It is often worth being reminded that while most of us who are orbiting around the Japanese fashion scene are mostly interested in what is on-trend and happening right now (or at times up to two seasons into the future), there is another side to Japanese fashion, one that prizes design classics and timeless vintage. This is particularly true of men’s street fashion, because try as designers might to evolve the male wardrobe, the serious money is nearly always splashed on classic leather jackets, quality denim and a good pair of boots. And it is the latter that I am going to focus on today, because if there is one thing that shows little signs of serious change, it is men’s boots. Not that this is a bad thing in the slightest, I am all for a subtly evolved engineer boot over a male mule and as you are about to see, there is an awful lot you can do with a fine pair of boots.
The boots that have dominated the Japanese market for many decades are mostly American in origin – Wesco, Red Wing, Viberg, White’s and Chippewa. All are hard wearing workman’s boots that seem to capture the spirit of adventure, endeavor and old-school masculinity that has long captured the minds and hearts of Japanese men.
All these boots are designed to be worn and loved season in season out and a large part of their ownership is in giving them the ongoing care they deserve. But you really can’t describe the beautiful character these boots take on, you have to see them – smell the leather and let them take you on the journey they have already enjoyed:
Let’s see what your fancy collectable trainers look like after 10 years of wear! But even though a stout pair of boots will only look better the more you wear them, will you still want to wear them for the decades they can last? Now I am all for fancy fake leather shoes that are not too expensive and will only last a season or two if that is what you want from them, but it is possible to combine those two worlds by customising your beloved boots as you go or buying into a one of a kind pair in the first place. Whether it is nice silver conchos from Tokyu Hands or leaving them in the hands of a pro, the sky is quite literally the limit:
I personally love a good studding project that evolves with you. With a pair of boots like this you really want to do a couple of studs every couple of weeks and really build to something of considered perfection.
But for my money, the apex of a pair of boots that you are going to want to live with is something with intrinsic value such as exotic leathers (but be careful at airport customs…)
But some of the best custom jobs are ones that you can re-apply as you go like paint jobs or hand detailing that you can just wash off or dye over.
Recently I have seen a resurgence in contrasting leather in boots:
As well as 70s heavily built up soles and heels (not sure about this one):
There is a whole lot out there to get into with these boots, whether it is the pursuit of perfect vintage or buying a new design classic. There are whole magazines devoted to this world in Japan and always a new custom job to admire.
Personally I can’t wait to grow old with my boots, leather trousers and silver. I hope you will join me in clinging onto your cool: