Shoe Quest in Taipei

Other than bringing my shoes and boots into Dr. Sole for repair, the other thing I really wanted to do in Taiwan was to find a pair of shoes that I can wear to the hospital on weekdays.

People often don’t know this, but before all our shoes were being made in China, they were made in Taiwan some decades back. There are still shoe factories and workshops in Taiwan capable of producing some really good stuff, so I went looking.

 

The first stop was the Red Wing Taipei store. Red Wing are American boots, but I was quite curious about their Irish Setter boots, after the recent rush by American stockists to sell these boots which were previously exclusive to Japan. I had the thought that the Irish Setter boots might be cheaper in Taiwan – IMO, at American retail prices, Red Wing boots are overpriced.

I must say, the exterior of the store was nicely done.

For whatever strange reason, the interior of the store was really dark!

It was difficult to assess the grain and colour of leathers.

Further, Red Wing did not allow any photography in the store, but did agree to me taking photos of boot fittings.

The range was pretty big, everything from basic moc-toes to Beckman chukkas. I was there to see the Irish Setters though – they had them available in 4 boot types (pecos, moc-toe boots, moc-toe shoes, plain-toe boots) and 2 leather types (oro-russet and black klondike).

I know the klondike leather is supposed to be tea-core and limited edition, etc. To me, however, as far as black leathers go, it was pretty average. Oil-tanned, slightly over-corrected, unremarkable hand.

The oro-russet wasn’t much better – it just had a more interesting colour.

The build of these shoes were fairly basic too, as far as Goodyear welted shoes go.

Anyway, RRP is 12000 NTD for the shoes and 15000 NTD for the boots, that’s 400 USD & 500 USD respectively!

Way overpriced, obviously.

I moved on from the Red Wing store pretty quickly after trying a couple of pairs.

 

Mother shrimp joined me for the rest of the journey.

Classic Works was next, and boy was it a treasure trove of Japanese footwear!

John Lofgren, Rolling Dub Trio, Moto, Addict Clothing, etc.

If I lived in Taiwan, I’d probably visit these guys very often.

It was great to see the Lofgren engineer boots in Badalassi tannery’s minerva leather (above), priced only just slightly above Japanese RRP. The Addict Clothing boots were pretty sensational too, and if I had my way I would have walked out with a pair of green engineer boots!!!

Mother shrimp veto’d the purchase though, and reminded me that doctors don’t wear ridiculously coloured, feminine boots. I wasn’t going to argue, and thus Japanese boots were off the menu.

The clerks were very enthusiastic in showing me some Japanese shell cordovan wallets though.

The one above is from the MasterHand brand by Barns Outfitters. Very reasonably priced for a shell cordovan wallet, saving cost by machine stitching the piece and using shell from the little known Miyauchi tannery in Japan.

Another interesting piece was a more expensive shell wallet by The Superior Labor. The Shinki shell cordovan featured had a nicer shine and better hand-feel compared with the Miyauchi shell. Despite the added expense, the wallet is machine-stitched still.

I moved on from Classic Works with some reluctance, and later regret not taking more photos of the footwear they stocked. Again, and perhaps this is the trend in Taiwan, the interior of the store was very poorly lit, and my photos did not turn out nice enough for me to show here.

 

I took a detour to Take Five, as I wanted to see what the new Benny’s Store was all about. Take Five remains the most complete stockist of Japanese brands in Taiwan, although if you’re not a member, expect to pay a significant overseas premium.

Well, Benny’s Store basically stocks stuff like Orgueil – earlier time periods, more ‘gentlemen’ style pieces. Anyway, neither part of the store had anything close to my size…

Judging by the decor you can certainly tell Take 5 is doing better than their competitors though, haha! That being said, the vast majority of what Take 5 stocks can be more cheaply acquired though Denimio or Okayama Denim, and in larger sizes too.

 

US Country Store was right across the road from Take 5, and most of the store is now Trophy!

Trophy is, of course, known among denim nerds for the ‘dirt’ denim they use. I was more interested in their tops though, and unfortunately they don’t make anything for the upper body that would fit me.

I had a look at Trophy’s engineer boots too. Lofgren’s is a better boot, to be honest.

They had a nice bike displayed out front.  🙂

 

Next stop was Jeans Da!

I’ve been seeing these guys pop up on Instagram, and they’ve been pretty keen on marketing to Westerners too, so I was keen to see what’s up.

The store was nicely lit, very well decorated, and supremely photogenic!

However, it was clear by what was being sold up front (various denim treatments and detergents) that Jeans Da was aimed at the denim beginner and non-hobbyists.

