Tuesday, July 19, 2016


*Originally posted July 2013*

I've swapped buckles on a couple of my Engineer Boots in the past and the most recent was done using my custom roller buckles on the Wesco MP toes given to me, for gratis. Following this swap, I received and influx of e-mails requesting a step-by-step tutorial.

In this post, I'll try my best to walk those who are interested through my process.


  • Seam Ripper
  • Scissors
  • Midlde to heavyweight thread*
  • Two needles - Leather needles are prescribed, but heavier grade fabric needles you may have laying around will work just as well for this small project, especially since the holes already exist.  Be sure not to accidentally poke new holes.
  • Small flashlight
  • Lots of patience

*Nylon, linen and polyester threads are all acceptable choices.  Waxing the thread with beesewax or parrafin isn't necessary, but it is supposed to help with long-term durability and allows the needle to ease through the holes.  I was once a waxer, but realized that it gives my projects a messy look.  I now use an exclusive heavy-duty wound thread from Japan on all my projects.

This photo shows the factory stitching and the bulky, unattractive harness buckles.

Not all buckle retainers have leather that tucks under itself, so carefully unpick the stitching while being mindful not to remove more stitching than necessary.  Absolutely do not touch any vamp or heel counter stitching.  It's important to take it slow during this process, especially because it is simple to accidentally scratch/cut the leather.  

Once the necessary stitching is undone and the area cleaned/cleared of the old thread, replace the buckle and lay the leather back to its original position.  It's not necessary to perfectly line up the existing holes at this point as some shifting may occur throughout the process - after each re-stitch - constant realignment will be required.  Remember, take it slow and put your patience on.  

Thread your needles as shown here.  Ensure the top buckle is undone in order to allow for maximum sewing room.  Begin your saddle stitching by starting at the existing hole at the corner of the buckle retainer nearest the upper most portion of the heel counter and work your way clockwise.

What's with the flashlight?  As you can see, the shaft on these boots are tall and when peering down towards the sewing area, its difficult to see where you're poking through the leather.  I dropped the flashlight backwards down the boots to illuminate that area.  

The completed instep buckle

You'll be super happy when getting to this point where you don't have to reach too far.  The upper buckle retainer is glued together and in place, but I never re-glue it when swapping the buckles.

Unpick from the inside so as not to inadvertently scratch/cut the outer leather.  

Friday, July 15, 2016


Congrats to Levi Strauss & Co. for placing the winning bid of$146,744 for a Levi’s brown leather “Cossack” jacket that Albert Einstein wore in the 1930s. The jacket was estimated to sell in the range of $53,120 to $79,680.

Einstein bought the jacket when he became a U.S. citizen, according to Levi Strauss, and was photographed wearing it on various occasions, including in a number of 1938 portraits.

Einstein may have purchased the jacket in 1935 after making his formal application for permanent U.S. residency.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Brand: Chippewa
Model: 5175
Circa: 1955 - Early 1960's based on the label, but these are cleary come frm the earlier part of this window
Color: Black
Size: 8 1/2C
Length: 10 3/4"
Width: 3 1/2"+
Soles: Composition half sole
Leather: Oil-Tanned Cowhide (Chippewa never used Horsehide for their boots)
Hardware: Nickel
Sold for: $400 Buy It Now

My buddy and regular contributor to the VEB Blog, Warren, never fails to inform me of noteworthy auctions I've missed. This one is particularly sweet because of the relatively low Buy It Now price. I'm not sure what the original start price was, but I can only imagine this final price represented an offline offer.

While these aren't super rare -- they're actually quite common, especially when you search Japanese sites -- they're always a treat to see since they represent iconic midcentury Americana. In this exact condition (never mind the detached heel), these would easily fetch $900 - $1,300 at auction in the US and would be offered for much more in the overseas market. In my opinion, a $400 - $800 price range is pretty accurate in today's age of homage boots, the likes of Mister Freedom, John Lofgren and customized Role Clubs ... but of course there are those die-hard collectors out there that NEED to have their vintage. I've had my share of vintage and super Vintage Engineer Boots over the last two decades and have come to learn that I'd much rather have a pair of new homage boots and create my own history.

