I received a pair of suede Birkenstock Bostons for father’s day and because of the wet terrain here in the Pacific Northwest, I decided to give ‘em a good dubbing.
As far as I can gather, the term “dubbing” is a derivative of “dubbin” which is an ancient recipe for leather dressing that consists of natural waxes, oils, and tallow. In WWII, soldiers were issued “service shoes” which were roughout (suede-side out) boots which were then treated (dubbed) in order to protect the boots from water and chemical warfare agents.
I’ve been wanting to try this out for a while now and had purchased a jar of Sno-Seal a while ago in case I ever got the urge. I basically followed the instructions per this site, but here’s the basic process I went through:
There’s really nothing to it. Basically, just dip your fingers in, scoop up a glob and start working it into the suede.
After you’ve coated the entire shoe, take a blow dryer on high heat and essentially melt the wax into the suede. You’ll see it seeping in. Do the whole process over again and you’re done. It took me maybe 15-20 mins.
Before and after. You can clearly see the dramatic difference in color and texture.
They are very waterproof now and the waxed finish aids in developing some patina and character that suede doesn’t normally gain. It’s that dynamic duo of function and aesthetic.
George let me squeeze in these boots before I left for Washington. I used Esquivel’s Dublin boot as the springboard, but the inspiration behind them was the WWII era “service shoe” or “roughout” boots, or more specifically, the rare Type III service shoe (captoe roughout). We didn’t have any tan suede in stock so I went with the grey suede instead with a tan/yellow calfskin lining. I may end up dubbing these, especially now that I’m in wetter terrain. I really wrestled with the sole options. I was super temped to go with a white Vibram christy sole but decided against it since I have a couple pairs of Red Wings with Vibram christies. I opted for a traditional leather bottom sole with a stacked leather heel and left it all natural. I really like how the natural leather contrasts with the grey suede. I also dug through the last library and picked out a last with a more traditional toe than the Dublin’s normally more bubbly toe.
I was able to take part in nearly every part of the construction of the shoe, getting some hands on experience with lasting, sole shaping, etc. I’m really happy with the way these turned out. Thanks again to George and his team for letting me take part in this!
The next logical step after leathercrafting for me was shoemaking. Actually, leathercrafting for me was more or less a stepping stool for the larger goal of learning shoemaking. So I’ve been stealing away in my spare time for the last 8 months or so, learning the shoemaking ropes at the LA-based handmade shoe company, Esquivel. Making shoes by hand is a dying art and it’s a shame, because it’s a beautiful and time-honored trade. I have a genuine interest in learning shoemaking and in a sense, to have a hand in preserving the trade.
I got in contact with George Esquivel by chance and didn’t hesitate to ask him about an internship with his company. It’s been amazing being there and I’ve gained an invaluable amount of knowledge thanks to George and his team. Leaving this opportunity was one of the only things that made me regretful of moving, but I’ll no doubt continue to drop in whenever I’m in town (which will be very frequent). This won’t be the end of the road for me and shoemaking…
If you’re looking for a unique, solid pair of handmade shoes made by artisans who take pride in what they do, take a look at Esquivel. You won’t be disappointed. George’s playful yet tasteful take on shoes always comes off effortlessly and somehow always manages to look modern and fashion forward, yet still classic. Huge thanks to George and all the good folks at Esquivel for sharing their time and knowledge with me.
My Roy boots right around the three month mark and right before getting a treatment of neatsfoot oil per recommendation by Horween themselves. They’ve broken in beautifully and I love them even more than the day I got ‘em.
If turning 30 earns me a pair of these then I’ll lose my 20’s every year…gladly. My goodness, these are beautiful.
Cut and sewn from Horween’s Chromexcel leather, made on a Trubalance last, Goodyear welted to a plantation crepe sole, and available exclusively through Context in small batches. Chromexcel is a pullup leather (meaning the oils, waxes, and dyes in the leather temporarily separate when pulled up on, bent, or stressed, creating great color texture) and is meticulously processed, going through something like 89 different processes and an entire month to produce. It’s incredibly supple and will no doubt break in quickly and comfortably. I believe the inside of the boots are lined with calf skin (?), again, incredibly soft, supple, pliable, and very comfortable. This is my first experience with a Trubalance last, but it is heralded as being one of the most natural fitting lasts out there…so far, so good. The crepe sole is a great touch and is a nice change from the leather or neocork soles more commonly found on Aldens. These things will break in beautifully in form and function. I hope one of my kids ends up having the same size feet as me cause these are, no doubt, heirloom quality.
My wife and I got to steal away for a few hours from parentdom and hopped up to Pasadena to visit the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Lots of great typical flea market goods — vintage furniture, trinkets, and knick-knacks, and of course a ridiculously large and overwhelming vintage clothing and footwear section. I spotted a few very cool vintage pieces, including an old USN deck jacket that looked like it could have been pulled from Nigel Cabourn’s collection. I did a ton of self-editing though, and walked away with only a couple things — a metal tool box for my leathercrafting tools, and a vintage wool baseball cap in a perfectly colored mustard yellow, probably from the 50’s or 60’s. My wife did slightly better than me (or worse, depending on how you look at it) and walked away with 3 or 4 pairs of shoes, a couple dresses, a bag, and a vintage wooden box, almost like a mini chest. Quite a successful flea market trip.
We dipped into South Willard on the way home, as I’ve been obsessing over the charcoal grey/brick sole Quoddy bluchers since last summer, which they just restocked a few weeks ago. I nearly went the entire summer convincing myself that I didn’t need a pair of these, but I’m glad I caved cause these are insanely perfect. The charcoal grey and brick sole perfectly compliment each other, and the matte black eyelets, non-contrasted stitching/laces make for a perfectly understated and subtle pair of shoes. Beautiful. I also appreciate the craftsmanship and build of the shoe a lot more since I’ve been attempting to make my own shoes lately (post possibly upcoming). Oh, and Ryan from South Willard also gave me one of Altadena’s little key rings that they just had forged and made in Japan.
All in all, a great Sunday morning.
A friend gave me these maybe 3 or 4 years ago. I saw a new pair today and was surprised to see how different the original color was. I rather prefer my sun-bleached and faded color to the original. Will probably keep these till they’re falling off my feet.
Outside The Rugged Museum
Danner Japan Mountain Light II’s were everywhere…ugh.
Sweet Red Wing Wabashas in tan suede.
I’ll be heading home tomorrow but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here. It’d been too long. I split my time between Tokyo, Yoron Island (Okinawa), Iwakuni (Hiroshima), and Yokohama. Far too much traveling for my 2 1/2 year old son, but they were all necessary stops. He’s been an incredible sport, but lugging around a little kid all on your own who’s away from his mom for the first time, in a foreign country for the first time, and doing a crap load of traveling is not easy work. Anyhow, here’s how I spent my time in Tokyo:
Spent some time with family in Kokubunji, and took a day to wander around Tokyo window shopping all the sweet product I can’t/shouldn’t be buying. We stopped by Free & Easy’s Rugged Museum and it was everything I’d imagined it to be. They had some really incredible vintage pieces which were the highlight in my opinion. It was truly an exercise in self-control that I only walked out of there with a couple issues of the magazine.
After that, we strolled in and around the Harajuku area where the Danner Japan Mountain Light II’s (tan suede/red laces/white vibram sole!) were screaming my name practically everywhere I went. My reckless side tried to find every excuse in the book to convince my frugal side that I could justify the expense. Luckily, my frugal side won. I meant to take more pictures but it sorta slipped my mind in the midst of it all. I definitely could have used another day or two in Tokyo.