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squirrel time, again

6 Oct

 

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This marks the 3rd recurrence of my presence here in Vermont during the Summer to Fall transition. The first time, I just didn’t know what I was looking at. The seasons shift with a special kind of wanton subtlety. The natural forces of this state want you to be shocked on that first cold morning, to be caught outside with a light jacket at night. Oh, but now I know better

Vermont really is most lovely in the fall. Summer starts to creep away, and things coalesce into this state of grace on the spectral level. Everything just suddenly feels right. This in and of itself, is yet another natural bait and switch; the second you’ve gotten used to the crisp days and chill nights, you find yourself under 3 feet of snow, in a dead wind-blasted wasteland. Not to put a bitter edge on it or anything.

Here is a series of  personal distractions in biographical order-

Music

New sunglasses- Persol PO 3046S

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This video featuring Kalpesh Lathigra’s recent shoot of the RRL w2013 line for Port magazine

Getting the fall boots ready

Rider Cordovan and LL Bean Shearling Ducks– Also known as the Vermont Fall to Winter 2 step.

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I think it’s hot cider time.

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Heinrich Dinkelacker and THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXPENSIVE AND VALUABLE

19 Apr

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I’m really into sturdy shoes. I think thin soles and fine leather on shoes have their place, but nothing beats a crazily built-up cordovan wingtip. These types of bullet-proof foot coverings can be referred to as gunboats. Gunboat as a phrase was popularized in the 1920s to describe both cars and feet that were over-sized or especially ungainly. This carried over to shoes in the 30’s in Dashiell Hammett style prose, and has stuck with aficionados of well built shoes since.

One shoe maker of this classic style that few people know of here in the US is the German based Budapest made organization Heinrich Dinkelacker. From their site-

“At Heinrich Dinkelacker the production of sewn-welted men’s shoes lies in the experienced hands of 40 specialized shoemakers who have learnt their trade from scratch. Every one of these experienced craftsmen has particular expertise in 2-3 working steps. Without an assembly line or constant pressure to increase efficiency, each employee creates one pair of premium shoes per day. And each pair undergoes 300 manufacturing steps – from the cutting down to the finish.”

Dinkelacker has been making classic “Budapester” styled brogue shoes for over 50 years in the classic 100 year-old tradition first made popular in Hungary’s capitol city.

Check out some of their 2013 collection below.

Luzern

london full brogue

 

London Captoe

 

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The theme of quality is a dear one on this blog, as you may have noticed. There is a marked difference between expensive and valuable, as as a core principal at Dinkelacker, their work speaks for itself.

These shoes make me wish I was walking along the Danube. Then again, most things make me wish I was walking along the Danube.

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Season of mud

7 Apr

Here in the maple state, winter gives way in bitter, grudging starts. We do not have a large melt-off revealing cushions of newly sprouted green, oh no. Vermont sheds its snow to reveal wet dirt where once-green fields existed. Mud season, I hate you. Mud season extends for several weeks, while the snow slacks and the sun comes back in time for maple sugaring ragnarok. The namesake of mud season is not just moistened dirt, but rather a hateful slurry composed of honest soil, and the salty grit that state plows use as they de-ice highways all winter to make them navigable. This brine-mud is actually designed to destroy shoes, working its way into cracks in leather and eating away at them. Solution? Cordovan. As previously mentioned, cordovan with it’s natural resiliency and chemical resistance (as an original working man’s material, it comes as no surprise) stands up to crappy conditions, to rise above them, and still take a good shine.

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Once considered a material not fit for dress shoes, modern cordovan shoes are often considerably more expensive than their calf skin siblings. But goddamn, are they worth it.

Time to break out the Aldens for spring.

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Bean boots, also Vermonters make fun of me

16 May

I’ve mentioned Obenauf’s leather treatment in a previous post- A combination of tree resins and bees wax (also possibly the blood of Christ, considering its resurrecting properties). I found these 10 eyelet LL Bean hunting boots in a thrift. They’ve obviously been in storage for a while; the leather uppers are bone dry. The boot on the left has had about 4 coats of Obenauf’s, and is ready to be stored  in a tiny cabin in Vermont for the next few seasons. Here’s a tip- although you can buy cedar boot trees for 60 some odd dollars, a rolled up fashion magazine will keep a boot in shape for storage- just make sure not to take the ones from the “keep” pile.

The thing about these boots; they represent my need to create a psychic ecotone between the arid desert of my youth, and the seasonally shifting hills of Vermont where my wife wants to one day live. I know nothing about the cold. Cold to me is 55 degrees. Christmas in my home town is in the high 70s most years.

Its also a cultural issue. Vermonters build things, fix things, make things better. I like to buy things that snap together, and have cheery instruction booklets that make me feel handy.

My father in law is not a native Vermonter, but he is very much a naturalized one. My wife and I once showed up in a rental car with a scratch on the bumper (came that way). He took one look at this scratch, said “I have that color”, and touched up the paint job, followed by a jaunty wash, wax, and buff. Just thinking about that much attention to detail makes me tired.

I once walked into this mans kitchen, showing off a new pair of jeans I had just bought. He walked in after me, appraised my pants, and said;

“What’s with the cheap hotel pants?”

“Cheap hotel pants?” I reply.

