Hollows Leather – ‘Eastbound’ wallet review

Type: review

Status: non-sponsored

Maker: Hollows Leather

Item: wallet, bifold

 

Nicholas Hollows’ appearance on this blog is, most certainly, many years overdue.

For as long as this blog has been running, and as Superfuture was growing into its golden years, Nic has been making work-style leather goods; Nic being perhaps one of a handful of leather workers who are also true hobbyists in heritage inspired menswear & Japanese denim.

An opportunity arose earlier this year, with our Patina Party 2019 contest, for me to commission a natural vegetable tanned wallet. Whilst Nic no longer takes on custom projects, he was kind enough to make an exception for our contest.

After some brainstorming and leather selection, we settled on this special version of his Eastbound bifold wallet.

Let’s take a look!

 

Design

The Eastbound wallet is a classic bifold wallet, featuring symmetrical inner paneling and an inlay-style outshell.

This bifold measures 11.5 cm in length and 9.5 cm in height.

The thickness is 17 mm, at the thickest, when loaded and folded.

The Eastbound could be considered a medium to large sized bifold.

The inside features 4 quick access card slots, 2 storage compartments, and 1 full sized bill compartment.

It will store a dozen cards easily, whilst allowing fast and clear access to bills.

 

Leather

The leathers on the Eastbound has been specially selected to be compliant with the rules of the Patina Party 2019 contest – they must be undyed, natural vegetable tanned leathers without excessive post-tannage correction or stuffing.

The main character here, being the inlay of the outshell, is a rare leather: Shinki tannery’s natural horsebutt leather.

Shinki, of shell cordovan fame, produces also horsebutt leather for shoes and front quarter horsehide for jackets. The natural version of their horsebutt is fairly rare, and a piece as clean as the one Nic has chosen is very rare indeed.

As with Shinki’s other leathers, the horsebutt is pit-tanned with Mimosa bark, spending several months in the liquor, in a process not too dissimilar to Baker’s crafting of oak bark leather.

The result is an extremely dense horsehide, with incredible grain and superior wear potential. Due to its density, the hand-feel is rather slippery, despite the intense grain pattern of horsehide, and the sheen is already quite intense when new.

You may have encountered Shinki’s horsebutt leather on some high-end work boots, such as Viberg or The Real McCoy’s, though this super-clean natural version is a tier above Shinki’s usual coloured horsebutts.

The horsebutt here measures around 1.4 mm (3.5 oz).

The frame and the inner paneling are made from Conceria Walpier’s natural Buttero leather. Regular readers of this blog will have come across Buttero leather in my previous wallet reviews already, but here is a recap:

“……it is a drum tanned and heat finished Italian vegetable tanned leather, known for its durability, slippery & somewhat glossy surface, and rigid temper. The key qualities of a dense grain, solid & firm handle and the ability to stay relatively ‘clean’ with use makes this an almost ideal carry goods leather – easy to work with, and produces good results – indeed, Buttero is very popular among craftsman who specializes in finer wallets.

The consistency and depth of colour is very good compared with most Italian leathers, but like all vegetable tanned leathers, natural scars and grain variegation do show through with some wear or a layer of conditioner. The baseline colour is also a shade darker compared to the true, unfinished colour of most hides.

Of interest, Buttero has a light, creamy smell. Very different from pure bark tanned leathers which tend do have a much more astringent scent.

Overall, Buttero is a very refined leather that has a decent tannage. Perhaps a little more ‘finished’ and lacking in grain growth compared to the highest tier of natural leathers, which are pit-tanned over much longer periods of time, but Buttero does add elegance…… Natural Buttero will age quite gracefully over time too.”

 

Construct

The Eastbound wallet has been hand-cut, hand-sewn & hand-burnished.

The paneling and stitch-work on the outer, due to the inlay design, is more complex than the average bifold.

Nick has managed to cut and panel the wallet very neatly – there are no misaligned edges or asymmetries.

All the pieces of leather fit into each other perfectly.

The saddle-stitching is neat, sewn at 7 SPI.

Due to the inlay design, the Eastbound is more time-intensive in terms of hand-stitching compared with most bifolds of the same size.

Zooming a little closer, you can see that the holes have been consistently and neatly punched.

The thread tension is close to perfect throughout, with the threads sitting at just the right level relative to the leathers.

Overall, the stitch lines are very straight and regularly spaced from the edges, even with the curving edges of the outer rim.

Nic has managed to cross over the various panels without the threads biting through the edges of the leather.

The Hollows symbol is stamped on the bottom left.

The panels are neatly placed, and the edges of the slots are nicely creased.

Nic has cleverly designed the inner so the the thickness of the wallet is very even, from top to bottom.

The backsides of the leather are smoothly finished, resulting in minimal friction when the bill compartment is in use.

The edge work is fairly good throughout.

All the edges of the various panels have been burnished.

The outer edges are beveled nicely.

The various layers of leather are densely pressed together, and multiple rounds of burnishing have resulted in a blended edge, where it is initially difficult to distinguish the layers.

The burnishing has resulted in a smooth touch and moderate shine.

I quite like the bloomy appearance.

Overall, the crafting here is at a very high level – definitely the work of a professional.

 

Patina at 3 Months

I’ve carried this Eastbound wallet for a full 3 months now – the longest I’ve carried one wallet since I was in high school!

What do you think of the leather evo here?

Definitely, the horsebutt and the Buttero have aged in different ways in terms of rate, shine and colour.

By chance, the browning tones are different but complementary. No sickly blue shades here!

The most obvious observation so far is that the Buttero achieves patina much faster than the Shinki horsehide – the horse leather is certainly a slow-burn project.

The placement of the leathers here make a big difference of course.

Friction spots, where there is significant focal darkening, can be observed on the Buttero inner, offering some insights as to the tone of brown to expect in the future.

The wallet is very user friendly too, and meets my needs – the bifold is still my favourite wallet form factor.

Overall, I’d say the wallet and its leathers are looking very good at 90 days.

