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 🙂