Leather shoes are all about potential. The real appeal of a pair of leather soles lies not in how they look today, but how they’ll look tomorrow. “Character,” is that intangible factor that compels us to purchase a pair of shoes based at least partially on its ability to age along with us. Japanese footwear label Hender Scheme is driven by this notion, as their collection of raw leather shoes are distinguished by their promise of an incomparable patina. Unlike most leather sole labels though, Hender Scheme isn’t best known for dress shoes (although they have recently begun to enter into this market), instead they focus primarily on sneaker silhouettes. These shoes, much like paying a visit to your hometown as an adult, are at once both familiar and unknown.
“Man, I need Vans.”
From an Anaheim, California warehouse in 1966 Paul Van Doren churned out the first pair of Vans. They were basic canvas creations, outfitted with a diamond patterned sole and compact rows of laces, but before long those rubber sneakers would send southern California, and eventually the rest of the world into a frenzy.
Today, you can still walk into really any shoe store in the world and pick up a pair of Vans that looks almost identical to the pair that Van Doren produced back in the late sixties. While their contemporary models are now made abroad (come on guys, where’s the Made in the USA Vans collection we’ve all been waiting for) they do still retain that laid-back, easy wearing vibe that made them so damn popular nearly a half century ago. What’s best about Vans is that their irresistible simplicity has made them an ideal platform for countless obscure patterns, collaborations, and revamps. We’ve rounded out ten of our favorite Vans from the past year or so to add some rubber to your summertime shoe rotation.
White bucks are the blank canvas of menswear. Each year, as the temperature rises, they reemerge like red soled birds flying south for the season, primed in a flat white coat that will be marked up, dinged out, and just plain dirty come Fall. There’s something unnatural about a pristine white buck – it’s too clean, too pristine, not worn in enough. On the other hand a beat-up buck proves that you’ve been living, and living well. Each pockmark and spot on a pair of bucks is earned and from that first time you nick up a fresh pair of bucks, you’ll be recording a seasons worth of wear and tear. As designer, and legendary buck wearer (seriously he’s been wearing them for over forty years straight) JP Williams puts it “they take on your personality.” So, here’s to a season of worth of grass stains and spilled cocktails, because a beat up buck is just a better buck.
At 130 years old, Alden might just be America’s coolest centenarian. As they cross into their 13th decade this year, Alden’s shoes has never been more in demand, with the reported wait list for a pair of custom shoes from their Middleborough, Massachusetts’ factory stretching back well over a year.
Alden was a marque name of the early aughts heritage revival, and even as the spotlight on Americana has begun to fade once again, Alden’s renaissance is as strong as ever. While the shoemaker continues to crank out a wide assortment of stock designs for their diehard customers, it’s the considerable crop of “special makeups” that Alden has produced in partnership with stores across the world that present some of the venerable shoemakers most interesting creations.
For many designers, somewhere along the way between concept and execution their vision gets lost in the shuffle, but not so for Jun Takahashi of Japanese label, Undercover. Takahashi is now approaching the fourth year of his Gyakusou collection, a collaborative effort with Nike that exists at the intersection between high fashion and performance running gear.
As anyone that has ever laced up a pair of sneaker can attest, running is as much an emotional pursuit as it is an athletic one. Takahashi has never been one to shy away from emotion in his work. His Undercover collections are often rife with quotes from shoegaze songs, dark tones, and lush textures. As for Gyakusou, which roughly translates into “running in reverse,” as a reference to the fact that Takahashi and his friends run the “wrong way” through Tokyo, the collection has always been a meditation on how runners interact with their environment.
Like a Wes Anderson movie, the Diemme story does not have one true main character, rather it’s an ensemble cast, that comes together from across the world to create Diemme’s unique line of casual footwear. The shoes are manufactured in Montebulluna, Italy by Calzaturificio Diemme, with the help of two design and sales companies, Blender Agency from Norway, and GMT Tokyo in Japan, as well as MnO International, a Swedish distributor. At the heart of the Diemme project lies two brothers, Dennis and Maico Signor, who have been manufacturing boots under the Calzaturificio Diemme name since 1992.
The current New Balance mania that’s cutting through the sneaker world like a Vibram soled tornado has all the makings of a lost Malcolm Gladwell case study. What exactly was the tipping point that launched NB’s from average schmo staple to fodder for the insatiable menswear masses? I’ll leave that one for Gladwell’s next book, but I will say that New Balance has done an exemplary job at embracing their new-found market. Sure, those old school, all grey sneaks that the Costanza’s of the world used to wear still remain their most popular models, but over the past couple years NB has revamped their classic running shoes to create some damn fine, and for that matter, flashy, designs. It seems that every week New Balance seems to drop another “banger” (that’s what sneakerheads are saying these days right?) so we decided to round up the eight best releases of the past year.