Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

I’m pretty sure most of us, given the choice, would want a lovely, precise gated shifter for our manual cars. But the truth is we don’t usually have a choice, and society dictates that the point of contact between shifter and chassis is somehow unseemly, so it must be hidden with a modesty boot of some sort. Of these boots, there are really only two basic kinds: rubber accordion boots and leather, bag-like boots. I maintain that rubber accordion boots are far superior, even if they’re currently very out of favor. Hear me out.

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Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

The shifter boot is an important detail in any car’s interior, and, for what it’s worth, it appears that leather shifter boots have won. I blame this on society’s miserable obsession with the concept of “premium” things and materials. Leather (or synthetic leather) is perceived as being more upmarket, more expensive, more status-telegraphing than rubber. Rubber is seen as utilitarian, not luxurious, which is why it’s so hard to find a modern car with a rubber shifter boot.

Hell, even utility vehicles like cargo vans have leather shifter boots now. Look at this Fiat Promaster cargo van:

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

Why does this thing need a leather shifter boot?

My real problem with leather shifter boots is that, for all their pretention of being “nicer” or more premium or whatever, they just look worse than a nice, architectural rubber accordion boot.

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Honestly, when you see a shift boot like this, what do you think of?

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots
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Let’s just not, um, beat around the bush here. These things look positively scrotal. It’s a scrotum for your shifter, and we all know it. Like scrotums, they’re not really the most objectively attractive things in the world.

Look, if all the ballsack references are distasteful to you, how about this?

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots
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Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

You know what these two objects are? One is a leather shifter boot, the other is that filthy Sorting Hat from the Harry Potter books and movies. Really, if you just chewed the tip off the hat, you could use it as a shift boot just fine. There’s plenty of shifters that look like that’s exactly what happened.

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So why do we put up with this? Why did we all decide that we’d rather have these misshapen, wrinkly lumps at the base of our shifters instead of satisfying molded rubber constructs that look capable and clean and appealing?

Here, look at these two shifter boots from Datsun 280Z cars:

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots
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I love vintage-looking things as much as anyone, but, come on, that leather boot with that ridiculous leather bow is just stupid. You can’t tell me that actually looks better, objectively, or that the stupid leather laced bow isn’t going to get untied all the time, giving you an extra, unwanted annoyance.

That rubber, ziggurat-styled shift boot, though, it looks striking and crisp and capable and sporty and fun. I love it. It’s mechanical and appealing and those stepped sections are going to flex in a really satisfying way.

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Here, let’s look at another comparison, this time in Porsche 911s:

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots
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If anyone can explain to me how that rhino-dick looking thing is somehow better than the tidy, cool-looking round accordion boot on the upper 911 picture, I’m happy to listen, briefly, before rolling my eyes.

Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots
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Illustration for article titled Rubber Accordion Shifter Boots Are Better Than Leather Ballsack Shifter Boots

Also, leather shifter boots tend to form little pockets from folds in the rubber, and trap all kinds of crumbs and dust and crap in them, which proves to be a pain to clean out. A rubber accordion boot can be easily wiped clean, with a paper towel wrapped around a finger used to sweep out between the folds.

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With a leather boot, you have to pull it taut, spilling all the gross crap into the area where the boot meets the bezel and it’s all just a hassle. Not worth it.

There’s no reason to put up with this. Leather boots look worse, are harder to maintain, and don’t offer any advantages over rubber, other than some vague cultural classist status bullshit.

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I’m not even sure the last time I saw a modern car with a real rubber accordion shifter boot, but I’m officially demanding them now. Bring back rubber accordion shifter boots!

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

krwalsh
krwalsh

This is wrong, and you know it. Wrenching on cars that were born before you were should make you realize what happens to old molded rubber components. They dry out, they degrade from UV, and they crack. Then the thick rubber section opens it’s terrible maw when you slide it into first gear, and as you satisfyingly grab second that maw closes shut on your hand. So then you call up the one shop left in the universe that carries parts for the 1967 Wonderwagon Shooting Brake. Sure enough, they have one more OEM shifter boot for that particular year, in the Charcoal to match your interior. You begrudgingly plunk down $387.14 for it, because you’ve got to keep that Wondereagon original. A week and a half later your part arrives in a greasy reused cardboard box because vintage car part vendors have never heard of USPS Priority Mail. You extricate your new treasure from its faded OEM packaging only to find that where it had been touching the plastic bag for the past 59 years it has discolored from Charcoal to more of an Angry Smoking Grandmother skin color, and sure enough, time does not stand still in those boxes, and the seams in this one are cracked as well.

So no.  Those ribbed for your pleasure boots are not better.  They will leave you injured, poorer, disappointed, and angry.