I was in a panic. My wedding was a week away and the boots I thought I would be wearing had a production delay and would not be arriving in time. I pondered getting some cheap boots or dress shoes but that is wasteful as I would never wear them again (being a boot snob and all). Haven't had any luck at Nordstrom Rack in the past but being desperate, I stopped by there just to see if by chance, I could find a somewhat decent pair of brown dress boots. On sale/factory seconds To Boot New York, Cole Haan, and Gordon Rush were my targets. If I was lucky, maybe I'd find some Allen Edmonds!
Fortunately, I did get lucky and happened to find the perfect boots for my wedding. A pair of boots (in my size no less!) that I would not only wear for dress up occasions, but that also go well with my usual raw denim attire: the Red Wing 9435 Williston Boots in Teak Featherstone Leather (Factory seconds, only "issue" is that the welt stitching isn't even) for $199.99. I was so excited! The wedding went great (it would have with or without the boots... I just love boots) and was one of the best days of my life! Also, this happened:
When Red Wing came out with the Williston Boots, I thought they were quite the lookers. They seem to be Red Wing's answer to the dress/work boot hybrid models that have become so popular lately. If you want a pair of Red Wings but don't want the bulbous toe, the Willistons are the boot for you. The only issue is that $429.99 price tag. That seems a little steep, especially with how crowded the boot market has become in recent years. So are the Willistons worth a full $110 up-charge from their most famous boot, the Iron Ranger?
Comfort is also more prevalent in the Williston's than other Red Wings when it comes to shock absorption. My Iron Rangers fall flat in this area, as do my Blacksmiths, so it was a nice surprise to own a pair of Red Wings that excels with shock absorption! I wouldn't rank them as high as my Thorogood Boots, especially my Indigo Beloits, but the Willistons do beat out half of my other boots in this arena. I contribute the better shock absorption to the inclusion of the heel pad and the fiberglass shank over a steel shank (makes the boots lighter as well).
The standard lacing style also helps with getting the boots on and off, which can be a chore. A shoe horn is definitely necessary! Often, I find myself unlacing half the boot in order to slide my foot in (even with the use of a shoe horn). This little annoyance takes nothing away from the quality or wear of the boots. However, it is something worth noting because if you get your usual Red Wing size, getting the boots on and off will be even more of a hassle. These boots are meant to run true-to-size (9.5) as opposed to a half to full size down like other Red Wings.
I would recommend shoe trees for the Willistons as the Teak Featherstone does seem to crease easier (for me) than other Red Wing leathers. My 8085s and 3345s (also "Smooth Finished") didn't really crease for a solid month of every other day wear. Of course, there are a variety of reasons for this creasing and it is important to remember that creased leather does not necessarily mean bad leather. One of the more likely variables is how the 220 Last fits my foot so it'll be different for everyone on an individual basis.
Overall, I would recommend the Williston's if you can get factory seconds or on sale. They are great dress boots that seem a lot "hardier" than other brands but the retail of $429.99 is steep for most people. I am glad Red Wing decided to experiment with a different design and add a style with such a slim toe. Even the Sheldon and Merchant look bulbous next to the Willistons. The little things, like a heel pad, are nice touches. However, do they really push the margins of the boots that high? Don't get me wrong, I am over the moon that I found them at the Rack and got to wear a boot brand I love at my wedding. If the retail price was closer to the Iron Rangers, I would say these are a must for Red Wing lovers. So if you see these for a deal, grab them! Or wait for Red Wing to (hopefully) lower the price.
The LVC 501
The 501 is Levi's most famous, sought after model. It was the original, the one that started it all. The fit that so many other brands recreate and mimic. True vintage 501s can go for a pretty penny and are the pair that thrifters, collectors, and denimheads around the world look to find in the 2nd hand stores.
LEVI'S® VINTAGE CLOTHING (LVC) is one of the brand's higher end lines that offers a taste of the company's historic past for those who don't want to spend hours going through old clothing racks or spend thousands of dollars. The 501 has gone through many variations throughout the years and has changed due to wars, lack of raw material, and the economy. Just as tough as the denim itself, the 501 has made it through it all!
