Tanuki Inc. Retro denim at 4.5 months~

Just a couple of quick photos today.

Tanuki’s Red Cast denim jeans are becoming my regular daily pair at the moment, and my progress with the Retro denim jeans have slowed down. Here is the Retro denim at 4.5 months, with 2 washes:

Relatively quick fading, but the fabric is fairly rugged. Nice and simple, a pure blue.

A little more to go – will have another update at the around the 9 month mark.

Clintonville Leather – harness leather belt review

Clintonville Leather is somewhat of a new discovery for me, as I had come across Bill’s work on reddit only just a few months ago. Bill’s crafts drew my attention immediately, as there was a heavy Americana flavour which was rugged and authentic, a spirit which is pursued by many leather craftsman both American and Japanese, but seldom achieved. I was surprised that I had not come across Clintonville Leather earlier, but I later found out that Bill had began leather crafting about 6 years ago, around the time this blog had gone into hiatus.

In conversation, I was particularly impressed by Bill’s philosophy when it comes to making leather goods – authentic materials, crafted to his best ability, designed to last for decades, respecting both value to the customer and sustainability in his work. Bill’s harness leather work belt really brings these themes to the fore, and so today I shall take you on a tour of this very unique belt.



The leather from which the belt strap was made is a special one indeed: Hermann Oak’s ‘Old World’ harness leather, in russet colour, which I measured at a tremendous thickness of 17.5 oz.

This is one of the most expensive and difficult to produce leathers in North America, and on top of that Bill utilises special order thicknesses that are beyond what is usually advertised (12 oz+). The side of leather has been skivved  using a special machine to achieve better consistency in thickness – could you imagine certain portions of the leather could be up to 10mm thick?

This Hermann Oak harness leather is vegetable tanned, and undergoes drum stuffing with oils & beef tallow. The resulting leather that you see here is not only incredibly thick, but also immensely dense and surprisingly supple. The high oil & tallow content contributes to the incredible durability and toughness of this harness leather.

The handfeel is more textured compared with the average skirting leather, and the surface appearance is more variegated (marbled) compared with similar harness leather offerings from Triple C or Thoroughbred (belts made from which have been featured on this blog some years ago). The grain structure is relatively flat at this time, which is to be expected given the drum stuffing and waxy finish – I suspect the grain will open up with time and wear. The backside of the leather is very nicely finished.

In past posts on this blog – based on experiences with harness leathers from Triple C and Thoroughbred (courtesy of Scott Willis) – I have advocated for denimheads to choose harness leather over natural skirting leather for their belts, based on concerns regarding durability and ease of care. This Old World harness from Hermann Oak offers the same advantages being hard-wearing and dummy-proof, not to mention the aesthetics of the leather grain is a better match with indigo denim and the fact that harness leather looks great from the get go and will produce good evolution results most of the time, whereas there are many – in my opinion – ugly looking natural skirting belts out there.


Styling, Hardware, Details & Construct

There is no doubt this Clintonville Leather belt is an Americana work belt – just look at it! Out of all the reproduction belts made by various Japanese leather workshops I’ve seen over the years, nothing comes close to the genuine ruggedness projected by this heavy duty belt – what we have here is an heirloom quality belt made with all-American materials.

Indeed, this belt looks and feels unique because it is an oddity even among its American peers. In the past few years, artisanal belts that are hand-made in North America are increasingly looking like the belts made popular by the Japanese workwear leather revival: more refined, more streamlined, and yet losing a sense of old-world cool and heavy-duty feel for which American leather crafts had been known.

That’s not the case with our belt here though. As an example, take a look at the custom hardware featured here that has been hand-forged by Bill out of 99% pure copper.

On the buckle, everything from the roller to the prong is hand-forged, solid copper. Marks from the forging process are clearly visible, and should produce interesting patina results down the track.

The keeper is a real beauty, and precisely made too. Given that the copper hardware is hand-forged rather than cast produced, maintaining shape and dimensional correctness is a real challenge for Bill. The fact that all the components fit together and work well as one is a testament to Bill’s careful work. The finishing on the metal is top notch – very smooth and does not damage the leather at all.

