Want to learn more about Urban Shepherd Boots? Check Out Their Feature Page!
There is something tricky when purchasing a pair of Urban Shepherd Boots, even more so than other brands: sizing. Before getting the Country Boots, I got a hold of others who had a pair of Urban Shepherds already to inquire about how they determined which size was right for them. Usually I am a size 9 in boots and a 9.5 true-to-size, so I was fairly certain that a 9 would probably be the way to go. But I am glad I asked around! After many discussions with other customers, I had a variety of answers: "stay true-to-size, go with your Red Wing size, size up two sizes"... Quite confusing to say the least! I finally went with my standard 9 boot size.
Thankfully, getting the sizing right is the only real issue I have with my Country Boots. I love the red stitching (very well done) as it is quite attractive and unique. As a bonus, the threading is also waxed down to help keep loose threads at a minimum, something I have noticed to be an issue for some other boot brands at this price point. The anti-rust brass hardware is a personal favorite for me over nickel and the inclusion of cream, tan, and red laces makes it fun to try out different color combinations. I was thinking about getting some Pisgah Range LTD laces as I like to do the wrap-around-the-ankle look but the eyelets are a tad to small for regular boot laces. No matter, as the included laces are of really good quality (something that I cannot say about many other boots).
As for use, these have become my favorite boots at the moment. My love for natural leather boots has had me doing a heavy rotation of these, my John Doe Russet Horsehide Boots, and my Natural Chromexcel Delaware Boots by Parkhurst Brand. The Country Boots in particular are my go to in nasty weather as rain and moisture run right off of it. Scratches and scuffs easily buff out of the waxed leather and the more I wear them, the unique character of the boots begin to come alive. It is not an even patina, certain spots darken quicker (unlike my John Doe Shoe Boots that have been darkening fairly evenly) where there has been pressure, particularly around the vamp and tongue. The heel counter is another spot where the leather has started to darkened. For me, this characteristic of the leather can tell quite a story after many wears. Which is one of the reasons I have really gotten into natural leather.
A polarizing opinion about these boots will be the design. The cap toe has almost a trapezoid like shape and is quite short compared to my Red Wing Iron Rangers. Although not as bulbous, it is certainly not a dress boot. That might be off putting to some people and that's okay, one of the reasons I really love these boots is that they are quite unique. When most brands seem to be heading for that sleeker toe cap, hybrid dress/work boot style, Urban Shepherd Boots stay true to their roots and produce heirloom footwear that pays homage to the Portuguese workers and farmers. I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings for both these boots, and the brand.
I recently reviewed the Levi's Vintage Clothing 1947 501s and stated that, while a good pair of jeans, the quality does not match the price ($240-$285). It seems much of the cost can be found in the Levi's brand name alone. Since the 501 is considered the standard for jeans, many companies have been reproducing (raw and selvedge) models that represent their take on the iconic denim garment. None of the brands listed below are as well known like Levi's. However, they do have their own "interpretation" model of jeans that is both well-made and ethically sourced.