 

Thoughts

I’ve spent much time with this Eastbound wallet by Hollows Leather since May this year, and I can say with confidence that Nic has crafted an incredible wallet that is standing up to very rugged use.

The 3-month update photos above can tell you more about the quality and potential of this wallet more than any words I can type here. Truly, a beautiful wallet that is becoming more magnificent with time. A perfect demonstration of the essence of our leather hobby.

I think it is important to mention that the Eastbound wallet is $350 USD, and thus I will be critiquing this wallet very strictly, given the boutique tier pricing.

Firstly, Nic’s material selection is certainly high end – the best Japanese and Italian natural vegetable tanned leathers are showcased here. The truth of these leathers is in how they age with wear, and I must say both the Shinki horsebutt and Buttero leather are demonstrating their worth. The toasty brown tone of the Buttero and the mellow darkening of the Shinki are very pleasing to my eyes – not many leather can age with such grace.

The rarity of the super-clean natural horsebutt certainly adds to the mystique of this particular Eastbound wallet. I’m glad Nic decided to take a gamble on it with me.

The design of the Eastbound is at once user friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

Nic’s work has always impressed me by their character & styling – in sensing Hollows Leather goods, it is clear to me that their maker is a true enthusiast of heritage-inspired styles and vintage Americana. This Eastbound wallet, for example, would not look out of place if displayed in a workwear museum!

There are hundreds of leather crafters showcasing their wares on platforms like Instagram, but few people manage to create goods which matches so perfectly with Japanese denims or early century work-wear. From broad outlines to the small details, every aspect of Nic’s craft combine to create a flavorsome whole, with a spirit and flare which few other workshops can match.

The construct of this wallet is worthy of a professional craftsman with 11 years experience. I would say the paneling and sewing Nic has showcased in this wallet is top tier – almost faultless, for what is an entirely hand-made object.

To be a little critical here, I would say that the burnishing on this wallet is perhaps its weakest point as far as construct is concerned. Firstly, there was still some fluffiness around the inside edge of the out rim and the upper edges of the slot panels, which you may be able to appreciate in some of the earlier photos. Secondly, I was able to bring the main edges of this wallet to a higher level of shine and smoothness by a gentle polish with canvas cloth. It seems the burnishing on this wallet was taken up to 95% perfection – which is still, admittedly, vastly superior compared to most other wallets I’ve seen – and yet I know well that Nic could have pushed it to 110%, given his incredible skill.

As a side note, after reviewing leather goods for more than a decade, I’ve found that taking in the entire object with all my senses to be an important part of judging its merit – all the little details, and measurements, and qualities, are taken in and a formulation of the leather craft is created at an almost emotional level. Using this subjective method of critique, I would say this particular wallet might be my second favourite bifold in my entire collection.

Such a high caliber combination of handsome looks and expert craftsmanship is, truly, hard to come across. It must be the result of many years invested in working with leathers and a lifetime of immersion in vintage-style work-wear.

$350 USD might be considered somewhat expensive as far as a bifold wallet is concerned in work-wear circles, but given the caliber of materials and workmanship demonstrated on this Eastbound wallet, I’d say Nic is charging very fairly for his masterful efforts.

In terms of work-style Americana wallets, Hollows Leather should certainly be considered in the top tier. Alongside Ray Lansburg at The Blackacre and John Faler at Faler Leathers, Nic Hollows’ work is some of the best coming out of North America.

Overall, the Eastbound wallet has impressed me, and is proving to be a rugged but beautiful companion.

Denim and work-wear enthusiasts should check out Hollows Leather, for sure. Even if you are not in the market for a top tier wallet, the aesthetics and techniques on display could serve as an indication of the quality to expect when you eventually commission a work wallet.

Check out the Hollows Leather website, and feast your eyes on Nic’s leather crafts.

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Nigel Cabourn event at Pickings & Parry

Nigel Cabourn and Emilie Casiez’s meet & greet event at Pickings & Parry / Heffernan & Haire last week was one of the bigger heritage-wear events in Melbourne this year.

It’s not very often that brand bosses and designers make the trip down under, though the duo’s visit, and the turn out on the night, indicate clearly that this intersection of fashion has taken roots locally, and is perhaps expanding.

Congratulations to Chris and Carlan for the great event!

Let’s have some photos ~

 

Above: Boss lady Carlan with Nigel and Emilie. Emilie is the designer of Nigel Cabourn Woman.

 

Above: Boss gentleman Chris doing the mixology.

 

Above: Juliette, Chris, and party peoples.

 

Above: Hong, Nick & Malik. You can find Nick at Keoma Store.

 

Above: Minh & misc. Minh writes for SneakerFreaker.

 

Above: Party peoples. Not too many people actually approached Nigel and Emilie. Star struck, I suppose. Or, does heritage wear attract introverts?

 

Above: Party peoples. This has been one of the busiest events I’ve attended recently.

 

Above: Nigel gave a talk. Emilie gave a small talk.

 

Above: The protagonists were neck to toe in denim. Most of the crowd weren’t.

 

Above: Work-wear ladies are like unicorns.

 

Above: Nigel, author & Emilie. Green versus blue. I was hoping to blend in with the M43.

 

Above: Emilie meeting a little person. But no junior overalls, unfortunately.

 

Above: Great work by the folks at Pickings & Parry / Heffernan & Haire.

 

Above: Emilie and creepy dude.

The budgeted guide to Japanese denim: 3 outfits at 3 price points

It’s been almost 20 years since Japanese denim became a hobby of sorts, in the wider world outside Japan. Whilst interest in heritage clothing and vintage collection had always been present, the cool kids on the internet opened the heritage clothing trend up to the mainstream – Japanese denim was, and still is, an important part of this fashion movement.

If anything, the raw denim hobby remains an easy gate-way into the wider world of heritage-inspired clothing, a collection of related dress codes which take inspiration from re-imagined pasts, usually with emphases placed on material quality and considered manufacturing.

Yet, denim lies at the intersection of many styles of dress, with street-wear being the largest category in which raw denim can be found. Therefore, we have an interesting phenomenon in the denim game where individual styles – and indeed the directions of our hobby pursuits – can vary very widely.

