After a couple of months, Dr. Sole has finished rebuilding some of my English footwear, and here they are!
I’m a work-wear fan, and so with these rebuilds, I had hoped to shift the aesthetics of these British style country footwear to something a little bit more ‘work’. That means, really, a combination of natural leathers and rugged synthetic soles.
I’ll let the photos do most of the talking today.
A pair of Tricker’s Stow boots, a pair of Tricker’s Grasmere boots, and a pair of Barker shoes.
They forgot to fix up the internal components of my RM Williams boots, so I’ve got to send that one back, hence no photos of it today.
Tricker’s Grasmere rebuild
The Grasmere had a full sole rebuild, with natural storm welt, natural leather midsole, olive nitrile cork heels and soles.
The Norvogese stitching at the back is pretty awesome!
The old laces were nearly broken, so I bought new laces in a few colours, here’s the red:
Tricker’s Stow rebuild
The Stow boots came out really awesome too, having undergone a similar rebuild, the differences being in the outsole and the leather heel-stacks:
Out of all the pairs, I reckon the Stows came out nicest…
To be fair though, IMO, the Stow is a better pair at baseline compared with the Grasmere or Barker shoes anyway.
The stitching and execution on the edges, weltings and midsoles are simply fantastic!
The outsole components feature Dr. Sole Original products of course. Second to none.
9 nails per half sale, count them on the heels too!
Finally, the pair of Barker’s, same rebuild specifications as the Stow boots.
I bought these Barker’s originally as cheaper, daily beaters which were still Goodyear welt constructed. Had been bit of a ‘meh’ kinda shoe, something for work, nothing worth looking at, but with this rebuild they are much more distinguished.
Now they’ve become proper hobby shoes!
Compare the photos so far with Tricker’s own factory finish on my monkey boots:
Overall, I’m really impressed with the job that Dr. Sole has done in terms of rebuilding these three pairs.
It makes a huge difference when your cobbler is interested in vintage and work shoes, and has invested in techniques and equipment which allow your boots to be upgraded and further customised. Dr. Sole, in my opinion, make the nicest synthetic sole components in the world for work boots, so the materials utilized here cannot be beat.
The finishing on the sole units of these three pairs, I dare say, is better than factory default – two of the pairs being Tricker’s, this is no easy feat. Certainly, at one point or another, I’ll be bringing all my American boots to Dr. Sole for rebuilding too. Priority number one would be my poorly stitched pair of Nick’s Boots Manito shoes.
In some ways, I think the quality of Dr. Sole’s work here really highlights the recent decline in the build quality of many of our favourite work boot brands, and represent a benchmark for what we should expect in terms of the quality of detailing coming out of the factories. In particular, over the past few years, the stitch-down on many American boots I’ve come across has been disappointing.
Definitely, if you’re a work boot fan, get to know the fellas at Dr. Sole. Whether you’re looking to rebuild your trusted pair of White’s boots or wanting to upgrade the poopy sole unit on your Red Wing boots, bring them into Dr. Sole!
Got an interesting little piece to show you today – ‘The Lexington’ card wallet from the one-person workshop, Full Grain Creations.
The man behind Full Grain Creations is Morgan Timmann, and he creates from his workshop based in Florida, USA. His signature is the refinement and permutation of old leather work techniques – a revolution of sorts, if you like. And so it is that Morgan’s most unique work yet, The Lexington, is named after the first engagements of the American Revolutionary War.
I first came across Morgan’s work on his Instagram page, and whilst there is no shortage of card wallets on Instagram – more than I can reasonably pay attention to, in fact – his Lexington wallet is outstanding to me because it is the first wallet I’ve seen that features multi-tone saddle-stitching.
The combination of streamlined aesthetics, visually impeccable crafting and new twists on old techniques that is showcased through The Lexington made me very interested in taking a look at Morgan’s work in person.
So let’s check it out!
The Lexington is a flat card wallet in terms of basic design.
I measure it at 8.1 cm tall and 10.5 cm wide, resulting in a surface area that is approximately palm sized.
There are three compartments in total.
One quick access card slot and one regular card slot feature on the front facing aspect of the wallet. Each card slot will hold up to three cards, though only up to two without distorting the shape of the wallet. The quick access slot works best with just one card inserted, the curve of the accent panel facilitating right-handed thumb swiping for quick retrieval of the front card.
A deeper storage compartment sits in between the two main panels of the wallet, able to accommodate folded notes without any money showing. It may be used to hold additional cards or cheques and other papers if required.
Four pieces of leather make up this wallet, but through clever paneling, the wallet is only three layers thick along the edges. The thinner edges compared with the raised body creates a framing effect around the wallet.
When empty, The Lexington is 5.2 mm at the thickest portion near the vertical center line.
Grossly speaking, the back facing aspect of the wallet is comparatively unadorned, most of the visual interest being generated by the paneling work and stamped logo at the front.
The entirety of The Lexington is made from Conceria Walpier’s famous Buttero leather at 1.2 mm (3 oz) thickness, in the Natural colour.
You’d have seen natural Buttero on this blog a couple of times already: 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 to the streamlined design of The Lexington. Natural Buttero will age quite gracefully over time too.
Apart from the distinctive design, the star feature of The Lexington is Morgan’s signature multi-coloured saddle-stitching. Sewn with Fil Au Chinois waxed cable linen thread, Morgan has created a complication of saddle-stitching which allows him to place parallel, ordered threads within the one line of punched holes.
The precision and evenness of the 6SPI sewing here is something else entirely – many crafters would struggle to achieve this level of hand-stitching with just one row of saddle-stitching, let alone the triple-saddle-stitch you see here.
The colours of the threads here pay homage to the flags of USA and France, allies in the American Revolutionary War.
The edge work on The Lexington is remarkable and some of the best I’ve seen: the creasing is thorough and even, and the transparent wax burnish is slippery smooth.
I was surprised to learn that Morgan had created his own burnishing wax at the Full Grain Creations studio, after previously experimenting with painted edges – these wax burnished edges should be some of the longest lasting that could be created by hand.
Every visible edge of every panel is thus detailed. The work is some of the most careful and elegant I’ve come across.
The Full Grain Creations logo is nicely stamped too.
The panelling and cutting are, of course, without errors. Wouldn’t expect any less from Morgan once you’ve seen his stitch work, really.
Overall, the hand crafting here is truly artisan-level.
Looking through Instagram, Etsy or whatever your preferred platform of window shopping, I’ve seen more card wallets than I could count, but ultimately most are forgettable, and many are roughly made or unremarkable in terms of aesthetics. Further, and to be very honest, I’m not a fan of flat card wallets in general, as their carrying capacity is much below what I need on a daily basis and the vast majority seem quite boring to me. I’d much prefer a well built bifold or a statement mid-wallet.
Yet, The Lexington wallet from Morgan at Full Grain Creations is truly an unique piece of hand craft, and one of the most distinctive card wallets I’ve ever seen.
In terms of storage, The Lexington does surpass many of its peers due to the ability to effectively store notes, though the carrying capacity relatively to its footprint is average. However, maximum carriage and weight:capacity engineering is not the focus here.