Jeans Da sells mainly goods under their own brand. Their denim garments are mostly designed in Taiwan and made in Japan. There was a big focus on washed and distressed jeans; speaking bluntly, the house-style wasn’t my cup of tea.

There was a sashiko + horsehide coat that caught my eye, and yet again the largest size was much too small for me.  😦

Back on track for my shoe shopping.

Jeans Da has a range of boots and shoes that are made in Taiwan!

Pricing is 450 to 500 USD.

I thought their shoes were quite interesting, with a funny ‘biscuit’ toe shape. They didn’t come with rubber soles, however.

Waxed flesh too!

I’ll pick these over Red Wing any day.

Their boots tempted me, but I was resolved to find a pair of shoes instead.

Thinking on it now, at 500 USD I would expect nicer leathers on these shoes and boots – you can see in the photos here that the clicking ain’t so great on many of the pairs.

Jeans Da was interesting for sure. Not the type of brand that I would wear, but happy to see Taiwanese folks give the denim and work-wear game a go.

 

My final destination was faith, of course.

I’ve visited Kurt at faith a couple of times over the years, and I remember checking out some Buzz Rickson T-shirts at his old store, which was about half the size of my garage.

Long time readers of my blog will have read a couple of posts and reviews I’ve written over the years about products from Kurt too.

faith is a lot less glamorous than the other stores, and yet it was the first and most steadfast. Kurt was one of the very first vintage and Americana hobbyists in Taiwan, and was in fact The Real McCoy’s first international stockist – a fact that the new boss at McCoy has seemingly overlooked in favor of reaching minimum orders, apparently.

Walking through the store…yes, it is a little cramped, and yes, a little disorganized…but you can tell straight away that the store is run by a true hobbyist, and not a businessman. I could spend all day here, but I was mainly here to buy shoes.

I didn’t take much notice of the garments in store – I knew that nothing would fit me anyway.

Kurt has launched his own product lines in recent years however, and it was the SFK leather goods and The W & Anchor Bros. work shoes that I came to see.

I should mention Kurt has some nice machines.

Through his own brands, Kurt’s made everything from belts to candles.

The designs are actually really nice!

Kurt’s got a good eye for vintage-style detailing, and it shows in the products that he designs or makes.

Admittedly, some of the finer leather work details are not quite at the level of the wallets and belts I’ve showcased on this blog, but the aesthetics are pretty spot on.

So many trinkets! I almost didn’t know where to look – at every corner there was an interesting vintage piece or one of Kurt’s new products.

The work was solid and honest.

The latest belts were particularly nice.

The tea core leather that Kurt uses is much better than Red Wing’s klondike.

Then I saw this guy…

…and my quest came to an abrupt end.

These were absolutely the most beautiful pair of work shoes I’ve seen!!!

Made in Taiwan too!

And at 11000 NTD (367 USD), cheaper than the local Red Wing shoes!

If it were possible to fall in love at first sight with a pair of shoes, that was the moment for me.

Even mother shrimp, who had been unimpressed earlier with the Japanese shoes at Classic Works, recommended I buy this pair.

Well, long story short, mother shrimp ended up buying these for me, and I will have a review of this pair of work shoes for you in a few days!

Thanks mum  🙂

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m^2 minimum squared – Slim Wallet review

I’m hoping to show you something a little bit different today. This piece we’ll be looking right now is a wallet, yes, though rather different compared with the usual you’d have seen on this blog.

m^2 (minimum squared) is a husband and wife team from Valencia, Spain. Adrian & Sanela specialize in carefully engineered, minimalist wallets. They follow the motto that form follows function; the idea, specifically, is for their wallets to occupy the least amount of space and at the same time having enough capacity to carry – in a user friendly manner – the cards & notes that are essential for everyday. Adrian & Sanela had solved this little riddle, and the resulting design (their Slim Wallet with Elastic, SWE) actually won a Red Dot Design Award in 2016.

The wallet sent to me for review today is the newest version of the award winning original – the Slim Wallet (no elastic, SW) in Horween’s Dublin leather.

I am aware that there are already some reviews out on the internet over the past years of m^2’s wallets, and so today – rather than a generic overview – I’ll try to think about this Slim Wallet (SW) from a work-wear & leather geek’s perspective.

 

Packaging

The SW comes nicely parceled in a sturdy box with a personalized note and a very cute little chain of sample swatches, showcasing the various leather options available.

One of the neatest packaging presentation on a workshop leather piece I’ve seen until now.

