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I’ve had several pairs of Dr. Martens over the years, starting with black-and-white Mary Janes in the seventh grade. But from red vegan Chelsea boots to the classic 1460s to patent leather oxfords, if they’ve all had one thing in common (besides that thick rubber sole), it’s how difficult each pair was to break in. All except for one: the Pascal Virginia boots ($135).
These shoes look exactly like the eight-eye 1460s — you know, the combat boots that appear in your mind’s eye when someone says “Dr. Martens” — except they actually look better. That’s because the Virginia is rendered in a soft Napa leather, which is thinner and more flexible, with a raw-cut top instead of a thick, folded-over seam on the upper. They’re definitely combat boots, but the overall effect is ever so slightly sleeker.
For me at least, the boots’ softer, thinner leather serves a dual purpose: The boots don’t have the same chunky effect the regular boots can have on your calves (aka they’re more flattering — a dirty word, sure, but one I do not mind in this case because I’m someone who’s self-conscious about having athletic calves).
And they’re also way easier to break in. I didn’t get any of those angry red marks on my shins or giant blisters on my heels like I did while breaking in every other pair. (Another break-in trick: Take the sole insert out for the first week or two until there’s a little more give in the leather.)
The thinner leather doesn’t mean they’re any less durable, though: I’ve had mine for around five or six years. I’ve worn them through every rain- or snowstorm that’s happened in New York in that time period, have maybe conditioned the leather once, and they are still doing just fine.
The company also makes a few other Pascal styles, like floral prints and metallics, if you’re not into any of the eight Napa leather color options the Virginia offers. But if you’re looking for the perfect pair of comfortable, sturdy, wear-with-anything boots, I can’t recommend these more.