Today, we’ll have a look at some very basic pointers to introduce newbies to raw denim, and look at some essential & neutral components of the wardrobe that will kick-start your denim obsession. The neutrality of these pieces will allow further exploration of styles, and provide minimum barriers towards forming your own boundaries as far as your hobby is concerned, whether you are into sneakers or vintage cosplay.

What I’ll do a bit different today is to split the article, within each section, into three cost tiers, acknowledging that folks worldwide will have access to very different amounts of money. I’ve allocated myself USD $250 (entry), $500 (intermediate) & $1000 (enthusiast) to create three kits of jeans, top, belt, shoes, as per Internet pricing.

 

A simple & casual outfit. The main character is the denim, here being the SDA x Denimio DM003 kakishibu jeans

The Jeans

A great pair of denim jeans can form the core of your enthusiasm, or serve as an effective launching point into various styles of considered menswear, whether it is street-wear, American casual or vintage reproduction.

From my perspective as a long time hobbyist, the Japanese brands remain the top choices as far as denim is concerned, and my recommendations here will all be Japanese.  Make no mistake; I am a big supporter of denim brands from around the world, though I do believe world-wide sampling of jeans should be left until a more advanced stage of this hobby.

There is one caveat here I must acknowledge, and that is the fact many people wish to purchase local products. This consideration, however, is beyond the scope of this article and my own knowledge as a far-removed Australian hobbyist.

Entry Level

Here we’ll be spending half of our budget on the jeans themselves, and cheap out on the other components of the outfit. At the $100 to $150 range, as far as Japanese denim goes, expect mostly sanforised light to mid-weight fabrics, sewing with modern machines and a trimming of smaller details (such as raised belt loops).

My favourite Japanese brand in this tier would be Japan Blue, and the jeans nominated for this outfit is their JB0606 high tapered jeans which features sanforised, rope-dyed 14 oz denim, made of cotton from Zimbabwe and the United States. The cut is modern, the detailing is understated, and the fabric is a good example of Japanese denim, being not too extreme in any aspect. Here, we spend $130 USD.

Intermediate Level

We’ve got a bit more bucks to spend now, and the variety of Japanese jeans we can sample has opened up widely. We’ll be spending around $250 here, and around this mark, we can expect some fairly nice unsanforised denims, more intricate detailing in the jeans, and nicer materials being used on the peripherals of the jeans.

There are many Japanese makers I admire in this price tier, and different arguments can be made regarding what type of denim is most appropriate for a beginner. If I consider only myself, I’d purchase Oni Denim’s Secret Denim jeans for $220 USD, and yet the Secret Denim is probably not the best choice for a raw denim virgin, due to its intense texture. For a better introduction to the hobby with a more neutral fabric, I would go with Samurai Jeans’ S710XX 19oz slim straight jeans at $238 USD. With this staple Samurai model, you’ll experience a popular cut with denim that is noticeably heavier and more rugged compared to jeans you’ve worn in the past.

Enthusiast Level

Here, we’re either very wealthy or want to spend the big bucks. Regardless, at the $500 mark, almost any Japanese denim can be had, even bespoke made. Expect custom developed fabrics, natural dyes, extremely detailed sewing using vintage machines, and a bunch of local specialists pitching in to manufacture the peripheral components of the jeans.

However, as an absolute beginner, I would recommend not shooting immediately for the $500 mark, as most jeans in that price bracket are actually not great introductions to the hobby, featuring too many quirks that will skew your perspective on jeans (e.g. weird natural indigo dyes, textures that depart markedly from the norm, etc). Instead, let’s aim for the $350 mark and space out the spending a little bit more between the various pieces of the outfit.

Here, I’ve spied the Studio D’Artisan 40th anniversary natural indigo jeans, in a variety of cuts, sitting around $310 USD. These are great jeans, with very nice 14.5 oz natural indigo dyed denim, vintage-style sewing, and attention paid to every aspect & component of the jeans. There is nothing too weird or outrageous here, despite the tricked out specifications, and thus these jeans can be beginner friendly.

 

Not included here are some of my favourite belts, like this one from Ragnar Goods, being better suited to more advanced hobbyists.

The Belt

An appreciation of leather crafting can be a very natural extension of the denim hobby, as it certainly was for me, and a great pair of Japanese jeans deserves a hand-crafted belt. In many ways, too, the process of fading a pair of raw denim is not unlike the journey to achieve patina with natural vegetable tanned leathers, so the two hobbies are complementary, almost synergistic.

With leather goods, my philosophy has always been to support small workshops or one-man businesses. Very rarely to I purchase leather goods from a bigger brand. I believe this approach is applicable to the beginner also.

Entry Level

Nup.

No belt for you. Only $120 left to buy a top and shoes, can’t afford a belt.

Intermediate Level

With $262 left to distribute among three pieces of clothing, we need to be budget conscious.

An entry level hand-made leather belt is possible here, however, if we look to the right crafters.

Without a doubt, Don’t Mourn, Organize! is the workshop to ask about when it comes to sub-100 hand-made belts. Here, we’ll pick up a basic horsehide belt from Scott himself for $70 USD. Expect a rugged belt, featuring mostly American and British leathers, in the work-style that is Scott’s trademark.

Enthusiast Level

Here, we have a bit more money to spend, but again, we won’t go too crazy. The belt needs to pair well with denim, and not be too funky, as we’re after an introductory piece for the hobby’s sake.

We can, again, purchase a ‘plain’ horsehide belt, very similar to the one recommended above, yet made to a higher degree of specification.

Oliver Sell at First Settlement Goods offers such a high end horsehide belt, at $130 USD. The price difference compared to Scott’s belt is accounted by the greater amount of time invested into crafting each belt, resulting in neater details and a more refined appearance.

 

Here is the slub yarn undershirt from The Rite Stuff, discussed below. Looks simple but the quality is there. Stick with the basics at the beginning.

The T-Shirt

For the tops, it is best to start this hobby with a small selection of well-made basics. T-shirts, Henley’s, etc. There is no need to kit up in The Flat Head flannel shirts or The Real McCoy leather jackets right away.

