Usually when we talk about menswear it is about trying to dress with a semblance of style for any occasion. This would also include how to dress well in harsh climates. Of course, since this is a blog about A Malaysian Man, mainly Yours Truly, it is about dressing appropriately well in the tropics and the tropics is a place where it is hot, humid and wet most of the time. This is especially so in the Malaysian jungle.
Now this is one place you would need proper mud plugging foorwear. There are various forms of footwear available. There are the shoes called 'Adidas Kampung' or village adidas, which are basically shoes fully moulded from rubber including the studs. The problem with Adidas Kampung is that these are hardly the shoes for a plantation manager or someone who still thinks that work should stop at 4.00pm for tea.
The thing about modern hiking shoes is that they do not actually work in the mud filled tropical jungle. There are areas where it is muddy due to torrential rain and when you wear these modern hiking boots, which may be made with the latest synthetic stuff, they are waterproof. In the Malaysian jungle, water will find a way into your boots/shoe and because of their waterproof construction, they keep water inside it. Trench foot is something which you all need to avoid.
This is the same with all those stylish brogue boots. Whilst brougueing was invented by the Irish to allow water to drain via the holes punched into the shoes, brogueing on shoes of today are merely decoration. So wear a pair of Trickers boots and you still kill your feet as well as kill the expensive pair of boots too.
One reason is that mud plugging will actually cause accelerated wear to the leather of the shoes. Leather will absorb moisture and even if you spray some waterproofing stuff all over it, most tanned leather will eventually be destroyed.
So you need something that basically still looks decent for a gentleman, not waterproof and made of hardier material.
I have decided to present an option here in the shape of the Malaysian Army Boot circa 2010-2011. Note the ATM markings on the collar inside (above)
These are made by Malaysian shoemakers Kulitkraf. I have reviewed their Goodyear Welted Officer's Shoe a while back and didn't like it much due to its rough nature. But in this case, where you need that robustness instead of just style, these pair of boots may come up tops.
This is an eight (reinforced rings) eyelet plain toe derby boot that is used by the Malaysian Army. This is a general purpose boot The soles are of the commando sole and is quite flexible because it isn't lined with any underfoot protection against punji sticks (the one used in booby traps that will penetrate the sole and skewer your feet) or anti spike protection. The construction of the sole/boot is of the directly moulded sole (DMS) type, which allows for affordable mass production for an army of thousands and a lot of flexibility (very important in the jungle).
It is made out of black bookbinder or corrected grain leather. It has a padded collar or ankle area for extra comfort.
You can also see one more interesting item in the photo below. It has two covered drainage holes that will allow water to flow in and out of the boot. This allows for proper mud plugging without fear of getting trench foot. It is covered because you actually need the extra protection from the crawlies or blood sucking leeches. There are many of these. Especially when its wet. So water in and water out, but nothing else goes in.
The corrected grain leather is also good to have. Corrected grain leather is where the leather is treated so that the imperfections on the leather are lessened. The problem with corrected grain is that it covers all the pores as it coats the leather with something in close relation to paint. Or plastic. But in this case, it actually works when it comes to jungle boots. The corrected grain treatment actually adds another barrier against water. So you can actually sit in the mud and it won't be destroyed after a few wears. Even if you did destroy these pair of boots it can be bought for around RM169.00 at the Kulitkraf factory store in Petaling Jaya. While stocks last of course.
The thing about these pair of army boots is that the latest Malaysian army boots are more modern looking. More like the ones you see on most military people these days. The new ones are more akin to modern hiking boots rather than something that still looks traditional circa 1925. With the exception of the DMS construction.
The strong point about DMS is that the sole is actually quite flexible and sealed into a single piece without a leather sole which will actually be destroyed in water/mud faster than you can keep in dry. Coupled with the commando sole, it works when you're frolicking around in the mud as the flexible and deep treads in the sole does not allow mud to stick on it. There is also another type of sole which works for the jungle - the Panama sole used for the American jungle boot. But one boot at a time.
The other thing that makes this a proper gentlemen's boot is the fact that it isn't a half canvassed type boot like most of the other more serious jungle boots out there. These are most likely for use in less hard core environments. The proper boots for operations would have reinforced anti spike soles and half canvas construction. It is actually as heavy as this pair of full leather boots due tot he anti spike sole. Less flexible too because of this - I have tried on a pair before.
This could be the most dressy boot that you can use to plug through the mud whilst in the jungle. And one that will be able to last quite a bit too. It is designed for the mud yet still looks dressy enough under a pair of trousers. They may look a little clunky, but only if viewed head on. It does look decent from the side, especially when you give it a proper shine.