 

Design

The design is where the SW stands apart from the many other wallets that have been featured here over the years. Firstly, the function over form approach is fairly unusual in our hobby, and the extreme levels of minimalism and ergonomics involved in this wallet are usually not part of the work-wear or leather-craft hobbies.

In terms of two dimensional footprint, the SW has a surface area not too much bigger than a credit card. This is significant because the SW can actually carry 10 cards and a handful of notes comfortably.

Considering the three dimensional volume, at near maximum capacity – carrying 10 cards, 8 notes – the SW has the rough dimensions of 9 cm x 7 cm x 1.5 cm. Thinking about it a different way…the SW occupies less than half the volume of a traditional billfold, yet carries the same amount of items!

This massive carrying capacity, relative the the small space and mass of the leather piece, has been made possible by engineering – Adrian is an engineer by trade, and he has adopted a mathematical approach to the design of the SW, which is based on their original SWE design from a few years back. The SW mostly just does away with the elastic band.

A single piece of leather is transformed into a small wallet with 4 card slots and 1 notes compartment. The pattern design and folding lay-out is actually, the more I think about it, totally genius.

All the card slots are oriented in the same direction, and will either hold two or three cards (indicated in the photos here) with the same, relatively tight tension.

The two front slots are easy to access, whilst retrieval from the two inner slots will require you to open up the notes compartment as below.

The notes compartment is very well sized and easy to use. It will hold all the common international currencies – I’ve tried Australian, American, Taiwanese, Japanese – without the need to fold the notes.

The top flap is tucked between the two sides of the body once the wallet is loaded, and this little number will fit pretty much anywhere – front pocket, back pocket, shirt pocket, vest pocket – without distorting the drape of the garment too much.

 

Leather

m^2 is probably best known for their use of British vegetable tanned goat leather on their SWE, though my SW is the latest version made of Horween’s Dublin leather.

To enable the complex folding required for the design, the Dublin leather utilised has been skivved – using a laser – down to 0.7 mm thick! At this thickness, the leather is entirely in the grain layer; I can even see some pores from the backside of the leather.

The SW is further available in various colours of CXL, but Dublin is the nicer leather if you’re a leather purist.

Horween’s Dublin is one of their newer full-vegetable tannages, applying Horween’s method of manufacturing shell cordovan to cattlehide. The straight veg tan is the Essex, whereas the Dublin is the wax-finished version of the Essex.

CXL, on the other hand, is a re-tanned leather (chromed then briefly vegged) – more rugged, but less graceful over time.

In reviewing this wallet, I used it pretty intensely over a two week period, and in the photos below you can see how the leather ages initially:

And more:

What you can observe here is that the leather’s significant oil content and pull-up allows it to age in a way which is vastly different from most natural vegetable tanned leathers. The evolution aesthetics is very recognizably Horween!

The relatively early stretching and changing of shape is mostly due to the thinness of the leather, but its softer temper plays a role too.

 

Construct

The crafting of this wallet is an interesting combination of modern tech and traditional hand-work.

First, the hide of leather is neatly skived to thickness using laser, and one piece of  leather is cut from the hide, also using laser!

The cutting of this single piece pattern is incredibly precise, of course, and this precision is absolutely required in the next step, where the leather is folded – origami style – into the thin but complex layers you see below, thus forming the various slots and compartments of the SW.

The fact that the final result, seen here, is symmetrical and matching means that not even a millimeter of error can be made from the very first step.

The end result, despite its minimalism, is quite remarkable from a technical perspective.

Sanela’s hand-stitching is done with Ritza 25 waxed polyester thread.

Stitches have been sewn at 6 SPI.

Overall, very straight lines and neatly stitched. There are six thread colours to choose from, and I’ve settled on the tonal brown stitch.

The folded edges end up on the same side, whereas the opposite end consist of the open edges. The leather has been laser-cut, so the open edges have a particular ‘burnt’ edge that comes with this high-heat cutting process that doesn’t require further burnishing.

After using the wallet for a period of time, I’ve come to appreciate that the various edges and corners on the SW all contribute in someway to the end goals of user friendliness and minimized volume.

While simple in appearance, from concept to crafting, there has been a deceptively large amount of effort invested in a very small wallet.

Certainly, not just another card wallet. The SW is very precisely made, and despite the relative simply appearance at first glance, the construct is much more complex compared with traditional wallets and it is quite clear on close examination that every little detail has been carefully studied and applied.

 

Thoughts

Overall?

I am certainly very impressed by the design concepts and precise make of the Slim Wallet from minimum squared.

It is my smallest wallet by far, even smaller than some of my card-holders, and yet the capacity is that of a full-sized billfold. The engineering and crafting considerations that’s been injected into the SW is certainly much more refined and complex compared to most other wallets.

