Thursday, July 17, 2014

White's Custom Boots

Animal Traffic's hand written sign for ordering White's Boots
Picture taken and boots ordered at Animal Traffic. We don't sell things.
Animal Traffic PDX StorefrontI got a pretty amazing birthday gift this year. Our parents decided to spend most of their spring out in Portland Oregon to spend time with Wefty and his family. Moving from the suburbs to a downtown apartment resulted in a lot more walking than my parents are used to, and my Dad looked into getting himself a new pair of boots to help with the foot fatigue. He ended up at Animal Traffic, which stocks the ever famous Red Wing Boots, and the somewhat less-known White's Boots made in Spokane Washington. After relieving his own foot pains, and knowing that I often have similar problems, Dad decided to get me a pair as a birthday gift when I came out for a visit at the end of May. 

White's Boots, Semidress
So, we headed over to Animal Traffic, and I got to pick the style of boot I wanted. I selected White's "Semidress" boot (Left), a 6 inch ankle boot. White's lets you customize several aspects of the boot, starting with the leather.

Leather Swatches
 And there are a lot of leather options. From premiums like Chromexcel to oddities like Bison, there are endless options. Pictured is a selection of Animal Traffic's leather swatches. Since I already have a pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile and Red Wing Chukkas in brown, I selected the Black Chromexcel to add to my wardrobe options. The Animal Traffic team suggested dying the edges of the leather and heel brown to match my favorite belts, tying the boots in nicely with the rest of my wardrobe. This custom aspect is something they keep in stock at the local store, and I loved the idea. Other customizable options include a cap-toe and how many stitching layers to use on the welt. I selected one, but White's will do up to a triple stitch.

Heel options for White's Leather Boots

 One of the coolest options to customize is the heel. A western heel (back) curves to a slightly smaller surface, whereas a block heel is flat against the ground. I chose the western heel to shave some weight from the boot, as well as achieve a more stylish appearance. You can also select a sole of un-covered leather, or add a Vibram sole in a few different tread options. I chose a medium tread to maximize traction and longevity without adding too much weight.

Other models even include the option of a steel-toe.

Next up came the most important part of the order: measurements. While you can measure your feet with the help of a friend at home, I highly recommend finding a local retailer who knows what they are doing to order yours: You'll pay the same price, support a local business, and be less likely to screw up a custom order. (Although White's assured me that if there was an error on your end, they would work with you to fix it however). The measurements included tracing my feet on a sheet of paper, checking for symmetry by laying them atop eachother, using a Brannock Device for traditional sizing, and a string of other measurements including foot circumference, ankle height, and more. The whole process took about 45 minutes.

About a month later, UPS delivered a package straight from Spokane Washington. I opened the large, worn and torn shoebox to find my pristine pair of White's Boots. They fit perfectly: As it turns out, my shoe size is much more narrow than your typical shoe. So while the other pairs of boots I have are a size D, these were custom ordered in a B-width. With a perfect length, width, and room, the boots were slightly tight when I put them on-- But slowly began stretching with each successive wear. I wore them on evenings at home to break them in slowly, and have now been wearing them daily for another week. 

The comfort is where White's blows away the competition. With an added bolus of leather in the arch area that stick into the insole (and a bit of the outsole), White's boots have abundant arch support. walking in White's It feels almost as if you are climbing a ladder barefoot, with the rungs in just the right place underfoot. This is what made my flat-footed father love them, and has won me over as well. It's truly a unique build: one you have to feel to fully understand.

White's boots custom building to my size has an added benefit: While my Red Wings and Wolverines both had assymetrical creasing patterns where one boot would fold more sharply, White's seems to be creasing similarly on both boots: Subtle indentations with many micro-wrinkles instead of a few canyons. I attribute this to the fit, but it may also be affected by the leather condition upon arrival. At any rate, these are sure to be my favorite boots for a long time, and I can't recommend them highly enough. The only downside to these boots is the price: Coming in at upwards of $400 depending on customization, these boots may not be for everyone. But if you are interested, ordering a catalog will also give you a chance to win a free pair. 

These boots are made to be worn for life, and White's stands behind them in many ways. A 1 year warranty applies to all pairs sold, and White's will completely rebuild your boots any time for about a third of the cost of a replacement pair.