The Lexington is about technique, aesthetics and durability.
Indeed, just by virtue of Morgan’s pioneering multi-tone saddle stitching, The Lexington would rightly be a collector’s piece. The overall elegance and refinement of the wallet is icing on the cake, and makes The Lexington a statement wallet for the gentleman who travels lightly.
I really can’t say enough about the careful and detailed hand-craft showcased here.
The Lexington is small as far as wallets go, yes, but the hand-work featured here is incredible.
This variation of The Lexington is priced at $125 USD, accounting for the extensive amount of time and work that goes into each wallet. A basic version of the same design which omits the multi-tone saddle-stitching, The Saratoga, is available too at just $60. All of Morgan’s work can be customised too, simply check out the Full Gain Creations Instagram page for some ideas, and get in touch with Morgan via his webpage.
Overall, I can highly recommend Morgan’s work, especially to leather enthusiasts who are looking to upgrade their existing carry goods or people who are interested in more refined pieces than workwear style leathers. I’d love to see the same styling and techniques applied to larger wallets, and I can’t wait to see what other designs Morgan might come up with this year.
The very first pair of Japanese jeans ever made was the result of a three way partnership between an American mill, a Japanese sewing factory and a Japanese trading firm: In 1965, Maruo Clothing sewed the first Japanese jeans, branded “Canton”, using American denim made by Canton Mills and imported into Japan by Oishi Trading.
Masao Oishi, son of the founder of Oishi Trading Company, became an industry heavyweight in the ensuing decades and later on established his own jeans brand, Oni. Being a respected industry veteran, Mr. Oishi has the influence and know-how to create many weird and wonderful denims – fabrics which the conservative Japanese denim mills would never consider weaving, if not for his instructions.
So it is that since the beginning of the raw/selvedge denim revival, Oni’s jeans have consistently featured some of the world’s most interesting and cutting edge denims. Whilst other Japanese brands would variously focus on lifestyle (Iron Heart for motorcyclists, for example) or reproduction (Warehouse and friends), Mr. Oishi’s direction with regards to his own brand had always been to focus heavily on fabrics.
I remember back when I first became interested in Japanese denim over a decade ago, Oni jeans came in only two fits (Red & Blue), but close to a dozen fabric options. Over the past 10 years, Oni’s jeans have become more minimalist in appearance and more modern in fitting, yet the focus on fabrics has never shifted.
Indeed, one of the most important denims in recent years has been Oni’s Secret Denim, first launched in 2012. The 20 oz Secret Denim represented a significant upgrade in most aspects of fabric quality compared with its 18/19 oz predecessors such as the ‘devil armor’ and ‘devil spiral’ denims. The Secret Denim was more comfortable, more slubby, more natural, and more intense compared with most other heavy weight Japanese denims available, and till this day no other heavy weight denim comes close to matching its incredible softness or texture.
Oni has utilised a few different variations of the Secret Denim in the past five years, from a black version to a natural indigo Tanuki Inc. collaboration, but the physical structure of the denim itself remained mostly unchanged. Recently, however, after some further years of trial & error, Mr. Oishi has come up with Shin (‘new’, ‘true’) Secret Denim, the next major step in the evolution of Oni’s denims.
Today, I want to discuss this Shin Secret Denim. We’ll look at the entirety of these 122ZR-S relax tapered jeans of course, but the major focus will be on the fabric!
A long time ago Oni jeans only came in either stove-pipe or wide-leg fits, so I am very glad to see that Oni is producing many more modern cuts nowadays.
This relax tapered cut features a medium-low rise, relatively roomy hips & thighs, and a strong taper from the knee down, finishing in a 7 inch hem.
At 7 inches across, the hem width is on the narrow side for sure, relative to the size 35 waist. Due to the very long inseam length however, once rolled into a single or double cuff, the hem is closer to 7.5 inches, which is much more sensible.
These jeans come in one-wash after an industrial wash and shade drying, so there’s no guess work with regards to shrink-to-fit.
I managed to size down one to a size 35, and I could have gone down even further to a size 34 for a snug fit, but that’s not my style.
Due to the nature of this denim, break-in is very fast, and the range of motions from the hip down remain uninhibited despite the narrower legs and heavier fabric. Read on below to find out more!
The Shin Secret Denim is very similar to the regular Secret Denim – both are 20 oz, both are woven with ultra-low tension and both have pure (synthetic) indigo rope-dyed warp and beige-dyed weft. Further, both denims are mildly hairy, mildly neppy, moderately rough & slubby, heavily variegated in texture and extremely knotty.
Due to the combination of heavy fabric and extremely loose weave, both the Shin Secret Denim and the regular Secret Denim are unbelievably soft (for 20 oz that is) and handle more like wool cloth rather than cotton twills.
The only visual difference I could readily discern is that the Shin Secret Denim has a stronger green-grey cast under certain lighting conditions compared with the older version.
What if I were to tell you that this Shin Secret Denim is actually a stretch denim containing 2% elastane?
Wait, what?! Stretch jeans on Indigoshrimp??? What???
In actual fact, making stretch selvedge denim that looks and feels exactly the same as regular pure cotton selvedge denim has been hot topic in the Japanese denim industry in the past couple of years, with many mills and many brands trying to create true stretch selvedge denim. The more experimental brands such as PBJ, Oni, Tanuki and Japan Blue Group are all in on the action, with the industry predicting some of the biggest growths will occur in more form fitting stretch jeans in the next few years, as far as the raw denim hobby goes.
I know, I know, outrageous right?
This concept hasn’t sunk in fully for me as yet either, but bear with me as I explore this topic a little bit.
The old Secret Denim is as cutting edge as it gets when it comes to shuttle-loomed, all cotton artisan denim. It’s the edge of the observable universe as far as Japanese denim is concerned – the hand feel and surface textures don’t get much better than this. But heavy weight artisan denim has its limits right? As a stiff cotton twill, denim does not drape well. Further, Japanese denim really aren’t the most comfortable, not compared with many other cotton fabrics such as terry cloth or corduroy. These two short-comings very much limit the fit and style of garments that Japanese denim could be used to make.
How could you make denim more comfortable and drape more naturally without sacrificing the beautiful colour tones and interesting hand-feel & surface appearance? This is the question that some of the forward thinking brands are asking, and Mr. Oishi’s answer was to recreate the Secret Denim with added 2% elastane in the weft yarns, so that the Shin Secret Denim would be indistinguishable in terms of aesthetics and texture compared with the old Secret Denim – warp threads still being pure cotton and rope dyed – but has the added advantages of increased comfort and the possibility of a more contoured fit.
The new secret here is not the added elastane however – stretch denim is nothing new after all. The trick is how to eliminate the plastic texture, artificial appearance and the dull fading that usually comes part and parcel with stretch denim. Restricting the elastane to only the weft has helped, and also the fact that during the manufacturing of the denim no heating processes have been used, as opposed to most stretch denim manufacturing. I’m sure there are others secrets to this Secret Denim…
As far as making a true stretch selvedge denim, I think the Shin Secret Denim has managed to do this very well, as, like I mentioned earlier, apart from a more pronounced green cast (unrelated to the elastane), I could not distinguish the stretch from the non-stretch based on visual appearance or finger tip feel. It is only when I pull the fabrics and wear the jeans that the differences are noticeable.