In the early 2000's, there were at least five amazing pairs I owned that were quite rare (unfortunately, I never thought to take pictures of them) -- to a pair of these exact Chippewas -- and then, of course, there were the extinct Glow-in-the-Dark boots. Common to all of these is the fact I've gotten rid of each and every pair. While it's a great feeling to possess some of the coolest vintage boots, I've never felt too comfortable wearing them for concern of causing too much damage. This is why I'm a advocate for today's homage boots -- choose your favorite pair, wear them without too much concern, develop the character specific to your movements and create your own history.


That profile! Stacked Woodman heels

Bowing of the leather welt from heavy wear and exposure to the elements

Iconic square flat toe that started off round

Good on the seller to point out this flaw; however, it's a $5.00 repair that should not have been considered when pricing, especially as collectible as these are

Post-1955 Label (1955 to early 1960's)

Learn more about the "Post-1955" Chippewa label through my Vintage Engineer Boots Lexicon Part XX

8 1/2C 

Thursday, July 7, 2016


"Wearing 11'' engineer boots in summer?"

Hi, Mr. John

I hope this email finds you well. Got a question for you: Is it OK to wear 'em buco engineer boots (or the like) in summer around 86F/30C?

The climate of where I currently live is similar to that of New Orleans. Yet my obsession over greaser way of life hit a high this summer. So I'm humbly asking for your advice.


I'm wearing the Role Club Engineer Boots I studded in the NOLA summer heat with a heat index of 105°F/41°C this past weekend.

Hi CJ, 

I've worn 11" Engineer Boots all year long for over 25 years now regardless of weather. Perhaps I've never been taught to wear them in certain weather, but I find it odd when I hear guys say they have to put their boots up for the summer or that it's getting too hot for boots. We all pay good, hard-earned money for these boots; wear 'em like they owe you money.


Monday, July 4, 2016


Hi there,

Love your blog, it's a joy to read - thanks for taking time to do it.

I have a bit of a nerdy question that you've probably answered many times - what length jeans should I buy for a decent turn-up/cuff that shows off my engineer boots?

Should I still buy one size up in length or just get my normal length? I'm 32" leg but I bought some 34" from Rumble59 - it makes for a great chunky turn-up with converse but doesn't show off enough of a boot. Do you think it'd be best to get my actual 32" length so I get more of a reveal of the boot on a turn-up?

Sorry man, bit of a goofy noob question but just wondering what you usually do yourself.

Many thanks for taking the time to read!

All the best from London,


Hey Charlie!

Thanks for the e-mail and I appreciate that you enjoy the blog! 

That's actually a great question. It really boils down to personal taste and most importantly, the style and fit. I wear a 29" inseam in dress pants for a clean look and normally buy a 32" (34" max if I really like the jeans and it's the only length available). Obviously, you're looking at much longer inseam if the denim is raw. 

29" inseam on a pair of 1930's trousers

When I first began buying premium selvedge denim, I would (for some reason) always go for a size up on the waist on top of a relaxed fit. The result was very ill-fitting jeans.
Or should I say, HORRENDOUSLY-fitting jeans (ca. 2005)

These are the same 1930's Lee Cowby jeans today, but look a bit more acceptable (in my body frame) with a higher cuff.

It wasn't until my wife, Jillian, opened my eyes to jeans meant to proportionately fit my build that I started buying slimmer jeans. Sixteen years ago, however, slim jeans weren't as easy to come by as they are today and even harder to come by were slim selvedge. Enter Mister Freedom. I owned a lot of denim from his Naval and SpeedSafe collection, but it wasn't until the Lot. 64's that I discovered my favorite pair of jeans ... ever.

