Until then, we did not know Solovair shoes. But that was before… Before we purchased the brand's legendary model, the “8 eye derby boots”. This pair was purchased from British Shoes. From opening the box to trying on the boots, let's discover this pair of shoes together!
The Solovair brand
Let's start with a little leap into the past: Solovair is one of the oldest shoemakers in England. Born in Northamptonshire, the company has long produced for so-called fabless brands (without a production site), before designing its own models.
By the way, did you know? Solovair is at the origin of the famous “1.4.60” model from Dr Martens! Certainly, we grant you: its name is less known than that of its English colleague. Nevertheless, Solovair (“sole-of-air”... Got it?) offers products of equal, if not superior, quality.
…and in detail
If you are familiar with Dr Martens shoes, you will have noticed that the pair of Solovair boots share some similarities with them. To tell the truth, the two brands share a common past… To understand everything, you have to go back nearly 140 years and go to England. Direction Wollaston, the cradle of footwear, located in the Northamptonshire region. In 1881, the NPS was born: the Northamptonshire Productive Society.
Let's revise our history lessons a bit: the end of the 19th century rhymes with the industrialization of England. During this period, the demand for shoes, and more particularly boots, exploded! The NPS cooperative then became a must in the sector and experienced exponential growth, which accelerated until the 1950s.
For NPS, the year 1959 marked a decisive turning point: a certain German doctor, responding to the name of “Klaus Märtens”, commissioned the company to manufacture a boot with eight eyelets and mounted on a rubber sole housing rubber cushions. looks… Sounds like something to you, doesn't it?
NPS then became the official manufacturer of Dr Martens for over 35 years. Until 1995, when Dr Martens decided to relocate all of its production. NPS then chooses to change its name to Solovair, a name that emphasizes the specialty of the brand: soles on air cushion (“sole of air”, therefore)
Technical data sheet for Solovair boots
- 8 eye derby boots
- Leather upper
- Leather sole only at the heel
- Lacing eight metal eyelets and round laces
- Rubber sole on air cushions
- Goodyear assembly
- Made in England
Discovery of the packaging
First of all, the experience begins with the discovery of the Solovair packaging: the pair of boots is simply delivered in its cardboard box. The latter has everything that is more classic, but it is flocked with several crisp info. In addition to the brand name, written in (very) large on the lid, there is also the date of creation of NPS (1881) as well as the place of manufacture of the pair (in Northamptonshire).
Inside its box, the pair is carefully wrapped in tissue paper, itself flocked with the brand's logo. Once the shoe has been removed from its box, it's hard to ignore the relationship between Solovair and Dr Martens! The comparison over, let's now look at the characteristics of this "8 eye derby boots".
A closer look at Solovair boots
Appreciating this pair of boots begins with observing its leather. Dyed in a color called "burgundy", the leather features several dark shades, ranging from burgundy to wine-red, through black. Very shiny, it is smooth and soft, almost making us doubt its true origin. To understand this rendering, we must once again delve into the history of Solovair.
At the beginning of his collaboration with Dr Martens, the boots that came off the NPS production line were intended for the working world. Thus, the shoes were treated to become impermeable to water, oil and certain caustic substances (such as soda, in particular). Over time, the brand has kept this principle and only offers models with completely sealed leather (but which, in fact, does not breathe).
From its workboot past, this Solovair has kept its main characteristics. This is particularly noticeable by the presence of reinforcements at the end of the shoe, but also at the base of the buttress. Its characteristic lacing is obtained using eight metal eyelets (hence its name!) and a long round lace, giving it a combat boot look. At the upper end of the buttress, there is a black and green zipper embroidered with the brand logo. A thin piece of black leather, sewn on the cuffs, adds a finish that consolidates the shoe. If the rendering is nice, it is a little disappointing not to find this type of finish on another part of the shoe - especially at the level of the guarantors.
Moreover, speaking of finishes, we were also interested in the seams that run through the shoe. The latter are generally successful, even if we notice some errors of points, here and there. Subsequently, observing the seams, we looked at the welt. Made using a thick gray thread and large stitches, it reflects the use of a Goodyear assembly, coupled with a vulcanization of the rubber sole. Translucent, this sole allows you to observe the air cushions it houses, which is the brand's signature.
Let's now finish this inspection by observing the inside of this pair of shoes. Suffice to say that the tour of the owner is quickly done! Indeed, this part of the shoe appears to be quite basic: there is a leather half-sole (only at the heel, therefore) flocked with the brand logo and there is no lining. Clearly, at this stage of the test, we expect something uncomfortable. So let's get to the fitting, to get to the bottom of it!
The moment of the fitting
Serious consumers of Dr. Martens know the brand's sizing. Relationship requires, we hope that that of Solovair comes close. British Shoes also recommends, on the product sheet, to choose your usual size. Here we ordered a pair of boots in size 44.
Once the pair on the feet, most fears fly away, while others are confirmed. First, although they weigh their weight, these Solovairs are surprisingly light! Despite the lack of a proper sockliner, these shoes are really comfortable. The outsole absorbs shocks well, you can walk on any surface without the slightest discomfort. On the other hand, where this Solovair model sins, it is at the level of its flexibility. Admittedly, at the time of this test, the leather is new and must relax over time... But we must admit that the combination of rigid leather and relatively high lacing is not the most pleasant, when of the first ports of the pair. Like Dr Martens, renowned for this, you have to be patient when working on the leather of these boots.
Throughout this review, we couldn't help but compare this pair to one of its twin sisters from Dr Martens. Note however some differences: the lacing starts lower on the instep, the nose of this shoe is therefore shorter and the shape more rounded.
Another difference: the price! A Dr. Martens “Made in England” costs up to €70 more. Here, British shoes, official Solovair reseller in France, offers these 8 eye derby boots for 199€.
However, let's go back to the model we had in our hands. If we noted some finishing defects (imperfect seams, sole cut sometimes in a haphazard way), the pair is, overall, of good quality. The leather looks good and we find the shade particularly successful! The imposing sole gives an assertive character to this shoe. The air cushions it contains provide the comfort that has made this model famous.
Beyond these features, this “8 eye derby boots” is steeped in history. It will seduce people who are looking for authenticity, who are looking for the original version of a legendary model.
- An iconic model
- A pretty color
- The type of lacing
- Made in England
- Hazardous finishes
- Leather a little stiff at the first ports.