Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Chaps Can Bake Too: Chocolate Chip & Cinnamon Christmas Cookies

Well, it's that time of year again. We're on the cusp of Christmas Eve and, to be honest, I am about as full of Yule-tide cheer as a hungover Scrooge.

However, baking always restores morale a little, nothing more so than cookies. I took a batch I made recently to a birthday party packed to the rafters with hoards of Icelandic children and the cookies were polished off within a couple of hours.

This recipe is easy - the cookies take all of 15 minutes to prepare, and, served with the morning coffee, they're also an easy way to impress the female in your life.

Here in Scandinavia they love baking with cinnamon and use it in just about everything. For me, the smell of cinnamon cookies wafting through the house is just lovely. Feel free to experiment though - this recipe works just as well with cardamon and a few rum soaked raisins.

New Utility - Choc Chip Cookies

You'll need to assemble the following:
  • 125g unsalted butter.
  • 150g flour.
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder.
  • 100g golden caster sugar.
  • 75g demerara sugar.
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • 1 egg, beaten.
  • 2 tbs porridge oats.
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon.
  • pinch, sea salt.
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken in to small chucks.

Proceed as follows:
  • Pre heat oven to 190 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan.
  • Meanwhile mix the 2 sugars in a bowl and pour in the melted butter.
  • Beat in the egg, cinnamon and vanilla.
  • Sift in the flour and baking powder.
  • Add the salt, oats & chocolate and thoroughly stir the whole lot. You should by now have a fairly loose mixture.
  • Evenly space pudding-spoon sized dollops on a paper lined baking tray. (They'll spread out a fair bit during cooking.)
  • Cook for 8-10 minutes until the cookies turn golden brown
  • Remove from oven and leave to firm up for a couple of minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
Perfect with a mug of mulled wine. Skål! And a merry Christmas to you all!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Bulldog Spirit - SJC Denim Kickstarter Successful

Last month Denimhunters' Matt Wilson introduced us to the SJC Denim Kickstarter campaign. Well, here's an exciting update  - with 9 days left to go designer Simon James Cathcart's project is already funded, so if you want a pair of these jeans you'd best get in there quick.

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim

To re-cap for those of you that missed it, Simon has designed a heritage collection embracing differing styles and youth cultures throughout the last century. There are several historically accurate fits in the jeans line up - ranging from the Big B Dungaree, a 1920's style chino, to the slim cut 1980's Punk jean.

Two fits in particular have proved popular - the Brakeman, a high waisted 1930's style cinch back jean and the Big B Dungaree.

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim - The Brakeman
The Brakeman - easily the best jean in the collection.
So popular in fact that people have wanted to order both pairs, so Simon now has that purchase option up and running on the site.

Excitingly Simon has also now added a bespoke option, so for those guys whose dimensions are not exactly standard you can get any of the fits cut to your size.

The Yard Boss jacket looks particularly good, with period correct details like a cinch, patch pockets and pleats.

For the lady denim-head in your life Simon has also taken the brave step of making a women's jean and jacket - the Bad Kitty. So no longer will your vintage minded other half have to endure mass produced skinny stretch nonsense.

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim - Yard Boss Jacket
Yard Boss Jacket - moustache and motorbike optional!

Uncompromising Detailing

All fits are made from either 120z or 16 oz ringspun Kaihara denim, one washed for minimal shrinkage. The hardware and detailing is impressive too - the vintage patina buttons are YKK, the thread is 1080 gold, as close to the early 20th century as Simon could match. 

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim - fly detail

The pocket bags,  printed with the SJC logo and chain stitched to the waistband, are super heavy 12oz selvedge - double stitched so they won't blow out. The back pockets are fully lined in the same material, and have covered rivets.

The upper inner block is finished with red scalloping because, as Simon puts it,"the guys had a 1920's machine and well f*@k it.. it looks sensational."

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim - Union Special

One of the last things to finish off is a brass stamp so the jerky leather patch is embossed.
With delivery scheduled for January 2015 production is about to go in to full swing.

Bulldog Spirit

I get the impression that the SJC project is very personal to Simon and it's very much in the artisan spirit. 
As Denimhunters' resident vintage buff it always excites me to see a designer do something like this - producing a collection that emphasises uncompromised vintage fits over mere commercial appeal. And, incase you haven't spotted the British bulldog patch yet, it's coming out of the UK. You still have a few days to get involved here.