Further, Oni states that the Shin Secret Denim will actually be more durable than the older versions… I can’t vouch for this just yet, but in order to maximize the durability of this denim, strong heat must be avoided, so definitely avoid using the dryer.
Similar to Oni’s other current offerings, the 122ZR-S features a very nice deerskin patch that washes and wears very nicely. The design of the patch is relatively understated compared with some of Oni’s patches in past years.
The leather has shrunk up a little and looks somewhat toasty with the industrial wash.
Like most Oni jeans since 2010/2011, we’ve got a woven tag on the inside of the waistband, directly behind the leather patch.
The Demon Spiral arcs are standard fair of course. Did you know the arcs have become slimmer and more streamlined over the years?
To be very honest, Oni’s arcs remain my least favourite aspect of their jeans, but the new arcs are much better looking than the ones on my older pairs (which I’ve removed or modified with seam rippers!)
The back-pockets are slanted so that they appear horizontally aligned when worn.
Oni has been upgrading its hardware in the past few years, and now, other than the hidden rivets, all the buttons and rivets are customised!
Featured on the button fly are very nicely textured doughnut buttons.
The punch through copper rivets are solid too, and are now further embossed.
The hidden rivets, whilst not customised, are high quality Universal’s which feature on pretty much every pair of high end Japanese jeans.
The belt loops are on the wider side, being rugged and sturdy.
If you look closely, you can see and feel the raised centre ridge of the loops, setting up for some vintage style wear & fade in the future.
Overall, the basic bells and whistles of high end Japanese denim are all there, but as these are not reproduction jeans, era specific combinations of vintage style detailing are not present – the overall presentation is fairly streamlined and, well, Japanese.
The sewing on the 122ZR-S is neat, dense and rather precise.
Keep in mind the photos you see here are of the jeans post-wash, so some distortions in the sewing in terms of straightness and visibility is natural.
Dual tone poly-core threading is featured throughout, the lemon-tea combo imparting a vintage feel.
Bar-tacks have been neatly placed at points of strain.
Even at the heaviest points of overlay, where four layers of 20 oz denim meet, the stitch-work remains clean and consistent.
It seems only two different thread sizes have been used, however, resulting in a overall more streamlined look.
Personally, I would have preferred thicker threads for the chain-stitching at the waist and hems. This is only a matter of aesthetics, however, as polyester-core threads are being used – there is no need, structurally, for the use of thicker threads given the inherent strength of polyester relative to cotton.
The chain-stitching, overall, is neatly done but a little wimpy.
Considering the jeans as a whole, the sewing is dense & neat, and there are no discernible flaws in construct.
Before discussing anything, I have to acknowledge that for me (and many others in this hobby), stretch denim is a rather controversial topic. Up until now, I haven’t seen any stretch selvedge denim done right, so in my opinion one would rightly be skeptical about stretch selvedge denim.
Ultimately, our raw denim hobby will continue to evolve as the years pass, such is the inevitable and unstoppable momentum of change. Thinking back on what our hobby had been like back when I first became interested in denim in the mid-2000’s, many aspects of denim are dramatically different now: Japanese brands doing tapered fits!? White Oak closing down!?
It’s hard to say what denim will look like in another 15 years time. Perhaps we’ll be 3D printing our own denims? Maybe denim will be made with an entirely new synthetic fibre that is superior to cotton in every way? I’m no futurist, so far be it for me to predict trends – I am certain only that things will change.
Stretch denim may very well represent one of the next steps in selvedge or raw denim.
Or it may not.
The success of Oni’s Shin Secret Denim will be a central thread in the stretch selvedge story, no doubt. From what I hear, these 122ZR-S jeans are flying off the shelves in Japan, though I do wonder whether its domestic success will be similarly matched in the Western markets.
For me, it comes down to the two ways of looking at a central question:
Why should I wear the Shin Secret Denim when I am perfectly happy with the old Secret Denim?
Why shouldn’t I wear the Shin Secret Denim if it’s just as good as the old Secret Denim, only more comfortable?
Now, I can’t fully answer these questions yet. I need a few more months to really wear in these Shin Secret Denim jeans, as there remain questions regarding durability and fading/aging potential that only time will tell.
At this point in time, however, I will say that Shin Secret Denim offers comfort and mobility that far surpasses pure cotton denim when combined with more modern fits. In my wardrobe, the only pants more comfortable than this pair of 122ZR-S jeans are my pajamas; this comfort factor alone is enough to make me open to the idea of wearing more stretch selvedge denims in the future.
Regardless of which side of this stretch debate you’re on, be prepared to see more and more stretch denims from your favouriate Japanese denim brands. PBJ has already released one version of stretch, Tanuki also has one that’s ready for release this year, and no doubt you’ll see more and more Japan Blue models in stretch as well. I hear from industry folks that Samurai may be doing super heavy weight stretch very soon also.
So get ready! Like it or not, stretch is coming!
But will stretch denim be staying? We’ll have a better idea in the next one to two years.
Disregarding the fabric for a moment, the Oni 122ZR-S relax tapered jeans features a nice cut, fantastic details and represents a more fashion-forward version of Oni compared to my other Oni jeans which were made between 2009 and 2011. There are, of course, no flaws in the construct, though some vintage detailing such as varied thread sizes have been omitted for a more streamlined aesthetic.
Oni has certainly proved itself to be highly adaptable and forward thinking, and I admire this brand because of its focus in pushing the boundaries of Japanese denim. It’s brands like Oni and Tanuki that drive growth and innovation, and I find these trail-blazing makers to be infinitely more interesting compared to their reproduction-focused peers. Reproduction denim has its place of course, but for me, after more than 10 years into this hobby, 501 repops do taste a bit stale. Horses for courses, and trees for apes, and all that, though the focus on interesting fabrics and modern fits certainly mean that Oni Denim is more relevant for more people compared with many of its peers.
Anyway, don’t just take my word for it, check out the Shin Secret Denim in person as it’s rolled out at Oni retailers world wide. You’ll find the best pricing, and the world’s most extensive range of Oni jeans, at Denimio: these Shin Secret Denim jeans are offered at just USD $212 shipped worldwide, which is incredible value for Japanese denim of this calibre. Check it out here.
Crafting out of Seattle, USA, Jiten Amin is relatively new to the leather scene and has just branded his Waxwing Leather workshop, but I’ve been hoping to check out his work for some time now.
I started following Waxwing Leather’s IG account at some point last year. The first time I saw Jiten’s photos I noted his crafts had a certain charm which drew me in – his bifold wallets, in particular, I thought were very unique and rather beautiful.
After a couple of months of materials selection and tool upgrades, Jiten sent along this fantastic little guy – the ‘classic’ bifold. I’ve been able to test the wallet out over this month, and I want to share with you some of my thoughts about Jiten’s work.
Let’s take a look at this Waxwing Leather ‘classic’ bifold wallet.
