I was reminded of my leather jackets after talking with some old friends who have retired interest in clothing from the Styleforum days before Instagram. Back before I found a comfortable style, I did partake in the whole Temple of Jawnz (TOJ) leather jacket fiasco in 2012/2013. There’s a good summary on what happened over here.
People got too crazy obsessing over 1cm measurements with a MTM offering especially being behind a monitor on the internet. With MTM, the resale value really diminishes, and people don’t measure used garments to a consistent standard. I’m glad I fit in an “off-the-rack” size.
The Schott x 3sixteen Perfecto really encapsulates my more recent way of purchases. Nice stuff made from people I can hang with. It just so happened a few before this iteration jacket was released, both Schott NYC and 3sixteen opened stores in LA.
I took these handful of pics inside the bedroom messing around with my somewhat recently acquired Godox AD200 flash and Glow EZ Lock Deep Parabolic Softbox (28 in). Man.. this pairing of such a workhorse. The soft box is really easy to setup and really amazing for the price. From my past pics, I emphasized using natural light and “working with what ya got” but I figured I tried something different especially in a controlled environment.
Anyways, it’s getting too hot over here to wear nice clothes. Hope to be more active on my blog soon!
Horween Waxed Flesh, Roughout, and Reverse Chamois
The three Horween leathers with such resilience that they will accompany you to even the world’s end: waxed flesh, roughout, and reverse chamois. These leathers won’t need any conditioning for a long time. The wax makes the roughout very resilient to rain, scuffs, and other elements.
I did, however, decide to apply 100% Pure Neatsfoot Oil to my pair of Aldens in Reverse Hunting Green Chamois. Neatsfoot oil is a yellowish oil made from the shin bones of cows and is typically used to soften leather such as breaking in a baseball glove. The color of the boots out of the box seemed a bit too light for my liking. Neatsfoot is known to darken leather and it definitely darkened it to a deep forest green. The reverse chamois leather feels “damp” and cold to the touch, and surprisingly, it’s really, really supple compared to a roughout leather.
The brown and black waxed flesh arrived with their nap completely waxed (brand new black waxed flesh pic below). Waxed flesh when new feels both smooth and rough. You can see in pictures now that some parts of the boots still remain smooth.
What happens over time is that the wax comes off with wear, kicking objects, or even computer chairs rubbing against the heels. The brown pair (which started off a very dark brown) has areas lightened up to a medium brown with the nap/texture revealing itself. The black waxed flesh has revealed shades of grey underneath.
To test out the water resistance of every pair, I poured water on all of them. I wasn’t too thorough in scientifically testing them because in hindsight I would have weighed each boot before and after pouring an equal amount of water on them. That way, I’d be able to figure out which boot absorbed the most and which repelled the most.
From observation, the reverse chamois had the greatest water resistance. But it was likely because that boot was recently oiled. If all the boots were brand new, I’d say the order would go from Waxed Flesh > Reverse Chamois > Roughout in water resistance. Of course, all these leathers innately have high water resilience so the difference is negligible.
I wouldn’t hesitate to bring any of these pairs in rain, snow, or slush. Just be sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards!
Last year, 3sixteen collaborated with Schott NYC to create a monochrome Perfecto. Two great brands that I love came together to design a limited piece that would embody aesthetics from both brands. When last year’s collaboration was announced, I had already owned a Schott NYC 519 Perfecto in Black. The monochrome detail and removal of the belt did not attract me. I initially purchased my Schott 519 because it included contrasting buttons, one star shoulder epaulets, and a flashy belt. To me, that was the epitome of a Perfecto. You buy a Perfecto because you want the Perfecto details. I was able to try on last year’s collab at Schott NYC at the Americana in a size L (I wear a size M in the 519), and wasn’t impressed with it. The details from the 3sixteen aesthetic included a chambray lining and perhaps the removal of the belt for a cleaner silhouette. The leather appeared very matte, and I was pretty content with my 519 purchase earlier that year.