*I obviously can't list every single jean out there so I tried to do a good mix in terms of price, place of manufacturing, and size of brands
Raw, Indigo Selvedge Denim
Slim/.Tapered Straight Fit
Minimalist, 5 Pocket Design
Akka Denim's Selvedge Straight Jeans- $105
Made in Asia
*All Photos from Akka Denim
Bluer Denim's M10S Classic Straight Jeans-$145
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Bluer Denim
Brave Star Selvage's Blue Collar Jeans-$88
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Brave Star Selvage
Dark California's Regular Straight Jeans-$199
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Dark California
Freenote Cloth's Trabuco Classic Straight Jeans-$230
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Freenote Cloth
Kerbside & Co's Kennedy Jeans- Currently Sold Out
Made in Singapore
Naked & Famous Denim's Left Hand Twill Jeans-$145
Made in Canada
*All Photos from Tate and Yoko
Rag & Bone's Fit 3 in Indigo Raw-$225
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Rag & Bone
Railcar Fine Good's X001 Jeans-$220
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Railcar Fine Goods
Raleigh Denim's Jones Original Jeans-$315
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Raleigh Denim Workshop
Red Cloud Overall's Lot R423-47-$240
Made in China
*All Photos from Red Cloud Overalls
Rogue Territory Stanton Tinted Weft-$230.00
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Rivet & Hide
Sage Denim's Rover Jeans-$52
Made in Indonesia
*All Photos from Sage Denim
Stevenson Overall Co's 714 Valencia Jeans-$325
Made in Japan
Sugar Cane Denim's '1947' Jeans- $199
Made in Japan
The Strike Gold's 1105 Jeans- $315
Made in Japan
Tellason's John Graham Mellor Jeans-$230
Made in the USA
*All Photos from Tellason
The Unbranded Brand UB301 Jeans-$88
Made in Macau
*All Photos from the Unbranded Brand
Warehouse & Co's Lot 1001xx Jeans- $270
Made in Japan
*All Photos from Clutch Cafe
Want to learn more about John Doe Shoes? Check out their Feature Page!
I had been eyeing these particular boots for sometime. The fact that Russet Horsehide Leather Boots are not made by any other company (that I know of) and John Doe's own description of the leather peaked my interest. If Horween themselves advised against using this leather to make boots, then why did John Doe Shoes do it and what are the benefits?
Despite wearing these everyday for the past week and a half, the boots have just started developing creases at the flex point! However, they have become more comfortable (or I have just gotten use to the pain haha) and the only sore spot is on my right heel. The 420 Last has a squared off shaft at the counter which makes for a somewhat weird fit around the ankles.
The counter is the only place I found quality control issues as both are stitched unevenly and at a slight angle. They match though and considering how hard this leather is to work with it doesn't really bother me (my jeans cover them anyways when wearing them). I did have a speed-hook fall off but that was more my fault as I caught it on the edge of a table. Hey, it happens. Both of these issues are cosmetic and do not effect the durability. In my opinion, that is more important.
These boots will last a long time and they will keep evolving. I have really gotten into natural, undyed leather boots lately as they have the most patina potential. These Russet Horsehide Boots from John Doe Shoes are no exception. The unique grain patterns on the leather pop out the more I wear them which is something I just don't see on my cowhide boots. As this pair breaks in, the leather will to start to show even more character and darken. I think that is what I am most excited about: the great stories these boots will tell for me over the years.
AKASHI-KAMA Carmine Wave Noragi Jacket *Photo from AKASHI-KAMA
Check out the AKASHI-KAMA Feature Page to learn more about the brand!
The Noragi Jacket is rooted in Japanese history as a garment that was mostly worn by the lower class. Its overall design helped it to be a long lasting garment due to being made with the Sashiko hand-sewing technique. Nowadays, like many of its workwear brethren of years past, the Noragi Jacket has transitioned to being a fashion piece in today's society.
The Noragi Jacket can be an everyday wear if you so choose. I have been throwing it on each morning as the weather here in the Midwest has been in the 50's and 60's. It is not as heavy as the lightest sweatshirt out there and can be easily taken on and off. The jacket is also comfortable enough to be worn inside on a lazy day and can be a fashion statement when you go out for casual occasions.
Wearing this piece in public is a great conversation starter. If AKASHI-KAMA wants to tell the Asian-American story, they certainly succeeded. In the short time I have worn this garment, I have had conversations with several people regarding it; including what the symbols stand for, where I bought it, and what my own personal knowledge of Japan is. I started thinking about how clothing used to be more expressive and fashion seen more as an art form instead of the money hungry industry it has become today. I think AKASHI-KAMA is one of those new brands that see those two factors as a reason for starting their company and will help push society back to that mindset.