This wallet is a traditionally sized bifold, built to work-wear levels of sturdiness.
Fitting easily in the palm of my hands, this bifold is designed to carry a moderate amount of notes and cards.
When folded, this wallet measures approximately 12 cm in length and 8.25 cm in width.
The appearance is fairly minimalist, the outer featuring only one set of stitching along two edges on each side.
The basic rectangular shape is supplemented by curved corners and a curved outer edge.
This wallet is curvy indeed, and the inner layout and design is perhaps my favourite aspect of this wallet, and one of the nicest I’ve seen on a bifold. In fact, there are only two angled corners in the entire wallet.
There are four quick access card slots in total, two on each side. Additionally, there is one storage compartment on both sides, just underneath the card slots, which are open from the top and inner edges. Finally, there is one bill compartment.
The bill compartment will fit any notes comfortably. It is unlined.
I measured an average thickness of approximately 1.3 cm when loaded.
Certainly, this classic bifold is not a slim wallet, but also not too hefty either. Carried in the back pocket, I barely notice its presence.
Overall, the design is symmetrical and relative minimalist, though the very nice curves do add a lot of flavour and uniqueness to this bifold.
In terms of the practicalities of everyday wear, this wallet is user friendly and rather easy to carry & use.
It is true that it’s hard to screw up a bifold unless one were to introduce really weird elements to the inner. What is difficult, however, is to produce a good looking bifold that is interesting to look upon. Jiten’s design is notable as it allows quite a good carrying capacity for a medium sized bilfold without sacrificing aesthetics.
With only four cards visible when fully loaded, the visual emphasis is very much on the accent panels, and thus the leather is featured nicely.
The card slots are sized generously, so each quick access slot can potentially take in up to 3 cards. The storage compartments can hold a bit more too. I usually carry between 6 to 8 cards, so this wallet more than sufficiently meets my needs – this bifold will hold a dozen cards without losing shape.
The leather that Jiten has utilised for this wallet is Badalassi Carlo’s Minerva, in the Liscio (smooth) finish and Noce (walnut) colour. The Minerva is my favourite Italian vegetable tanned leather so far.
You might have read about the Minerva on my blog in the past, but here’s a recap if you missed it – and so I quote myself:
“Badalassi’s Minerva leather is their top of the range vegetable tanned, full grain leather. It is hand-dyed after tanning, and finished by hand-stuffing with a currying mix containing high amounts of neatsfoot oil. The result is a leather that has a brilliant but natural colour and a fine grain, with the character of the hide on full display. The ‘Liscio’ (‘Smooth’) version is featured, instead of the ‘Box’ version (where the grain is shrunk post tanning).
The hand is smooth but not slippery, with moderate rigidity when new. The oil content appears to be medium to high.”
It has a softer, more fluid temper compared with other similar vegetable tanned leathers (Buttero, for example) – this does pose design and construct challenges, but allows for the utilisation of greater thicknesses in the wallet without sacrificing comfort.
I measured the thickness of this leather at 1.30 mm, or ~ 3 oz, uniformly throughout the wallet.
Buttero is perhaps a little more popular than Minerva, but I do prefer Minerva’s handfeel and evolution. The photo above shows the leather after 3 days of use, the colour already darkened somewhat and the lustre increasing.
For a young craftsman, Jiten’s work on this classic bifold is pretty spectacular, I must say.
I am very impressed by how neatly he has cut and matched the individual panels. Also, the consistent spacing of the stitching even along the curved edges is remarkable.
Vinymo polyester threads via Japan has been saddle stitched at 7 SPI.
The stitch work is neat and clean, with the tonal thread colour complementing the leather and overall design.
Again, the consistent stitch work along the curved edges is testament to the concentration and effort invested into this wallet.
The cutting of the panels is well done too, considering the curves involved…a small mismatch will have an amplified affect, but there are no issues here.
All the edges of each panel are nicely burnished. There’s no fluffiness or rough portions.
The backside of the leather is not further finished, but is rather smooth nevertheless.
Finally, the outer edges are smoothly burnished with gum, showing off the layering of the panels. The burnishing is nicely done – not a mirror surface by any means, but given the Minerva soft temper and oiliness, this is probably as good as it gets without the use of machinery.
This is my first piece of leathercraft from Jiten at Waxwing Leather, and I am very impressed!
The most remarkable aspect of this classic bifold is the refined overall presentation and the considered use of curved edges and corners to give this wallet a lot of personality and uniqueness. Anyone can make a sexy mid-wallet, but a good looking bifold is a real challenge: Bifolds are usually quite boring, and when people attempt to spice up the designs they mostly end up comprising either carrying capacity or user friendliness, but Jiten’s inner layering on this classic bifold suffers no such issues.
Indeed, this classic bifold strikes a great balance between a streamlined, minimalist overall appearance and being a statement/signature piece. Again, bifolds are tricky because you only have so much space to work with, and yet a boring wallet is just no good – I still think the wallet is the most telling piece that a man can wear, more so than his tie, jeans or boots. The aesthetics here will go nicely with either formal wear or work wear, mostly influenced by the thickness of leather utilised.
Jiten offers this bifold at an amazing price of $90 USD…
I actually think that this is probably too cheap for the level of workmanship and the quality of material At this tier of pricing, this classic bifold is practically flawless. For my own preferences, I would love to see a thicker leather (~ 2 mm or 5 oz) being utilised for the outer or to have the outer lined with another leather – in the long run this might help the wallet keep a better shape – but of course this will increase the pricing of this wallet.
Regardless of pricing tier, this bifold from Waxwing Leather is pretty awesome. Jiten has a real knack for curves, and his bifold is one of the cleanest and most beautiful I’ve seen.
At $90, I’d say you should try a wallet from Jiten regardless of whether you need a new wallet or not. Despite the ever increasing number of private label leather workers out there, it is still very rare to see a nicely executed bifold, and so I definitely recommend having a look at Waxwing Leather.
You can contact Jiten easily through Instagram through the link above – let him know Mike sent you!
Got a very interesting and quirky pair of jeans to show you today!
These are souvenir jeans I picked up during my trip to Ryukyu/Okinawa in October this year, the 3rd iteration of the Champloo jeans from Studio D’Artisan.
I want to explore the geopolitical intrigues behind these jeans today, so apart from jeans gazing, settle in for some politics:
Okinawa is certainly an interesting place, a real oddity as far as East Asia goes. Surrounded nowadays by some of the biggest economic and military powerhouses of the world, these islands had been its own nation with its own culture – the Ryukyu Kingdom – until Japan annexed the nation by force in 1879.
Unfortunately for the Ryukyuans, throughout its civilised history, Ryukyu had always been under the sway of its powerful neighbours – it was too small, too sparse, too isolated and too poor for most of its history to really have a say in East Asia. For the first few hundred years, Ryukyu was a tributary state to Chinese dynasties. Things weren’t too bad back then though – pay homage, and you’re left alone to largely do as you like. The early Ryukyuans benefitted from Chinese knowledge and technology at the time too, which resulted in trade and cultural growths.