Entry Level

One of the nicest and most versatile white T-shirts I’ve come across is The Rite Stuff’s slub yarn undershirt. At only $50 USD, this piece can be layered into dozens of different outfits effortlessly, and can be worn at any time of the year. Wear it either as a T-shirt or an undershirt, it’s all good!

Intermediate Level

At between $60 to $100 USD, loop-wheeled T-shirts may be purchased. There are many different Japanese makers doing very nice T-shirts, and the most important considerations here are perhaps fabric weight and fit. You really have to try before you buy!

For the sake of pinning down a RRP, let’s say we go with a Freewheelers loop-wheeled T at $85 USD.

Enthusiast Level

Between $100 to $200, more intricate patterns and special dyes or treatments are available. In this price range, we can start fading indigo shirts too!

One of my personal favourites is Pure Blue Japan’s indigo-dyed slub yarn short-sleeve Henley shirt, retailing at approximately $160 USD. These not only look great new, but will look even better as the fabric and dye wear in.

 

My Monad x Momotaro Jeans button boots. Not something an absolute beginner should be looking at. Yet, an interesting combination of the denim & leather hobbies.

The Shoes

Footwear is the last aspect I’d be thinking about as an absolute beginner. Not to say that footwear is not important – on the contrary, well made sneakers & boots encompass massive hobbies in themselves – just acknowledging that most raw denim beginners will bring their own shoes to the hobby, and may not start looking into footwear of similar caliber to their jeans until a little later on.

Indeed, as a beginner, there is absolutely no issue to be wearing a pair of simple, understated sports shoes. With every bit of extra cash you spend, however, the quality and styling of shoes & boots can be upgraded dramatically, in ways more visually striking compared with denim jeans. As such, under ideal conditions, footwear budget should be considered separately.

For beginners with a small budget, I’d recommend exploring high quality leather shoes at a later time.

Entry Level

We’re left only with $70.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend purchasing leather shoes at that price point, but a pair of sneakers would be fine. Consider a pair of Chuck Taylor All Stars shoes, some of the nicer limited edition models will cost upwards of $70. These will look great with upturned selvedge, and will work with a variety of jeans cuts.

Intermediate Level

Left with $107, there still isn’t quite enough money for a reasonably good quality pair of leather shoes. However, we can go with some nicer sports shoes for sure.

Consider Moonstar‘s gym court shoes – made in Japan with high quality synthetic materials – at just $95 direct from the Moonstar factory.

And hey, we have $12 bucks left!

Enthusiast Level

So, there’s $400 left for footwear, which is an adequate amount to purchase a pair of nice leather boots to go with that selvedged cuff.

Mid-level options are plenty at $400, everything from Goodyear welted English boots to stitched down American boots are within your reach. Now, when it comes to bench-made leather shoes, I’d say you should buy locally, for your first pair.

For a neat Japanese boot at $400, I’d really like a pair of Brother Bridge‘s Bidassoa shoes – careful Goodyear welted construction with nice leathers, made to a higher standard than the typical Red Wing.

 

A beginner’s outfit. Not every piece needs to be expensive. Let the denim be the star. Everything else can be considered in due time. Here with the OD x JB dog days jeans.

So, to sum up, we’ve assembled three outfits worthy of the Japanese denim hobby, all in the basic casual style, at three price points – $250, $500 and $1000:

$250

The Rite Stuff slub undershirt, Japan Blue JB0606 jeans, no belt, Chuck Taylor All Stars shoes

$500

Freewheelers loop-wheeled T-shirt, Samurai Jeans S710XX jeans, DMO! belt, Moonstar shoes

$1000

Pure Blue Japan indigo henley, Studio D’Artisan 40th anniversary jeans, First Settlement Goods belt, Brother Bridge shoes

All in all, a pretty neat spread, something for everyone at different price points. This does show us, however, how expensive this hobby can get, even with your first pair of jeans and the associated outfit. We haven’t even touched on more expensive garments, like button-down shirts, jackets or coats. Neither have we considered accessories such as socks, wallets, etc., which we will need to look into at some stage.

Considering the above, we could see how this hobby can become very expensive, especially if you mindlessly explore all its branches, like I have, wandering into dress codes such as military reproduction or early 20th century workwear. So, take it one small step at a time – get to know the basics well, get a feel of the vibes in this hobby and related interests, and only pick out definitive styles which speak to you when you’re ready.

Above all, don’t stress too much, and have lots of fun!

Reflections on denim Influencers – the Hobbyist perspective

This is perhaps a belated article – late by several years, in fact – yet with recent developments on this blog and within our denim hobby, I do feel that it is time that I examined the concept of “influencers”, from a denim hobbyist’s perspective.

It has been around 20 years since Japanese denim was mentioned on Internet forums, and almost 10 years since denim & associated lifestyles have been featured on modern social media platforms such as Instagram. During this time, the denim-geek community has grown in some unexpected ways, and certainly the activities of modern day “denim influencers” were not foreseen by early hobbyists at all.

A recap of sorts, if you will: Within our hobby at the moment, much marketing are being carried out through news aggregate websites, many of which began as basic blogs, being incorporated entities which hire staff and receive payment for marketing services. A handful of influencers, active on Instagram, usually with followers in the many tens of thousands, charge some hundreds of dollars for social media campaigns for brands. Some well known personalities are finding work as ‘consultants’ in the fashion industry. A larger group of micro- and nano-influencers within our hobby, rising from the algorithm of Facebook & Instagram, are now expecting discounts or even free products from brands and stores alike. This is the state of things, in 2019.

Don’t let the term put you off though. Influencers are social leaders, and leaders (in any hobby) have always existed. Human beings are social apes, and it just won’t do not to have leaders, and it is natural for all of us to desire influence over our peers. Just like in any part of culture and society, then, influencers in the denim hobby have always operated in our communities; modern day social media have just decentralised, and made more visible, the act of influencing. In the early days of this hobby, the influencers were brand founders, store owners and knowledgeable enthusiasts with insider connections. Now, with the right digital presentation and a reasonable camera, any body can take a crack at becoming a denim influencer.