My first pair of 64s (13oz.) with the "Double Cuff"

The Lot. 64 is inspired by traditional 1950′s era blue jeans with a 1960′s twist -- Silhouette inspired by vintage fits and old photography, BRMC meets Beatniks. Traditional mid-rise with straight slightly tapered leg.

Lot. 64 Okinawa (14oz.) with three rolls on Attractions Co. Engineer Boots

Lot. 64 Okinawa with three rolls on Role Club Engineer Boots to show the buckles.

If you calculate the cuffs just right from the start, you can afford yourself the option to roll your denim two or three times depending on your mood or style of boots. 

Lot. 64 Okinawa with two rolls on Role Club Engineer Boots

Lot. 64 Okinawa with two rolls on Role Club Engineer Boots

Lot. 64 Okinawa with three rolls on Role Club Engineer Boots

Lot. 64 Okinawa with three rolls on Attractions Co. Engineer Boots

I learned the "double cuff"from a high school friend back in the early 1990's where he intentionally purchased long inseams to get that exaggerated cuff. This type of cuff reduced the thickness/bulk caused by rolling up three or four times. With the double cuff, you simply fold the cuff up twice the length you want your final (second) cuff width to be and then fold again. On some of my jeans, I fold the second cuff to right below the hem in order to expose the chain stitched finish and hem roping.

Notice the hem peaking out from the "Double Cuff" of the Lot. 64 (13oz.)

I rocked what I personally call the "CL" (Christophe Loiron) cuffs for a while before noticing a ton of other collectors doing thee same and reverted back. 

The "CL

For a bulbous or steel toe Engineer, I like to wear a longer leg with a 4-5" cuff. This setup just makes sense to me for chunky boots.
Levi's with Double Cuff on Chippewa 27899s resoled by Brian the Bootmaker

Of course, when you own the Glow-in-the-Dark Engineers you just cuff 'em super high ... to expose everything.

I normally wear my LVC 1947's with a double 3"cuff to expose the buckles of my boots, but every now and then a few small cuffs equaling a double 3 suits my fancy.

Careful consideration should be given to cuffs when worn with work boots. I think three rolls on my Okinawa's look great with my Lofgren's, but won't necessary look the same with my other laced boots.

Lot. 64 Okinawa with three rolls on the John Lofgren "Donkey Punchers"

My "Blacksmith" jeans (RS Money Bags) by Rising Sun jeans will always look good with a smaller cuff in my opinion.

RS Money Bags on Attractions Co. Engineer Boots

Try out the Double Cuff on the 34 inseam you picked up and that should reduce the chunk. I recommend playing with a cuff width that'll work for both your Converse and boots before committing -- allowing creases or boot marks develop.

I hope this helps.




Sunday, July 3, 2016


As a Marine Corps Logistician, I spend a lot of time in planning and operations meetings and as the G-4's Senior Enlisted Advisor I'm part of countless other meetings. Because of this, I've spent the better part of two decades trying to find that perfect notebook/planner.


I've tried everything from an expensive Franklin Covey to build-it-yourself planners to an iPad and everything in between without success. Fortuitously, I'm getting ready to start my second yearly Blue Sky planner -- my search is over! There's nothing fancy or overkill about this one. It's simple and to the point and deserves its own custom 4 oz. Horween leather cover.

I was going to go crazy with all kinds of pockets and slots, but ... simple planner; simple cover. And the best part? This thing runs for under ten small ones.

I finished this wallet about a week ago and it's one beast of a bi-fold sure to mark up those denim back pockets just right. This is made with ...

4oz Horween
Heavy duty core spun thread
Zip pouch w/NOS 1930's zipper
3+1 Card Slots
Bill Slot

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Brand: DubbleWare (also spelled Dubble-Ware)
Circa: 1940's / 1950's
Color: Blue
Size: 36x33
Sold For: $895 / 35 Bids

I've worn overall for decades, but have been obsessed with vintage/homage overalls lately and these late-model DubbleWare offering caught my attention. Unfortunately, they were a tad bid too big. Lots of Japanese brands are offering some nice reproductions, but there's nothing like owning and original.

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