When the Satsuma samurais invaded in the 1600s, the situation began to decline rather rapidly for the local folks. Not three hundred years later, all Ryukyuans were Japanese.
Fast forward to the 21st century, there is relative peace in Ryukyu. The Ryukyuans have lost a bit of their language and culture, sure, but on the bright side modern Japanese racism towards the Ryukyuans is a lot more survivable than a samurai pointing his katana in your face, I suppose. Ryukyu remains poor, and is the poorest prefecture in Japan – not at all poor compared to many places in the world mind you, no East Asian area is poor by global standards – there is certainly inequality and continued grievances.
Calls for independence from Japan spring up constantly. It would seem the Ryukyuans had missed their chance… At the end of World War II, the nationalist government of China (Taiwan) had the opportunity to take over governance of the Ryukyu islands as part of Japan’s unconditional surrender, after a very gruesome campaign of murder, rape and simply absolute devastation against many of their Asian neighbours. The Chinese nationalists chose not to take up the American offer, and so Ryukyu remained Okinawa, under American administration until reversion back to Japan in 1971. The theme is consistent though, the Ryukyuans had no autonomy, and were once again at the mercy of much more powerful peoples.
World World II brought to Ryukyu horrendous destruction, with atrocities committed against civilians by Japanese & American soldiers. Masses of people perished, and the landscape of the islands were forever changed. The conflicts didn’t end with the war of course… US military bases and soldiers continue to plague the islands, and crimes committed by US soldiers against Ryukyuans remain a huge sociopolitical issue in Ryukyu today.
As a fellow East Asian islander – my birthplace of Taipei is only 45 minutes flight from the Yaeyama islands of Ryukyu – Ryukyu is literally Taiwan’s next door neighbour, and I have a lot of sympathies for the Ryukyuans. The unfortunate destiny of the Taiwanese aboriginals had followed a similar, but perhaps much more hopeless, path.
Visiting Ryukyu this year, the climate and plant-life were very familiar to me, and the Ryukyuans’ warmth and easy going nature reminds me of Taiwan too. Having been through so many difficulties in the past century – with World War II being the major trauma – I was impressed by how, despite the pain and the bitterness that they could rightly feel, the Ryukyuans were such peaceful and open people.
In many ways, these Champloo jeans as a souvenir remind me a lot about the islands of Ryukyu. Super sad history lessons aside, let’s take a look at these Champloo jeans.
The central concept behind these jeans is ‘Champloo’, which in Ryukyuan language refers to the modern local cuisine of mixed stir-fry, taking cues from Chinese, Japanese, American and sometimes even South American styles of cooking.
My favourite dish during the trip was the tofu, egg and bitter melon Champloo. Simply awesome~
Anyway, in the context of pants, the idea had been to combine the techniques of local craftsman to create a pair of jeans that showcase the different traditional arts of Ryukyu. With this iteration of the Champloo, Studio d’Artisan has gone over-the-top and invited four craftsmen to complete the jeans, with respective expertise in sewing, dyeing, embroidery and calligraphy.
The sewing was handled by Yu Kuniyoshi of Double Volante, a very well regarded jeans workshop.
Isao Tsuikobashigawa is a famed local embroider, and was responsible for the ‘A-sign’ embroidery.
Syoronin Zenryu, an award winning calligrapher, hand-painted the pocket bags.
Finally, Tsuyoshi Ohama, indigo grower and natural dye expert, created the fifth pocket by the natural plant dyeing of pigskin and the woven cloth label.
I actually purchased this pair of jeans from Tsuyoshi and his wife when I accidentally stumbled across their shop Shimaai on Ishigaki island. They grow their own indigo on their farm not 15 minutes from the shop – the Chinese varietal mostly, I believe – and create their own crafts through hand-dyeing with plant materials.
We’ll check out these details later on.
The pattern of these Champloo jeans is derived from Studio d’Artisan’s regular 103 models. These are old school ‘slim-straight’ jeans, cut for the smaller built Japanese folks.
On Westerners or bigger Asian blokes like myself, in order to obtain the correct fitting in the waist and hips by sizing up one or two sizes, the legs end up simply too wide for modern tastes – a wider stove-pipe style of fit results – and thus do not fit like they should, i.e. slim-straight.
As you can see in the photos here, there is next to no taper. The jeans are very long though, good news for tall people. It’s also nice to see SDA make size 38 and 40 in jeans now, given the frequent need to size up for SDA jeans in general.
This cut will work if you’re an average sized Asian person or an ectomorphic (slim-built) person from most other parts of the world. For exporting, Asian brands really need to have a staple of tapered jeans… the old ‘slim-straight’ cuts don’t look nice on people who are not thin.
The denim featured here is very high quality indeed, and a very ‘SDA style’ of denim.
It’s 15 oz, densely woven, synthetic indigo rope-dyed to an inky blue, mildly rough to the touch on the warp side and rather smooth on the weft side. Under natural sunlight, the denim has a strong red cast, appearing almost purple.
The denim is also moderately hairy. Combine the hairiness with the dense weave and mild slubbiness, the twill can be difficult to follow at times.
Like most denim used by Studio d’Artisan, the fading of indigo will likely be slow due to a high number of dips with indigo. This is a fabric to be enjoyed slowly, requiring more investment in time than most other Japanese denims.
The selvedge is red-line this time, which is a small shame, as I liked the purple line of the previous Champloo jeans, which represents Ryukyu’s unique purple sweet potatoes.
The natural goatskin leather patch is printed with graphics in the style of an export/immigration stamp. Naha is the capital of Ryukyu by the way.
This same stamp appears also on the right pocket cloth.
On the back-pockets, details abound. The ‘peace-dove’ arcuates feature three rows of stitching in two colours.
The A-sign embroidery is located on the top right corner of the right back-pocket. Once upon a time, the A-sign stood for ‘Army Approved’, and would be featured at bars and restaurants which were open for business to the many American soldiers stationed in Ryukyu.
The soldiers may not access bars without the A-sign, as a bar without the A-sign could mean two things – one, health & safety standards weren’t up to American standards, or two, the owner and the Okinawan men hanging out there would like nothing more than give the Americans an ass-kicking, if not worse.
To be fair, it was reported that drunk Americans sometimes caused a lot of problems, and sometimes violence – a huge issue when the local population did not (and still do not) consent to them being there – and two, many Ryukyuans didn’t want Americans around when they are trying to relax with family and friends, which is fair enough. The A-sign was eventually abolished as Ryukyu became Okinawa again in 1971.
I do wonder how Ryukyuans feel about having the A-sign on a pair of jeans, especially those who have lived through the hellish times of the most recent world war. I wasn’t brave enough to ask anyone about it while I was there.
Another feature on the right back pocket is the tag – sewn apart from the pocket itself, like a banner! Cute, and possibly a good work around with regards to Levi’s annoying legal threats.
The inside of the waist band features the new SDA tag – you’d have seen the same tag in beautiful_FrEaK’s Suvin Gold jeans review too.
The belt loops are raised, done in two tones of stitching.