Be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages for pictures of the boots in the next few days, and as always, thanks for reading!


White's custom boots, Chromexcel leather

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Tale of 3 Razors Part 1: Dollar Shave Club

You've probably heard this pitch before: "You're spending way to much on razor blades." It's probably true: Target carries my current razor blades, the Gillette Mach 3, at a price no better than $3 a cartridge. Costco carries bulk packs that bring that figure closer to $2 a cartridge.  No doubt, Gillette (and competitor Schick, for that matter) are making money hand over fist with their blades. Can we get a better deal? That's what I set out to find out in this three part series. First up, the ever popular Dollar Shave Club.

Dollar Shave Club, Razors
The Lover's Blade is a 4-blade razor available at $6/month.
The handle is included with your first order.
Image courtesy of Nu and Nug
Dollar Shave Club is well know for their viral video. Their website hones itself to stress saving money as a major reason to buy their razor delivery services, which range from $3-$9 a month, subscription only, cancel anytime. On paper, they sound pretty great: They offer 3 options ranging from $3/month for 5 two-blade razors, $6/month for 4 four-blade razors, or $9 for 4 six-blade razors. Subscriptions ship out either once a month, or every other month. They give away the razor to sell you the subscription, so your first order is going to be the monthly cost of whatever plan you select. They also carry shaving butter, face moisturizer/aftershave, and bathroom wipes for your ass. (not kidding!)

But price and appearance are not what makes a great shave. Important factors to shaving include ease of shave, closeness, comfort, and longevity of the blades. Here, I examined all these factors.

Shaving Comfort and closeness was assessed using fresh blades and Dr. Carver's Shave Butter from DSC on one day's growth of stubble, immediately after a shower. The shave butter is a milky white cream with a texture consistent with hair conditioner. It shares a similar composition with conditioners, one major ingredient being Cetaryl alcohol. (This fatty-alcohol is responsible for giving a rich, fatty feel to the product, as well as keeping it from separating.) After applying and marinating my face for about 15 seconds, I began shaving. Nick free and smoothly shaven, I give this first shave an A+. To quote their video, these blades are fucking great! To finish the shave, I used Dr. Carver's Magnanimous Post-Shave, which shares many traits with the shaving butter. Interestingly, the lotion made my lips tingle around the edges at first, likely because they started out chapped. All in all, I like the shaving system: but when it comes to the extras of the shave butter and aftershave, you may be paying for convenience. The shave butter comes in as mid-tier in my experience: Much better than that $3/can foam, but less luxurious than L'occitan's shave gel. At $8 for 8 ounces, I'd continue to buy it only if I am getting the razors with it: Which is the only way it comes.

As for longevity: I repeated the same shaving technique every 24-48 hours. The next three shaves came in slightly less impressive: I noted minor nicks only after shaving, each with a drop of blood smaller than a pimple for the next three shaves. On the fifth shave, I managed not to nick myself, but did feel a very mild sense of razor burn. This is about where Dollar Shave Club recommends changing blades: after one week of use. I estimate that this razor works great for the first 5-7 shaves, but after that razor burn will increase with each shave.

In Closing, Dollar Shave Club offers a fair price for a good service. I'll be directly comparing Dollar Shave Club to two other shaving options in the coming weeks: Harry's, and of course, Gillette. If you have more razor options you want me to review, comment below or shoot me a message.

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Trip Out West

Took a trip out West, and took some photos while I was there. Lots of stuff I'm planning to review, but I also thought I might share a few of these photos-- Some are definately better than others. Which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Saddleback Leather Part 3: Spring Travel Update

It's a busy time of year. After heading to research conferences in San Diego and Pittsburgh, you can consider me exhausted. But today, I got home and had a bit of free time after finishing up some house chores to snap a few pictures of my travel companion: my tobacco brown Classic Briefcase from Saddleback.