Just like any other changes over time within the denim world, there are pros and cons to the recent developments in influencing. Despite recent backlashes against influencers in many circles and walks of life, I do feel like the current state of social media has benefited our hobby in many ways. The most obvious benefit, to me, is the sheer amount of attention (and new enthusiasts) that platforms such as Instagram & Reddit can now attract to the denim hobby – the traffic on modern media far outsize what traditional forums had achieved in the late 2000s. With the increase in leaders and influencers in our spheres, more people will be attracted to our hobby, and as the market for enthusiast denim grows, the industries that are behind Japanese denim will hopefully achieve more stability and longevity.

Secondly, more democratic and open platforms reduce gate-keeping in the hobby and allow the denim hobby to not only grow in number of participants, but also grow laterally in terms of styles & aesthetics. A higher number and visibility of influencers will increase the possible perspectives within our hobby – as the sphere of denim is widened, it will not only catch a greater audience but also allow different expressions/styles/brands within this hobby. More influencers could equal more diversity.

Finally, given that enthusiast denim had been extremely niche, the community had traditionally been held ransom by broader cycles of fashion, and was at risk of perishing should economic and fashion trends become suboptimal for high end clothing. Modern day influencing behaviour supercharges how quickly our community can keep up with evolving tastes and market conditions, ultimately increasing the survivability and longevity of our hobby. Whilst influencers do tend to colour and alter the nature of our hobby, these acts of changing ultimately confers viability. Things (including people) which do not adapt will only perish.

My poor attempt at influencing.

The rise of the modern denim influencer isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, however. I do have some criticisms regarding what I’ve observed in our denim world since 2016.

The most troubling aspect I must point out is the increasing sense of entitlement that some influencers (both real and wannabe) have developed. More and more I hear stories of people DEMANDING free products and services, and makers being pressured to provide same. This interaction is not purely one-sided, of course. Traditional Japanese denim makers mostly do not play this game, and yet for many new brands, the provision of free clothes to influencers form an important part of their marketing strategy. In this atmosphere of exchanging money or product for marketing, its a deep & slippery slope in terms of authenticity and expectations, making tenuous the integrity of the interactions between brands, shops and community influencers.

As someone who has been a denim geek for a few years, I have also observed that modern day influencers have diluted our hobby, both in terms of passion and boundaries. In my opinion, many of the current bloggers and influencers actually demonstrate very little knowledge about the denim and clothes which we care about. Many newbies also try and pass as experts after only a couple of years living the prescribed ‘lifestyle’. Whether this is the truth of the matter, or whether this modern day superficiality is due to the nature of new social media, is a matter of perspective, I suppose. I do worry though, that the denim hobby will become too diluted – dumbed down – because of how the influencers of today are choosing to do their influencing. Watching people take nice photos of a ‘rugged lifestyle’ is much too fake to add to my enjoyment of denim, but, many people seem to like it. I do wonder too, whether all the so-called interactions on modern media are worth much at all – how many people liking a photo actually care about denim? Is there any substance to these online communities or cliques we have built through new media?

Furthermore, most influencers straddle the line between hobbyist and marketer. In a hobby which values identity and authenticity, how are we to view this confusion in roles? For the influencers who have built themselves into a brand and charge professional fees for content creation and advertisement, are they even hobbyists any more? Are they still us? Should we trust them?

Every page should have a flat lay?

With all that’s been written, this has been an opportunity to reflect on my own participation in the denim world, and this Indigoshrimp blog. This blog has featured sponsored products since its early years, and many of my reviews had been written with not just objective examination in mind, but also a genuine desire to promote products, brands or makers which I personally liked. A combination of sponsorship and community participation means that I can never achieve the level of objectivity which professional reviewers might, theoretically, be able to obtain… yet our hobby is still much too small for such an industry to exist, as they do now, online, for hobbies such as video games or cars. I think, too, my desire to be liked by the community and to integrate myself more with the industry also cloud my objectivity…perhaps, this is unavoidable where ‘I’ am the blog?

Unfortunately, the growth of this blog has meant that, even as a non-monetised website, I am faced with a new set of ethical dilemmas which were non-issues even two or three years ago. There had been a couple of opportunities arising since 2016 for me to monetise this blog – actually make money off the writings here – but I have chosen not to, for my own enjoyment of this hobby. Monetised or not, however, what I have realised is that ‘Indigoshrimp’ has now become a brand of sorts (albeit a very small one), and my persona within our circles has, in retrospect, been one of a minor influencer for some years. This blog now has relationships with certain brands, makers and shops, and you’d have noticed that some of my recent reviews have served as marketing material for product launches. Given all of this, which were certainly unintended when I began blogging in 2008, I feel like increased transparency is now necessary, even if this blog is not an influencer device by modern standards.

Going forward, all sponsored reviews will feature a sponsorship statement up-front, before any other words are written, rather than being embedded within the articles, as had been my habit. I will also make more effort in clearing the backlog of non-sponsored reviews, which is around 24 months long. However, I will continue to accept and prioritise sponsored reviews from brands or makers who I want to support – rest assured, I will always give my honest opinion on this blog. My word is my reputation in this hobby, after all. Also, I will never accept any monetary payment for any type of writing or advertising here on Indigoshrimp. I do not consider myself anywhere popular enough to be an influencer, and there is no intention for this – denim is a hobby for me – first and foremost I’m a denim enthusiast.

This blog aside, I wonder to where the current influencer phenomenon will lead us. There is increasing backlash against how some Instagram influencers are behaving, and after a decade of intense digital intrusion into our lives, many of us are yearning for more authentic ways of connecting with our hobbies (and each other). Yet, the next decade will bring more advanced technologies – imagine how the process of influencing will be different in the denim world, in 2030, with the increased integration of virtual reality, social media and everyday life. Following this line of thinking, I do fear that the coming years will bring an intensification of the intrusiveness of social media, and participation in the social aspects of our hobby will be increasingly effortful and detrimental to our mental health. Everything is always on; we’re always missing out on something; there are always guys with jeans that we want parading around with a glass of whiskey in their hands…could this influencing process ultimately become toxic to our hobby and burn people out?