The fifth pocket is a star feature here. Natural indigo dyed pig-skin is used to make the pocket, hand-dyed by the Shimaai workshop. Further, there is a woven tag on the pocket which is dyed with wood from a local tree and also natural indigo.
If you scroll up to the photos of Shimaai shop, you will notice the woven tag is the same as Shimaai’s logo.
Also, the rivets are very unique indeed, being off-centre in aged brass, with steel backs. These are apparently made by YKK in Okinawa.
The button fly features buttons from Studio d’Artisan and Double Volante, the SDA buttons being flat top and the DV buttons being doughnuts.
Of course, hidden rivets make appearances too!
Finally, the pocket cloth is pretty special.
The calligraphy work here is individual hand-painted for each pair of jeans. That’s pretty awesome. Each pair is numbered according to its place within the limited edition production.
The stitch-work is excellent overall, and one wouldn’t expect less as the sewing is handled by the well regarded Double Volante.
The stitches are regular, dense and neat throughout the jeans. 5 different stitch colours and what I count as 3 different thread thicknesses have been utilised.
Whether it’s bar-tacking the belt loops, sewing the button holes, lock-stitching the inseam or chainstitching the hem – all the sewing has been executed with precision & beauty.
The folding and finishing on both the inside and outside are clean and well done also.
Unfortunately, I did pick up one defect in the sewing. At one point along the leg, the chain-stitch has come apart on the inside, and as such you can see here that one segment of thread has come loose on the outside.
As far components handled by other craftsmen go, they are all nicely made.
The indigo dyed pigskin 5th pocket is gorgeous. The A-sign embroidery is solid and without loose threads. The hand-painted calligraphy on the pocket cloth is nicely executed too.
All in all, these Champloo jeans are certainly interesting and I applaud the various craftsmen involved with regards to the efforts they’ve invested in these limited edition jeans. These jeans are well made with high quality materials by very excellent workers in different fields.
Much tradition and pride is reflected in this pair of over-engineered jeans, and the many, many details serve it quite well for my own purposes as a collector’s item – these are my souvenir jeans for my trip to Okinawa after all.
As much as I really love Ryukyu and the concepts & craft techniques behind these Champloo jeans, two aspects stop me from actually wearing them, relegating this pair to my collection-only closet: the right back-pocket is simply too busy for everyday wear, and the 103 cut does not suit my body type.
In my very honest opinion, Studio d’Artisan has over-cooked these jeans as far as the Western market is concerned. I would think that placing the embroidery in another part of the jeans (maybe the pocket cloth like the previous Champloo) and toning down the back-pocket arcuates would make them more appealing.
With regards to the cut, I have seen SDA release a new relaxed tapered fit for their recent collaboration with Denimio, and I do think variations of the tapered fit would be the way to go for future export releases, rather than falling back on the old 103 and 107 cuts.
All the previously mentioned factors mean that the Champloo jeans is certainly an interesting product, but its relevance and appropriateness as an export product is – to be brutally honest – very limited. There needs to be a better balance between a streamlined aesthetic and the various local arts that are to be showcased. Studio d’Artisan has tried to cram too much stuff into one pair of jeans, and as a result the entirety of these pants is somewhat incoherent and too complicated.
My conclusion is that these Studio d’Artisan Champloo jeans is a creative and intensive product for the Japanese market. The level of Okinawan crafting expertise showcased here is astounding, but the jeans suffer from a fundamental design flaw of being way too busy at the back pockets. Denim hobbyists from outside of Japan would be better served by other jeans which have more updated cuts and more streamlined aesthetics.
I wouldn’t recommend buying this pair unless you have dozens of pairs of Japanese jeans and simply want to collect another one. If you’re looking for denim to actually wear everyday, I’d say you should look into SDA’s other offerings.
I’m sure, however, with a few tweaks and some consultations with consumers & stockists, a more export-oriented Champloo model could be a huge hit in the future. Let’s see what happens from here.
Have you ever thought about how our denim and work boots hobbies could really come together?
What if, rather than complimenting each other, they become one thing?
Well, I’ve got something very interesting to show you today:
Button boots! Denim button boots!
Tokyo shoe makers Monad and the jeans makers at Momotaro Jeans have come together to create a truly unique collaboration.
Have you ever seen button-up work boots before?
Me neither. Let’s take a look!
Monad is a new work boot brand from the Model Shoes footwear workshop, who have been crafting gentlemen’s shoes for half a century now, representing a new direction for the shoemaker. As part of the launch of Monad, they’ve collaborated with Momotaro Jeans to create a line of denim-infused boots.
Momotaro Jeans, on the other hand, really needs no introduction for regular readers of this blog – suffice to say that Momotaro is the main line of the denim power-house Japan Blue group.
Two styles of boots have been released for this collab campaign; both the Peco’s style farmer boots and the cap-toe button boots come in either black or brown leathers. The pair I’ve purchased is the quarter brogue button boots in brown Chromexcel.
The uppers (top), made of denim and constructed in the style of jeans, is made by Momotaro in Okayama, the artisan denim capital of the world. The rest of the boots are made by Monad in their Tokyo workshop – next door to the famous The Boots Factory, actually.
Modern button boots have their roots in 19th century British ankle boots, and are nowadays rarely encountered. When you do see them, they tend to remain very dressy shoes, and are usually custom made with sleek toes. This particular pair is perhaps the mid-century Americana interpretation…truly, I’ve never seen a mash-up quite like this one.
Shape & Fit
Despite being a button boot, the toe shape and the fit of these Monad x Momo boots is very much that of a work boot.
Similar to other Japanese work boots, the toe box is relatively tall and the up-turn is strong.
The toe is wide at E width, but not overly so compared with other work-style boots. The taper from the toe box downward is significant, with the boots narrowing to a D width at the mid-foot. These boots do not flair back out at the heels, remaining approximately a D width at the back.
Given the work-style toe box, breaking into these boots is pretty easy, even if I did size half-down from my Brannock’s size.
Above the level of the ankle, the boots are extremely comfortable. Even if the denim is dense and relatively heavy at 15.7 oz, it remains much more forgiving compared with leather.
The back-stay and toe-box required a few days use to break in, but after the first week these boots have been completely comfortable. No blisters this time!
The top (shaft), being made of fabric, fits much tighter on a button boot compared with similarly tall all-leather boots, allowing a sleeker and more refined look. Such a close fit is not possible with thick leathers of course.
Overall, the shape is streamlined at the top and back, with the toe-box being relatively wide and tall. The fit is true to Brannock’s measurements – I’d recommend going true-to-size (US sizing) if you want to wear thicker socks, or size down half for a sleeker look. If your feet are wider than E, do not size down!
Leather & Denim
The brown Chromexcel leather featured on these button boots comes from Horween. You’ll have seen Chromexcel dozens of times on this blog already; the important points are that Chromexcel is a full grain, re-tanned (chrome then veg) work leather with a somewhat variegated, glossy finish and a great pull-up. The fact that this leather has been primarily chrome tanned and is stuffed full of fats means that its water resistance is exceptional.
Chromexcel doesn’t age quite as gracefully as full vegetable tanned leathers of course, and the soft temper does lead to easy scratching and scuffing. It also tends to dull over time, but can be easily revived with some care.