Buy the Carmine Wave Noragi Jacket Here
Check Out AKASI-KAMA's other Noragi Jacket Designs Here
AKASI-KAMA's Feature Page
I have been carrying around the Brogued Rover II Wallet (in Antique Brown) daily for a little over a month now and it is a tank! On some of my other wallets, the card slots stretch out within a week or two; this thing is still loosening up! There is no need to worry about anything falling out of this puppy. It is designed to hold up to 8 cards and some cash. As of right now, I have 5 cards in there that fit nice and snug.
I will do a 6 month product update on this wallet and I have a feeling it will be performing just as well and possibly look even better after a little aging! A perfect EDC companion.
The Brogued Rover II Wallet is Available in Three Color Choices:
If you are wondering what that symbol is in the middle of the valet tray, it is called the "Irish Claddagh", which is commonly used on rings. The two hands symbolize friendship, the heart stands for love, and the crown means loyalty. To learn more about the significance of this symbol and why it is used on rings click here.
The valet tray is made out of full grain, crazy horse leather with the Irish Claddagh symbol being engraved on a natural piece of vegetable tanned leather that should patina nicely overtime. The vegetable tanned leather square is sewn and riveted to the bottom of the tray so no need to worry about it falling off. .
The measurements of the tray are an approx. 8" wide and 1.25" deep, giving you plenty of room. A neat feature is that the hardware can be easily unsnapped if you want to travel with it. The hardware comes in your choice of antique brass or pewter and "Blackthorn Leather" is engraved on one of the sides of the crazy horse leather.
Andy has put his unique spin on the leather valet tray and right now as many different patterns and symbols available. Check out some of them below!
6 MONTH PRODUCT UPDATE (& DISCOUNT CODE): the Carmine Jack Leather Natural Oak Bark Tanned Leather Belt
SPECIAL NATURAL OAK BARK LEATHER BELT SALE!
I did a previous post on the "wonders" of oak bark leather so I won't go into that here. To sum oak bark leather: it's beautiful, sturdy, and smells likes an old barbecue smoke house ( in a good way, haha). The Natural Oak Bark Tanned Belt I received from Carmine Jack Leather Company (Feature Page here) is no exception!
Ryan, the founder of CJL, was nice enough to do a custom belt for me complete with a brass quick release, firefighter buckle. The belt has easily become my favorite, and most used belt, in my collection. For one, it holds my wallet lanyard hook perfectly (it usually just loosely hangs on most of my other belts) thanks to it being so thick. Secondly, the leather can really take a beating and of course, that patina!
From the pictures above, you can see what the leather has become over the last six months. It has been through storms (the very dark markings), cooking accidents (oops), and nicks and scratches from clumsy mishaps that always seem to happen. Like the time I got locked in the bathroom at my old job... Yep, I was wearing this oak bark belt!
Through it all, the oak bark leather has maintained its original, smokey smell and formed to my waist very well. Some belt flaps start to stick straight out after lots of wear and the holes become damaged which has led to a rise in gimmick belts like these that are usually made out of cheap, "genuine" leather.
Well not this belt! If anything, you want an oak bark belt to soften up because it is very stiff at the beginning. Yes, it requires a "break-in" period (just like good boots and denim) but once it has formed to you, it will be your best fitting, strongest belt. Need to hold up some 32 oz. denim? No problem, this belt has got your back (I mean, waist)!
Unfortunately, oak bark tanned leather goods are hard to come by in the States and CJL is one of the few crafters who uses it here. While the initial upfront cost of the belt is steep, it will save you tons of money because it will just get better with age. Seeing it change over the past few months has been an enjoyable experience and I can't wait to see what the next six months brings for it!
Favorite Boot Pairing: with the Thorogood 1892 Natural Nantucket Janesville
I think my StoneGrain Leather Field Journal is one of my favorite leather goods. Originally going to be a keepsake holder for paper stubs and receipts from adventures, it has become a full-blown, write anything and everything down notebook! What do I write about? Well, that's personal. Get your own Field Journal!