The different 501 LVC models, excluding the 1947, are below:
*All Photos Above from Union Made
Levi's has even done "special edition" models for various anniversaries that are released on May 20th (called "501® Day" to commemorate the date of the 501 patent):
*All Photos Above from High Snobiety
All of these models and we are not even taking into account all of the other 501 models that Levi's has come out with! If you are looking to get a pair of 501s that are selvedge, and possibly raw, the LVC models are what the brand currently offers. Unfortunately, you have to be more diligent if you want a pair that is "Made in the USA" from this collection because like most Levi's jeans these days, most of them are imported. In my opinion, it is really is a shame for this 'heritage' line.
Initial Impressions of the 1947
The model I have is the Dark Wash and was comfortable right away. The fit is perfect and I got my usual size 32" waist. Regular rises seem to suit my frame better as well as slim straight fits. The inseam is also 32" which I thought I might need to get hemmed to around 29"-30" but the length is perfect on the 1947 501s for some double cuffing without appearing too obnoxious.
Don't get me wrong, these are a nice pair of jeans for those who want to feel like they are owning a piece of history (so to speak) and rock the brand and model that started it all. The fit is good, the fabric feels great, and the construction is solid. If the price point was lower, I would say that these are a very nice pair of jeans. However, since Levi's feels that their name is worth more money than the actual quality of their products, you are better off finding these second-hand or during a sale.
Jeans I Own that Replicate the 501 and are Very Well Crafted:
Companion Piece: (Some) Alternatives to Levi's Vintage Clothing 501s
About the Company
I had been checking out the Railcar Fine Goods jeans at Mildblend Supply Co. and came away impressed with the build quality and the fabric. When I was finally able to get a pair on my legs, they did not disappoint! The slub denim, even at 16.5 oz. (it seems to be available in 15 oz. weight as well at some retailers), was comfortable right away, before and after the initial soak. With raw denim being known to require a break in, this came as a pleasant surprise, especially at the higher end of the mid-weight category.
My Spikes X034 are a size 32" and has a standard inseam of 34" (32" on waist sizes 28" and 29") and mine are hemmed to 29.5" which seems to be just right (I am 5'9"). I am really impressed with the overall fit which not only looks great, but is as comfortable as sweatpants! With the top notch construction, I can see this pair of jeans ones that I will be wearing for along time!
Purchase the Spikes X034 16.5 oz. from Railcar Fine Goods
Purchase the Spikes X034 15 oz. from Context Clothing
About the Blacksmith Model
The Blacksmith is a fairly new model released by Red Wing Heritage and from what I have read, is meant to take the place of the much beloved Beckman. Both models are made on the popular No. 8 Last and are plain toe. One key difference is the Vibram 430 Mini-Lug on the Blacksmiths versus the Roccia Sole on the Beckman. The Beckman is known as more of a "dressy" boot while the Blacksmith is more for casual wear.
From the Red Wing Heritage Website:
Versatile and reliable, this style of shoe was originally used in farm fields and blacksmith workshops during the day before being cleaned and shined up for a night out on the town. The extra height of this 6-inch style, which would have protected feet and ankles from hot cinders at the forge, still keeps out snow in the winter and dirt in the summer, and its last-built construction keeps feet comfortable even after long hours of work.
Impressions After Two Months of Wear
I love this boot! It was love at first sight when I saw these at my local Red Wing Store. The employee told me they only had one pair... In my size! So I immediately got it (along with some Moc-Toe 3371s for the lady) and have been wearing them religiously for the past couple of months.
The main attraction to the 3345s was the tea-core leather. Tea-core leather is dyed twice. For the Black Prairie Leather, S.B. Foot Tanning Co. dyes the leather brown and then puts a layer of black dye on the top of the hide (I probably way oversimplified the process but you get the gist). As the leather ages, the black starts to wear away revealing the boots "true" color. The Beckman 9060s, which are made of Klondike Leather, are well known for this feature and are one of the more sought after Red Wing Heritage Boots. However, the model is uncommon in the States so I was thrilled to find a boot with similar characteristics in the Blacksmith 3345s. Having not handled the Klondike Leather in person, I cannot tell you the differences I see between that and the Black Prairie Leather. It seems, according to others, that the Klondike Leather has more of a shine and polished look compared to the Black Prairie.