A few months ago 3sixteen revealed that they were collaborating with Schott NYC for the second time. I was pretty surprised myself as I thought last year’s was a one time only thing. I found news of this information on 3sixteen’s instagram with a closeup shot of a brass button and dark brown leather. Again this year, Milo Ventimiglia modeled the jacket, and 3sixteen revealed in that post that Horween leather was used in this year’s collaboration. I was drawn towards the detail that this leather was “custom tanned” for this collaboration and had a “sugary surface” that would chip off with time. Y’all know that I love things that “get better with age”.
The price this year was at a premium of $1100 USD instead of the previous year’s $950. The extra 150$ was likely due to adding in another company, Horween leather, a term that most fanboys, including myself, would drool to. The snap cap this year was still produced by Good Art HLYWD, but in an aged brass. Because this leather was custom tanned, no one knew anything how it would age/patina!
I was drawn to this year’s version because the piece was in a dark brown, and would actually develop a patina instead of last year’s black, which essentially stays black. I love that aged brass hardware this year was used instead of black, which complimented the dark brown leather.
I took attention to what retailers were stocking this piece on the day of release, December 20th, and prepared my game plan. I had called Schott NYC LA in Los Angeles a few days earlier asking about the anticipated release. Dandee, one of the store co-managers, told me that they were receiving only one of each size from S-XL and was emphasized by Jason Schott and 3sixteen that no phone orders or reservations this year would be taken and for it. The jackets were to be sold in store only starting at 11AM PST on Dec 20th.
From my past interactions, the Schott NYC LA team has great customer service, they are chill dudes that are down to earth, and they don’t pressure you to buy anything if you visit their store. My girlfriend and I had long beforehand planned a roadtrip to Sequoia National Park on the same day, but I told her that I really wanted to pick this limited piece up.
I arrived at Schott NYC on La Brea at about 10:50am on 12/20 Wednesday. The two employees were already inside, but the outer gates were still locked. At 11:00am, they opened the security gates and welcomed me in. Five of the Perfectos were hanging on the front rack – one of each from a size XS, S, M, L, and XL. I was pretty confident that M was my size, tried it on. The phones were already ringing non-stop about the jacket. One phone call I overhead was a guy wanting to buy the jacket, but wouldn’t be able to pick it up in person for 2 weeks. Pretty shady stuff haha. The brass snap button was initially wrapped in one of the hand warmer zipped pockets, and the guys recommended I place it on the jacket so I wouldn’t lose it. A couple minutes later, I walked out with a new jacket.
The overwhelming leather scent is hard to describe. It’s not a typical leather smell I’m familiar with. It’s neither pleasant nor unpleasant… it just smells of “Horween leather”. It wasn’t until a few days later when I returned from Sequoia National Park that I was able to really try on the jacket. It was super heavyweight and stiff, arms and body length a bit longer than my 519. I felt that the aged brass really complimented the dark brown color well.
In my attempt to break the jacket in, I wore it whenever I was in my room. The arm and body creases started to form, and once that happened, the sleeve and body length became perfect. The major differences from the Schott 519 in Pebbled Cowhide is that it’s a heavier weight, no belt (I like this because the belt often flailed around) and epaulets, a deep pistol pocket (great for sunglasses and my phone), and a lightweight, breathable chambray lining instead of quilted polyfill.
It’s been just under 4 weeks since I purchased this jacket, and it has become much softer and cozier. The leather has lightened up in some areas such as the elbows and back. I look forward to how the unique leather will age!
May 2018 Update
After 5 months or so, the Perfecto still has a strong smell to it after purposely leaving it in the backseat of my car for several weeks.
Two major areas on the jacket have changed colors – the elbows and the near front placket.
The elbows have lightened up from a dark brown to a lighter brown from abrasion on surfaces. This will likely be the color the jacket will lighten up to after many more years of wear.
Oddly, areas on the front placket and especially the collar have become polychromatic when viewed in direct lighting. At first, the rainbow sheen appeared around the collar so I thought it was from my sunscreen. However, shortly after the irregularity spread further down the placket in random areas. I think the cause of this color change is the pigment breaking down from age. It’s not very noticable unless viewed in direct lighting from the sun. Also, the color change doesn’t seem to be accelerated by sunlight/UV light as they appear irregularly on the jacket.
As the weather warms up in Southern California towards late spring and the start of summer, I find myself not wearing the jacket as much.