Solid copper, punch-thru style rivets are used here – these are also made in the USA, of course. My philosophy towards belt purchasing has always been that the buckle fold needs to be secured either with hand-stitching or solid rivets; I’m not a fan at all of Chicago screws or hollow rivets, and I’m glad Bill feels the same way. The rivets are well placed, and Bill has neatly flattened the back of the rivets too!

For a personal touch, Bill has stamped in the American flag just beneath the keeper, and also at the back of the buckle fold we have the Clintonville brand stamp and what looks like my initials 🙂

The strap is neatly cut, the consistency of which is remarkable given the monstrous thickness of this Old World harness leather. Bill utilises a specially modified strap cutting tool to achieve this – the average box cutter is not enough to do this job. The prong hole is neat and secure, with neither the buckle or the prong shaking loose when the belt is worn.

The belt tip is precisely finished, a continuation of the very precise edge work throughout the strap. Even though the belt appears rugged, the consistency and careful attention to detail are deceptively deep.

Looking more closely, you’ll see that Bill has created a gorgeous rounded edge through top & bottom beveling and one of the best burnishes I’ve ever seen on a belt. The process utilized here is painstaking, at first requiring progressively finer sanding down of the leather, followed by multiple rounds of burnishing that is done with wood, beeswax and hands. The result here stands up to scrutiny even under macro photography.

This polished edge work can be further found in the oval shaped prong holes! It goes without saying that a lot of time and elbow grease was involved, even in the smallest details of this belt. The shape and the size of the holes, for example, work seamlessly with the extra thick, hand-forged prong.



I’ve sampled and tested many vegetable tanned belts over the years – I look over at my belt rack as I type this, and there are at least twenty, with a few more in storage – and even when it comes to harness belts I’ve already tried at least 3 different harness leathers. Even so, this Clintonville Leather harness belt manages to stand out in my collection, with an unique vibe that is quite exciting for me.

Perhaps it is the combination of the extremely thick Old World harness leather and the rugged, hand-forged hardware? Maybe it is the juxtaposition of the overall heavy-duty aesthetics of the belt with the very finely crafted details? Or it could be that the forged copper roller buckle is just so bad-ass? There are a few different reasons why this belt stands out, even among custom artisan-made belts.

This belt is very much suited to the denim hobby: the thickness and ruggedness of the harness leather is a great match with heavy weight Japanese denims, not to mention the copper hardware and the russet colour of the strap complement the various shades and tones of indigo very nicely. The harness leather will evolve with wear and elemental exposure too, though the initial colour change will not be as dramatic as that of natural skirting leathers.

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that belts have become one of the main money-makers for many craftsman, and for the growth of their brands or simply to pay the bills, often belts are made in batches – a more streamlined process, to ensure the crafting is efficient and economical. There’s nothing wrong with this, of course, and the resulting belts would still be considered hand-crafted (and probably much better compared to what you might find at the mall.)

That’s not what we’re looking at here though. Bill has devoted time and effort into this belt, to the degree that you might consider this belt is made in the most authentic and considered way. Consider that the edges of the belt are progressively sanded down before successive burnishes, or that top & bottom beveling is used to created a truly rounded edge – there are no short-cuts here.

At approximately USD $150 I would consider this belt to be very good value, given the premium materials and the insane amount of actual man power and time involved in its creation. Keep in mind too, that apart from raising the cattle, tanning the leather and manufacturing the rivet, everything that about this belt has been created by Bill.

Cheaper and more utilitarian belts are available at Clintonville Leather of course, and modifications can be made to your belt that would increase or decrease the price and change the overall appearance of the belt, but I have to say Bill’s no-compromise heirloom belts are a must try.

All in all, this belt is one of the most unique and well made work belts I’ve seen. This belt should outlive many pairs of jeans, and with a bit of care might last longer than you or I.

Even if Americana or work-wear leathers is not generally your style, looking over Bill’s work will give you a little more idea with regards to expectations of value & craft the next time you seek out custom leather goods.

For denimheads and fans of mil pro or work-wear, I’d very much recommend getting your own version of a harness belt made by Bill. Check out the Clintonville Leather webshop!

CHUP, Anonymous Ism…What’s the go with Japanese socks?