The SW is not a work-wear wallet though.

While there is no strict definition or inclusion/exclusion criteria when it comes to work-wear leathers, the SW’s novel design, overall small size and very thin leather utilized does mean that guys who are into Americana or early century work-wear won’t be very interested in the aesthetics here. By design it is small and light, and yet for followers of rugged styles the insubstantial nature of the SW is the biggest drawback.

That being said, there is a new breed of denim fans out there: dudes who are into modern cuts and clean, sleek silhouettes. The SW could be a great choice if minimalism is your cup of tea.

Of course, for guys who wear formal clothing nine to five, the SW fits perfectly into your jacket’s inside pocket and won’t distort your lines. It would be a great wallet for travelling, sporting or hiking too.

From a leather or carry-good geek’s perspective, the SW is a great addition to any collection, occupying the “smallest & lightest” niche when it comes to wallets. The materials and crafting featured are on point.

At 165 EUR, the SW seems a little pricey relative to its size – most card holders of similar size are under 75 EUR – but do keep in mind that the SW is, in fact, a true wallet rather than a simple holder. Further, as explained in the body of this review, the amount of work that is invested into each SW is pretty insane.

All in all, a very interesting addition to my vault of wallets. The SW is certainly like nothing else I’ve ever used, with the design and execution being uncommonly precise. This minimum squared wallet is a very unique piece that I’ll continue to carry when I want to travel lightly.

Check out more of Adrian and Sanela’s work on their m^2 website!

 

 

 

Dr. Sole and HEYOU Art & Craft Department

My recent trip to Taiwan and Okinawa was a family trip and I didn’t get much time to pursue my interests. That said, I managed to steal a couple of afternoons to go shopping, and did accidentally stumble across a pair of souvenir jeans in Ishigaki.

Apart from meeting up with Bryan (which I covered in one of last week’s posts) I’d been wanting to get a few pairs of boots & shoes fixed up at Dr. Sole and also hoped to find a pair of nice Taiwanese shoes.

I wasn’t looking to purchase any garments, as imported brands from Japan and the US do incur a mark-up, and also because Taiwanese stores don’t really stock clothes in my size. Leather goods wise, I wasn’t able to visit any of the local workshops due to time constraints, though I certainly hope to do so at some point in the future.

One general observation is that denim and Americana don’t have big followings in Taiwan. There is a small but dedicated circle of vintage collectors and work-wear hobbyists, but the scene is not very busy – there certainly has not been an explosion of interest as we’ve seen in South East Asia.

There’s probably a few factors at play here. What’s obvious to me is that, firstly, despite Americans having a presence in Taiwan since WWII, post-war obsession with American culture never really caught on, at least no where close to what’s occurred in Japan.

Second, the economy has been stagnate for almost two decades; the majority of younger folks don’t have the spare money to waste on superfluous hobbies like artisan jeans or Goodyear footwear. Consider the fact that the price of a pair of Red Wing boots or Samurai Jeans is about one-third of the local worker’s monthly salary. It’s harder to justify a NTD 15,000 pair of boots when a decent breakfast can be had for NTD 50. There are many other aspects to consider, such as the influence of collectivism and the rise of nationalism among the younger generations, but given I’ve been living in Australia for so long, the nuances here escape me.

Anyway, my first stop in Taiwan was Dr. Sole.

Footwear enthusiasts among us would have heard of these guys – Dr. Sole not only does bench re-builds for shoes and boots, but also produce a Original line of retro-style soles and heels which have the durability of modern materials.

I’d been wanting to get my Tricker’s Grasmere and Stow boots resoled for some time now. My RM Williams camel craftsman was very much in need of fixing up. Also, I’d wanted to change up the sole unit for my Barker shoes. You can see them on the counter in the photo below:

The dudes at Dr. Sole are super cool, and spend most of their time in the workshop at the back of the store, behind the black shelves in the photo above.

The boss, Lin, is the tall bloke on the right.

These guys are talented cobblers, and significant for boot lovers, Dr. Sole specialize in Goodyear welted and stitch-down resoles. Their prices are reasonable too, considering the high quality hand work and materials involved.

There’s lots of interesting goodies lying around, everything from vintage Cat’s Paw stuff to Dr. Sole’s own Original rubber goods.

I didn’t have nearly enough time to look it over however, as my family had a dinner reservation and were quite annoyed by my prolonged browsing. My mother commented to the Dr. Sole guys that we are all crazy…

Lin himself is a big American boots fan, and has a few vintage pairs on display, among customers’ boots waiting to be collected and Simple Sample‘s line of ladies’ work footwear.

