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.