A couple of blog readers have asked me about some of my pants-pulling photos which I sometimes upload onto Instagram – photos which I have managed to, uh, keep off the blog so far. Specifically, it’s the colourful and radically patterned socks they were curious about…these Japanese hand-made socks, should I buy a pair?

Today I wanted to explore the practical issues with regard to these craftsman-made, Japanese socks, and hopefully help you decide whether purchasing one might be a good idea.

Japan is not new at making socks, and well-known brands such as CHUP and Anonymous Ism all had their start in the 1990s, building off the back of an already established sock industry in Japan. The idea with these craftsman socks is similar to the reproduction denim revival in Japan which had occurred around the same time – clothes made slowly, the old fashioned way, with careful attention to craftsmanship and detailing. These manufacturers use variations of vintage stocking frame machines, which produce only a couple of dozen socks per machine per day. Hand-linking at the toes is also a major selling point here.

Many of the newer, more innovative denim and work-wear brands in Japan also produce similar vintage-style socks nowadays. However, the two major brands over the past decade have been Anonymous Ism and CHUP, with socks from these guys becoming increasingly available through Western retailers and webshops over the past few years. Let’s take a look.


Anonymous Ism

Anonymous Ism socks are a great match with denim and work-wear garments, as they take inspiration from the same military and work-wear roots. True to their name, Anonymous Ism socks had, at one stage, been difficult to research and to find, but thanks to the Internet it is actually one of the most accessible Japanese sock brands at the moment, with a number of Western retailers selling their socks online.

Anonymous Ism releases many interesting socks patterns every year, from Fair Isles to Boro-style patch work. There are also consistent releases of heather/melange and cable-knit socks, although I do not find them as interesting, given similar socks are made by a variety of Western manufacturers.

Their indigo socks are some of my favourites, working well with denim jeans.

Anonymous Ism also tends to have larger, less variegated patterns on their socks compared with CHUP, being less folksy and more traditional.

Many of their socks also tend to have a fluffier finish compared with CHUP. The materials used are also more varied, with various cotton & wool blends on offer.

In addition to good accessibility and a wide selection of sock styles & patterns, Anonymous Ism can sometimes be found on sale. Expect to pay somewhere around USD $20 to $35 per pair at RRP, with indigo socks being a bit more expensive.

Keep in mind that Anonymous Ism socks are usually one size – if your feet are larger than US size 10, many of their socks won’t fit you. It’s not just the length either, but also the fact that many of their socks are tubular in construction, and can prove very tight for people with thicker ankles or feet.



CHUP is perhaps my favourite sock brand – they have magnificent patterns, with interesting and funky designs popping up all the time! CHUP is, however, slightly less accessible compared with Anonymous Ism, though still easily acquired over the Internet.

In addition to incredible patterns, CHUP offers their socks in different sizes; L sized CHUP socks will fit up to US size 11 feet. I am caught between the M and L sizes, at US size 9, as you can see in the photo below where I am wearing a size M.

Although CHUP doesn’t really do indigo socks, their fantastic pattern work makes up for any lack of indigo. They take various ethnic and traditional patterns from across the world, and turn the dial up to turbo. Everything from Fair Isles to Aztec, there’s never a boring sock.

I do feel that CHUP’s construct across their sock range is perhaps more consistent than Anonymous Ism, both in terms of sizing and quality. I also prefer CHUP’s lower gauge, denser weave and more natural finish.

Again, expect to pay between USD $20 to $35 RRP. CHUP also has some new lines of thicker socks, such as the “Defender” & “Crasftman” socks, but I have yet to try these personally.


Many other Japanese brands!

Many other Japanese brands are also offering vintage style and even indigo socks. White’s Mountaineering, in particular, has put out some very well made socks in the past few years, though their range is irregular & small, and their socks can be very hard to find (and expensive when you do find them).

Brands such as Koromo and Kapital have been notable for their Japanese folk style, indigo dyed socks. Although indigo anything tends to increase the price quite dramatically, and sometimes you’ll end up with socks that are approaching 3-digit pricing.

Beams+ has released some very nice socks too, which are a little more utilitarian, taking a more mid-century outdoors and sports approach. These are more affordable than the other brands mentioned here, though many Western sock manufacturers make fairly similar socks.

Denim brands such as Samurai, Studio D’Artisan, Stevenson Overall, McCoy, The Flat Head, etc all produce vintage-style tube & sports socks too. These repro socks tend to be a bit more muted and understated compared with Anonymous Ism or CHUP. I’m a big fan of Stevenson’s tube socks.

I do want to make a special mention of Tender Co.: whilst not Japanese, Tender is producing some traditionally constructed socks with natural materials and dyes. Tender’s socks pair very well with denim and work-wear garments, and rival the Japanese socks in terms of quality and finish. These English socks are a better option in cold or inclement weather too!


Practical Aspects & Thoughts

Having now owned more than 20 pairs of Japanese socks, I’d like to point out a few of my own thoughts for people new to the sock game.

  1. Japanese craftman-made socks are not necessarily going to last longer or be more durable than a well-constructed pair of ‘modern’ socks. These Japanese socks tend to be made with cotton or cotton-blend, and are usually not as thick as work or hiking socks; don’t expect a pair of CHUP socks to outlast your wool/nylon/mil. spec hiking socks.
  2. These Japanese socks are comparatively expensive and are not “investments”. In Western society, people usually don’t get to see your socks (there’s no cultural expectation to remove shoes when indoors), and socks are not like a denim jacket or a leather belt which will last for decades. I honestly can’t say that craftsman socks are “good value” – they are play things for people with money to spare.
  3. Where performance matters – hiking, camping, sporting activities etc – a well made pair of wool socks from Australia or America will serve much better. These Japanese socks are best used for polite outings, as they don’t necessarily wick sweat or keep your feet warm any better than whatever you can buy from your local sock brands.
  4. I tend to restrict my purchasing of Japanese socks to cotton socks with intricate patterns or natural dyes. It doesn’t make much sense for Westerners to buy plain socks, wool socks or hiking/sporting socks from Japan – you’ll be paying a premium for no good reason.
  5. In my own opinion, socks are probably the last thing to acquire as part of a denim or work-wear wardrobe. It makes no sense to be wearing indigo-dyed Anonymous Ism socks if you’re at the stage in this hobby where you are wearing Unbranded jeans and Converse shoes. I’d start by investing money in nicer jeans and better leathers before throwing money at socks.


Ultimately, Japanese craftsman socks are just another aspect of our hobby to nerd out about. For the man who already owns a few pairs of Japanese denim jeans and custom boots, purchasing a few pairs of CHUP or Anonymous Ism might be a great way to keep this hobby fresh. For devoted military and work-wear reproduction enthusiasts, the sock offerings by the Japanese denim brands are worth a look too. However, for folks who are at an early stage in this hobby, I’d recommend saving that money for other garment purchases and revisiting Japanese socks at a later time when your denim & leather collections merit similarly high-quality socks.

Supplied West – copper key hook 3-month update

It’s been 3 months already?

Well, my copper key hook made by Ryan at Supplied West has certainly aged gracefully with daily wear and use. Have a look at the initial condition documented in the review here, and compare it to the photos in this post (click to enlarge)!

You can see the copper has tarnished, the resulting patina being very interesting and much more striking compared with brass. The actual key hook itself, however, is as sturdy as ever – structurally, there are no changes to the hook or the binding.

Looking closely, you’ll see that areas of friction develop a pink/purple, almost fluorescent patina! Specifically, examine the inside of the top of the hook, the narrowing of the hook and where the hook is connected to the copper jump ring.

The other parts of the copper have dulled, darkened, and “filled in”, but the surface remains very smooth.

Some scratches are beginning to show, being lighter in colour and shinier than the other surface areas. Copper is a soft metal, and I do suspect more abrasions are in store for the future!

The brass key ring has also tarnished, but the effect here is not anywhere as variegated or dramatic compared with the copper hook.

This copper hook is the perfect companion for denim jeans, and, having used brass key hooks in the past, I must say I’m liking the copper version made by Ryan much better. Not only is the patina development more interesting on copper (vs. brass), but the colour, at any stage, is a better complement to indigo denim.