Unlike my Iron Ranger 8085s, the Blacksmiths really did not have much of a break-in period. I found that to be odd as both models are built using the same last and have the same insole/midsole/steel shank/outsole combination. However, the "Smooth-Finished Leather"on the Blacksmith is much more supple than the 8085s' "Rough & Tough Oil-Tanned Leather" and conformed to my feet easily. Also, the backstay and counter of the Blacksmiths aren't reinforced with additional leather like the Iron Rangers and feature a nice, smooth cuff at the top. The result is a a boot that hugs the ankle nicely and, in my opinion, provides more stability and a better overall fit.
My 3345s (right) had no break-in period unlike my 8085s (left)
As it has only be a couple months and they have not be worn everyday, I cannot speak on the longevity of the boots. I can tell you that in snow and rain, the boots seems to hold up quite well and I have never had any dampness or moisture issues. The construction is top notch with the 270 degree Goodyear Welt and there have not been any stitching problems. The hardware is a dull brass color which is beautiful and I love the speed hooks! Honestly there is not much to complain about; they have even creased rather nicely! The shock absorption isn't the greatest but that could also be because I rotate these with Thorogoods which have amazing shock absorption, no break-in, and are basically built for comfort! Besides that little critique, I would say the Blacksmith is very near a perfect boot for me!
Great in Wet Conditions
Like all my Product Spotlights, I will be doing updates and the boots age. I am curious to see how these hold up compared to some of my other plain toe boots such as the Thorogood Beloits, and my Chippewa Service Boots. Only time will tell!
The 3345s can be purchased at your local Red Wing Store, on the Red Wing Heritage Website, and at boutique stores such as Franklin & Poe.
About the Beloit Model:
Here it is, the other pair I got from the Thorogood 1892 Collection: the Indigo Dyed CXL Beloit 814-9011s. After talking with Clint Greendeer over at Context Clothing (Interview with Clint on the Thorogood Janesville Product Spotlight) and about his favorite 1892 Boots, I had to get another pair! I was torn between the Beloits and the Tomahawk Lodan Green 814-7011s. What made me ultimately go with the Beloits was the indigo dyed Chromexcel Leather and the fact that the 6" service style boots just look better on me than taller models.
The Beloit Boots are inspired by the hardworking farmers at the turn of the 20th century, these handcrafted Beloit boots help today’s growers of art, technology, and manufacturing get the job done in style. Just like their Janesville Moc-Toe cousin, the boots are named after a small town in Wisconsin. According to Thorogood, the town of Beloit is known as "the Gateway to Wisconsin" and is the birthplace of the speedometer. The bit of history that goes along with the 1892 Collection is the cherry on top for me. I love heritage boots and the story behind them!
Beloits with Other Indigo Dyed Things: Corter Leather Passport Wallet, Pigeon Tree Crafting Quick Release Belt, & 3sixteen's ST-120x Jeans
Pigeon Tree Crafting Feature Page
Corter Leather Indigo Dyed Passport Wallet Product Spotlight
3sixteen St-120x Product Spotlight
Once you get the boots out of the box, admire the craftsmanship and beautiful leather, you will be presented with two styles of laces: leather and waxed cotton. Personally, leather laces make boots much tighter on my feet and break very easily, so I tossed those aside. The regular laces are just par-for-the-course for me; useable, but nothing special. Luckily, I have a bunch of Pisgah Range LTD Laces and found the Maroon pair to be the perfect contrasting mate for the boots.
Once getting them on my feet, they were quite comfortable. The Beloits use the same No. 60 last as my Janesville and the only difference between the two is that the Beloits were a bit tighter towards the front of of my feet at the beginning. However, after a couple of wears, the Chromexcel leather formed to my feet and I am able to spend all day in them. Hardly a tough break-in!