Simon James Cathcart - SJC Denim - The Yard Boss Jean
The Yard Boss Jean

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Tackling a Heavyweight - Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers A Year On

I've finally buckled... after almost a year of near constant wear my Pike Brothers 48' Roamers are starting to hum a little. So, they’ve had their first wash.

Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers
A nicely broken in leather patch.
Since getting them last December I’ve worn them as much as possible, switching only to a lighter pair of LVC 505’s or my 11oz 37’ Roamers for the hottest days of the summer.

I gave the jeans a pre wear soak for shrinkage and to get the starch out of the fabric, but that’s it.
At 19oz this beautiful Kurabo denim took a fair bit of breaking in. Even tackling the button fly was a battle of wills in the beginning. The jeans almost wore me for a while…
Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers
Fresh out the box this time last year.
Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers
One year in. One soak, one wash and developing well.
But it’s been worth it. The jeans have gradually softened up - I’ve got some lovely whiskers around the pockets, and my wallet pocket is just starting to show signs of wear. Clearly when breaking in heavy-weight denim you're in for the long haul.

 Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers Fresh out the box this time last year.
Whiskering around the pockets.
Now, Pike Brothers suggest that you don’t wash these babies at all, instead favouring a dry clean.
Other hardcore denim heads might raise an eyebrow at simply bunging them in the washing machine with a bit of detergent but that’s exactly what I’ve done. Turn ‘em inside out, put them in a cold wash and hang them damp. Done.

Denim this beautiful deserves to be looked after and I simply don’t see how dousing it in chemicals at the dry cleaners will help the longevity of Kurabo’s finest fabric.

 Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers
Just starting to develop some fraying around the cuffs.
If other items in your wardrobe are dirty, you wash them, right? As Denimhunters' Matt Wilson argued in his recent article on washing denim it makes no sense to spend serious amounts of wedge on premium denim to then not look after it.

I love seeing how selvedge denim evolves as much as the next denim head, but not at the expense of smelling like a bath-shy farm hand.

 Pike Brothers 19oz 1948 Roamers
Coin pocket detail.
The 48’ Roamers are tough jeans. If, like me, you like your jeans old school then the classic fit is spot on and denim is evolving wonderfully. They are hands down my go to pair and will doubtless serve me for a long time to come.

For more details my earlier full review is well worth a read. If you’d like to get your hands on a pair check out Pike Brothers here
If you're thinking of tackling a pair of these beauties now is the perfect time of year to start.

Those of you lucky enough to be in Munich can also visit the Pike Brothers pop-up store until December - details here.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Your New Winter Boots - The Chippewa Homestead

Born in the USA

For me there is something about tan leather and denim that works seamlessly, and I love a work-wear inspired boot. 

So, when I was offered the chance to review a pair of Chippewas for work the Homestead Boot in Copper Caprice grain leather was a natural choice.

Chippewa Homestead Boot

Founded in 1901, the American brand Chippewa started out producing rugged work boots – a rich tradition they have kept very much alive in their Original Collection – one characterised by, to quote the press blurb, 
“a blend of modern durability found in contemporary outdoor products combined with the heritage and authenticity of American craftsmanship and work ethic. The Collection is an assembly of vintage-inspired footwear for individuals who appreciate classic boots with a distinctive identity.”

These boots were made for walkin'...

Chippewa Homestead Boot
Fresh out the box a few months ago.
As you'd expect from any heritage collection quality and craftsmanship are key - all the Original Collection boots are Goodyear welted, hand crafted in the USA using quality hides.

Well, to the Homesteads. The light tan grained leather has pleasingly soft texture to it, and unlike my Red Wings, the boots were comfortable straight out the box, requiring only minimal breaking in. No blisters for me, I'm pleased to report.

The cushioned insole is a nice touch, the heel being maple leather, the rest something called texon. (I have no idea..)

As befits what is technically a work boot there is a reinforcing steel shank. Yet, the boots do not feel too clunky.

After a few months of regular wear the boots are now moulded perfectly to my feet.

Chippewa Homestead Boot
Starting to age nicely.

Booty call

The detailing is stylish too – the unbleached cotton stitching across the toe-cap and round the outsole looks great. The 3 brass speed hooks at the top of the boots and waxed laces mean they’re easy to get your feet in and out of – important in Danish homes where forgetting to remove your footwear results in much social awkwardness.

The sizing comes up a little large, but I prefer to wear thick socks with my boots. 

