Company: Bryker Hyde
Products: Leather Wallets & Bags
Founder(s): John (last name unknown)
Product(s) in Article: Quick Draw Bifold in Grey (no Zipper)
Cool Features: Full Grain Leather and RFID Technology
I have gone through so many wallets in my lifetime. The band logo ones from my high school punk days, to the paper ones, to the ones at Kohls; I've had so many wallets! The problem with all my past wallets is that they started falling apart quickly, sometimes within a week. The stitching would come undone, the cloth would rip, and the paper ones just plain deteriorated right before my eyes! (My fault for buying something made of paper to hold precious cargo like credit cards.) Another issue was that I always got trifolds because I liked the way they looked but every time I would over stuff them, misplace things, and make them bulky.
So after some online research, I discovered it is the age of the minimalist wallet. Some are made with metal, some are an actual multi-tool (?), designers have even tried creating wallets with built-in trackers! No thanks. I'd rather just have a good quality, leather wallet. The problem these days is that now credit cards/passports can be hacked and all your information stolen. To combat this issue, some companies have been adding RFID (link above) material that helps block those who wish to take what is rightfully yours. To me, and for my lifestyle, that is much more practical than a multi-tool that also holds my money or a wallet that can be tracked on a radar.
So good leather, RFID, and preferably more minimalist than what I have gotten in the past. Everyone has their "thing" and what they would spend more money on than most other people. I like to allocate my spending money to quality leather shoes and boots, selvedge and raw denim, and full-grain, unique-looking belts. A wallet? Meh. I'd rather not pay over $30 for one.
As for the negatives, the wallet is manufactured overseas, but that does help keep the cost way down. Also, the bill holder is a little bit snug. It fits cash perfectly only after some adjusting of the bills. Other than those two things, this wallet is definitely the best quality wallet I have ever owned! (And hopefully the last!) I recommend it to anyone who wants a slim design, enough space (8 total cardholders), RFID material, and quality leather at a very decent price. -Stylin' Asian
Resale shops are awesome. You can find some true gems if you get lucky! I found this pair of Nordstrom Made in Italy Women's Moccasins at this resale store for only $10! Here they are getting ready to be dyed:
I don't know the exact model, but they appear to be an older model and factory seconds of Tod's 'Gommini' Driving Moccasin. Regardless, they were in pretty good shape when I got them, no stitches falling out, no stains or discoloring etc... They had creases from previous wear of course but that is normal. The only real problem with them is that the color is just so... Blah (at least to us anyways).
The only thing that really needed to be done to them before dyeing them (in my opinion) was to give them a once over with a horsehair brush and condition them. To condition the moccasins, I used Saphir Renovateur- Luxury Leather Care Balm. I really like this product and use it on my belts before dyeing them as well in order to keep them from getting completely dried out from the dye. It also smells amazing!
So I used the conditioner, waited about 15 minutes, then buffed the shoes again with a horsehair brush. I cannot say that this method is the right way or not, but it works for me and I have done it on several projects without any issues.
To dye the moccasins, I use Fiebing's Low VOC Brown Dye. I usually just go down to the street to Hobby Lobby and pick up the dye there. I can't really compare it to other dyes because I have not used much else besides the Brown and Black VOC Dyes by Fiebing's. What I can say is that it does a good job but that you probably should wear gloves and cover your work space. It can get pretty messy!
The other products I used were a dauber, cotton swabs (for the places the dauber couldn't get to). and Fiebing's Tan-Kote as a finishing layer after the dyeing process was complete. I realize that in most cases, it is probably a good idea to use a deglazer to remove the original finish but I didn't have any! Oh well, I dyed them anyways.
The dyeing process is pretty calming, although the leather on the sole had to be done almost entirely with a cotton swab because of those round rubber traction pieces. I put about 3 coats of dye on, taking a small break in-between to let the dye absorb a bit. I have noticed with brown dye that the color you see when you first dye a project is definitely not the color you get when it's all said and done! So in my opinion, waiting a bit between each coat helps you see where on your project there needs to be more dye added and where there doesn't.
The final outcome was a success! The previous dye kept the finished color of the shoes lighter than I expected, almost like a shiny tan look. They stand out more and there are less imperfections than I thought (and what usually results when I use brown dye)! Pictured below is the finish product:
I think they look really good and I hope my lovely lady enjoys them! Also, this process didn't come about because of a huge mistake like it did the last time I dyed shoes!
Company: Mio Marino
Products: Clothing and Other Accessories
Founder(s): Isaac Fulop
Products in Article: Oxford Wingtip Lace in Cabernet and Ratchet Belts
Mio Marino is a small company based in Yew York City. While they do not sell handmade, full-grain leather shoes and belts, I do think their products are worth a shout out. Especially at their prices.
Now Mio Marino does not do any manufacturing in the States or other well known leather countries (Italy, Spain, England, Mexico...) and their products are made in China. However, they don't try to hide this fact either. I have seen them answer the "where are they made" question on Amazon with no hidden details: "Designed in New York City, leather is sourced from Africa. The shoes are manufactured in China, assembled and quality checked in New York City." I have mentioned before that I like a company who is transparent and as they grow, who says they won't start looking to make goods here in the States?
When it comes to quality, I am not stating that I think Mio Marino's shoes are up there with brands like Allen Edmonds, but they certainly are not these Target atrocities either! If I had to compare them to another shoe company in terms of quality and price, I would say Clark's and their own line of dress shoes.
The pair I have by Mio Marino, the Oxford Wingtip Lace, is a beautiful shoe. They can be purchased for around $70-$90. Of course with that cost point, there are some corners cut with the materials. The leather is Genuine Leather grade (which to me, is still way better than bonded leather or polyurethane) and the sole is cemented on, not welted, with a rubber heal. There are some rubber pads for transaction and no shank.
One thing I like about the cemented sole on the Mio Marino's is that they don't put that fake stitching on the topside to given the illusion of a welt. To me, that is ridiculous and false advertising. While the no welt instantly turns people off of some shoe brands, I would like to point out that some new companies on the scene, such as Wolf & Shepard, are making high priced, cemented dress shoes that can be resoled.
Despite those cost cuts, the leather stitching on the vamp, toe, and heal is quite well done from what I can tell and I haven't had any problems with loose threads. While the leather lining is also stitched and the back half cushioning on the insole is very comfortable, the lining stops about halfway into the shoe. Most likely another way to keep this beautiful shoe under $100. See the picture below:
Now onto Mio Marino's belts. Just like their shoes, they are made of Genuine Leather and are not full-grain. Again, I do not wear them as much as my custom made belts or my personally crafted belts, so I have not had a problem with wear and tear. The belts feel soft and don't have that plastic look like some other cheaper belts. The back of the belt is also finished nicely compared to most ratchet belts out there. Now I know that might change overtime, but again, I do use these as an everyday belt.
The two belts I have from Mio Marino are the Gold Vintage Ratchet Belt in brown and the Stony Matte Linxx Ratchet Belt in blue. The Gold Vintage has a beautiful buckle and your standard quick release mechanism with a button that are on most ratchet belts, such as the more known Mission Belt. The Stony Matte Linxx has a different release mechanism on the buckle, one that I have only been able to find on the Slide Belts. You just simply pull the top of the buckle up and it releases. This method is much easier to use in my opinion, especially if you want to adjust your belt midday and you don't want to make it so obvious (like in a meeting). Plus, they are cheaper (around $30 at most) than Slide Belts and a better quality when you match their Genuine Leather belts against each other.
Mio Marino is a company that helped me get into the world of leather goods. While they are not a top notch in quality, they don't market to be either. They offer a variety of accessories and clothes that are much better quality than you can find in department stores and with very competitive prices. While I do not wear my belts and shoes everyday, I certainly get my values worth out of all three items. If you are on a tight budget but still want something more unique to add to your wardrobe, I highly recommend Mio Marino products.
Products: Leather Shoes, Boots, and Other Accessories
Founder(s): Sebastian Blanco and Antonio Garcia Pastor
Product in Post: Marco/Cuero
"What?! You dyed an expensive pair of good looking shoes?! You idiot!"
Yes I know, it wasn't my first option. In fact, I was trying to "renew" the shoe and make it shine like new... Unfortunately, being a new and a novice to the whole world of leather, I fail more than I succeed.
The good news is that I bought the shoes (about three months ago) used and very cheap from Last Chance, the so-called "last" place Nordstrom products end up ( after Nordstrom Rack). Being from an outlet store, the Magnanni shoes I purchased are most likely used factory seconds.
They sure did seemed used at least: there was a lot of creasing, significant wear on the leather soles, and the straps had seen better days. Regardless, when I tried them on, they were one of the most comfortable dress shoes I have ever worn! Sold!