Simple Sample‘s women’s boots looked fantastic!

Mrs. Shrimp wasn’t interested, unfortunately…

Dr. Sole doesn’t have its own brand of men’s footwear yet, though it does offer expertly resoled/refurbished boots for sale. Certainly, the Red Wing boots that had been reworked looked so much better with the nicer sole units.

The shop was full of little curiosities. I do regret not being able to look through everything.

Their collection of vintage heels and soles was awesome. All in smaller sizes, but it was great to see so many different types in one place.

The Dr. Sole Original products are the nicest modern rubber soles and heels I’ve come across. From this point forward I do think I’ll be using mostly their rubbers when it comes to fixing up my boots.

These honestly look and wear nicer compared with most of the American & British rubber goods.

I bought some of the cork heels and two bottles of Huberd’s Shoe Oil. I would’ve purchased more, but I was uncertain about the heel sizes of my various boots.

Lin briefly discussed some of the key points in boot re-building, pointing out the various possibilities and limitations. These guys don’t take short-cuts, and an extraordinary amount of hand-work is involved, much more compared with the average cobbler joint.

He mentioned American stitch-downs like White’s or Wesco can be converted into Goodyear construct.

Lin’s own boots on the day were pretty cool too. Dude’s got big feet, and he’s wearing modded Viberg’s which he has painted himself:

This was a really cool shop to say the least, and certainly an important destination for boot freaks who visit Taiwan.

I ended up leaving my four pairs of boots & shoes with Dr. Sole. It’ll be another 2 months or so before they’ll be done – I’ll show you some photos of the results hopefully in January next year.

Jordan, also a part of the Dr. Sole team, is a leather craftsman – he runs HEYOU Art&Craft Department, which has a small shop right next to Dr. Sole.

The shop was small, but it was jam packed with all sorts of goodies!

Again, I’m regretting not being able to spend enough time looking through all the little things. By this point, mother shrimp and Mrs. shimp just about had enough.

Apart from Jordan’s own crafts, the store also stocks some vintage goods, Adjustable Costume, etc. All very interesting for sure.

Jordan makes some really nice leather goods – his bags and belts in particular are rather unique. There were also jewelry, handkerchiefs, hand-straps, hats, wallets….

I was quite taken by Adjustable Costume’s work pants, and decided to place an order (no size 36s in store, haha) for a pair with a special fabric. Hopefully I’ll be able to show you this special pair in a couple of months.

Definitely, a store for me to visit again…by myself of course.

I’d run out of time at that point and my family dragged me away to dinner. However, it was mission accomplished with regards to dropping off my boots, and I’ve put in an order for some new work pants too.

If you ever visit Taipei, definitely give Dr. Sole and HEYOU a visit. Dr. Sole does allow international customers to send their boots in for re-building, so get in touch with them for your footwear needs.

Visit this blog again in a couple of days when I’ll show you my later stops in Taiwan!

The Rite Stuff – ‘Harvester’ henley

Following up from the post about my meet-up with Bryan, founder of The Rite Stuff, here are some more details about the ‘Harvester’ long-sleeve henley shirt that was briefly featured.

The Harvester henley is the second shirt being released by The Rite Stuff, and is again being made by Japanese workshops under the supervision of John Lofgren. Pre-orders are being taken for December, my own Harvester here being an early sample.

Bryan himself has provided a very interesting write-up on the brand’s blog discussing the early miner’s underwear & sporting roots of the henley shirt and his thoughts behind the design, which you can read here. What we’ll do in this post is to have a closer look at the details…

 

Fit

If you already follow Bryan on Instagram or have been watching The Rite Stuff’s release pre-orders, you’ll have seen Bryan wearing his size M Harvester already.

Now, Bryan is a trim and fit guy.

Me? Not so much.

If you’ve wondered how the Harvester would fit on a chunkier ape, see below. I am 185 cm, 97 kg, chest size 44, wearing an XL.

The fit is not overly tight, allowing the henley to be worn both as an undergarment and as outwear. The body is tubular in shape. The upper arms are relatively roomy, and the sleeve length is on the longer side (yay!)

The waist is not overly slender, but does allow very neat tucking of the shirt as there’s not much excess fabric.

The cuffs at the wrist is fairly snug fitting, stretching out slightly with wear. Bryan has mentioned that the production version of the Harvester will feature cuffs that are more stretchy.

Overall, the Harvester henley is boxy yet long, a vintage style fit for the taller modern man.