The Vibram V-Bar sole does have some grip – whether that’s up to the rigours of a Scandinavian winter remains to be seen, though I’m sure they’ll be perfect around town. (For the woods we all have our hiking boots, right?)

Chippewa Homestead Boot
Absolutely love the stitching on these boots..

You've got sole

The Homestead boot might wear its heritage on its sleeve, however, whilst the construction is undoubtedly robust, the boots are not overly heavy. They could easily be used for a pair of ‘best’. So, if you’re looking for a quality light winter boot the Homestead is for you.

Chippewa Homestead Boot

As well as style the key thing for me comfort - and these babies are so comfortable I’m sure they’ll be keeping my feet nice and toasty throughout the winter. 
With this collection Chippewa set out to combine timeless silhouettes with modern style, and with the Homestead I'd argue they've succeeded.

Call me cynical, but when you add the tag 'original or 'heritage' the price normally takes a massive hike north.
The good news is that Chippewa have a considerably lower price point that the likes of Viberg & Red Wing - being owned by Justin Brands, one of the largest bookmakers in the U.S, means that Chippewa, for the Original Collection at least, are able to keep production in-house and remain competitive without the normal quality fall off you'd expect from a mainstream brand.

Chippewa Homestead Boot
More stitching porn..
A pair of Homesteads will set you back approx $260. (By way of comparison I paid that in GBP for my Red Wings. I find myself in the Chippewa's more..)

If tan leather is not quite to your taste the boot is also available in several other finishes. Well worth a look too are their Service and Engineer Boots. Check them out here.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cocktail Hour - The White Mexican

Cocktail Hour is back! And we've found something a little special to alleviate those autumn blues.

The White Mexican is essentially a latin riff on the classic White Russian - substitute the Kaluha for Patron Coffee Tequilla and you have it.

However, a vodka shortage at New Utility HQ meant that we had to get a little creative and use dark rum rather than usual Russian staple.

This occasioned heated, and slightly drunken, debate with my housemate as to whether this forced substitution warranted a complete name change.

Technically a White Mexican should constitute Coffee Tequilla, Vodka and Cream, after a few tastings we agreed that the detour via Havana gave the finished article a more rounded sweeter flavour, with just enough bite coming through the tequila.

After much back-and-forth, and some quite terrible potential monikers being bandied about, the worst of which were Fidel's White Mexican and, my favourite, The Geographically Challenged Russian, we reached rather an impasse..

So if anyone has any ideas do let me know!

Anyway, should you feel the urge to mix one proceed as follows:

  • 60ml of Patron (coffee tequila), 
  • 30ml of Havana Club dark rum
  • 60ml cream, 
  • top up with milk
  • chocolate sprinkles to garnish

In a rocks glass filled with ice add the Patron, rum and cream over ice. Top up with milk if desired.
If there are ladies to impress push the boat out be adding a few chocolate sprinkles.

Be warned however, these things slip down very quickly and do rather sneak up on the unsuspecting drinker. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Handmade & Honest - Hepville Custom Clothing

One of the most enjoyable things about the denim industry is that the folks involved tend to be genuinely passionate about it – none more so than one man brands such as Germany’s Hepville Custom Clothing.

A Hep Man’s Passion 

Founded by Bela Ujhazy, a love of beautiful early 20th century work-wear, combined with frustration of what was available on the mass market, led him to give up his successful career as a chef to re-train as a bespoke tailor. No an easy task when you’re in your 30’s and with limited opportunities for apprenticeships.

But Bela did it – and now turns out fantastically well made custom garments from his home near Bremen.
Bela has had a passion for 1940’s & 50’s clothing and music since he was a kid, so it seemed like a natural choice for him.

Hepville Custom Clothing
Bela hard at work. (pic by Hepville)
Bela puts it simply, “My inspiration is tailored clothing I would like to wear myself - building a wardrobe around your jeans is my main concept I guess. As I´m a trained tailor I can do the whole range of stuff besides jeans - jackets, shirts, coats, caps, bow ties, neck ties..”

And he can do it with the fabric and custom detailing of your choice, the garment handmade from design to pattern drafting, cutting, tailoring and sewing.


Bela works with each customer to ensure a perfect fit. If you can’t make it to his workshop he’ll give you detailed instructions on taking correct measurements. After the first fitting he then tweaks a garment so it’s absolutely right for the customer.