My absolute favorite leather from Horween is Chromexcel – specifically Natural Chromexcel. I love the color depth and variation when the leather ages. I’ll show a before and after conditioning of my 3-year old pair of Viberg Service Boots in Natural Chromexcel. Horween’s other leather/tannages such as Cordovan, Chromepak, and Dublin all come really close as my runner-up favorites!
Here is a tannage chart taken directly from Horween’s website. Out of the 51 leather types listed, I narrowed the list down to 8 of the more commonly used tannages for leather goods. I highlighted what I feel are the key characteristics that makes Chromexcel unique, and I’ll briefly go over each.
Because Chromexcel is a tanning process and not a leather type, you can have both cowhide and horsehide. It is also known as the “original pull-up leather”.
Combination tanned: Chromexcel is both chrome tanned and vegetable tanned which brings in qualities of both processes! Tanning is the process of permanently altering the structure of animal skin. Chrome tanning is a faster method using chromium and makes the leather soft and water-resistant. Vegetable tanning uses organic tannins from trees and other plants along with other oils/waxes and creates a very durable leather. Veg tanned leather is not water-resistant, so water may stain.
Hot stuffed: Chromexcel is heavily nourished with oils and waxes that creates the pull-up effect and water resistance.
Air dried: Chromexcel is naturally air dried for about a week such that the leather shrinks to its original size.
Aniline finished: The leather is saturated with soluble dyes such that the texture/irregularities of the leather is left untouched which is ideal for a raw enthusiast like me!
My Natural Chromexcel Leather Goods:
These are a few of my other small goods in Natural Chromexcel. The most wears are probably seen on the One Star Leather Park Sloper and Hollows Leather Rail Belt as they were worn/used nearly every day. Both these are at about 3 years plus of age. If you don’t want excessive stretching on a belt, I’d shy away from CXL as it initially stretches significantly!
The leathers of both pieces started off as a light brown oak color. The leather color darkened quite quickly within the first few months to a rich brown by oils, dirt, and abrasion. I noticed that direct sunlight also sped up the darkening process. The leather also picked up significant indigo dye from my raw denim. After the initial and drastic color change, the color becomes quite saturated and will not darken all that more.
I have not felt the need to condition the leather, and they both still display a lot of pull-up. With the amount of oils/waxes in the leather, most superficial scuffs/nicks have been easy to rub away with my fingers.
Viberg Natural Chromexcel Service Boots:
7 Brass eyelets
Partial structured toe
Made in Canada
Price: $720 USD
When I purchased this pair, there weren’t too many pics of Natural CXL Vibergs online. There has been at least one similar spec MTO arranged by Styleforum around 2014-2015 but with an unstructured toe.
I purchased this pair of Vibergs from Mr Porter back in mid 2015. I believe it was the second restock of this makeup on Mr Porter. When I received it a few days later, I was blown away by how thick the Natural Chromexcel was. The leather arrived with a significant sheen to it. It took quite a while for any visible crease to form (in contrast to my Viberg Color 8 CXL pair). For the price of $720 USD, I’m glad Viberg used high quality hides!
The boots arrived with a small, adorable 1oz jar of Venetian Shoe Cream, a pair of flat waxed cotton laces, and a spare pair of brown rawhide leather laces in the box. I initially kept the flat waxed laces as I wanted the laces to accentuate the sleek, narrow 2030 last. Yet, I had a hard time deciding which laces suited the boots best. I eventually switched over to the leather laces after a few months. The flat laces reminded me much of the laces used on Alden’s boots (although this Viberg pair of laces were thicker and sturdier), and I feel that the leather laces fits the rugged Viberg brand aesthetic well.
I like the pairing of brass eyelets with this leather. They seem to make the rich brown tones “pop”.
The toe box is partially structured and is further reinforced by the thick Chromexcel leather. While the right boot’s toe area has flattened a bit, the toe box is still quite firm to the touch on both boots.
The boot tongue is also made of a thinner, softer Natural CXL which was different than my color 8 CXL pair that had a black contrasting oil tanned tongue. The black oil tanned leather is the standard go-to tongue for Viberg boots. I feel the CXL tongue fits this boot better than a contrasting one would. The leather used here is very much pliable, soft, and shows creases from the laces well.