Chromexcel became a popular leather in workwear and denim circles earlier this decade, and nowadays is perhaps the signature leather of Americana fashion. It is enjoying a surge in popularity in East Asia as well, with many Korean and Japanese boot makers utilising Chromexcel in the past few years. Chromexcel is a great work leather, and it makes nice work boots.
We can’t forget the denim, however. This indigo twill fabric is the real deal: It begins as ELS cotton from Zimbabwe. Rope dyed with indigo. Woven on a narrow shuttle loom into a dense 15.7 oz denim, which is then sanforised.
In fact, this is one of the denim usually reserved for Momotaro’s ‘Going to Battle’ line of jeans. The denim should fade nicely as the leather achieves patina. 🙂
The inside of the boots are lined with leather and a camouflage herringbone fabric from Momotaro.
These button boots are made in two separate locations in Japan. The top is made by Momotaro’s jeansmakers in Okayama, the rest of the boots being made by Monad out of their Model Shoes workshop in Tokyo.
The top portion is made just like jeans, with the same vintage machinery that Momotaro utilises for their jeans. The thick, tea-coloured thread is neatly sewn, piecing together the different panels and also attaching the rolled leather tape which finishes the edges of the denim.
The denim crafting here is very neat – very much the same process and calibre of work as Momotaro’s regular denim offerings. There’s even a cheeky peach tag!
The details are all there.
Bar-tacked and raised belt loop/pull tab? Check!
Single and double needle stitching? Check!
The finished tops are sent to Tokyo, and the guys at Monad attach them to the lower part of the boots. The double needle, tonal stitch work on the leather is dense and regular. The brogueing on the quarter brogue toe cap is some of the neatest I’ve seen, despite the thick Chromexcel leather used for the cap.
Chromexcel tends to be a tricky leather with a bit of wastage, and my experiences with North American boot makers have been very average in the past decade – many brands tend to click and match Chromexcel poorly.
I’m glad to report there’s no such issue on these boots.
The edges of the welt are expertly rounded and polished. These are work-style boots, yes, but they’re certainly not rough.
The incomplete Goodyear welt is neatly executed too.
The spacing from the edge of the welt is consistent, the the stitch length very even.
There’s no weird staining or scratching along the welt.
Overall, both the jeans making and boot making here are excellent. There’s a premium associated with Made in Japan no doubt, but the difference in quality is easily discernible and, once again, the construct of these Japanese boots are fantastic and without significant flaws.
Sole Unit & Misc.
The hardware found on these boots are great quality.
After all, no one does buttons and zips quite like the Japanese reproduction & work-wear brands.
The 5 buttons found on each boot are the custom ‘Copper Label’ buttons which are used on Momotaro’s jeans. There’s a peach on every button.
A zippered side has been built into the inward facing side of the boots. The zipper is a high quality, customised metal zip. More peaches!
A nitrile cork sole and Cat’s Paw heel combo makes up the outsole.
The Boots Factory are the guys who manufacture brands like Rolling Dub Trio, Brother Bridge, etc. Being a more establish work boot manufactuer, they’ve lent their next door neighbour at Monad some assistance by providing the synthetic sole for this project.
Hopefully, as the Monad brand matures, they’ll have their own customised synthetic soles too.
Old school Cat’s Paw heels make an appearance here.
I quite like this two-washer version with the mid-century era graphics.
All in all, the peripherals utilised on these Monad x Momo button boots are top class indeed!
The first thing I must mention is that the visual appeal of these button boots cannot denied!
Out of all my dozens of shoes and boots, this pair has attracted the most comments from my – mostly female – colleagues at work. The ladies had very nice things to say about this pair, whereas my others boots really never caught their attention. Also, photos of these boots have logged the most number of comments and likes out of any item I’ve showcased on Instagram since I started my account last year.
With that in mind, I have to say Monad and Momotaro Jeans have done a great job in terms of concept execution and design. A risky mash-up for sure, but I do think their daring has paid off.
These boots are unusual indeed, and break many of the rules associated with button boots by having a denim top, a work-style toe shape, synthetic soles and a side-zip. If you are a shoe purist, this pair may be too experimental to contemplate…
From a denim and work-wear hobbyist’s perspective, these boots are certainly an unexpected surprise. Work wear fans usually don’t wear button boots, and guys who wear button boots usually have a closet focused on gentlemen’s suiting. In theory work wear and button boots don’t mix – and they never have – but personally I love this combination. These Monad x Momotaro button boots must be the most uncommon boots in my collection, and it is also the most eye catching.
True to work-wear principles, these shoes are comfortable and easy to use. The zippered side negates the need to use a button hook, and makes the process of wearing and removing these boots so much easier. The denim will also age more gracefully compared with the tweeds and other jacket fabrics that are usually found on button boots, and thus complement a work-wear outfit where garments should look more attractive with wear. Finally, synthetic sole components perform better than leather as far as locomotion and safety are concerned.
All things considered, rules have been broken, yes, but I think these boots are better for it.
My personal preference in terms of possible improvements would be the addition of a layer of leather mid-sole and perhaps substituting Chromexcel with Horween’s Essex/Dublin leathers instead. This will make the boots a bit more expensive, however.
At $460 USD via Denimio, this pair of collaboration button boots are fantastic value (on the cheaper end of the scale) as far as Japanese work boots go. I do suspect that the price is very much an introductory offer while the Monad brand is still young. If you’re a fan of Japanese denim and work boots, these button boots would be an great addition to your collection.
I would love to see Monad put out more button boots in different work-wear fabrics in the future. Imagine a 14 oz duck canvas with black horsehide? Anyway, I’m very excited to see what the guys at Monad will do next!
See this pair and the other Monad x Momotaro Jeans collaboration boots at Denimio.
Sugar Cane jeans were some of my first pairs of real Japanese denim, and during those earlier years I would collect and study their catalogue booklet every six months. Sugar Cane’s products had been some of the most innovative back in the early to mid-2000’s, as far as Japanese denim and work-wear are concerned, though things seem to have slowed in the past couple of years.
Part of the Sugar Cane line-up includes the Lone Wolf brand, under which Toyo’s footwear are sold. These Lone Wolf boots were some of the earliest Japanese work boots that were readily available to purchase from outside of Japan – I’d drool over these Lone Wolf boots in the catalogues, and yet uncertainty regarding sizing and the relatively high pricing kept me away, and it would be some years before I saw them in person in Japan.
More than a decade later, I’m sitting here reviewing my first pair of Lone Wolf boots, feeling like – in many ways – my clothing hobbies have come full circle. This review has been a long time coming, and perhaps a bit overdue…
Let’s take a look at these Lone Wolf ‘Sweeper‘ boots.
Ruf-Tuf Lone Wolf Boots is somewhat similar to the Fiction Romance line-up for Sugar Cane’s clothing – combining reproduction aesthetics and detailing to create pieces that could have been. Indeed, Lone Wolf’s line-up consist entirely of 1940’s to 50’s style American work boots, everything from Engineer boots to lace-to-toe Roofers.