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium D-Ring CloseupOver the last 5 months, it has endured the daily commute, being overstuffed with everything from electronics to an oversized brownie pan. But none of that holds a candle to the abuse that comes with six flights, five taxi rides, four security checkpoints, three cities, two hotel bellhops, and one heavy load. And against all this, the bag held up phenomenally. The most damage any single event caused was a flight on United Airlines: On one older plane, it appears that the powers that be decided to put three seats where once there were two, without changing the attachment points underneath. This meant that in addition to my narrow seat, the storage space under the seat in front of me was even narrower, much smaller than other flights of the trip. The rules of flight still require a "personal item" carry on to fit underneath, however, and I did my best to adhere. The result was a minor scuff on the top of the case (left), and one of the belt-loops jamming into the front panel, leaving an indent (below) Nothing it couldn't handle: The scuff will buff out, and the panel dent is just a bit of extra patina.

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium Damage
 You might also notice upturning near the edges: If you're going to put a lot of heavy gear in a bag, this may be the result. The clasps pushed and upturned these points, creating a new wear point. Fortunately, the paracord stitching reinforcement holds strong, and I expect that the bag would hold up against dozens of trips to come. Saddleback makes a seriously durable product, one that I think looks great and gets better with each scuff and bend.

Hoping to give an update on a pair of Tellason John Graham Mellor's, as well as an update on how the Wolverine 1000 Miles are breaking in in the next week or two, and review a few things I haven't talked about before. Be sure to check back, or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter!


Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium Closeup

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium Closeup Rear

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Wolverine 1000 Mile-- Boots which surpass their name

The average American walks around two and a half miles a day. It would take one of us 400 days to walk those 1000 miles, but from what I can tell based on my experience with the Wolverine 1000 Mile Line, these boot's might be better named Wolverine 10,000 mile. Wolverine boots are all hand-crafted in Michigan or Missouri. I reached out to the company and they sent me a pair of their flagship 1000 Mile Boot, which uses Horween's Chromexcel leather-- Widely regarded as the best leather available.

Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot Sole Wear
 The Wolverine 1000 Mile differs from my other pair of boots in a few ways: They are a full boot, as opposed to a chukka. While the Redwings were originally designed for use by finish workers (which is shown in the form of a rubber flat sole), the Wolverine uses a classic leather sole with a Vibram heel. The leather sole will show it's wear and need periodic replacement, but is a more accessible resole than the Redwings-- which require a special sole to be ordered.
Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot Laces
 Wolverine's come with a set of waxed laces that perfectly compliment the boot, and are to be laced through four eye sets and then tied with three hooks. I did notice that the interior of the hooks rubbed against the boot's tongue in shipment, creating a wear pattern you can see in the boot on the right in the picture above. Although it would be nice to see the hook's interior more finished to avoid this problem, it is nice to see the color you can expect the leather to fade to with age. And the fading is not visible when the boot is worn, so I don't consider this a problem.
Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots
As it is Winter, I have been wearing boots with thick socks-- And interestingly, these Wolverine's have been supremely comfortable from the first time I put them on. This was not the case with any other boot I have tried to date-- But like all boots, they have become even more comfortable with each successive wear.
The flash from my camera add's texture-- Contrast in this photo is exaggerated.
 In the month or so I have been trying this pair (the pictures were taken the first week), I have noticed the left boot is wearing in a different way from the right. I am beginning to suspect this is more a function of how I walk than a defect in the boots: If it were a defect, it would be one shared by Redwing and Wolverine alike, and I find that unlikely.

I find no flaws with Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots, and would recommend them highly to anyone who finds the style appealing. They make a great boot for the wintertime, and those who like to wear pants in warmer weather would likely enjoy them then as well-- They have a fantastic reputation for longevity, and the careful stitching with quality materials makes me believe it. But if that's not enough for you, check back this time next year when I write a followup-- I expect they'll look even better. They are available online at Need Supply in brown and black, and I have also seen this boot at my local Nordstrom. And if you are interested in other styles, check out their full catalog!


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Heebee Jeans: Sanforized Fit and Initial Impressions

Heebee Jeans Fit Pic

Hello, my name is Jon. I am a new contributor to this blog, and am extremely excited to be here. Wefty and Mash have selected me to review a fresh pair of raw selvedge denim jeans to contain my legs in. I will be documenting the fading process here, as well as posting some other content related to the wear patterns of denim and leather.

This pair of Heebee Jeans uses 14 ounce Left Hand Twill from the Kaihara Mill in Japan.