For conditioning/care, I’ve kept to a simple regimen of applying Venetian Shoe Cream every 6 months or so. I apply it onto the palms of my hands (minimizes loss from using a rag) and rub the cream onto the boot. I let the cream dry for a couple of minutes, I brush them down with a horsehair brush. Initially, the cream darkens the leather and provide a glossy sheen. The color lightens back near to its original after some time outdoors. Every few wears, I wipe the boots down with a damp rag and brush away any dirt with a Horsehair Brush.
The cool thing about CXL is that you can rub away most scuffs/scratches because of the oils/waxes embedded in the leather. Down below is an example of superficial scuffs that went away after some VSC and brushing. I used a polished deer bone in circular motions in the area to create friction so the cream penetrates.
Here’s a rear heel counter shot of a few pairs. You can see that the natural chromexcel pair on the left has minimal creasing compared to the color 8 CXL and Olive Chromepak.
Compared to the other 3 pairs, the captoe on this makeup seems a bit shorter, but I hardly notice it when it’s not next to my other pairs.
In conclusion, I think that Natural Chromexcel is an easy to care for, interesting, and beautiful leather. The selection of hides that Viberg uses on their boots is second to none. If I were to only own one pair of Vibergs, this pair of boots would be it! Although this exact makeup isn’t readily available, a handful of retailers such as Lost & Found, Brooklyn Clothing, and the Viberg.com site recently have stocked a Service Boot with this leather.
Ever since I have owned my first Alden pair of shoes in Color #8 Horween Shell Cordovan, I’ve noticed the color patina to a lighter shade over time. I’ve observed it happens most prominently with Alden’s Color #8 Shell Cordovan because the color starts very dark. I believe that Alden treats their Shell Cordovan (from Horween) with their own glaze that provides sheen and glossiness. On the other hand, their color 8 chromexcel brightens up much more quickly.
These are three Alden shoe pairs pictured and their dates purchased:
Alden x JCrew Color #8 Shell Cordovan Captoe Boot (10/06/2013)
Alden x The Bureau Belfast Color #8 Shell Cordovan Longwing Blucher (12/28/2015)
Alden x Epaulet NYC Color #8 Shell Cordovan Tanker Boot (11/30/2016)
My shoe care routine for these three pairs of Shell Cordovan have been the same:
1. Wipe down with damp microfiber cloth after every so number of wears 2. Brush with a Horsehair Shoe Brush
Every 6-12 months, apply some Venetian Shoe Cream to the cordovan sparingly, letting it dry, wipe down any excess cream, then back to brushing. For any scuffs, I apply a small drop of Venetian Shoe Cream in the area and then use a Polished Deer Bone to rub circularly with light pressure. I’ve tried the Deer Bone without any cream and noticed it doesn’t do much. You can also use the back of a metal spoon to achieve similar results.
I’ve yet to need to apply any wax based polish to the shoes.
Recently, I feel that Alden’s Color 8 batches have been much darker than I remember. The color looks almost black unless in direct sunlight. I believe much of the reason Alden re-dyes their Color 8 is to minimize any blemishes/scars the leather may have.
I’ve yet to determine what causes the lightening of color in the Color 8 Shell Cordovan. It might be pigments naturally degrading with age or even direct sunlight playing a role. Either way, we each have our own perceptions of what Color 8 Shell Cordovan should look like – whether a very dark burgundy or a deep, vibrant red, Color 8 will always be king.
I keep an Excel spreadsheet of the dates and price purchased of almost all items in my wardrobe. After several wardrobe overhauls involving selling my used pieces on eBay/Grailed, the Alden Indy 403 Boot in Brown Chromexcel is the oldest footwear that continually holds a spot in my wardrobe.
Let’s take a journey back to the year of 2012, when I obsessively browsed /r/malefashionadvice and had just graduated college. The Alden Indy boot was the bee’s knees back then on Reddit (and probably still is!), the boot that Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) wore. The footwear I recall owning at that time were a pair of Allen Edmond Strands in Walnut, Clark’s Desert Boots in Beeswax, and Red Wing Beckman in Black Cherry Featherstone. I had just purchased the Beckmans a few months prior from Amazon. The Beckmans were robust and very toe structured, and gave my heels quite a time breaking them in. However, I wanted a pair of quality boots that had a slimmer toe, were made in the USA, and were also versatile in many outfits as I was still trying to find comfort in my own style!