All in all, a solid and reliable key hook here from Supplied West. One of the sturdiest, most streamlined and well made key hooks I’ve seen, not to mention the ageing of the copper has been very cool so far. Can’t wait to see how it turns out in another few months.

Niwa Leathers – bridle leather coaster

Rocky from mill handmade had recently visited Niwa Leathers in Japan – see his guest post from earlier this month on the blog – he brought me back a souvenir too!

A coaster, you say, but look closely and you’ll find many details that point to this coaster being the careful work of an expert craftsman.

This coaster is made of two pieces of leather, which have been stitched together with linen thread, rounded and then burnished.

By the bloom on the dark brown leather, you’ve probably guessed this is a bridle leather.

The brand is stamped on the upward face.

The edges are straight with a subtle, bevelled curvature and neat creasing. The corners have been carefully rounded.

The stitching is regular and very straight.

The downward face of the coaster is made of a vegetable tanned cattlehide, and received the exact same treatment as the upward face bar the stamping. No shortcuts have been taken.

A close up of the stitching and the bloom reveals very detailed and fine work near the edges of the coaster.

Finally, the superb edge finish that is Niwa’s signature. The beveling and burnishing has been done with remarkable precision… so smooth and slick, it’s hard to tell the coaster is made of two pieces of leather.

Niwa Leather is definitely worth checking out, especially if your taste in leather tends toward the bespoke or ‘white collar’ end of the spectrum.

Check out Niwa’s website here.

Niwa Leathers

Very exciting guest post by Rocky Taniran of mill handmade.

All writing & photography by Rocky, edited & formatted by Indigoshrimp.

Niwa Leathers

About one hour north east of Tokyo lies a little workshop, home to one of our pioneers, Niwa Leathers. Hajime Niwa has been leather crafting for 20 years, starting his journey learning as a bag maker. He is now a master among his peers, famous for immaculate details and playful use of colours.

Despite his fame and extensive knowledge of leather crafting, Niwa still considers himself a simple craftsman and is humble in his soul. Upon entry he greeted me with care and was more than delighted to let me browse his collection and used goods. Despite some of them being over 15 years old they have aged gracefully – full of character and wear. The stitching remains immaculate and his famous edge is a feast for any enthusiast.

Watching him work, it was clear that he treats this profession with the utmost respect, showing no traces of shortcuts or bad form. His execution is precise and clean, a combination which is surprisingly not as time consuming as fixing up little mistakes.

We finished with a cup of coffee and some sweets while talking about his journey. It was an absolute delight to visit this wonderful man, nothing short of life changing and I would not hesitate recommending him to anyone who is looking for high end custom bespoke goods.

Faler Leathers – bifold wallet 2 month update

It’s time for an update on my Faler Leathers custom bifold!

If you follow my IG account, you might have seen periodic updates of this wallet over the past couple of months, but here are some proper photos of this wallet at 2 full months of effective wear.

A few things to look out for here: molding, texture, colour, shine and staining. Also, notice how the construct and detailing still look immaculate – a testament to John’s careful work. The threads are yet to fray, the edges remain slippery smooth, and the outer panel shows no sagging.

Despite the heftiness of this bifold, the leather has curved and molded to, uh, basically the shape of my butt, given I wear my wallets in the back pocket of my jeans.

The texture is hard to appreciate without being able to touch this wallet, but you can see the grain is much more defined and there is a sense of slipperiness of the surface that wasn’t apparent in the beginning.

The depth of colour and the incredible shine sets this Wicket & Craig vegetable tanned leather apart from most of its American and European counterparts from other tanneries. The leather does not look tired at all, and I have to say it is, so far, ageing better than even very fine Italian naturals such as Buttero.

Of course, your results may vary – how leather ages depends very much on use and care, and as such the patina development will be entirely unique for each individual piece.

The tone and depth of this natural tan is perhaps best appreciated in the above two photos. This is a proper caramel tan, a fairly rare evo pathway as far as I’ve seen. The inner is surprisingly clean too – this W&C leather is functions better as an internal leather compared with many other vegetable tanned leathers.

I really like how this wallet has aged, and more & more John’s careful work is revealed in the ruggedness of this wallet in daily wear. Check out more of his work at Faler Leathers, and don’t forget to ask John about customisation options.