 

Materials

The medium weight, all-cotton knit featured on the Harvester is made of unbleached, ecru cotton. Ecru is best described as a very natural, fawn colour.

The fabric breathes well, and provides sufficient insulation for venturing outdoors during Spring and Autumn times. It drapes very well as far as cotton textiles are concerned.

Small pieces of the cotton plant remain in the fabric, showing up as small, irregular brown pieces of inclusion within the fabric. The inclusions do make the fabric mildly scratchy at first, but this feeling is gone after one or two washes.

The ribbings for the cuffs and neck feature the same ecru cotton.

A good comparison for the ecru colour would be the contrast with the bleached white tag, as below.

Navy and ecru threads are used.

The 14 mm cat’s eye buttons are made of brown mother-of-pearl.

These have incredible variegation in tone and colour, showing some very nice colours with sufficient light.

All in all, the materials featured give a very organic feel (and are indeed, all natural). The rustic colours could combine well with any variety of workwear and denim.

 

Details & Construct

The Harvester features some neat details.

First up is the centred, button-down neck opening, which features three mother-of-pearl buttons. These cat’s eye buttons are wider than the usual shirt button, and are very easy to use.

The placket facing curves at the top, giving a neater appearance when worn.

The familiar The Rite Stuff woven tag feature on this Harvester prototype. According the Bryan, the production version may use a new tag design.

The neck ribbing is attached to the body with rugged lock-stitching.

Two layers of fabric feature as a half-circle inset at the posterior neck, to assist with perspiration absorption.

The ribbed cuffs are sturdy and well attached to the shirt via lock-stitching.

Indeed, most of the Harvester is put together via lock-stitching, which is impressively executed.

There is some single-stitch action only at the placket facing.

A cool detail is that along the side and shoulder seams, the inside threads of the lock-stitch are blue coloured, resulting in some interesting dual-tone contrast inside the shirt.

 

Thoughts

The Harvester henley is a very interesting piece from The Rite Stuff, and perhaps telling of the path that brand has embarked upon more so than the earlier Heracles shirt, with Bryan focusing on turn of the century to 1930s detailing and styling.

The materials, detailing and overall construct are truly well thought out & executed, perhaps slightly understated – this is not a chunky indigo henley costing in the hundreds, but rather the Harvester is a basic but considered addition to a work-wear collection.

The Harvester henley is a versatile garment that will add a bit more authenticity and retro feel to your outfit – by itself, under a horsehide jacket, beneath a wool over-shirt……however you wear it, the Harvester will increase the matching permutations in your wardrobe.

At $95 USD for Japanese sewing and materials, the value is certainly there! A similar long sleeve garment from one of the Japanese work brands will cost at least 30% more.

Like I mentioned earlier, the Harvester is currently in pre-order stage, with delivery scheduled next month. Check it out at The Rite Stuff! This one comes highly recommended.

The Rite Stuff – catching up with brand founder Bryan Shettig.

Now that I’m back from my trip, I’ll be putting up some photos and little stories on the blog over the next many weeks. It was mainly a family holiday, so I didn’t have all that much time to visit denim or leather related places, yet I’ve hit up a few stores which you guys might find interesting.

I caught up with Bryan Shettig of The Rite Stuff towards the end of my trip, but I’m putting this up first as I want to show you some of the pieces available for pre-order right now. If you haven’t read it yet, click here to see my review of The Rite Stuff’s first release of the Heracles chambray shirt.

The shirt was well received and ended up being stocked by specialist workwear and denim stores around the world, enabling Bryan to start production of the next few pieces and begin planning further garments for next year.

Bryan and I met up in Taipei – where he currently resides, and where I was born. We hit up a well known dumpling joint, and started talking all things work wear. I was really impressed by the wear he’s put into his Skull Jeans wallet. Check out this bad boy:

After dinner we sat down at a local chocolate cafe for some more denim gossip and I also had a look at some prototypes of the upcoming releases.

Bryan is also the Fades Editor at Heddels, so he’s got some great stories about the good & the bad within the denim and workwear industries – lots of politics, rivalries and shops not paying for their stock, haha!

The most interesting news of late are, of course, the various disruptions that Japanese webstores like Denimio and Okayama Denim are causing, which are mostly good for consumers for sure, yet retailers and clothing brands have to adapt to a new set of rules.

Bryan also shared with me the intricacies and difficulties of getting garments made in Japan. It’s a pretty intense process, to say the least.

By the way, Bryan himself is wearing the Harvester henley shirt in these photos.

Speaking of the Harvester, this is a really nice ecru cotton undershirt style henley.

Like the Heracles chambray shirt, it is made by John Lofgren’s workshops in Japan.