Beauty in the details
The leather on these journal has been aging beautifully and every nick and scratch adds character. I have fallen in love with the Speckletone Oatmeal Paper in terms of texture and style. I was a little concerned when first getting the journal with the lack of lines on the pages (I can't write straight without major assistance!) but I love how my pen glides over the coarse texture. Each page is unique not only in what I write, but in how the paper looks as each sheet has little "flecks" that make it different from the one opposite it. Another bonus is that the paper is so soft and the edges unfinished that there is no way to get a paper cut!
I sometimes take it along on my adventures, putting it into my Portland Leather Satchel (that is pairs with perfectly), and getting it out when I need to write something down. It is remarkable how the handwritten word assists me with memory these days! I need any help I can get remembering every detail about the wedding to assist my fiancé!
The Field Journal in Rome and in the Snow
In addition to my own Field Journal, my fiancé has a StoneGrain Leather Sketchbook and my soon-to-be nephew has one as well. What is awesome about my nephew's book is that McCord customized it with a Batman Branding (see below)!
This key fob has aged beautifully! I am so glad I went with the Natural Leather color choice because it has the most patina potential! The construction has held up very well and it has been through some adventures: Italy, hiking through snow, moving... The only care the fob has received has been two separate applications of Blackthorn's Leather Balm for conditioning and water resistance purposes. The brass hardware was an excellent choice and I have had no problems with rusting or the button unsnapping from my belt. The key clip has held my keys, or whatever else I have hung there, without issue. I am glad that Andy did not go with cheap hardware because that is where most fobs seem to fail. The leather can be the best in the world but if it is paired with poor metal it is pretty much useless afterawhile.
In about six months, the leather has darkened and has taken on indigo from my raw denim jeans. While it has gotten more supple and soft, it has not lost any strength and is still as tough as ever. The well burnished edges have not produced any fraying issues and if it wasn't for the patina, you'd probably think I never used this thing!
With many store bought key fobs, the leather (or leather substitute) seems to disintegrate and tear, most likely while you're out and about, and just like that your keys are lost! Not so with my Blackthorn Leather Key Fob. It has been a staple in my EDC and will probably be for a long time.
It seems everyone has their own method of cleaning, conditioning, and polishing their boots. There are a slew of products out there and each boot company seems to have their own opinion (along with pushing their own cleaning goods) on how to treat their leather shoes.
Personally, I like to keep it simple. The method that I use, with variations, seems to be doing just fine for my boots and does not take a long time. I wanted to keep the cost down as well and not having to own so many different products. Without certainty I can say that this way is not the best because I am in no way a professional leather crafter or cobbler. I encourage everyone to do their research and in the end come up with what they think is best for their shoes.
Red Wing Iron Ranger 8085s Before & After Cleaning and Conditioning
John Doe Shoes Natural Chromexcel Boots Before & After Cleaning and Conditioning
Why these Products?
I use Saphir products, which are well known in the dress shoe world as the "premier" shoe care product manufacturer, because of how well they provide nourishment to the leather. My main concern with boots is that the leather dries out and cracks. Having a shiny boot with no scratches, creases, or scuffs is not my priority as I like to beat them up so I don't use polish. I finish up with the leather balm because of the natural beeswax in it that provides waterproofing. Also, most leather balms are all natural, provide the leather with nutrients, and add a little extra conditioning. I have tried using just leather balm, which would be ideal, but the ingredients from the Saphir products really seem to moisturize the leather more.
This method does initially darken the leather but the color slowly returns to normal with wear. The developing patina stays put as well as some of the scratches and marks. If you prefer a more formal look and want to get the imperfections out than this method is not for you. I do not use cleaner, such as saddle soap, when wiping down my boots because the ingredients in some of those products can dry out leather, which is the opposite of why I do this method in the first place!
Always remember to use shoe trees between wears!
I recently got a pair of slightly used Iron Rangers 8111s with the original cork soles. After wearing each for a bit I have noticed some differences in the two boots. The two major ones between these two Iron Rangers is the leathers used and the soles. Those two aspects of the boots will be the main focus of this article.
