Broken Homme's James Boot

When longtime friends Jim Leatherman and Josh Johnson joined forces to create a footwear company in 2012, they had a target audience in mind: themselves. Both men had grown up surfing and skating in Southern California, but were outgrowing their Vans. Broken Homme, the brand that grew out of countless conversations, makes leather boots inspired by classic American workwear that retain a modern, downtown sensibility.  

"We wanted to do footwear with an elevated sense of style," Leatherman says. "We're not reinventing the wheel, the construction is similar to the way boots have been made for decades, but we give it our spin."

RELATED: Affordable Leather Boots for All

The difference is in the details. Broken Homme's leathers are oil-treated, giving them a slicker look than the faded, distressed leathers of other work boots. The eyelets are made of gunmetal instead of traditional brass. And the Vibram rubber soles – a brand trusted by extreme climbers and hikers – are black instead of cream, giving them a dose of formality. The James Boot, one of the most popular styles, has a cork lining that molds to the shape of your foot and looks dressy enough to wear to dinner.

"We encourage our customers to work in them, ride motorcycles in them, and go out in them," he says. "They're designed to crossover." 

Both men have backgrounds in the surf and skate apparel industry: Johnson was the creative director for Ezekiel Clothing and Leatherman worked for Matix and DVS footwear. When they began conceptualizing Broken Homme, they decided responsible manufacturing was an important part of what they wanted to do. Today, all of the materials are domestically sourced and assembled in the brand’s factory in Los Angeles, which – not incidentally – allows Johnson and Leatherman to be hands-on.

"Josh rides his motorcycle to the factory in downtown L.A., jumps on the machines, and tests out the final products," Leatherman says. "He's the real deal. He knows what works." [$299; brokenhomme.com]