Sagara has been producing handwelted boots since 2010, which is a relatively long time for Indonesian bootmakers. Back in 2014 when I started my journey into finer shoes, Sagara was probably the first local bootmaker that caught my attention. By then they had already gathered a large following in Indonesia, particularly the raw denim crowd.
Fast forward to 2017, I was in the market for a pair of boots, preferably from a local maker. By then there were already plenty of other Indonesian bootmakers, but my attention kept on coming back to Sagara — in particular to one of their most popular models: the Regent.
Even though my style isn't rugged, I can unequivocally say that after more than four years the boots have found a nice place in my wardrobe. This mainly comes down to their design, quality and, most importantly, their usage. Here's my review.
I. The Boots
The Regent is Sagara's interpretation of the split-toe apron boot and is one of Sagara's most popular designs (indeed, the most popular design for the Indonesian market). And for good reason.
First, the design straddles between smart and rugged. Second, the design is easily recognizable as Sagara's, even though Sagara obviously didn't invent the split-toe apron and the dipped side panels.
Bagus, the man behind Sagara, explained that the main inspiration of the Regent is British country boots produced by Lotus. The vintage ad below from 1942 explains that Lotus produced the "Veldtschoen" model since WWI and was worn by British forces. While I have not come across examples of the boots with the dipped side panels, I found that Lotus did produce a low-top version with the dipped side panels (also below).
Obviously, Edward Green also has the Galway, which they have been making "for the best part of a century" (i.e., almost 100 years, which puts the beginning of the Galway some time after WWI). And indeed the dipped side panels are probably now more synonymous with the Galway, given its popularity.
Sagara, however, made the Regent's design its own (in the sense that it is easily distinguishable) by adding perforations along the facings and the split toe apron. It should be noted that the apron and split toe are made of a single piece of leather (one might call it a "mock" split toe as it's not really split). This requires a large piece of the hide that needs to span from heel to heel.
The apron and split toe are merely decorative, as also confirmed by Bagus. In my experience the holes in the stitching along the apron are the first spots that get saturated when I wear the boots in the rain (more on how I wear the boots below). Nevertheless, the apron does provide a nice visual interest and makes up for the more compromised water resistance.
With leather soles and a flat welt, the Regent can be a somewhat smart boot. This is mainly due to the apron and somewhat long and narrow Mark last (relative to other offerings by Sagara). But for this pair, I wanted something a bit rugged because I already have a few options for smart and smart casual shoes.
First, I picked a Norwegian storm welt (where the welt is folded up on the upper rather than underneath, resulting in two rows of visible stitching). I elected not to have the welt go all the way round the back as I prefer the cleaner look of the heels. Furthermore, I was advised that the heel block is nailed to the boot, as such a 360° welt does not provide a significant improvement in terms of strength.
Second, I went with a double midsole for added height.
Third, I chose thick rubber commando soles. The treads do not extend to the edge of the soles, which allows the soles to be stitched on. The commando sole only extends to the waist. I would have preferred a full commando sole for better water resistance, but unfortunately Sagara didn't have this option.
The result is a rather thick and hefty sole. It's so thick in fact that I didn't notice any creases on the vamps for the first few weeks. This is because the boots wouldn't flex, they would just roll from heel to toe when I walked. So break in was a bit long. But once worn in the boots were quite comfortable and the soles are quite grippy and soft.
The upper is a mid to dark brown locally-sourced full grain leather, which Sagara calls Oak Butter Calf. The leather is chrome tanned. From my experience the upper is quite firm and feels thick, perfect for tough boots, although according to Sagara their other leather offerings are thicker.
The uppers crease quite subtly (very much helped by the fact that the soles are thick and do not bend much). However, for some reason the left boot has more pronounced creases than the right. I've not experienced this on my other shoes. I'm not sure whether this is because the upper of the left boot was taken from a different area of the hide (for instance, leather around the butt will crease differently from leather from the shoulder) or whether it is due to other reasons.
An issue I have with the upper is that the right boot has become lighter in color compared to the left boot. I only treat them with the Saphir Renovateur to moisturize the upper and neutral wax to make them more water resistant. Bagus was open for me to send the boots back to be redyed, although he said that he cannot guarantee that the color will be the same between the left and right boot.
