Helm’s The Charlie — is it a sneaker? Is it a boot? With a high collar and a flat, rubber sole, it’s a little bit of both.
Have you ever seen a mixed-breed dog that just doesn’t look right? It’s hard to put your finger on what it is exactly, you just know something looks off. That’s how I feel about a lot of “hybrid shoes.”
Not so with the Charlie Onyx, It’s kind of like an Australian / German Shepherd mix — it just looks cool.
However, I must admit, I wasn’t too sure I liked the Charlie Onyx at first. Upon opening the box, I noticed a prominent “chemically” odor, not the smell of quality leather that I was expecting. Inspecting the boot’s leather upper, I was somewhat dubious of the leather quality.
Then, as I was walking my first two miles wearing the boots, I felt rubbing in the heel area causing discomfort.
However, as I’ll explain, after wearing the Charlie Onyx boots frequently for over a month, my tune has changed.
This boot/sneaker combo is pretty sleek. I went with the all-black “Onyx”, but they have several other colorways available. This boot goes well with dark, monochromatic outfits, but it can pass muster with a wide variety of looks.
Onyx is the most “boot-like” version of the Charlie, in my opinion, as the other options have a contrasting white sole, making it look more like a high-top sneaker.
Construction, Materials, and Special Features
In this section, I’ll share what makes the Charlie so unique:
The Charlie is made in Brazil from full-grain Balthazar leather, which takes a full 28 days to tan. I wasn’t familiar with this variety of leather, and I think that’s why at first the smell and creasing seemed odd to me.
For the first few wears, the leather on the upper would bend in a way that it would irritate my feet, but that quickly went away as I broke-in the boots.
At first glance, I thought the uppers might be genuine leather, but now that I’ve broken the boot in, I can clearly tell that it is in fact made from quality full-grain leather.
The Boot Collar
The collar is at the top of the shaft of a boot. The Charlie’s cuffs are covered with leather and are padded for comfortable wear.
While the boot is quite water-resistant, one weak point is the tongue. I wish the tongue was gusseted, as that would help make them even better for wet weather. That said, a gusseted tongue might not work with the boot’s overall design. I’m not sure.
Each boot has “Helm Boots” stamped on the tongue. While I’m not a fan of branding, I didn’t even notice the logo until I began writing this review — it’s that discreet.
These boots have round cotton laces with standard plastic aglets. Lacing the boots up, you’ll find four pairs of nickel-plated d-rings and two pairs of speed hooks fastened with sturdy rivets.
The laces are decent, but not great. They’re already showing signs of wear after just a month.
I would’ve preferred waxed cotton laces as I think they’d be more durable. Luckily, Helm includes an extra pair of laces, so if they break you’re already covered.
I’ve had to experiment with how tight I tie the laces of these boots. Sometimes if they’re tied tightly, there’s some rubbing in the heel area — too loose and there’s also some discomfort. It seems like this problem is diminishing with time.
On Helm’s site, others mention this issue in the reviews for the Charlie.
The Sole / Boot Construction
Moving down the boot, the sole is a rubber cupsole, meaning that it’s made from one piece of rubber. I’ve found that the tread gives decent traction, even in wet conditions.
The cupsole is attached with Sidewall Stitch construction (i.e. the stitching is on the side of the boot, parallel to the ground).
Inside the Boot
Inside the boot, you’ll find a dark grey leather lining and an inspirational quote printed on the insole.
The lining is nice and fits in nicely with the aesthetic of the rest of the boot.
Honestly, I’m indifferent to having a quote on the inside.
I imagine that this is a case of “Why not?” on Helm’s part. It’s kind of cool I guess, but I could take it or leave it.
The Charlie Onyx Fit/Sizing
I ordered size 10 — the size I normally wear in boots. I’d say the Charlie is true-to-size.
While they’re not the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn, they fit well and are quite comfortable after a few wears (besides the occasional heel rubbing).
I think that the price, around $200, is fair. It’s a little more pricey than I’d expect, but it’s not much higher than Thursday’s Premier High Top, which would fill a similar niche in a man’s wardrobe.
If price is an issue for you, check out Helm’s website for used pairs of boots.
While definitely not a rain boot, the Charlie can hold its own in a rain shower (meaning, some water might seep in but your feet probably won’t get drenched).
While I haven’t yet tested these boots in icy conditions, I don’t think they would be a great choice for winter boots if you live in a place that gets serious snow and ice storms.
Honestly, black isn’t the most versatile option for this boot (I chose it because I wear mostly dark colors in the winter). I’d recommend the Navy or Rockford (medium brown) if you don’t already have several pairs of shoes/boots.
Overall, I’d recommend Helm’s Charlie Boot for guys who live in the city that are looking for a versatile boot for everyday wear.
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