Friday, November 28, 2014


I receive a TON of mail from my blog readers and try to get to them as much as possible. Most make it on the here for others to take away from and unfortunately some are lost in the shuffle of my busy life. If you've sent me an e-mail at with a question and have not yet received a response, you're not being ignored by any means. Feel free to drop me a reminder.


The latest reader mail comes from Daman. Stay tuned for my reply.

Hey John,

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope all is well wherever you are. I have enjoyed reading your blog for the past couple of years and find myself frequently going back and rereading some of your posts, and looking through your pics. I had a question and you seem to be the best person in position to answer it. Sorry in advance for how long-winded it will come across.

I am looking at purchasing a pair of Engineers boots and have narrowed my selection down to the Mister Freedom Road Champs, John Lofgren's Engineer boots or the new Role Club boots from Brian. I know you have experience with the first two and I am sure you have given the Role Club boots a look over, though you may or may not have handled a pair. My question is which would you go for?

The pluses/minuses for each pair for me would be:
1) Road Champs- Unlike most people I kinda like the high instep strap. I also like the pattern shape where it attaches to the boot. It seems like they have a bit more depth (of color) once they start wearing in and developing their patina than other makers and I still like the toe box. One thing I am concerned about is that the leather looks like it doesn't hold up as well as say the Lofgren's. It could just be that the people posting pics of them don't take quite as much care of them and like the abused look, but I did have some concerns of durability. I own a lot of MF products, so I know Christophe puts out quality stuff. I just wanted to get your opinion on the leather in comparison to the Lofgren's and/or the Role Clubs if you have handled them.

all-natural flattened toe box

2) Lofgrens- I love CXL and with the new natural CXL coming out, those might take the cake. However, I am becoming a bit more enamored with the aging quality of the Badalassi cognac leather that he used as well. I also like the triple stitching, and that stance when they are new. They seem a bit sleeker leaning forward and whatnot. Maybe it's the pics, but they seem to have a nicer silhouette. With the exchange rate where it is now, they seem to be a "good buy" as well. You have quite a few pairs, so I am sure there are lots of things you like about them. Just wondering if you could only have the RC or the Lofgren, would you be able to choose? One other thing I am a bit concerned with is the width. I have heard they are narrower than the RCs. I wear E widths in Alden Tru Balance and Barrie, and actually could probably go up to EE. Worried the Lofgren's might be too narrow.

3) Finally, the Role Club boots. I am not so keen on his color of the steerhide at this point, so I would be looking to buy the horsehide. He seems to have put a great deal of thought into them. Love the toe tracks. Cuban heel. Triple stitching. Some of the stitching details at the top of the shaft. The soles look great. Some of the wear pics I have seen look killer. Everything custom. etc... Pricing is a bit higher, but you get all the extras. I have not seen anyone else post about having handled/tried on a pair yet, so there is a bit of the unknown.

So, with these points in mind and they all fit into your budget, would you have a preference knowing what you know?

Thanks in advance. Stay safe.

All the best,

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


As much I'd like to dedicate more time to my leathercrafting, the fact is I'm a full-time US Marine. With the time I do have available, I like to make every creation count.  Here's a minimalist long wallet in auburn and black Horween with a Waldes zipper compartment, ID slot and bill slot all secured with a 1930's-style leather jacket wrist cuff.

Some other pieces I've had the opportunity to create recently - all made with Horween leather.

Monday, November 24, 2014


This pair of non-Horsehide frankenboots have some of the sweetest natural patina I've seen in a while. Made with oil-tanned cowhide, these mid-to-late 1950's / early 1960's brandless Engineer Boots bear qualities akin to early Georgia (Pair-A-Trooper) boots with their Chippewa buckles and unique instep strap stitching, but the upper strap stitching isn't consistent with the many other models from the Georgia Shoe Mfg Co - I've actually seen a few variations of stiching on the upper strap area, so what's the deal Georgia?

Even with the blasphemous act of shortening the straps and the cracked leather on the left toe box, these are easily worth the asking price of just over three bills.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


These may very well be the only pair of Engineer Boots ever initiated into the Kingdom of Neptune (from a slimy Pollywog to trusted Shellback) after crossing the equator through a military ceremony known as Crossing the Line - the very last for the USS Peleliu before she is decommissioned.

They endured several hours in and around South Pacific ocean water, to include being submersed a couple of times in small boats filled with fluorescent green water during this time-honored tradition that dates back centuries.

Monday, November 17, 2014



First off I love your blog and it has really got me into purchasing a pair of engineer boots.

I wanted to know what your thoughts are on the sizing of Buco engineer boots. I'm a size 8 in boots. And sometimes a 7.5 in red wings and alden indys. Do you think a 7.5 would fit me? Thanks!