Finally, from one hobbyist to another, I would ask you to consider how much of our denim hobby should be about our jeans, and how much of it should be about our online life? At the end of the day, does participation in platforms such as Instagram add or subtract from your experience of denim? As obsessive and pedantic guys, how much do you trust people who merely pose and type out pop-psychology in their posts? Why do you engage with influencers? Why do you want to be an influencer?

I will conclude this article by acknowledging, again, that influencers have always existed in our denim hobby and that influencing will continue to be an unavoidable phenomenon. The changes in the quality and quantity of influencers with modern social media have created pitfalls and opportunities for us as members of the denim diaspora, and these changes will continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. Regardless of how we feel about influencers, what is left for us to decide is how we engage in this influencing process and how we adapt to a brave new online world.

Okayama Denim x Japan Blue – ODJB016 Dog Days jeans

Welcome back to the blog!

Today, we’ll be rounding off our series looking at summer jeans by examining a special pair of ultra light weight jeans – the soon to be release ODJB016 “Dog Days” 10 oz nep selvedge jeans.

These Dog Days jeans are the latest collaboration between the retailer Okayama Denim and JapanBlue Co.’s Japan Blue label.

By a margin of 2 oz, these are the lightest pair of jeans I’ve reviewed on this blog yet, and very much a hot weather pair of jeans.

Without further delay, let’s check out the substance of these jeans. As always, my thoughts and discussions are at the end.

 

The Cut

The ODJB016 features a brand new high tapered style cut!

This “#2 Tapered” cut is introduced in Japan Blue’s new line of Circle jeans, and the Dog Days will represent its introduction to the Western market.

This #2 Tapered cut, it seems to me, has been modified from Japan Blue’s origin High Tapered cut to suit beefier builds, adding more space in the top block compared with the standard HT cut.

The rise is medium-high.

There is ample room in the waist and seat – expanded from the original cut, but not loose.

The thighs have been expanded.

From the knee down, the taper is strong, finishing with narrowed (18 cm) hems.

This could perhaps be considered a relaxed high tapered cut, fitted for meatier folks.

All in all, a much appreciated update to Japan Blue’s collection of cuts. Certainly, ergonomic, and easily worn for work and play.

 

The Denim

This new 10 oz nep denim is the star of the show.

Shuttle-loomed, gently sanforised and rather crispy to start, the 10 oz weight would be considered to be very light by today’s standards. In fact, it’s been more than 70 years since denim in the 8 to 10 oz range were the standard for jeans.

Whilst most denim in this weight range would be rather plain compared to modern Japanese fabrics, the Dog Days denim scratches the itch with four major features: nep, knots, loom chatter and indigo tone.

At 10 oz, when tested manually, this denim definitely feels much thinner compared to 14 oz + fabrics. There is, of course, less body between the fingers, and you could mistake it for a shirting denim – thinner, somewhat dry, crispy in a way that thicker denims cannot be. However, what is obvious is that this denim is rather densely woven, despite the low tension necessary to create the interesting textile features.

The warp face is textured in an unusual way. On the Dog Days denim, neps and knots have been dialed up to 11, this being the neppiest and knottiest denim I’ve seen. Sure, Collect Mills has released some neppy and knotty affairs at heavier weights in the past, but nothing as intense as this denim.

There is quite significant slubbing and loom chatter too, creating a fairly strong horizontal texture, though this is initially hard to appreciate due to the neps catching the eye.

After soaking, all the textural details are further accentuated as the neps & knots are raised and expanded during contact with water……sprouting, if you would. The loom chatter – weave irregularities – are easier to see, and the knots become more apparent.

The weft face is intensely textured, due to the fact that the neps and knots are also visible on the weft side, to a smaller degree, and the 2 x 1 weave structure of the denim.

From the weft side, this fabric resembles an old fashioned chambray somewhat. The feeling is bumpy but gentle on the skin – this denim does not scratch or catch any hair.

The retro plain-look selvedge is a nice touch.

The warp yarns are rope-dyed with indigo.

The indigo tone is interesting to observe on this denim. Light blue under natural light, but dark with grey tones under incandescent lighting.

I’ve included a photo with the Dog Days denim next to Oni’s Kiraku denim, which has a classic natural indigo tone, for comparison.

Overall, the Dog Days denim has an extremely variegated and organic texture. Little cotton mushrooms sprouting from these pants for sure.

 

The Details

The ODJB016 has been kitted out as a pair of collaboration jeans should!

The thick leather patch is indigo dyed.

The indigo does crock, and has begun to chip away after my weeks of hiking around Europe.

The hardware is brass, with custom embossing on both sides.

The 5 button fly features Japan Blue’s doughnut buttons.

The rivets are punch-thru, and also customised.

The coin pocket features peek-a-boo selvedge.

The pocket cloth features a new twill fabric which has been discharge printed with indigo.

The belt loops are thinner, but raised.

The sewing has been completed with tonal threads throughout.

This style of stitching is modern, with smaller and denser caliber of single and chain-stitching applied.

Bar-tack reinforcements are used in the traditional areas, including belt loop and back pocket attachments.

There are no hidden rivets.

The button holes are densely sewn.

The fly and inseam are neatly locked.

Finally, the hems are chain-stitched tonally too.

 

My Thoughts

The phrase ‘dog days’ has its roots in Greek essayist Plutarch’s ‘hēmerai kynades’, describing peak summer, as, in that part of the world, the Dog Star rises with our star during the hottest days. Certainly, then, the ODJB016 Dog Days jeans were based on the concept of an ideal pair of jeans for hot weather.

It was fortuitous that the crew at Okayama Denim allowed me to take an early look at this pair of jeans during my recent trip to Europe, as it is rather cold in Australia right now. My thoughts here are based on wearing this pair of Dog Days jeans very extensively for a month in hot weather, prowling cities, exploring Roman ruins, hiking hills and climbing up mountains.