Inside the boot, you will find a pair of removable Thorogood insoles that the company provides in most, if not all, their models. The one issue I can see with the sole is more cosmetic as the Vibram heel is lighter in color than the black sole. Personally, I don't mind it but I understand why it would bother others.
Currently, the Beloits, and the rest of the 1892 Collection by Thorogood, are on sale at stores such as Context Clothing and Milworks. I read a rumor that the 1892 Line is going on hiatus in May because of Thorogood's new business partnership but I cannot confirm this statement first hand. Regardless, the sale won't last forever and these boots are already hard to find as it is!
The Thorogood 1892 Janesville Natural Nantucket Boots 814-3781: First Impressions: Featuring the Boot's Designer, Clint Greendeer!
About Thorogood and the Janesville Model:
Thorogood (Weinbrenner Shoe Company) has been making boots since 1892. The company was started, and still run to this day, in Wisconsin. It is employee owned and unionized, a rarity in today's fashion world! Thorogood's bestselling boots come from the American Heritage Moc-Toe Line. The 6" Moc-Toe Work Boots in Tobacco in particular are a favorite among Thorogood followers!
The Janesville Boot is a similarly designed moc-toe boot that is part of Thorogood's 1892 Collection. All of the boots in this series are named after towns in Wisconsin. The other boots from this line are pictured below:
*All Photos in the Above Gallery from Thorogood
Get to Know Clint Greendeer:
*Photos from Clint Greendeer
How did you get involved with Thorogood?
I (Clint) became familiar with Thorogood while working at Context Clothing. Ryan and Sam (of Context Clothing) met with Thorogood to discuss new styles for the 1892 Collection. They asked me what my ideal Thorogood boot would be, so I started to research vintage Thorogood‘s to gain inspiration. Ryan and Sam pitched Thorogood my concept of a new boot, and I’m honored that Thorogood put the Janesville in Natural Nantucket 814-3781 into production.
What about the moc-toe style do you love?
I love the workwear aesthetic, especially when pairing Moc-Toe style boots with selvedge denim.
Why go with the natural, vegetable tanned leather? What about it drew you to it over other leathers?
I went with natural leather because of the high contrast patina it develops. It’s cool to see how the light leather gets darker over time and with more wear.
What first got you into vintage items and heritage clothing?
Levi’s 501 denim was my first calling to heritage clothing. The 501 Jean is a versatile garment that has been worn by many people in so many ways. I like the approach of soaking a pair of unsanforized 501’s then breaking them in. The 501s are very versatile! I believe that adds to the non-verbal expression of how we decide to dress ourselves.
What cleaning/conditioning/polishing products do you recommend you use with the 814-3781s?
I recommend a horsehair brush on them every 2-3 wears. When it comes time for boot care, apply Obenauf’s LP evenly on the boot. I like to add Obenauf’s to the leather laces so they become more flexible and it holds the knot better.
I had been looking into getting a pair of moc-toe boots for sometime now. However, the overall boot style made me worry that a pair would like like clown shoes on my feet. I had even tried on competitors' boots and were still unsure. What struck me first about these boots is the beautiful, Natural Nantucket Leather. It was hard to find much information about this type of leather. The other Janesville models are made from Horween's famous Chromexcel Leather, a favorite among boot makers and collectors. The Natural Nantucket is different though and can best be described by Mitchell Leather in the video below:
I love a good patina and the idea of wearing these boots and watching them slowly get a rich, dark brown is something I am very excited about! So I decided that I would try out the moc-toe style and got the Janesville Natural Nantucket- 814-3781.
The Janesville is more simplistic in terms of design compared to their Thorogood Moc-Toe brethren; less stitching and branding, no steel toe etc... While the Heritage Line boots are made for manual labor, the 1892 Collection is more fashion focused. That doesn't mean that the 1892 boots aren't meant to get beat up, no, they are tough! However, I believe these would not pass many regulations for footwear in different industries compared to the Heritage Boots.