The process is quite labour intensive and Bela can work up to 15 hours on one pair of dungarees.

“I have no special machines e.g for felled seems, folding over edges or other construction details... I do this by hand using my skills and tailoring techniques. My garments are all made with single-needle-construction… I´m a big fan of cleanly finished stuff.”

Hepville Custom Clothing

Hepville Custom Clothing

In fact the detailing on the dungarees is superb – I love the decorative stitching on the front pockets, a forerunner of the back pocket arcuate. It doesn’t stop there – the piping on the hickory pocket bag seams is beautifully done. Each belt loop has a selvedge end, as does the fly.

In terms of fit, the dungarees are broadly similar to a 1933 501 – a wide legged jean with a decent rise, sporting both suspender buttons and belt loops.

The selvedge detailing on the waistcoat pockets may be slightly over-doing it for my taste, but it’s a minor quibble and just my personal preference. I feel that the sheer quality of the workmanship should speak for itself.

Hepville Custom Clothing

Bela collects vintage haberdashery – some of which makes it’s way on to the clothes he makes. The Bakers Boy caps is beautiful – made from a selection of chambrays, denim or tweed, aside from material you can specify things such as a leather headband or whether you’d like a cinch etc – complete with vintage buckle.

Until I’d tried on one of Hepville’s denim Engineer caps I’d never considered wearing one before. The silhouette is spot on – obviously Bela has spent a lot of time doing his pattern research. He suggests you have to size up by a centimetre to allow for shrinkage after the soak. Quite right - any new cap needs one so it can be moulded to the shape of your head properly.

Hepville Custom Clothing

Fabrics & Fair Trade

You can select what weight & type of fabric you’d like – for selvedge Bela uses either Japanese or American denim – he’s the first to admit though that, as small craftsman, you’re limited as to what material you can order by the excessive yardage most mills require.

For the tweeds and other fabrics he tries to source from German or other European countries. “I just choose fabrics I like. I can´t offer something to customers I´m not convinced of myself.”

As Bela makes clear, “fair trade is an important thing to me: sourcing from first world countries, with better wages and better social environments. As I'm a small player on the market, I don't invest millions in advertising etc. You just get my items directly, without retailers who want to make some money too, so I can offer my items to reasonable prices.”

Handmade & Honest

It may be a small business, but the quality of what Hepville produces is self evident – something that the larger players often lose sight of.
We discussed how Bela sees his business growing over the next few years, and for guys like him the answer would seem to be in collaboration with shops and larger labels, something that he hopes will come to fruition soon.

Bela is working on several exciting new projects, not the least of which are a duck cotton waistcoat and pea-coat that he’s currently tweaking the pattern for – so we can look forward to Hepville’s range expanding in the near future.

Hepville Custom Clothing

One of Bela’s main motivations is simply to grow consumer awareness of bespoke tailoring, as he says, “almost all early work wear would have come from a tailor’s shop or have been made in someone’s home.”

Hepville Custom Clothing is very much in this tradition, simply producing beautiful garments that are handmade and honest.

You can check out Hepville Custom Clothing here.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Making Heritage Contemporary – The Pike Brothers Wabash Series

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

I’ll make this clear from the outset, Pike Brothers is one of my favourite labels.
Pike’s core line, focussing on European and American inspired military and workwear, speaks to my depths. One of their guiding principles is that their clothes, whilst remaining true to first principles, still function as practical working garments.
With the release of their new Wabash series – a couple of waistcoats and a jean – they’re expanding this range whilst staying true to their roots.

A Striped History

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

Although mostly associated with railroad workers, the Wabash fabric has seen much wider use. Its ruggedness makes it perfect for heavy labour. Just like Hickory stripe, it gives a different appearance to work attire, smartening up the workman’s wardrobe.

In the early stages of Wabash production, stripes or dots where resist dyed. However, from approximately the 1930s onwards, to speed up production, patterns where woven in.
Pike’s fabric has been made to these standards; a shuttle loom weaving the stripes into the fabric.

A Question of Modern Fit

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

The fit is fairly relaxed, with 3 outer patch pockets and an inner pocket. It’s also lined with a layer of grey cotton twill.
Yes, this is a heritage garment, but it’s been cut slightly longer than vintage examples would have been. I guess the motive was to accommodate today’s lower waistlines.
I particularly like the real ivory nut buttons – and the little detailing quirks like the selvedge on the coat hook.