Firstly, as a collaboration project, the ODJB016 has merit outside of collaboration clothes being a marketing exercise. Here, Okayama Denim has chosen to take a detour from their ongoing project with Japan Blue – the releases of different versions of Japan Blue’s popular 18 oz Godzilla jeans – and has thrown some wild ideas at the jeans-making group. The denim itself was freshly developed for this collaboration, centered on the theme of summer. As such, Dog Days holds its own and provides great value & interest independent of the hype associated with collab jeans.

Whilst I’ve featured or mentioned a few pairs of jeans which are geared towards warm weather wear in the last few months, those jeans fall into what I would consider to be the light weight category, 11 to 14 oz. Here, at 10 oz, the Dog Days denim is a throwback to denim jeans prior to WWII, when it was common for jeans and work-pants to be made with denim which are 10 oz or lighter. Indeed, when I first saw this fabric, early 20th century work pants sprung to my mind.

The texture of this denim, of course, is like nothing that has been made in the last century. The Dog Days denim is both the neppiest and knottiest denim I’ve ever seen. Consider that the denim is only 10 oz – not a whole lot of cotton to work with – the intensity of texture that’s been achieved is incredible, an easy rival to denim which are 16 oz and above.

Much slub and loom-chatter have been worked into the denim too, and the result here is an absolute explosion of fabric details on a comparatively thin but intensely tactile denim. By its light weight alone, the Dog Days denim also performs much better in aspects of breathability and drying compared to fabrics which are heavier than 12 to 13 oz. The bumpy texturing on the weft face also means that this denim won’t stick to your skin too much when you sweat in hot weather.

Moreover, the colour of the denim is a departure from the norm. A light shade of indigo features on the Dog Days denim, with a steely-grey cast which is most visible under incandescent lighting. This colour is an easy match with T-shirts and sneakers.

The new #2 Tapered cut is, from my perspective, an improvement on Japan Blue’s High Tapered cut. The regular HT cut fits like a slim tapered cut for me, and it is certainly not a fit I’d like to wear during a hot day. With this new cut, the top block (including the thighs) have been expanded, and as such it wears more comfortably. There is enough room for the hips to move whilst engaging in moderately intense activities such as hiking, as I’ve found out.

Yet, the taper here is similarly strong compared to the HT, so our choices in footwear are limited to shoes and low boots, not that this is a significant problem during the warmer months anyway. However, the narrow 18 cm hem does limit air circulation somewhat – this becomes more noticeable if you exercise and sweat in these jeans. An ideal summer time cut would probably have a slightly wider leg opening. Nevertheless, I find myself liking this cut much more than Japan Blue’s standard HT cut.

The sewing of the Dog Days jeans are dialed back to further showcase the denim. I like the use of tonal threads, certainly. The construct, as a whole, is modern, streamlined, and neat. Fans of the traditional or exaggerated reproduction styles of sewing are best to look into JapanBlue Co.’s Momotraro Jeans label.

The indigo dyed leather patch is a very nice touch, and unlike earlier renditions, this patch appears to be hand-dipped in indigo rather than being factory dyed. The hardware utilised are good quality too, the brass colour working well with the steel-tinted denim.

I’ve noticed that the buttons and rivets now have the Japan Blue arcs on the back-studs. It does seem that Japan Blue are incrementally upgrading the details on their headline jeans. On a similar note, the indigo discharge-dyed pocket cloth is really cool, an upgrade from the pocket cloths that have featured on the OD x JB collabs up until now, giving us some Hawaiian shirt vibes.

Considering the cut and the details, I would certainly say that the ODJB016 represents the highest tier of Japan Blue’s jeans and is a minor upgrade of sorts from their previous collaborations with Okayama Denim. It would be really exciting to see more collaboration jeans in the same mold, with different denim fabrics.

All in all, I would consider the ODJB016 Dog Days jeans to be a great summer time denim option, and as far as collaboration jeans go it is a compelling and worthwhile endeavor.

The denim here is really different, in a good & fun way, and may challenge denim purists; the Dog Days jeans does present a brand new niche for most hobbyists, as I gather most of us would not have ultra-light Japanese denims in our wardrobes just yet. Dog Days is, importantly, a novel and exciting experience, even for more advanced collectors – if you are suffering from denim fatigue, this pair might be your remedy.

At $180 USD, the ODJB016 is priced very well, with the same RRP as the other OD x JB jeans. This pair is one of the pricier Japan Blue models, but firmly in the entry level price range as far as hobbyist Japanese denim is concerned. Considering the very unique denim, the excellent new cut and the well executed concept, the Dog Days jeans is highly recommended, especially given the sub-200 pricing.

Overall, the ODJB016 Dog Days is a top candidate for summer weather, and one of the most detailed collaborations this year just yet. The pricing is beginner friendly, and yet by virtue of the light and fun fabric, it fills a niche spot for more seasoned denimheads too.

Hop over to Okayama Denim – this pair is released 27/06/19 at midnight, and limited to 96 pairs!

Benjamin Bott – “Seagull” wallet

Welcome back to the blog.

Today we’ll take a look at the only review for this month of May!

You’ll remember the Double Wren wallet from last month, with a clever design and some of the slickest edges we’ve seen, being one of the best minimalist wallets crafted in the Americas.

Benjamin Bott is back again, and today we’ll have a look at one of Ben’s full-sized wallets – the Seagull bifold.

 

Design

Benjamin Bott is perhaps a workshop known for smaller, minimalist wallets, yet Ben does craft some larger wallet styles too.

The Seagull bifold wallet is one of Ben’s top three designs in terms of complexity and size.

It measures 8 cm x 11 cm folded, and comes in at 1.5 cm thick when loaded.

The standard Seagull features three compartments: a notes compartment on the left, a card compartment on the right, and holster slot also on the right side.

The wallet you see here, however, could be thought of as a “Seagull plus” design, modified to include two extra quick-access slots on the left hand side, making a total of five compartments.

A dozen cards may be easily carried in this Seagull wallet, despite its smaller dimensions compared with a full-sized bifold.