When I first received this pair, it was clear that these jeans were stiff. The denim is very rigid, and extremely starchy to begin with. This can be good for developing quick fades, but may be hard to get used to for those new to raw denim. It has a pretty normal texture at first glance, but looking closer I noticed quite a bit of hairiness and just a tiny bit of irregularity in the yarn thickness. The hairiness is likely an effect from the Left Hand Twill, as the fiber shape tends to expose more of the fiber than a right hand twill will. I’ll be curious to know how this characteristic differs from right hand twills I am used to.

When it comes to the color of the denim, it is more grey than dark. I wasn't able to see any true "blue" in the denim, and they aren't particularly dark either. I'm guessing this is because of the bright white weft showing through, because the indigo dipped yarns are extremely dark, possibly using a different indigo treatment than most blue jeans you see (more sulfur content?).

While the quality of the jeans is strong, I definitely disagree with some of the aesthetic choices. To some extent, these design choices interfere with the functionality of the jeans. The most obvious of these choices is the button fly, which is exposed rather than hidden like most jeans. While it is certainly a bold choice, the button holes are hard to use. Pushing buttons through three layers (two for the fly extension inside, and one on the outside piece) of extremely rigid denim is a chore. I want to be able to take my jeans off quickly and easily, and this design aspect prevents that to some extent. I am very interested to see how this changes over the first few wears: Mash says it will get better within a couple of weeks, but I remain skeptical.

Another issue is the front pockets. As with most raw denim, the pockets are too tight for me. The pocket bag fabric seems nice though, it's a shame that I won't be able to use them easily.

As for the fit: As you can see, they fit. Pretty well, actually.

The inseam is on the longer side, even with large double cuffs there is still some stacking occurring. While these stacks will settle down, I may end up getting them hemmed instead. While this is a straight-leg cut, I thought that the legs could be tapered a little more at first. But after wearing them a bit, I've started to like how they look.

The back pockets are enormous. They fit my extremely long handmade wallet (more on that in a later post) very well though, so I don't have a problem with it. However, those who prefer not having to fish through their butt to grab their money may not care for this feature.

One thing that also threw me off was how it fits between my legs. I was able to feel that the crotch seam was off centered while I was walking which proved to be uncomfortable.

My last concern is about the rise. The front of the jeans feel just fine actually because they reach a spot on my waist that I am used to, but the rear rise seems much lower, barely getting over my butt. This makes a "plumbers crack" likely, especially because I have an occupation in building maintenance.

But despite some flaws, I am  happy about wearing these jeans. Sporting solid construction and “innovative” design features, they make for a nice change of pace. I even received a compliment on them today. They will be a nice alternative to all of my other jeans. I'm determined to fade them fast, and am excited that the heavy starch will make that possible.

This pair was sent to me by Wefty + Mash, who received it to review from Heebee last year. And I look forward to seeing what happens to them with more wear!

- Jon

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Billy Reid Shiloh Shawl

One of my favorite stores in Wefty and my home town of Charlotte NC is Taylor, Richard's & Conger. They have a great selection of menswear from casual to formal, and I don't think a single item they carry is anything less than top notch. While TRC carries super-premium products including Kiton, they also carry a wide selection of items from designer Billy Reid. The last time I was in the store, I picked up one of them. And after work the other day (pardon the five-o'clock shadow), I thought I'd snap a few photos.

The neckline is the most interesting part of a truly comfortable sweater. Other than the leather fasteners (which I believe are top-grain), the entire garment is made of pure cotton in three textures. A french cotton terry adorns the interior, lending warmth and softness. The exterior is a cotton twill, while the neckline is a cotton yarn knit.

A great aspect about this shawl  is that you can still  show off a shirt underneath it, and contrasting textures are nice. Here I am wearing a one of the very warm Klaxon Howl cotton shirts underneath the shawl. With weather as crazy as it has been here in North Carolina this week, this outfit with a light overcoat definately works great for anywhere between 20 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And shedding layers is easy enough to go even higher.

Laundered properly, I expect this all cotton shawl to last for years-- And hopefully look every bit as good then as it does today. Dress up for formal wear or down for casual, it's a great piece to have in your wardrobe. Check this and other items out over at Billy Reid, but be sure to know where your garment is made. This particular one is from Peru, but other items are made in Italy, the US, and many other locations.