The waistcoat is available in both grey and blue 13 oz. Wabash denim. The jeans are based on Pike’s 1942 Hunting Pant, and for now are just available in grey Wabash.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

As ever, Pike Brothers suggest that you wear their stuff in from dry – the denim is sanforized, but my previous experience with their jeans is that you’ll loose just under an inch off the leg after a pre wear warm soak. Either way I’m looking forward to seeing how this Wabash ages.

All the rugged Pike detailing we’ve come to expect is there; the heavy bar tacking and lock stitched hems. Another definite period feature is the D ring and watch pocket. There are little flourishes too. The decorative stitching on the front pockets looks fantastic, yet is still functional, helping to reinforce a natural stress point.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

The jeans are cut quite traditionally – with a loose fit and mid-rise, brace buttons, and zinc cinch at the back to adjust the waist. The 1940’s were very much a cross over period when it came to braces vs. belt, so there are also belt loops.

Call me obsessive when it comes to buttons, but it would have been great to see the same ivory nut used for the brace buttons, rather than the coated metal ones they sport now. Still, they're meant to be a rugged working trouser, right?

My only other slight grumble is that it would have been useful to have cinch on the waistcoat too. (However, that’s perhaps the author’s fault for being a skinny bugger.)

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

A Modern Take on the Past

With the Wabash series, especially in terms of how it has been cut and made, I think Pike has perfectly struck the balance of taking 19th century heritage and making it relevant and stylish for today. Arguably, this is a challenge faced by the wider heritage fashion industry.

Now, I can’t be the only one out there thinking that Pike Brothers need to release a matching Wabash jacket? My covert mission to look like Al Swearengen from Deadwood will then be complete!
You can check out the Pike Brothers Wabash series here.

Pike Brothers Wabash Series

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bristol Via Jakarta - NoKipple & The Elhaus Panna Shirt

Social media can be a wonderful thing, enabling us to discover brands that we otherwise would not have been exposed to. It's thanks to NoKipple pinging me on Twitter that I discovered Elhaus.

Based in Bristol NoKipple are very selective as to who they stock, specialising in high end denim and related clothing that is near impossible to find otherwise in the UK - but Elhaus have made the cut.

Elhaus Panna Shirt

Launched in 2010 the Jakarta located labels' philosophy is to take Indonesia's strong, traditional design history and combine it with modern cuts and experimental materials.

Indonesia has an up and coming clothing design and manufacturing scenes with brands such as Elhaus and OldBlue Co. at the forefront.

As NoKipple argue,
"We love Elhaus because they have no fear, they are more than willing to work on products that most smaller labels would deem as too risky or too costly, they love a challenge just as much as we have enjoyed working with them on a challenge."
A point amply demonstrated by the hand-woven jeans NoKipple & Elhaus collaborated on last year. (I know, I came slightly late to the party. The Denim HQ article on these awesome jeans, written by NoKipple's Gav, aka Megatron, is quite thought provoking.)

Elhaus NoKipple Jeans

But we're here to talk about the shirt. The material is light 5oz cotton, with a beautiful blue and white diamond Batik inspired pattern (a traditional technique of manual resist-dying - blocking the dye with wax to create the pattern.)
Elhaus Panna Shirt

The detailing is spot on - single needle stitching throughout, mother-of-pearl buttons, a split yoke, pointed collars, rounded hems and cuffs. 
I particularly like the side seam guessets and the stitching at the bottom of the placket - very period touches. The cut is slightly fitted but still quite classic in length.

All of these elements combine to create a classic American style work shirt, but with traditional Indonesian flourishes.

Elhaus Panna Shirt

In short it looks fantastic and, though long-sleeve, is lightweight enough to work perfectly for summer.

Tempted? The shirt is available only from NoKipple. Denim-heads amongst you should definitely check out the hand woven 21oz left hand twill jeans too. You don't normally see such attention to detail and commercially difficult artisan techniques used outside of Japan.

But that's rather the point. The selvedge denim industry is perhaps wrongly obsessed with branding and provenance. In an increasingly crowded market it can be hard for new brands to make headway, particularly those perceived to be from the wrong countries.

When did simply making something well become not sufficient?

Elhaus Panna Shirt

Indonesian brands like  Elhaus deserve recognition and wider popularity for what they're trying to do. I'm excited to see what NoKipple will get in from them next. Elhaus are definitely a brand to watch.

(Pix courtesy of NoKipple.)