 

Leather

Badalassi Carlo tannery’s Pueblo leather feature again – Pueblo seems to be flavor of the month at Ben’s workshop indeed.

And, why not? This is a lovely veggie leather to be sure.

Pueblo is a top grain leather from the prolific Italian tannery: cut from the shoulder of cattle, being fully vegetable tanned, dyed through and stuffed.

The interesting grain texture is created using metal balls for superficial distressing. Variegation in texture is maximized despite minimal grain growth.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog previously, this sand-blasted appearance disappears rapidly on the Bone (natural) version of Pueblo leather with wear.

In comparison to many other Italian “saddle” style of leathers, Pueblo and Minerva from Badalassi Carlo has a softer temper and more luxurious hand-feel.

The smell is light and sweet, with very little astringency.

This undyed Pueblo is an extremely reactive leather, I would rate it right next to Shonan’s glazed saddle as far as the rate of patina development is considered. This leather transitions from a pale tan colour to caramel rather quickly, and within less than a month, toasty brown tones begin to appear.

In fact, over the two weeks during which I photographed this Seagull wallet, the colour had already deepened appreciably to give an aged look.

Ben has cleverly utilized three different thicknesses of the Pueblo leather, with the outshell being 2.4 mm (6 oz), the holster panel being 1.8 mm (4.5 oz) and the inner panels being 1.2 mm (3 oz).

 

Construct

Despite its minimalist styling, the Seagull is a rather complicated construct.

Firstly, the panels are hand-cut and perfectly stacked.

Through clever stacking, and despite the relatively thick leathers, the wallet itself averages  5mm in leather thickness.

The left side consists of 4 panels, stacked into 3 layers.

The right side consists of 3 panels, stacked in 2 or 3 layers, with the holster-piece floating on top of the base panel.

This wallet is hand-stitched, of course, at 7 SPI.

The saddle-stitching is done with lark coloured Vinymo thread.

Ben’s sewing is spot-on, the tension pulled just right and the threads looking great on both sides.

Every edge on this wallet has been shaved, beveled, sanded and burnished.

The finish and presentation of the gum-polished edges are flawless.

The rounded corners are, in particular, delightful.

So slick and smooth.

The Benjamin Bott logo is stamped on the outershell, bottom right corner.

The full logo in ink is pressed on the back of the outshell, hidden under the left side.

 

Thoughts

Despite the Seagull’s small size, I must say that it is one of the best bifold wallets I’ve come across in the last year. This opinion stems from Ben’s expert and, almost, flawless construct on this wallet and the fact that the Seagull’s design is not only useful, but rugged and clever.

The bifold is my favourite form of wallet, as I believe it to be the best balance of carriage, ease of use, & capacity at this time.

As things stand in 2019, long wallets are definitely impractical, and are more a show-case of style. Middle-wallets are heading the way towards costume as well, given the advances in smart phone payment technologies. Smaller card wallets, however, limited by space, are more difficult to use – the insertion and retrieval of cards or notes are much more fidgety.

I anticipate that in the next decade, as our reliance of cards progressively decreases, even full sized bifolds will be considered too cumbersome for everyday carry.

As such, the new standard of optimal carry could be smaller bifold designs. The Seagull is approximately 2/3 the size of a full bifold, yet it packs a similar carrying capacity, the only drawback being notes needing to be folded before storage.

In an era of progressively diminished utilization of cash and cards – indeed, here in Australia, you’d mostly get by with just an well-app’d phone – smaller form-factor wallets are becoming the norm. The Seagull, then, is very much on trend.

Evidenced by my own version of the Seagull, the inner design is quite versatile, and may be customised to suite your needs. My 5-pocket Seagull is definitely geared to compete with a full sized bifold in terms of carrying capacity, though the default 3-pocket design slims down this bifold even further if you don’t need to carry more than half-dozen cards.

Depending on how the Seagull’s internal panels are spec’d, it will suit the demands of almost any style of carry. Factor in the ability to choose leathers and threads, the possibilities for customisation are endless.

With regards to practically, I really enjoy the holster-style quick-access compartment. It’s fun to look at but also easy to use, allowing for contact-less scanning of the card being held, which has proved useful for both my credit card and my travel pass.

Ben’s hand-craft on the wallet is expert-level, most certainly. I must say that Ben’s paneling is top notch, and his edge-work is one of the nicest I’ve seen, ever.

In fact, Ben’s edges are competitive at any price point.

More than simply being a thorough job of burnishing, several time-intensive and detailed steps are involved in creating the rounded, sleek, almost liquid edges you see on this Seagull wallet. The result of Ben’s many layers of work lends itself to the minimalist styling – the Seagull is clean but not boring, detailed but not busy.

Ben’s saddle-stitching is well executed too, and I especially appreciate how the threads cross over each panel with doubled reinforcement, without cutting into the leather. This detail, which normally would go unnoticed to the non-hobbyist, shows just how much attention has been paid to this wallet in its crafting.

Certainly, in the price range which Ben’s wallets are being sold, I would not expect such meticulous attention to detail. Keep in mind, too, that Ben uses the best leathers from Italy and the USA, and sews with Japanese Vinymo – top quality materials for sure. Therefore, I strongly believe that the standard Seagull at $95 USD is perhaps somewhat under-priced, and represents tremendous value.

Finally, in terms of aesthetics, I would consider the Seagull bifold to be rugged Americana in style, with my wallet being spec’d as a reflection of the Japanese style of Americana. The Seagull’s aesthetic is a blend of rustic masculinity and sleek craftsmanship – a juxtaposition which is a perfect companion to Japanese jeans and work-wear. The use of natural vegetable tanned leathers allow synergistic aging with heritage-style fabrics too, whether it be sashiko or denim.

The Seagull is, indeed, a versatile and comfortable carry, providing a good example in demonstrating that rugged-style wallets can showcase craftsmanship that is comparable with up-market European-style carry goods.

All in all, the Seagull bifold is one of my favourite wallets to have been reviewed on this blog. I do look forward to more opportunities to check out Ben’s crafts in the future.

Make sure to check out the Benjamin Bott website, and see how you might customize a Seagull wallet too.