Between the Alden 403 and 405, many more people recommended the 403 because of the interesting properties of Chromexcel . I wasn’t interested in the 404 because it appeared too rugged for me (Dark Brown Kudu Leather on a Vibram Lugged Sole). The Alden 401 in black, while also very beautiful, wasn’t one I considered because the black color would be more difficult than a brown color footwear to pair with. The appeal of the Alden 403 Brown CXL is that it would patina to show a great depth of color variation. Plus, Chromexcel has the repuation of being quite an easy leather to maintain and to care care. While the Alden 405 in a lighter brown calf/cow were was the pair that Indiana Jones wore, the Brown Cowhide leather appeared a too tan and light colored for me.
It was around the time that Uniqlo had just opened their first west coast store in San Francisco. I scoured the internet for sizing advice knowing that my Red Wing 9011 Beckmans fit well. I came to a conclusion to purchase the same size in the TruBalance last (half a size down from my measured Brannock). I embarked on a journey to San Francisco with the destination of Alden SF on Sutter Street with a determination to purchase a pair Alden 403s.
I was greeted by one of the sale associates Robert, and I requested that I wanted to try on pair of Alden 403s. I was wearing a pair of Happy Socks (relatively thin cotton socks) and the pair of RW Beckmans. I remember another customer browsing in the store complimented my Red Wings, asking which model it was. I started trying on a size 9D that I knew most likely was my true size. And I also tried on a 9E and a 9.5D. While the 9E felt comfortable initially, I knew that CXL leather would stretch widthwise (but not so much lengthwise) and went with the 9D. Robert graciously threw added in a pair extra cotton shoelaces free of charge.
Alden 403 – Indy High Top Blucher Boot in Brown Chromexcel
Price: $507.78 USD after CA Tax in 2012
Brown Horween Chromexcel Leather
TruBalance Last. This last fits large, recommend to size down half
Moc toe stitching
Neoprene Cork Outsole
Full Glove Leather Lining
Closed heel storm welt
Vegetable Tanned Leather Insoles
Made in the USA
I remember wearing the pair of 403s out the door and I walked a couple blocks to Uniqlo SF and my heels were starting to feel a bit tattered. I waggled my way back to the Caltrain and took the ride home. The Chromexcel leather started to form creases that eventually became permanent. Even though the Chromexcel leather was soft and supple, they weren’t 100% comfortable initially. It took a couple wears for them to break in. But compared to the stiff Red Wing Beckmans I recently broke in, the break-in period for the Aldens was almost negligible!
The TruBalance last is quite wide compared to Alden’s Barrie last. Actually, it’s the widest last that Alden carries and can look quite chunky top down. The TruBalance last was designed for all day comfort, and I do agree it’s the most comfiest last I own. The insole has molded well to my feet, and I can easily wear thick wool socks (Darn Tough or Smartwool) with these boots. The Alden Indy boot used to have a duck cotton lining around 10 years ago instead of the full leather lining it has today.
The stock laces that came with the boots were wide, 100% cotton, and burgundy tinted. The extra pair of laces that Robert added in were exactly the exact same ones I read several reviews that noted the laces felt really flimsy and frayed teasily with the speed hooks that came with the Indys. Feeling the laces, I definitely agreed they felt quite cheap and shortly after I ordered a pair of flat waxed brown laces on Amazon. The TZ laces that I ordered were densely woven cotten and haven’t shown any signs of wear over the years. I’d highly recommend the Brown TZ laces in 55″/140cm length which is perfect for the Alden Indy. Another alternative is the stock Alden waxed laces that come with most Alden Shell Cordovan Boots.
An issue that I have along with several others is that the tongue of the boot tends to slide outwards after lacing. The Indy boot has a free, non-gusseted tongue (a tongue sewn to the upper behind the laces, preventing debris from entering) which most prominently on my left boot tended to slide outwards after walking a few steps. I’ve heard of people who took their pair to cobblers to have them stitch the tongue to be gusseted which fixed the problem. However, I hardly felt any difference in comfort with this issue. My girlfriend once time did notice this issue when I was lacing up and pointed it out.