That being said these boots hold up well in less than ideal conditions. I trudged them through a muddy hill (which was a bad idea for those pretty white soles) about a week after I got them and they held up (And held me up!) well (although they got really dirty). The ground has been very wet because of constant rain and melting snow. I have had no problems with water getting into the boot. In fact, I ran them once under the faucet after the trip through the mud and not one drop got in. Just working for that patina!
Quality is Top Notch!
In terms of quality of construction, the boot is very well made. The Storm Welt is perfect and the upper is stitched to perfection. There were one or two loose threads (which I have read can be a problem with some Thorogood Boots), however, nothing alarming that will effect the everyday wear of the boots. I feel people tend to nitpick over the smallest details and forget that products such as these boots are handmade. Minor cosmetic flaws that are barely visible cause me no concern and makes the pair I own unique to me.
I prefer the slimmer profile of the Janesville compared to Thorogood's Heritage moc-toe models. Like Clint, I think they look great with selvedge denim (if you couldn't tell from the pictures). Getting to know the man behind this particular design, and the fact that Thorogood is a company that's located one state north of me, puts a stamp of 'authentic heritage' on these boots for me. I not only own a product from a brand with a rich American history, I also got to put a face to the person who had a hand in the product's creation!
I will post updates as these boots continue to patina and get beat up! Special thanks to Clint Greendeer for taking his time to answer questions for this Product Spotlight!
Additional Links and Information
Purchase the Janesville Natural Nantucket 814-3781 from Context Clothing
Address: 113 King St.Madison, WI 53703
All My Heritage Boots Have American Made Pisgah Range LTD Laces! Check Out Pisgah Range LTD Laces Feature Page
The Best Belt Pair: Janesville With a Carmine Jack Leather Natural Oak Tan Belt
The Thorogood 1892 Collection Look Boot (Download the PDF Below the Slideshow):
My pair of Kasuri Selvedge was a great Christmas gift from my soon-to-be bride. What makes this pair of raw denim unique is the dyeing method: Kasuri. Kasuri is a traditional Japanese method for dyeing cloth in order to make patterns. The patterns form because certain threads are bound before the dyeing process so the indigo has a harder time staying on the cloth. This process is repeated until the desired pattern is formed. I would recommend clicking the above link to learn more about this interesting Japanese dyeing method. It really is quite fascinating!
The thread used is more of a passive gold which is a nice contrast to the shades of blue, black, and white of the denim itself. All of the hardware is branded with Naked & Famous and they decided to go with a black leather (although I have seen it listed as blue) patch branded with their usual logo. The overall fit is Naked & Famous's Weird Guy which, according to their website, is the most popular and is a "standard" cut. In regards to the sewing of the inseam, it seems to be a flat-fell seam which will have pretty good fraying resistance.
I have only worn the pair of handful of times but it looks like the much sought after honeycomb fades will be look as good as the best of them. There was no break in period for the jeans as they are of a lighter weight. I plan on wearing them as my main summer pair and am really looking forward to seeing their evolution after the hot weather ends!
The Indigo Dyed Travel Wallet made by Corter Leather & Cloth was the passport holder I was looking for! For starters, I, as you probably know, love denim so any product with "indigo" in the description automatically grabs my attention.
The Travel Wallet is part of Corter's 2016 Special Edition Indigo Collection; which also includes indigo dyed Bifold, Mechanic's, Standard Card, & Standard Card Sleeve Wallets. The leather used for this collection is Latigo Leather that the company drum dyed themselves "to be reminiscent of freshly oxidized indigo." Corter also states that the leather is "then hot stuffed by hand with waxes and oils to be soft and ready to use. It will age darker over time, burnishing in spots of high wear and developing a deep blue patina."
Upon receiving my Travel Wallet (On the same day my passport came haha!), I was able to feel how soft the leather is. Not only does the leather feel great, it looks beautiful as well (just look at any of the pictures)! As for the overall quality, it is top notch. The majority of the wallet is perfectly saddle stitched twice (which means it was done entirely by hand, no machines) with matching indigo thread. The result is a stronger, more sturdy leathercraft product than if the wallet was made with a machine.
