Broke and Bespoke

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B & W: Brogue and Work Boot

B & W: Brogue and Work Boot

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.

#Pre-Americana

This is the only footwear I brought with me on my trip—Chippewa ‘Katahdin Iron Works’ boots from L.L. Bean. My father-in-law is a builder, and he and my mother-in-law built their own house, including the stone wall on which the shoes perch here in the photographs. The stones used to pave the old part of town, and are said to have been laid by Cornwallis’ soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The town was preparing to toss the stones when they put more modern paved roads in, and my father-in-law grabbed a bunch with which to pave the front walk, and to build a nice wall. Pretty cool for a history nerd.

Waterproofed.

Waterproofed.

L.L. Bean Katahdin Iron Works Boot by Chippewa.

L.L. Bean Katahdin Iron Works Boot by Chippewa.

LL Bean’s longstanding Katahdin Ironworks Boot by Chippewa:
I’ve had these great winter boots for several years. LL Bean used to sell them for about $30 less than they do now, but, if you look around they show up in new and like new condition on ebay from time to time. Even with the relatively recent $30 price increase, these boots are stil about $100 less than J. Crew’s recent Chippewa collaboration, which is essentially the same boot under a different name (the J. Crew boot is a bit ‘chunkier’ than the Bean Katahdin). Granted, they’re slightly different shades of brown too, but unless the color of the J. Crew boot is exactly what you’ve been looking for and have been unable to find, I say save yourself $100 and go with the Bean boots—plus, they’ve got a way better warranty than J. Crew…

LL Bean’s longstanding Katahdin Ironworks Boot by Chippewa:

I’ve had these great winter boots for several years. LL Bean used to sell them for about $30 less than they do now, but, if you look around they show up in new and like new condition on ebay from time to time. Even with the relatively recent $30 price increase, these boots are stil about $100 less than J. Crew’s recent Chippewa collaboration, which is essentially the same boot under a different name (the J. Crew boot is a bit ‘chunkier’ than the Bean Katahdin). Granted, they’re slightly different shades of brown too, but unless the color of the J. Crew boot is exactly what you’ve been looking for and have been unable to find, I say save yourself $100 and go with the Bean boots—plus, they’ve got a way better warranty than J. Crew…

Today’s rainy day fit.
Shoes: LL Bean (see below)
Pants: Dockers Alpha Fit Khakis
Jacket: Club Room, thrifted
Scarf: Barbour, STP
Outerwear: North Face Gore-Tex shell, circa 1998

Today’s rainy day fit.

Shoes: LL Bean (see below)

Pants: Dockers Alpha Fit Khakis

Jacket: Club Room, thrifted

Scarf: Barbour, STP

Outerwear: North Face Gore-Tex shell, circa 1998

Last night I posted a picture of the new Red Wing Iron Ranger Brogue boots, and admitted that they’re now a grail boot for me. I also gestured towards the fact that I have some regrets about not owning a pair of the original IRs. The regret is not complete, however, as I have a great pair of boots that fill their place well—the LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works Engineer Boot made by Chippewa. These are made in the USA by a company as old and storied as Red Wing, and come with all the bells and whistles menswear nerds geek out about—Vibram soles, Goodyear welting, blah blah blah…
Search ebay religiously and you will find these for a steal.

Last night I posted a picture of the new Red Wing Iron Ranger Brogue boots, and admitted that they’re now a grail boot for me. I also gestured towards the fact that I have some regrets about not owning a pair of the original IRs. The regret is not complete, however, as I have a great pair of boots that fill their place well—the LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works Engineer Boot made by Chippewa. These are made in the USA by a company as old and storied as Red Wing, and come with all the bells and whistles menswear nerds geek out about—Vibram soles, Goodyear welting, blah blah blah…

Search ebay religiously and you will find these for a steal.