I’ll have more details of this Harvester shirt in a couple of days when I’ll post a more in-depth review of my shirt.

The next two items are the Wabash and Hickory Stripe scarves.

The hickory stripe fabric is very nice indeed!

Old school, shirting-grade fabric.

The wabash is my favourite though!

The indigo is amazing, and the dots are biege~~~

I probably should have spent time taking more and better photos, but honestly we were too busy just talking about our shared hobby. It’s always very nice to meet like-minded people who are interested in work-wear and well made things in general.

Anyway, check out The Rite Stuff if you’re interested in any of these pieces; all three can be pre-ordered, the scarves being due for delivery later this month and the Harvester will be available next month (December).

Stay tuned for my review of the Harvester henley shirt this weekend. Catch you in a couple of days!

 

Rushton Leather – ‘Russian Kip’ wallet

We’re going to take a look a work-style wallet that’s a little different from the usual fair today – this one made by Lee at Rushton Leather, inspired by ‘Russia Red’ gentlemen’s shoes!

Lee is relatively new to the custom leather goods scene, but his leather crafting skills have been honed through his employment in the British shoe-making industry. This particular wallet, a test piece, showcases not only the very special Russia Kip reproduction leather from Baker’s tannery, but also styling details borrowed from British footwear and early 20th century English military gear.

We’ll cover a bit more of the back story about the inspirations behind this wallet as we go. Let’s take a look at this very interesting billfold.

 

Design

The layout of this wallet is that of a basic 6 card billfold.

Unlike many work-style billfolds showcased on this blog, Lee’s version is not exaggerated in size and has a more minimalist layering. Indeed, this wallet is styled after British country shoes (think Tricker’s, Alfred Sargent, etc) and also English military wares, so the detailing is more refined and classic compared with Americana styles of work leathers.

The wallet measures 11 cm x 9 cm when folded.

This is a very easy size to handle with one hand.

The shape is not a rectangle however, as Lee has rounded the bottom corners to add some contrast to the overall appearance.

All up there are 7 layers of leather, creating one notes compartment and six card slots in total. There are no additional storage compartments, though each card slot is capable of holding two cards easily.

The layout is symmetrical, with three slots per side.

The wallet measures 1.5 cm in thickness when folded.

The thickness has been minimised by foregoing the hidden compartments, giving the wallet additional sleekness.

This is a medium sized billfold, as you can tell by the measurements given earlier, and thus it fits easily into any jeans pockets.

All in all, this wallet is a medium sized billfold and features a simple but usable layout. This British detailing is smoother and more subtle compared with Americana styles of leather goods.

 

Leather

Some centuries ago, there had been a well known leather manufactured in Russia – variously called Russia Red or Russian calf or Russian Reindeer – this leather had been made of cattlehide, slowly tanned (by modern standards) and stuffed full of birch oils & animal fats for added resistance towards water. The leather was often then finished by dyeing the grain red with a natural dye and artificially printing its surface (much like modern Scotch grain leather), imparting additional grain toughness. Apparently this leather was mainly used for fine work, such as bookbinding, upholstery and carry goods.

The method of manufacture for this Russian leather has been lost to the ages, and never fully reproduced despite many attempts over hundreds of years. Yet in 1972 many cargo boxes of Russia Red leather were salvaged by divers off the English coast. These containers were originally the cargo of the Metta Catherina, which sunk in 1786.

It is impossible to say what Russia Red leathers had looked, felt and smelt liked originally. Even with the 1972 discovery of the ‘New Old Stock’ leathers, they were but one variation of the leather – which has had history spanning hundreds of years – and it is impossible to accurately determine the effects of 200-odd years of deep sea storage.

Nevertheless, the discovery sparked renewed interest in the leather and further attempts at reproducing it. Baker’s tannery perhaps has the best reproduction, showcased here, by virtue of maintaining the slow bark tannage that would have been the modus operandi of the majority of leather tanning up until the industrialisation of leather production.

The hide comes from kip – an adolescent cow. Birch & Oak bark from England and Willow bark from France provide the tannins, slowly transforming hide into leather over 12 months. The leather is then dressed with fats, waxes and Birch oil. The diamond/hatchet print is then applied to the grain to give the texture you see here.

I’m not sure about the dye/dyes used here.

I cannot comment as to the accuracy of the reproduction, but I can say that this is a very fine and superbly interesting leather!

The aroma of birch and oak is apparent – more mellow than the 100% oak bark tanned leather from the same tannery, but very strong nevertheless, permeating the entire room.

