Saturday, November 14, 2020


Brand: WestRide (Made in Japan) 
Colors: Black
Leather: Front Quarter Horsehide
Hardware: Nickle
Price: ¥ 85,000 ($812.00)
Photo source: Real Deal Japan

These have similar qualities as other vintage-style boots coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun, but I really like the lower heel on a beefy base. These are sure to look pretty great with wear.

Thursday, November 12, 2020


Brand: Keystone Shoe Co. 
Colors: Nice Brown x Black
Sizes: 5 - 12 D or E 
Leather: Horween 
Insole: Flexible 
Leather Insole 
Hardware: Nickle 
Price: ¥ 58,000 ($552.00) 
Order start date: March 29th 2020
Delivery time: Estimated March 2021


I introduced my readers to the newest name in the vintage-inspired Engineer Boot subculture last summer when Keystone Shoe Co. announced their 1950s-style boots in black, dark brown and brown Horween. What makes the brand stand out for me is the name, reputation and experience behind it -- Takeshi Okuyama of Fukurokuju. Easily the best in the business with a portfolio that would anyone's head spin. Check out the post here.

Since that post, they've released three more versions in two tone and roughout (black and tan) and as I scroll through their site I'm reminded of how aesthetically pleasing and classic they've made the profile ... and at under $600, there is nothing not to love about these beauties. The best price in vintage-inspired boots and a world-renowned name in the biz makes these easily one of the best deals.

Brand: Keystone Shoe Co.
Color Tan and Black 
Sizes: 5 - 12, D or E
Leather: Horween Roughout
Insole: Flexible 
Leather Insole 
Hardware: Nickle 
Price: ¥ 58.000 ($552.00)
Order start date: August 1st 2020
Delivery time: Estimated August 2021

Monday, August 31, 2020


I've been searching for the right pair of roofer-style boots for so many years. With not many options to choose from over a decade ago, I was very close to pulling the trigger on a pair of Thorogood Roofer Boots. I decided to hold off since they came across as too much of a bulky modern work boot -- I wanted something with a vintage vibe. They definitely didn't fit the bill.

I found a pair of vintage tall boots online for a great price, but didn't appreciate how dainty they appeared in person. The search continued.
Leave it to one of the biggest names in today's heritage footwear biz to find the perfect balance of style, heft and functionality without the bulk and unnecessary fluff. 

Get yours at

Like butter! I went with my usual John Lofgren boot and shoe size of 7 (all my Japanese-made footwear is size 7 for that matter). To give you an idea of sizing, I wear a 7 in pretty much everything out there. In 7.5 in Mister Freedom Road Champ Boots; however, I wear a 7.5.

They're super versatile with any size cuff ...

... and leg opening. 

That profile!

As I've said many times before, John Lofgren's boots are built like tanks and I like to treat them in the manner which they were designed and  built -- like work boots. I put the Monkey Boots through the grinder almost immediately and they performed wonderfully!

They cleaned up so well and will continue to look better with age. The incredibly pliable Horween CXL has already formed around my foot and have become so comfortable.

The perfect build without the fluff -- no unnecessary and excessive stitching you see on so many other boots.

Thank for yet another great boot, John and Team!!

Saturday, June 13, 2020


I originally posted about Blue Band over ten years ago (here) and am very excited to finally own my very first pair of boots sold by Montgomery Ward.

What's interesting about these boots is their origin and the fact that the label doesn't advertise the retailer. We all know that Powr House is a Montgomery Ward brand - Such is the same with boots bearing the "Blue Band" label. This is actually a level of quality within a boot or shoe.

Definitions from a 1946 Spring/Summer Montgomery Ward Catalog

They possess all the details -- vamp, buckles and stitching -- that lead me to believe they were produced by Chippewa. Typical "White Labeling?"

*White labeling is when a product or service removes their brand and logo from the end product and instead uses the branding requested by the purchaser.

Subtle Toe Tracks

Thursday, May 7, 2020


I dyed these Road Champ Boots about 8 years ago while I was stationed on the island of Okinawa and have since received countless inquiries about my process.

What you’ll need:

  • Kiwi Leather Dye
  • Barbasol Shaving Cream
  • Painters Tape
  • Steele Wool (#0)
  • Black shoe polish
  • Cotton cloth (lint free)
  • Tooth Brush (soft bristle)
  • Boot Brush
Why Kiwi Leather Dye? I shipped out to Marine Corps Boot Camp in January 1995 when we were still wearing black leather boots (aka “Cadillac's”). It wasn’t until I reported to my very first duty assignment in Iwakuni, Japan that I learned the art of spit shining my boots (from my roommate, the son of Sergeant Major who taught him when he was a kid) and the process necessary to maintain an inspection-ready shine. A critical part of the process involves filling the pores with the dye in order to create a smooth surface by which to support layers and layers of black polish -- each layer of polish is carefully applied and becomes easier and shinier than the last until a mirror shine is achieved. After each work day, another layer of polish was applied followed by a quick spit shine. These efforts usually went on for about two weeks before the polish started to chip away preventing the effective application of any more. This meant it was time to “break it down” and start from scratch.

*Sometimes when I went too long without maintaining my boots (usually a different pair intended for heavy work), I noticed they would develop a patina. This was an unacceptable site for a Marine back then, but certainly a welcome characteristic in today’s rugged standard. This indicated to me that the tried and true process explained above was just what I was looking for when I set out to dye my Road Champs.

Why Barbasol? Barbasol was, and still is, very inexpensive and harmless way to clean and break down the polish to a new “blank canvas” while preserving the life of the leather.

