Broke and Bespoke

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What a Difference a Lace Makes

My premature trip to Cable Car Clothiers was not a complete miss, as I got to do a significant amount of window shopping in San Francisco’s Union Square shopping area. I even picked up a few items I’ve been meaning to get for awhile, but for various reasons haven’t gotten around to.

Included in this list are these flat waxed cotton laces from Alden. They’re the laces that come with many of their bootings (most famously the Alden Indy Boot I’d think), and they cost $5 a pair. They come in dark brown (as on the Chippewa Katahdin above) and black (as on the Tricker’s Stow boot above), and are a great way to really change the look of a boot for very little money. 

The Chippewa Katahdin is very similar in design to the Red Wing Iron Ranger and the non-captoed Red Wing boot the Gentleman Traveler (which now sells under the series line ‘Beckman’—though the Beckman boots come in a number of different shapes and sole options I beleve, moc toe, crepe, cork, and lug soled, etc.), though the Red Wings have a slightly narrower and more elongated shape in my opinion. The Red Wings also have a more upturned toe than the Katahdin. These things didn’t really bother me when I purchased these Katahdins, but one thing that I always preferred about the Red Wings were that the Gentleman Travelers came with really great looking flat waxed cotton laces.

I’m a huge fan of the vintage-inspired looks of flat waxed cotton laces. (*thrifting tip: I’ve been known to buy a pair of beat up vintage shoes from the thrift store just to harvest a nice pair of laces; the same goes for buying an ugly, moth-hole-ridden, stained, or otherwise unusable jacket just for the buttons—nice buttons aren’t cheap, especially when you need about 10 or 11 of them, and buying a jacket for $5 just to keep the buttons is a great way to find nice buttons for a great price. Some thrift shops do this themselves as well, and sell buttons separately for a very fair price.) But it’s been difficult to source either new or used long boot-length waxed cotton laces. Alden doesn’t even sell them prepackaged, in the San Francisco store they’re just kept in a box in the back and you have to ask for them. I’ve put them on both my Katahdins and my Tricker’s Stow boots now, and much prefer the look to that provided by the thicker round cotton laces that originally came with both boots.

The flat waxed cotton laces look slightly more ‘elegant’ to me, though not in terms of formality. Instead, it’s an elegance expressed in the way I imagine through the haze of hindsight how everything in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries must have been more elegant than our current moment; and likely dirtier, smellier, way more racist, and equally depraved as well.

In any case, it was probably a year or two ago when a friend of mine heard that Alden sells their flat waxed cotton boot laces separately (probably via a boot thread on SuFu) and I’ve been meaning to get in there to buy a couple of pairs ever since. I’m glad I was able to make it happen yesterday. 

I hope this long post about an insanely minute transformation in the look of my boots, unnoticeable to all but a few, will serve as either 1) a cautionary tale to those readers who realize you can indeed go too far down this rabbit hole, wasting time as I’ve just done bloviating about shoelaces, or 2) a wake-up call to the many boot owners out there who stare with growing scorn each day at the round matte cotton laces on their footwear.

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