I should explain that these were my very first pair of quality dress shoes. My other ones were bought new for cheaper than I got the Magnanni's and some even had that dreaded huge square toe (I am ashamed)! So the first thing I wanted to do when I got home was polish and make them "brand new." And I may have been a little overzealous...
One of the reasons I was so excited to work on them is because I watched Carl Murawaski's "How to Make Cheap Boots Look Expensive" video. Watch below:
So in reality it's Carl's fault! Haha, no, just kidding, his video blogs have been very beneficial to me and I might have actually done it right if I had actually watched and listened to the whole video... He actually gives fair warning to do what he's doing in the video, I just didn't listen!
I really wanted these shoes to turn out nice and it was getting late at night, and some projects you can't quit until they are done! Realizing how bad they looked I panicked and decided to dye the shoes. The dye I used was Fiebing's Low VOC Leather Dye. At first, I thought brown would be a good way to go, but since I hadn't thought to wipe off the black polish, the shoes started to look worse! So black dye was really the only option.
I am pretty satisfied with the results, considering the complete train wreck at the beginning of the project. I certainly learned my lesson to be patient when it comes to leather work, from actually doing my own leather crafting to polishing. All in all, they are a solid pair of shoes and you cannot tell they were dyed with the naked eye. But would I do it again? Absolutely not!
The actual process of dyeing the shoes was rather easy; especially since black is probably the easiest to work worth. After they dried, I coated them with Fiebing's Tan Kote Finish to give them some protection (they need it since I am the owner) and then polished the shoes to get a nice shine (yes, I used black shoe polish). -Stylin' Asian
I think one aspect of boots that people forget about when it comes to comfort and fit is how they thread and lace them up. I like how the 1000 Mile Boots have a set of 3 hooks after the 4 sets of eyelets. It gives you more flexibility on how you want to tie up the laces depending on the style and feel you want. This article, "How to Lace Boots Properly," can be very useful if you are looking for different ways to lace your boots. The threading and lacing methods I refer to below can be found in that article.
The first couple of wears, I tried different techniques and settled on the traditional, "over under" method. However, I found that the spider web technique to also work well and it adds a certain look of creativity to the boot even though it isn't that hard to do. (Unlike the diamond pattern and heel lock method!)
Before threading, lacing, putting the boots on, I did condition the outsole and leather sections of the sole with Saphir Creme Cuir Gras and gave the boots a once over with a horsehair brush to polish any wax that came to the surface of the leather during storage. Since then, other than putting in the shoes trees, I have conditioned the boots fully once and polished them with, gasp, black shoe polish?!
I will explain. One thing I wasn't overly happy with was how bright the red leather was. The reason I bought the red pair was because they were on sale for 40% off on Wolverine's website, so I couldn't pass that up! My girlfriend pointed out it was the same color as Ronald McDonald's shoes! No thanks! I know that since the 1000 Mile Boot is made of highly regarded Horween Leather the color can vary from boot to boot. The pair I got happened to just be a little too red for my taste (and my lady's). My solution was to darken the boots...
So I took some of my Lincoln Stain Wax Black Shoe Polish, rubbed it in with a cloth, let the wax set, and then polished with a horsehair brush. Some of you might think I am crazy and that I did that completely wrong but hey, I can say the result was great! Depending on the lighting, they come across as having a more mahogany, patina look.
They still have a brighter red shine in certain light, especially the heel. I just feel they are more versatile now when it comes to what I can wear them with. They don't pull your eyes too much away from the rest of my outfit anymore. Like when you are wearing a nice pair of selvedge jeans and an unique belt! They do still add a little extra something to an outfit compared to your normal brown or black boots!
Before choosing the 1000 Mile Boots, I read many articles and reviews on the different boots out there, and my my, just so many! I decided on the Wolverines because of the leather they use (Horween), the Goodyear Welt, and the way they look on my feet. I wanted something that could stand up in Midwest weather but also look nicer than a pair of Doc Marten's, which have been my go to for most of my life. I also wanted a boot made in America. After all, the 1000 Mile Boots are considered heritage!
I am really enjoying these boots, especially since they are my first pair of quality shoes bought new and not second hand. They are comfortable and fit great! Time will tell if the black shoe polish was a good idea, but regardless, I plan on wearing them for a long time no matter what shade of red they end up being. Updates will come as they age!