A combination of mainly American materials and precise Japanese craftsmanship produce a certain distinct feel that is very different from modern American boots.
The Sweeper boots being review today are the seldom reproduced style of low work boots, similar to the Rolling Dub Trio ‘Coupen’ boots I reviewed many months ago. The boots are much closer to shoes in height, though the toe shape and build very much resemble a pair of work boots.
The Sweeper comes standard in four variants – this pair being the all black rough-out edition. Brown, tan and mixed leather options are available also.
Shape & Fit
Like previously mentioned, even though these Sweeper boots are not strict reproductions, the overall shape stays true to 40’s and 50’s work boots. That being said, the bulbous ‘work toe’ has been toned down somewhat, and the Sweeper is not as wide or as tall as other Japanese interpretations of Americana work boots.
The toe start at E width, and really doesn’t get wider than that as we move towards the mid-foot, where the width tightens up.
The toe box is actually relatively short for a Japanese reproduction work boot.
This being a 4″ tall low work boot, rather than a 3″ tall shoe, does mean that the climb in the vamp is more dramatic, and so the Sweeper fits on the foot more like a boot than a shoe.
You can see in the photo above that the opening of the boot is curved, which combines with a snug opening diameter and slanted counter to create a strong hold just above the ankle. The tight, curved opening did cause me some blistering during the first couple of wears, so some breaking-in is required.
The up-turn in the toe is also quite significant, and thus even with the unit sole, there remains a rocking sensation as I walk.
I am between a US 9 D to 9 E in terms of Brannock’s sizing, and the Sweeper at US 8.5 fits me well in terms of both length and overall width with medium thickness socks. If you exclusively wear thick work socks, going true-to-size might not be a bad idea, unless your feet are on the narrower side (< D). If your feet are wider than E width, you might struggle with tightness in the toe box somewhat.
Overall, these Sweeper boots are comparatively streamlined as far as reproduction style work boots go. Going TTS or sizing down by half may be the way to go.
Not much official information is available about the leather utilized on the Sweeper, but I’m fairly certain these are aniline latigo leather from Horween tannery.
The leather is used in the rough-out configuration, meaning that the grain side is facing inward and the flesh (corium) side is exposed. This is a more rugged way of using leather for footwear, and allows the wearer to additionally ‘dub’ the leather with waxes to protect against inclement or cold weather.
This latigo leather is fairly good quality, and the flesh side has a nice finish – more fibrous and furry than the average suede, the exposed leather fibres are much longer and unprocessed. Personally, I prefer this type of rough-out finish to finely processed suede – more durable, and actually easier to keep clean!
I have to say though, that the leather selection here was perhaps very exciting 10 years ago, but is now somewhat dated. Boots of this caliber should probably feature something a little bit more exciting than aniline latigo, even if reproduction aesthetics is key.
Lone Wolf’s boots are apparently entirely made in a small, family-run Japanese footwear workshop. Type writing aside, these are very nicely executed stitch-down boots.
Stitch-down boots are, of course, the specialty of Pacific North-Western boot makers such as White’s, Wesco, etc. Lone Wolf’s construct here is better than what I’ve seen the Americans churn out in recent years.
5 panels make up the body of the Sweeper. A combination of single and triple stitching is used to piece together these panels. The stitching is tonal black, very dense and superbly neat.
The counter is one piece, extending above the opening to form a small pull tab; the curves here really make these boots more interesting to look at compared with most other low work boots.
The double row stitch-down extends from the tip of the toe to the mid-foot, and is precisely sewn with rather thick thread.
The edges of the turn-out/mid-sole are further beveled and polished. The execution here is much nicer than my American work boots – compare this with the awful edge work on my Nick’s Manito shoes, for example.
The top edge of the quarters are neatly rolled, adding some elegance to this rough-out work boot.
The stitch-work is very impressive, on pair with more expensive Japanese boots. Everything is just so precise – it’s almost jarring to have this kind of neatness on a work boot.
The Sweeper features bellows tongue, with the grain side out. This configuration means that the tongue will not be displaced during rigorous activity. The stitch-work to secure the tongue is, again, remarkably neat.
Overall, the Sweeper is one of the most well made ready-to-wear work boots I’ve come across, comparable in construct to other Japanese brands which may cost a little more.
Sole Unit & Misc.
The Sweeper boots aren’t completely blacked-out. The 5 eyelets on each side are brass coloured, and very sturdy.
Lone Wolf manufactures its own laces. These black rough-out Sweepers come with unwaxed, flat-braided black laces. The laces are more black than the rough-out leather, and strangely provides a bit of contrast…
Vintage style woven labels are attached to the inside of the tongues. A very nice touch.
The insole is somewhat utilitarian, but importantly it’s all leather!
The inside of these boots are fully lined. Nothing too fancy, but the finishing is neat and the materials used internally are top quality too.
Vibram’s #4041 Cristy waffle sole is used for the outsole, attached to a leather mid-sole.
Not the prettiest, and to be honest aesthetically does not match with the overall mid-century vibes, but these waffle soles do make walking very comfortable and keep these Sweeper boots relatively light.
Overall, top quality components and materials all round.
I must say that these Lone Wolf ‘Sweeper’ boots are a joy to wear and quite flavorful as far as work-wear aesthetics are concerned, despite being a black-out boot.
The design, shape and construct are all top class. I believe that, in the realm of work-boots, we’re not going to get anything better made short of going full custom with a niche Japanese maker.
I can see that the Sweeper has been subtly updated over the years, comparing this pair to Lone Wolf’s older low work boots from the last decade.
The toe box is certainly vintage style, but the height and width are not, by modern standards, exaggerated. The panels are all nicely curved, resulting in the Sweeper having a bit more elegance and flair than a straightforward work boot.
At 49, 800 yen + tax (2017 pricing), there’s not too much to complain about. This is certainly entry level pricing for a Japanese work boot, but the workmanship, materials and design all punch above this price tier.
The construct is impeccable, really. A much better stitch-down boot than what is available from the USA nowadays, at least in terms of neatness of make and overall finishing.
These Sweeper boots may lack some of the finer details of my RDT Coupen boots, but there’s not a big difference in quality. Keep in mind the Coupens are about 30% more expensive.
Where these Sweeper boots do lag behind somewhat – relative to other high-end work boots – is that the Horween latigo leather being used, IMO, is somewhat dated for 2017. Other Japanese and American work boot brands are nowadays using leathers that are much more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, the leather is good quality, it’s just a little, well, boring for what is a relatively expensive boot.
I’m not too enamored with the Vibram waffle sole (purely an aesthetics issue), so I’ll be looking to convert the outsole units to something a little more ‘mid-century’ when the time comes to replace these soles.
Overall, I’ve been pretty impressed by my first pair of Lone Wolf boots. The Sweeper boot is very well made, hard-working and even a little bit handsome.
At the ~50, 000 yen price tier, there are a few more Japanese boot brands I’d like to try, but I’ll definitely purchase another pair of Lone Wolf boots some day. I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending these Sweeper boots to work-wear fans – certainly do take a look at them at your local Sugar Cane retailer.