Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In Review: Buttero B101 Nubuck Lace Up Boots (For 100 Bucks)

Buttero is one of those brands that flies under the radar and yet always seems to draw universal praise by those who own the products, including myself. I've been really happy with the Tanino sneakers I picked up last year, for instance, in that they deliver quality leather in an attractive design, solid build, and sense of soul that is often missing in other options around the same price point. So I'm a little surprised, year after year, when I see Butteros fall to shockingly low prices around the net. I picked up this pair, the B101 "lace up boots," the other day on Yoox for $103 shipped (!), and wanted to share them with you to highlight the sort of thing that can happen when you search a little deeper than the average guy is willing to before settling on a pair of Cole Haans for twice the price and a fraction of the quality.

Design, Materials, and Construction

Let's talk about the leather first, as it's probably the most interesting and polarizing aspect here. Unfortunately there isn't a lot of available information on these boots because, as far as I can tell, the B101 model was discontinued many years ago and may never have been sold in the US at all -at least not since 2013 when the Internet Archive started cataloguing Buttero's site. From what I've been able to gather (mostly from translated Japanese sites), the leather used on the uppers is described as "Guidi vachetta," a vegetable tanned leather from the renowned Guidi & Rosellini tannery in Pescia, Tuscany. 

Buttero has collaborated with Guidi before, an Italian tannery dating back to 1896 that's known for producing leather with a lived-in and weathered feel (they also now make their own footwear with that same vibe), and the rugged character of the leather used on these boots seems to fit the Guidi mold well. While the boots are described as "nero" (black), the model number listed on the box is followed by "PE-TORR" to designate the leather type. When you search "PE-TORR" around the web in different combinations ("Buttero PE-TORR," "PE-TORR," etc.), you end up on a few sites that generally describe a nubuck treated with oil and some type of powder. The nubuck part is straightforward enough and was a welcome surprise, as I initially thought they were made from suede. Nubuck differs in that it utilizes the grain side of calfskin, which has been sanded or buffed down to give the leather surface a short nap vs. suede, where the flesh side of the hide is the surface. Of the two, nubuck is generally considered more durable as it comes from the natural exterior of the hide, and it's likewise usually more expensive.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What I Wore Today - Monitaly Shawl Field Jacket

I bought this Monitaly coat last year during the No Man Walks Alone winter sale - Yuki Matsuda's take on a jeep coat/mackinaw, featuring a double-breasted black cotton herringbone design, shawl collar, subtly patterned wool blanket lining, and what feels like a bridle leather belt with sister company "Yuketen" hand-written on the flesh side. With the weather being pretty variable the past few weeks here in Philadelphia, it's given me a fair amount of chances to wear it out recently, where I've found it to be best suited for temperatures in the 40's due to the blanket lining.

Simply put, I really love the character of this coat, which manages to both capture the immediately recognizable design of its predecessors while simultaneously standing alone in its own interpretation of that inspiration. Stylistically it works well in situations that you'd normally wear something like a peacoat, a garment with similar military roots, though I find this to be much more interesting than an everyman peacoat design you could find at J. Crew (though admittedly with less versatility). The healthy shawl collar lends an element of drama, especially when worn halfway or entirely up, and I'll almost always take a belted version of a jacket over that without if I have the choice. I usually like the different silhouette it imparts, and similar to a 3-piece suit it just gives more options without making them all mandatory for wear together. Greg from NMWA wears his without, though I like it both ways.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

My Cowichan Design Submissions

"Broken Navajo" Design
***Update 2/13/17*** - Polling for the contest is officially up here. A lot of great submissions all around, with the top 3 headed over to the Collective Action page on NMWA's website later for the final showdown. If you like more than one design, you can vote for multiple submissions if you would like.


The contest at No Man Walks Alone for a guest designer on their collaboration with Canada's Kanata Cowichan company is over in a few days, and I sent in a few designs for consideration I thought I'd share. I've never considered myself an artist/designer nor have I ever done anything like this before, so the experience had a pretty steep learning curve, but I have to say it was pretty fun on the whole.

All of the designs I've made draw inspiration from what could loosely be referred to as various forms of Americana, a designation I would argue the Cowichan itself lies under including the native cultures of the Americas. So here they are, in no particular order:

Traditional American Tattoo

Tiger Sukajan (Japanese Souvenir Jacket)

Koi Sukajan

Navajo/Southwestern (alternate pictured above)

A few thoughts I had on the process:
  • It's an entirely different animal to know what you like and don't like from a buying perspective versus designing it yourself. If I had to name that animal, it would be an okapi - vaguely familiar in a general sense of looking like a four-legged animal but completely foreign otherwise.
  • How do you respectfully channel Native American inspiration without stepping over the line into offensive cultural appropriation? It's a tricky line to toe (and one I've pondered in the past with products I've bought), but I stuck with the basic building blocks of southwestern Native design motifs - squares and triangles, with no sacred symbols.
  • The ability to edit yourself and show restraint is the hardest part of the process. Being able to represent an image or motif using such large pixels/yarn gauge is only half the battle. For instance, you see a lot of sukajan jackets with contrasting sleeves, stripes going down the arms, etc. All of those things you could technically translate over into a sweater design - I actually made versions of the tiger sukajan with stripes on the sleeves or dragons streaming on the arms - but that doesn't mean you should do it. "Would I want to wear that?" is the real question, and it's a lot subtler of an art than I thought it would be. How closely do you work from your inspiration vs. interpret it in a new way? For sure, there are different degrees of this represented above.
  • I'd rather get punched in the face or any non-groin area than have to color in pixels one-by-one in Excel again. Twice. I'd take two punches. Maybe a gentle tap to the groin.
I'd love to hear from anyone else who took part in the contest, as well as any general feedback or comments on the above designs. Would you wear something like this? Do you hate them? Too kitschy? Too busy?...Too sexy?