Keep up the excellent blog! :)

Best, Antonio
My old personal pair of Horsehide Buco's, model BA6010-030
Thanks for the e-mail! I appreciate the kind words.

Based on my sizing below, I think 7.5 in Buco's would suit you just fine. My Buco's were a little roomy at 8.5, but my normal boot socks and cushion inserts fixed that up just right. A size 7 would have been ideal with 7.5 working as well since my Toys McCoy Beck's (similar lasts) are 7.5 with that perfect amount of wiggle room.

*My Buco's had a hard toe with double celastic reinforcement, so wiggle room or not, there was no prospect of a future flat toe box.

Here are my sizes for reference:
Normal Boots: 7 to 7.5
Red Wing 2268: 7
Alden Indy: 7 (through research - I haven't yet owned a pair, but Shell Cordovans are calling my name)
Converse All-Star: 7
Real McCoy's Buco: 8.5
Japanese sizing: 7

I hope this information helps you along with your decision and please feel free to drop me a note if you have any more questions.



I'm truly honored and humbled by my selection to the rank of Master Gunnery Sergeant this past week.

Master Gunnery Sergeant (MGySgt) is the ninth and highest enlisted rank (along with the grade-equivalent ranks of Sergeant Major and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps) in the United States Marine Corps. Master Gunnery Sergeants are senior staff non-commissioned officers, and are assigned a pay grade of E-9.

Master Gunnery Sergeants are sometimes referred to by the nickname "Master Guns" or "Master Gunny."

The Master Gunnery Sergeant insignia consists of a bursting bomb (colloquially referred to as a "pineapple" due to the similarity of its appearance) centered vertically between three chevrons and four rockers.

One of the major differences between the two E-9 grades is that Master Gunnery Sergeants retain their MOS, while Sergeants Major are given a new MOS to reflect their general command focus. This reinforces the Master Gunnery Sergeant's role as a provider of military leadership, technical acumen, and mastery of their MOS.

Sunday, November 16, 2014


1957 - This is the second article on Engineer Boots I've posted from the 1950's that mentions marks left on the floor by black rubber soles and heels.

Saturday, November 15, 2014



What's your take on Crepe Soles? What are some advantages and disadvantages? How easy is it to re-sole a crepe to wood stack? I like these limited edition blue suede boots from Unionmade. I read that Japan is crazy about the crepe sole, but my exposure to this is very limited. I am hoping that you can help with this decision.

Thank you for your time
 Source: unionmadegoods
Thank you for the e-mail, Luis. Great boots at an equally great price.  I absolutely love crepe soles! I owned two pairs of shorty Chippewa Engineer Boots with crepe wedge soles and they were the most comfortable boots I've ever owned. 

Here are my experiences with crepe wedge soles:
Pros: They have a pleasant springy, cushiony feel to them when you walk, perfect everyday shoes/boots, perfect for dog-walking and they look damn good with premium denim!
Cons: Like any light-colored shoe/boots, the sole edges may require occasional attention - an old toothbrush and hand-pump soap works wonders. No other cons!
Resoling footwear with Goodyear welt construction isn't hard for a reputable cobbler. Crepe soles are a huge deal in Japan - shown below is what the world-renowned Japanese cobbler, Okuyama of Hukurokuju has the ability to do with Red Wing 875's for just around $150. 

Friday, November 14, 2014


Fans of vintage Red Wing 2268's will be pleased to learn the F/W 2014 line introduced homage vintage Red Wings with PT 91-era characteristics - the "9268."

- Leather: Black "Klondike" - Double tanned meaning the black will fade into a lovely brown over time.
Soles: Black Neoprene Cord
- Height: 11"
- Width: D
- Vertical tag
- May come with toe tracks (some more prominent than others)
- 1990's-style "Red Wing" embossing on shaft
- 1970's-style box label
- Price: Just right at under $500!!

For those who were ever on the fence with pulling the trigger on a pair of 2268's, this is the time to do it. These 9268's are priced to move and sure to be collectables. I may even purchase a pair for safe keeping.

A vintage pair of 1990's 2268's - a great example of what happens with double tanned leather

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Well, at least to claims that ALL Engineer Boots from the 1930's through the 1950's are made with Horsehide. Unless vintage footwear bears a stamp (embossed or leaf) or tag/label indicating the leather makeup, be mindful of auctions using key phrases like:

"I think these are Horsehide, but not sure."
"I was told these are Horsehide."
"The original owner purchased these in the 1940's and said they were Horsehide."
"Feels like Horsehide."
"Tastes like Horsehide."
"Smells like Horsehide."
"Made with the highest quality Horsehide."