Why Steele Wool? The #0 grit is rough, yet safe enough to remove factory-applied leather finish/protectant, thus allowing effective application of the Kiwi polish. It’s also used to safely break down the layers of polish.

Painter’s Tape: Used to protect accidental dying of the welt and other unintended leather parts.

Tooth Brush: Used in conjunction with the Barbasol to help thoroughly clean every nook and cranny.

 Step 1: Clean boots -- Using Barbasol and steel wool, follow these instructions (stopping at the point of allowing to dry over night -- DO NOT apply any Pecard products).

Step 2: Protect all areas of the boot with painter’s tape not intended to be dyed.

Step 3: Dye the leather. I applied a few layers, allowing each one to dry first. The process could end here, but the leather will be left with a dull finish.

Step 4: Apply a layer of polish with a cloth wrapped around index finger using circular motions.

Step 5: Buff with a boot brush.

Step 6: Remove tape.


Note: I don’t recommend using leathercrafting-grade leather dye as it is possible to accidentally dye too many layers, which will prevent patina to develop (think drum-dyed leather). There is no way to over-dye with Kiwi.

Follow these steps and you can achieve an incredibly satisfying patina with natural aging characteristics like i did.

Friday, April 10, 2020


Check out my sale page for ready-made belts and other leather goods or hit me up for a custom piece.

VEB Leather Instagram
Horween Natural CXL
Horween Essex

Saturday, March 21, 2020


Hey! I have a question for you on the Mister Freedom Campus Jacket. After owning a couple of different types, which color/material would you recommend? Which one do you find yourself wearing the most?
Hair-on-Hide and black Baloo

Thanks for the question! It really depends on how much time and patience one has to dedicate toward owning the natural Campus Jacket (only up until it reaches the owner's desired tan level). I love a good leather project and really enjoy seeing the fruits of my labor, so this jacket is the ultimate feel-good project. While it requires time and patience to get through the sun-tanning process without taking short cuts (like soaking it in water to "age" it and prematurely applying conditioner to speed up color darkening) the results are tremendously satisfying. Using the steps I document on this blog, I've achieved results that far surpass my expectations. This jacket, like the Stallion Campus, gets better and better with every day of use.

Taken today, 21 March 2020

That wonderful Indigo dye transfer

The appeal of the Stallion Campus for me is the black surface dye that reveals the natural color with normal wear over time, displaying a beautiful patina. Who doesn't love a good "tea core" leather number?! The bonus is how incredibly well the stacked arm creases hold their shape - likely due to the combination of the dye over the untreated leather*. I've owned mine for over five months now and I'm just amazed every time I wear it. The simple yet classic design of the Campus along with a brand that's respected around the globe is a win in my book.

Taken today, 21 March 2020

That wonderful Indigo dye transfer

I naturally find myself wearing the newest one, but since the Stallion ages so well I like to grab the natural balance out the wear.

Let's not forget about the rest of these beauties!

So there you have it. If someone wants to add a bit of color to their wardrobe along with a fun, satisfying project then the natural Campus is the way to go. If someone is looking for a Campus ready to go outta the box (they're both ready to go outta the box, but the natural requires a little more attention), then I'd go with the Stallion. There's no going wrong either way. Honestly, with the limited-time sale they have going on right now (March 2020 - Until they are able to open the HQ building once again) I'd most certainly take advantage and quickly snag one up at 30% off. Regular retail price is on point, but 30% off?! Oof!! These sales don't happen often.

*I've surface dyed cowhide leather and am very familiar with how it becomes stiff when dried. Add folds and bends in high stress areas like the arm and you've got a recipe for GREAT stacks and creases that hold their shape.

Hair-on-Hide Campus - In store purchase

Sunday, March 8, 2020

My Journey with the Mister Freedom® Stallion Campus Jacket

I’m just amazed by the ease at which the Stallion Campus Jacket develops that highly desired lived-in look. I’ve worn this jacket almost every day for several months and not only does it look lived-in, the leather is softening up and forming to me like a glove with the arm creases are here to stay.

I’ve purchased horsehide jackets at almost triple the price specifically to obtain the look this jacket is giving off — I’m beginning to think horsehide jackets are overrated (The insanely over-inflated-priced ones ... I won’t stop buying them, but they just have to be unique among all the cookie cutter jackets saturating the market). This jacket is a testament to the quality and style associated with a brand that has proven itself in this industry for so, so many years.

Day 3 with my New Campus Stallion Campus Jacket
Day 3

Chest: 19 1/2"
Shoulder: 16 1/2"
Back: 22.5"
Sleeve: 24"

Day 3

I wear a vintage size 36 in leather jackets and pretty much a 36 in all Mister Freedom jackets (although, I went with a 34 with the Lot 64 Ranch Blouse "Okinawa"Edition" and Baloo Jackets for a classic fit)

Day 3

Day 5

Day 8

This jacket downright proves that Horsehide isn’t the only leather with striking aging characteristics.

Join me and other Stallion owners as we take part in a friendly Stallion patina competition with LOTS of prizes.

•Only patina resulting from natural wear.
•No dying or tinting of exposed “tea core” in an effort to cause the color to appear more prominent.
•No artificial means to give the appearance of hardened wear. This includes, but not limited to, sandpaper, burnishing tools, etc.
•No forced means of accentuating creases or folds.
•No soaking in water (it’s pretty obvious) — Normal exposure to the elements is acceptable.

*Just wear it and let the magic happen. At a yet-to-be-determined time, a winner will be selected.

Day 14

Day 17

Day 31

Day 50

Day 54

Day 72

No two hides are alike and each panel may feature variations in texture along with natural imperfections.

Day 79

Day 91

Day 126

Day 129 - Like a glove!