The split ring is another reason I chose the Travel Wallet as I was able to hook it to a key fob and attach it securely to my belt while keeping it in my front pocket on my trip to Italy. Unnecessary? Probably, but hey, I had peace of mind!
The Travel Wallet has aged quite nicely. The edges in particular are developing a nice, dark patina. The places where the dye soaked in the leather more are starting to stand out, making the wallet more personal and unique to me. The quality of the leather and overall construction will most likely lead to this wallet being the only passport holder I'll need in my lifetime! I hope to "travel" with the Corter Leather & Cloth Indigo Dyed Travel Wallet many more times!
The Dakota Leather Satchel Bag has been on many adventures with me and it has held up very well. The bag is made by Portland Leather Goods based out of, you guessed it, Portland, Oregon.
The design of the bag is simple: brass hardware with a magnetic snap closure, a lengthly shoulder/crossbody strap, an inside pocket... There really is not that much else to it! Size wise, the bag is 11" x 9" x 2" and the largest items it can hold for me (at the same time) is my Amazon Tablet (10.3" x 6.3") and my Swell Water Bottle (11.9" tall). The flap is long enough to make up for taller products, such as my water bottle, and will still close securely.
So good hardware? Check. Quality construction? Check. Practical, yet aesthetically pleasing design? Check. But how is the leather? Portland Leather uses oil-tanned, full grain leather that is conditioned to be water repellent. It is recommended by the company that you do not condition the bag for at least six months and that you let the bag get scratched and scuffed without worry. The result is a beautiful patina developed over time.
My one critique of the bag would be to possibly have a different closing mechanism as it is really simple for someone to open the satchel and grab your personal belongings. The magnet makes it very easy to quickly get into but personally, I'd rather have it be more secure. I sometimes wear my satchel across my body and in front, not on my side, so I can better keep an eye on it. This bag definitely isn't for carrying around top secret information and very valuable items (I probably shouldn't have put the engagement ring in there).
The satchel is currently available in another leather as well: Grizzly (darker leather). It is a perfect everyday bag for your everyday carries. While it is under their "Women" section, this bag is great for anyone looking for something unique, yet purposeful. It will come on many more adventures with me and hopefully last me a lifetime!
Plenty of Room for Personal Items
Hardware & Stitching Holding Strong While the Leather Develops a Nice Patina
Chicago isn't known for having the best selection of brick and mortar stores that cater to people who are into quality clothing and goods. If you live in the suburbs, most likely you have to make a day trip into the downtown area to find a boutique or specialty store. One such store in Chicago is Mildblend, a place that sells raw denim, well-made boots, and other quality items.
Mildblend has a great atmosphere and very friendly staff. At the time, I was really having trouble finding raw denim jeans that fit my frame. I wanted a slim fit, but not too skinny that my legs didn't get any oxygen either. It was overwhelming at first looking at their selection. Luckily, one of their employees assisted me on finding the perfect pair.
After trying on about five pairs, I decided on the ST-120x by 3sixteen model because of the fit, design, and overall look. Listed below are some of the jean's specifications:
The fabric is probably my favorite denim out there! 3sixteen describes it as "indigo warp and black weft threads." The jeans are definitely dark in color and could be seen as black, not indigo, in certain lighting. That's one of the reasons I love jeans!
With such a dark color and no fades, I was easily able to dress the jeans up. Church? Jeans. Work? Jeans. Wedding? No, just kidding on that one. Regardless of if I should have worn them to a wedding or not, the 3sixteen's look great as part of almost any outfit!
The one con of the Shadow Selvedge is that it attracts dog hair like non other. My lint roller as been the jean's best friend! Yes, the sticky sheets do remove some indigo, but definitely not enough to effect fading.
Since getting my ST-120x jeans, I have worn them constantly for the last seven months. They have been on many adventures: Rome, got engaged in them, worn them during presentations, taught classes in them... Yes, I have definitely gotten my money's worth with this pair!
Check out the close up of the ST-120x Jeans below:
ST-120x After Seven Months of Constant Wear & Two Washes