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!