8085: Copper Rough & Tough Leather
8111: Amber Harness Leather
Both of these leathers are oil tanned at Red Wing's own tannery; S.B. Foot Tanning Company. My understanding of the oil tanning process is that it is similar to chrome tanning but with an extra step of applying oils and waxes that help the leather stay strong and be more water resistant. The tannery itself is located in Red Wing, Minnesota so quality control for the company is top notch as they are right next door.
Personally, I enjoy the Copper Rough & Tough Leather more. It has more character in that the color changes with each scuff and scratch. The patina potential for this boot is great! If you go on r/RedWingShoes you can usually find a post or two showing the aging progression of a person's Red Wing Boots in Rough & Tough Leather. Each person seems to have developed their own unique pair of boots. The Amber Harness seems to have similar characteristics to Chromexcel, albeit without as much color differential. By no means is it a bad leather and has its own pros.
One pro is that it seems to be more flexible than its Rough & Tough brethren. Additionally, the Harness Leather of the 8111s seem to adapt more to a person's ankle making the reinforced heel and backstay more comfortable after being broken in. As you can see below, the opening of the 8111s is smaller than that of the 8085s which results in the boot hugging your ankle more. That to me is more comfortable and provides more flexibility.
When you move down from the ankle, the Harness Leather is tighter around the balls of my feet as well as the bridges. This aspect is a double edge sword as the boots feels snug at first but over the coarse of the day gets to be a bit much. By no means is it overbearing, just a contrasting difference than the 8085s which seem to fit my feet in a more comfortable way and stay that way.
Running your hand over the leather, the Amber Harness feels smooth and waxy. On the other hand (pun intended), the Rough & Tough Leather has a, well, rough feeling. Neither one is "better," although according to what I have read, the 8085s' leather needs less overall care than the 8111s. Red Wing has made two videos (below) that help explain how to take care of each type of leather.
8085s: Vibram Mini Lug Rubber Sole
8111s: Cork/Nitrile Sole
The original cork sole on the Iron Rangers were used back in the day due to its ability to combat slippage and wear resistance. Cork is also pretty lightweight compared to many other kinds of soles and also allows for a boot to maintain a sleek silhouette much like that of more traditional leather soles.
The new Vibram rubber sole that was introduced to the Iron Rangers recently the majority of people seem to prefer because of its ability to provide more traction than a cork or leather sole.
From what I have read, the mini lug sole is something that many Red Wing diehards have been asking for. J. Crew offered a half rubber sole Iron Ranger Model and Brooks Brothers had their own model with a fully lugged Vibram Sole. However, the Red Wing Heritage line itself continued to make Rangers with a nitrile/cork sole for a long time, probably because it stays true to the origins of the boot.
After testing both soles in the frigid winter conditions of Chicago, including snow, ice, and an"Antarctica level" polar vortex, I can agree with the majority on the mini lugs making a difference in terms of helping a person keep their balance on slick surfaces. On icy surfaces, the mini lugs helped, but with either pair I was stepping cautiously regardless and didn't fall. When tracking through about eight inches or so of densely packed snow, it really didn't seem to matter if I was wearing the 8111s or the 8085s. I believe the main difference will be seen in the spring time (assuming that comes) and it starts to rain more. That is where the mini lug will outshine the cork sole by leaps and bounds in my opinion.
In terms of aesthetics, I can really not see much difference and the Vibram sole does not take away from the look of the Rangers. Weight wise, the 8085s maybe a tad heavier but it is very minimal. The cork sole does flex a bit more compared to its counterpart and the shock absorption seems better as well. Again, both of those differences are very miniscule and hardly noticeable.
In the end, I would choose the Vibram mini-lug on the 8085s because of the little extra grip they do provide. I am not totally opposed to the cork/nitrile mix however and find it to be much more weather resistant than a standard leather sole. Although, cork is not my ideal choice as I plan on swapping out the 8111s original sole for a rubber one when it needs a resole. Red Wing might want to continue to offer cork soles for those who want the traditional model, especially if they live in dryer climates.