Another issue I have with the boots is that the right tongue leans significantly to the right, resulting in the stitching on the tongue to rub against the speed hooks and subsequently coming undone. Again, I've not experienced this on any of my other shoes and boots. But thankfully, I don't feel the difference when I wear the boots and the failed stitching doesn't seem to structurally impair the boots in any way. Again, Bagus has offered for me to send the boots back to him so that he can restitch the tongue.
The Mark last fits true to size. I usually wear a size 43EU/9UK/10US on most boots and lace up shoes (Fortuna, Winson, Allen Edmonds, Crockett & Jones). Only for certain models (mostly loafers) and makers I wear a 42.5EU/8.5UK/9.5US.
For the Regent I think 43 was the perfect size for me. I can wear regular socks and slightly thicker socks for cold weathers just fine. In terms of comfort, I think the boots are quite comfortable after the break-in period. The two areas that needed breaking in were the vamp (partly due to the thick soles, discussed above) and the shaft of the boot. For the latter, I just tied the boots up to the very top quite tightly for a few days and after that they creased and loosened up a bit. Now I mostly tie the boots until the penultimate hooks for the best comfort.
II. How They Fit in One’s Wardrobe
It should go without saying that the boots are best worn casually, maybe with raw denim. Quite simple, really. But there is obviously more to the boots than the style.
Over the years the boots have found a comfortable place in my wardrobe primarily due to its usefulness, not the style (as good as it is).
I primarily wear the boots for hiking and cold or wet days. They do quite a good job in gripping the ground and providing solid ankle support. I'm not an extreme hiker, but I've never felt that the boots were inadequate for any of my hikes. And while leather will never be fully waterproof, with a few layers of wax, the boots do fine even when I have to walk for a prolonged period under the rain.
So muddy tracks, not carpeted office corridors. And wet sidewalks, not marbled floors.
Admittedly, I do find myself in more carpeted office corridors and marbled floors-type situations — for which I have plenty of other shoes. But when the circumstances call for properly strong footwear, the boots do a stellar job.
One of the reasons I waited for quite some time to buy a pair is because Sagara doesn't have a brick and mortar store and their boots are mostly MTO. I was unsure of how the boots (in particular the Mark last) would fit me.
Then at the end of 2017, they came to Jakarta to attend the Wall of Fades. This gave me an opportunity to try their boots on in person. Thereafter, I was in contact with one of Sagara's admins (not Bagus) and ordered a pair. The admin was very helpful in explaining the various details of the MTO specs. Of course, their MTO page on their website is also very useful. The MTO turnaround is at four months, which is quite understandable considering that the boots are handmade (hand lasted, handwelted, hand-sewn soles, and in my case, hand-sewn apron) and the amount of orders I imagine Sagara receives.
Sagara offers resoling services of their boots, which cost around USD100 depending on the soles (for instance: single midsole, double midsole, commando, nitrile, etc.). The turnaround time is one to two months, depending on the workshop's busyness.
Another point worth mentioning is that even though I've had some issues, discussed above, relating to the upper and tongue, Bagus was always happy for me to send the boots back to him for the issues to be addressed. There is, however, a queue and I was told that I had to wait for one month until they could start working on my boots. And my boots will only be inserted in the queue after they receive my boots (i.e., it cannot be booked).
For the time being, Sagara will continue doing their business online with several trunk shows throughout the year (travel permitting). In the past, they've held trunk shows in Singapore and Japan and are planning to do one in the USA in the future.
IV. Price and Closing
At the time of writing Sagara boots start at USD255 (slightly cheaper for low-top shoes) for local leather uppers (such as this Regent with the Oak Butter Calf).
For European uppers, the price starts at USD445, while shell cordovan starts at USD870. Obviously, the prices will vary depending on each MTO spec (e.g., I paid a bit more for the double midsole). Best to contact Bagus directly for a quote.
In all, the Regent was a good purchase for me. From an objective standpoint, handwelted boots at the prices above will more than likely be a good value. From a subjective standpoint, the boots have proven to be very useful to me.
However, given the issue with the upper, I will say that it is perhaps worth investing a little more for upgraded uppers. It is quite easy for me to send the boots back to be redyed. However, I can see how this can be troublesome for some, especially if they are not based in Indonesia.
Sagara can be contacted through:
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Written by: Nikki Krisadtyo