An amazing vintage shop in Japan recently sold these Vintage Engineer Boots described as Horsehide; however, these scarce 1940's Montgomery Wards Blue Band grade Engineer Boots are actually made from Full Grain Cowhide. No boots produced for Wards (or Chippewa, or Red Wing, or ... you get the picture) were EVER made with HH - they sell for big bucks even without erroneous claims of "collectible" leather.

Check out more about Blue Band from my 2010 post here.

Monday, November 10, 2014


1775 - 2014
United States Marines have officially celebrated the birth of the Corps since 1921 when Commandant John A. Lejeune ordered Marines’ original birthday of 10 November be declared a Marine Corps holiday to be celebrated throughout the Corps with Marine Corps Order 47.




November 10, 2014 - Me cutting the ceremonial cake onboard the USS Peleliu. Behind me are youngest and oldest Marines present along with the guest of honor, the ships Commadore. The Lietenant Colonel beat me out as the oldest Marine by just three years. Scary.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Happy birthday to my little girl, Pepper.  She would have been twelve this year and was one of the most spoiled little princesses I have ever known.  RJRJRJRJRJ

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Hi there,

Let me start by saying I’m a big fan of your site, and the enormous knowledge and enthusiasm that it provides! I’ve got three boots in my sights -

1) Frye Brando - These look nice boots with some vintage styling, and leather soles, but not sure about those double straps at the top. Also, I heard that Frye boots come up very loose, is that widespread?

2) Chippewa 97863 - These look like they have a good toe shape, but I don't like the matte / greasy finish. Can these be polished up with regular boot polish to a gloss shine? Also, don't those buckles look like something off a ladies purse!

3) Chippewa 1901M48 - Again, not sure about those buckles, but I like the leather and the tan welt around the base. The soles look like they're made of foam rubber or similar!

I was hoping you might pass on the benefit of your experience with some guidance which might be the best to go for.


Thank you for the e-mail!

Frye Brando - I’ve owned these boots for many years - currently being sold under the name “Rand” with less desirable modern characteristics - and agree with you on the vintage styling. I wouldn’t let the double straps be a deal-breaker since they aren’t noticeable when worn. They are the only pair I have with double buckles, so it definitely adds color to my collection. They fit a little big and I recommend going with at least one half size down. Worn with jeans or something dressier, these boots are pretty versatile.

Mine have been stored in a box of miscellaneous Engineer Boots for some time now, but my ultimate plan is to have them resoled with stacked Woodsman heels, half soles, swapping the buckles out with traditional colors – or try to see what sanding off the coating does, and removing the celastic from the toe box. They are ready to rock out of the box, but my planned modifications are merely to get back into them as I currently only bounce back and forth between only a standard few from my collection.

Pros: Classic styling / profile, 1940’s-style low, blocked heel, versatile with various wardrobe styles, retail for around $250
Con: Dark coated buckles

Chippewa 97863 - I’ve had my sites on these for a long time with the intent of having them immediately resoled with stacked Woodsman heels, half soles and swapping the buckles out with traditional rollers. Any leather can be polished – black Kiwi Parade Gloss polish and a boot brush will make you forget they ever had a matte finish. Take it even a step further with a military spit shine.

Of your three options, this is the pair I’d choose for myself. A natural welt is available upon request at the time of rebuild.

Here’s a prime example of how great these boots look following a rebuild from Okuyama of Hukurokuju.

Pros: Classic 1950’s Chippewa Style (after a trip to the cobbler), retail for around $200 (still under $500 with the above rebuild)
Cons: Modern factory buckles, Leather (but you get what you pay for)

Chippewa 1901M48 - One of the newer models put out in an attempt to revive the brand that still falls short on anything remotely close to their archives. Chippewa should have been less concerned with the vintage tag and calling it something fancy like, “Whirlwind” and spent a little more effort on using traditional buckles. They’re wearable out of the box, but I wouldn’t go too long without swapping the buckles out and would probably have Okuyama do the same work as above, while still maintaining the natural welt edge.

Pros: Classic styling / profile, natural welt edge, retail for under $300 (still around $500 with a rebuild).
Con: Modern factory buckles

I hope this helps a little with your decision.  Cheers!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I started this VEB Leather wallet onboard the USS Peleliu during our recent delay in the Philippines and continued to work on it between working hours enroute to other areas in the South Pacific and finally completed it soon after we arrived in our current port. This well-traveled piece is made with Horween leather, NOS vintage Talon zipper with Horsehide zipper lining, exlcusive Japanese leather thread and brass hardware.

As usual, it's completely handcrafted without the aid of any machines or fancy templates.