“Yeah, no ballroom.” he says. I expected a little guy on a symbol set behind me to do a rim-shot.

He’s not the only one that can smell the California on me. Right before my wedding, a couple of locals guys on their way to get in some seasonal bow hunting tried to convince me that local black bears make the same small whistling hoot as a barred owl, but only when they’re really hungry. If I’m one day mauled to death because I don’t believe this, I guess the joke will be on me.

Well, I have the boots, at least. Maybe I can fit in from the knees down.

 

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cordovan- also shoes, evolutionary defense, and run-on sentences

3 May

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a shoe problem. I have upwards of 20 pairs, though in my defense, the majority were purchased second hand and brought back to life. I’m hard on shoes; I stomp around, I scuff them, I dig large holes in the garden and then leave them sitting in dried mud for days on end.

I’ve found that with your typical leathers, this rough treatment eventually ruins the shoe. I’ve had good results with Obenaufs leather treatment. Obenaufs is basically a combination of bees wax and tree resins (and smells amazing-I’m considering using it as a personal grooming substance, though it may attract bees). I’ve seen this stuff bring leather back to life, and keep it that way. Although, it will make any shoe you treat with it almost impossible to properly shine afterwards.

This was the state of hectic shoe destruction I found myself in when I came across cordovan. Cordovan is a color, kind of a deep burgundy; while shell cordovan is a specific leather made from a very small area of horse hide. This area, known as the shell, is the ovoid, hyper dense, membranous fascia between the skin and the muscle on a horse rump. Hoofed herbivorous mammals were in constant danger from large predators during their evolution. When you find yourself running away from a large sabertoothed-something-or-other, it would evolutionarily behoove you to have a well reinforced bum (Claw Proof Ass is my new punk band) – great for avoiding summary devouring by a group of lions, but evolution obviously didn’t take heritage-workwear obsessed male fashion bloggers into consideration. I should have a silent moment of thanks to this little guy for evolving into something both delicious, and hard to catch, every time I shop for shoes.

Because of its inherent density, shell is basically waterproof and scuff-proof. Similar to the normal leather tanning process, but even more so, nearly all the moisture in the shell is replaced with oil via a long term boiling process. So in circumstances that would cause most leathers to crack and fall apart, shell is protected with the ungodly amount of fat it contains. Shell cordovan, in short, is great for hard-wearing shoes. Sure, it doesn’t shine as well as actual leathers (unless one owns the shinbone of a deer), but it lasts profoundly longer. Check out this omphaloskepsis inducing video from the last remaining American producer of shell cordovan, Horween leather.

Most shoes in thrift stores are considerably older and considerably more worn than most, and shells are no exception- but with shell, looks can deceive. I recently found a dusty pair of cordovan longwing brogues, made by Florsheim  (even in those days, they were still manufacturing with quality), in a church basement thrift for 5 bucks. The shoes are probably 30 years old. If they weren’t made of shell cordovan, they would be crumbled to nothing from all of the years of neglect. As they were, all I need to do is brush them vigorously for an hour or so, and they’ll start looking sharp again. While other leather dries out over time, shell exudes a layer of those protective waxy oils that the industry calls spew (lovely, I know); this makes the leather look like total crap to the uninitiated- something to be thrown away, when a little care and a trip to the cobbler can turn them back into lovely footwear. That’s what I decided to do with these longwings- I elected to have them completely resoled and conditioned by a local cobbler- here is the end result

My next objective: to thrift  a pair of vintage cordovan boots I can put to the acid test of daily wear and gardening. In an uncharacteristic fit of overspending, I recently bought myself the pair of Alden #8 cordovan boots shown at the beginning of the post, but they’re actually too nice to wear just yet, so I’ll resort to the thrill of thrift hunting to find a pair already partially beaten to hell.

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allen edmonds

29 Apr

This is a love letter of sorts. A love letter to a shoe company. Yes, I’m aware that this could be the symptom of some sort of yet undiagnosed social-psychological complex, but here it is.

I had an extremely worn out pair of Allen Edmonds Sanfords that were in desperate need of some attention. One of the AE selling points is recreaftability. Any shoe they make can be sent in, resoled, refinished, and made close to new again for a fairly low price. This can theoretically be done for as long as the upper lasts. I decided to give the service a try with my half-dead Sanfords. I packed them up, shipped them off, and promptly forgot about them for 3 weeks.

It struck me that I hadn’t heard anything about my shoes for quite a while, so I gave the recrafting dept a call. Spoke with a nice lady named Beth, who told me that my shoes had been sent to my house (my billing address) instead of my office (shipping address). She also said that if I hadn’t received them she could open a claim with UPS on my behalf. Dejected, I agreed. My shoes were definitely stolen. My house is on a busy thoroughfare, and we’ve had packages stolen before. UPS turned up nothing. I gave Beth at AE another call, and she graciously offered to replace the shoes with any similarly priced pair in stock on their website. This is actually the best customer service imaginable. Sure, it was their fault for using the wrong address, but most companies would have shifted the blame to the shipping service.

As a replacement I chose the above AE Strand model. I’ve been dressing a little too much like a 60 yearold man these days, these shoes don’t really alleviate that condition. I suppose I should settle into the 20-something Kennedy look. But hey, they were free (mostly).

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