks that I’ve owned them, I have had absolutely zero pain or discomfort during the break-in process.

Suede texture. I swapped out the laces with my Clarks Bushacres.

I’m unfamiliar with the feeling of cheap versus high-quality suede, but the boot feels soft and smooth. The nap isn’t very plush, it is actually cut very close to the boot, and the waxed portions sort of feel like cheap plastic. That being said, the feeling is excellent for a $70 boot. Much better than the plethora of suede Clarks that I’ve tried in stores. The uppers are flexible without feeling excessively thin or floppy, but the waxed areas offer a bit of construction that helps maintain its profile. The suede is a vibrant rust orange, a colorful alternative to the chocolate suede I was looking for. Dressy? Absolutely not. Full of edge that you can bring to your outfit? Absolutely. It can pair with earth tones like no other, with a warm, striking contrast without being too in-your-face intense.

I have to say one of the only faults of the boot is the sole. I’ve only worn the boots a few times in dry weather, but I can see issues being there with the rubber soles. While suede in the rain is always a bad idea, even on dry ground they don’t feel all too grippy nor durable, but only time will tell how they hold up.

Waxed/Burnished toe.

Another problem is the laces. They’re simple round laces that feel like cheap elastic, and I suspect they will, with more wear, begin to fray in time. They seem to replicate the style of dressier waxed laces — while being a good deal thicker — which looks inappropriate and contradictory for the style of boot in my opinion. I swapped mine out for the laces from my Clarks Bushacres and I think they look much better.

As a preference, my only other complaint has to do with the waxed toe and heels. Some will love it, some will hate it. I hate, hate, it. The burnished look contrasts jarringly with the rich, colorful suede uppers, and almost single-handedly ruins the look for me. It fits in the contexts of some Workwear or Americana looks, but makes the boots somewhat limiting to dress up.

Laces: swapped.

All things considered, I am very glad I ended up buying the Calgary chukkas; for the price that I paid, I got an extremely comfortable and pleasant-to-wear boot that I always look forward to putting on.

Full photo album can be found here.