The textured grain surface has a moderate degree of shine. Even with the artificial print, the pore structure remains evident on closer examination. The reddish brown tone is deep and layered – there is gentle variegation in the colour, resulting from a pull-up effect.

The hand feel is much more organic and lively compared with most other printed leathers. The grain is very water and scratch resistant, as advertised.

Curiosity aside, this Russia kip leather from Baker’s is extremely high quality, and truly old world…much more so than the various re-tanned leathers that are being marketed as ‘heritage’ nowadays.

The lining and inner are made of ‘Hermes’ leathers.

Tannerie d’Annonay’s Vegano calf leather is used for the lining – you will have seen darker coloured versions of this leather used for higher end English shoes – featuring an very supple aniline finish and a smooth, slightly waxy feel. This French calfskin is one of the nicest vegetable tanned calf leathers in the world.

It is interesting to note that Horween is currently trying to reproduce this type of veg tanned calf, after discontinuing calf production some decades ago.

Another French calf leather, this time the country grain calf from Tanneries Du Puy, is used for the inner. This is another popular leather among high end English shoes makers, though Tanneries Du Puy’s grained calfskin is quite well known among various sectors of the fashion community in general.

This is a very fine leather, nicely grained, supple and somewhat waxy…..though not nearly as dense as Baker’s Russian kip.

As previously hinted, Hermes had purchased Tannerie d’Annonay in 2013 and Tanneries Du Puy in 2015. The trend of fashion powerhouses acquiring Italian and French tanneries is an interesting one to explore.

 

Construction

This wallet is entirely hand-made, everything from the cutting to the stitching. Lee’s time crafting fine English shoes in Northamptonshire has resulted in a style of hand-craft that is rather unique in a market which is dominated by either British saddlery styles or Americana.

The cutting and panel matching on this wallet are nicely done.

The outshell had a consistent shape throughout, and the inner panels were symmetrical across the two sides.

The inner did slightly over-lap the outshell over a segment along the upper edge (you can see this in the first photo of this post), but apart from that there are no errors.

The individual panels had all the edges neatly finished.

The edge finishing is well done – nicely rounded and wax burnished. The transparent wax burnishing allows the visualisation of the leather colours and layers – one of the hallmarks of work-style leathers.

The saddle-stitch sewing on this wallet is unusually dense – at 7 SPI across the top edge and a very tight 8 SPI along the sides and bottom. This dense stitching was made possible by fine handwork and dense, nicely vegetable tanned leathers.

The hand-stitching is neatly executed. The linen threads sit close to the surface, and are placed.

The tonal, wheat thread colour allows the leathers to shine as the main characters, and gives the wallet a more understated appearance.

At two points along the inner, in between the card panels, the threads have cut into the leather, but these are minor cosmetic imperfections that are barely noticeable and do not affect functionality. The issue here is that the Tanneries Du Puy calf leather is not quite dense enough to hold such tight stitching.

Although three different leathers were used, the careful construction allows the panels to blend smoothly into each other and the wallet appears to be a solid whole.

Overall, very nice hand-crafting featured on this wallet. The finer, denser hand-stitch was particularly interesting – an English twist on the work-style aesthetic which helps this wallet stand out.

 

Thoughts

Overall, this Rushton Leather wallet made by Lee in Northamptonshire is one of the most interesting wallets in my collection. From the superb Russia kip leather used to the refined British workwear and military styling, this wallet really stands apart from the usual Americana fair that is most common in our denim & leather hobbies.

Like me, Lee is a big fan of grained leathers, so there is a sense of solidarity here, now that the leather hobby is drowning in shell cordovan and English bridle leather wallets.  The Russia kip reproduction from Baker’s is one of the most interesting leather’s I’ve come across in terms of tannage, texture, smell and hand-feel; I would very much like to commission more goods made out of this Russian leather.

I am not the biggest fan of calf skin – as much as I like leather, I’m a little uneasy about the idea of killing animals when they’re young – but ethics aside, the French calf leathers used here are superb.

The hand-crafting here is pretty good. Much work has gone into making this wallet, and the dense hand-stitching is particularly noteworthy. Factoring in both crafting and materials, at 100 GBP this Rushton Leather wallet is priced very nicely.

Lee also provides a service where update photos are sent to his customers as he crafts the leather goods, so you really get a sense of being involved in the crafting process of your commissioned item.

Full customisation is possible through Rushton Leather, and I do have a couple of wallet designs in mind that would look great, IMO, in Russia kip.

Stay tuned for more from Lee on this blog later next year.

Until then, if you’d like your own Russia kip carry piece, check out Rushton Leather at Lee’s etsy shop and Instagram page!