The brown Chromexcel leather started off as a medium brown and has darkened a bit to a deeper shade of brown. Chromexcel is an easy leather to care of, although it does scratch/nick easily. I always place in cedar shoe trees inbetween wears to absorb moisture and help minimize creases. My typical maintenance care is to wipe the boots down with a damp microfiber cloth and then to brush vigorously with a horsehair brush. The brushing will help bring out the leather’s oils towards the surface and also to provide a shine to the leather. A few times a year I use a small dab of Venetian Shoe Cream, rubbing it in with my fingers (prevents wasting cream by using a cloth) to condition the CXL and follow with a extensive brushing. Venetian Shoe Cream is what Horween Leather of Chicago recommends.
Here’s an example of how easily some scuffs can rub out with a Venetian Shoe Cream and a polished deer bone (you can use the back of a metal spoon to achieve the same effect)
One issue I will address soon is that the Foot Balance Heel included with the boot have worn away. My Alden x Jcrew Captoe boots with a dovetail leather heel (purchased not long after) are not as worn down as these.
Alden’s recrafting services does not include replacing only the heel, so I soon will have to bring them to a local cobbler. A pair of Foot Balance replacement heels can be ordered through Alden directly either through email or calling their 1-800 number. They cost around $16 for a pair.
In regards to keeping the moc toe stitching white, I use several Q-tips with a dab of dish soap and some water to go over each stitch on the moc toe. Some of the areas around the stitching will lighten up because of the soap, but the end I brush the whole area and the brown color generally restore. I don’t use any polish for the Chromexcel leather because I feel that the contrasting stitching is what makes the Indy boot what it is. Some people take Obenauf’s Heavy Duty Preservative, Neatsfoot Oil, or Snow Seal to the whole boot to weather seal them because of necessity for their their climate. In doing so, however, the stitching will likely darken. The Alden Indy 404 in Brown Kudu is a good example of how the boot looks without any white contrast stitching.
The Neocork (Cork nitrile) sole looks quite sleek and is flexible. I wouldn’t recommend this sole for snow or icy conditions, but instead would recommend a commando sole. It is a rubber lug sole that attaches to the front half of the boot. There have been a handful of Alden Indy makeups in the past that have used a commando sole. The Neocork stock sole provides a slight bit more traction than a leather sole, and I haven’t reached the point where I needed a full resole. Since I purchased the Indy, I’ve worn them about once every two weeks. For many people including me, the Foot Balance heel will wear out faster than the sole because of their gait and will need replacement first.
I’ve owned my pair of Alden Indys for more than 5 years, and even considering the new footwear brands that have emerged in that timeframe, I would still recommend them. Alden’s prices have been increasing by $15-20 dollars every year due to inflation. I jokingly say that Alden’s are worth putting money into as stock. From what I’ve seen, the 403 Brown Chromexcel develops more variation in leather than the 405 Tan Cowhide. For most people, the 403s will mesh well with their wardrobe. You can choose to beat them up like Indiana Jones or Alden footwear is generally not sleek by any means, but the Indy Boot has a much slimmer toe profile than Red Wings (see my past toebox/shoe sizing post).
If you’re reading this review, chances are you already know about Filsonand/or perhaps heard of the small brand Vermilyea Pelle (pronounced ver-mil-yuh pel-lee) that also makes great bags, belts, and wallets. Perhaps you already own a couple of Filson bags or maybe you’re ready to purchase your first quality briefcase for work/school! Rest assured, I hope this post will be of help to you.
My first briefcase was purchased in mid 2015 towards the end of my first year of graduate school. It was a Filson 256 Original Briefcase in Brown purchased on sale from Gracious Home (it was so random that this site stocked Filson briefcases!). The price with shipping came out to $148.80 USD. It was more an impulsive buy because of the price; the brown color wasn’t my most ideal choice but that’s all they had at the sale price. My opinion of a Filson’s Brown is that it doesn’t have much of a contrast between the brown leather straps and the canvas. It’s pretty low-key and doesn’t screen Filson from far away. Navy and Brown are great colors for the briefcase if you want something that’s less flashy.
I didn’t need a briefcase as I was already using a Tanner Goods Wilderness Rucksack as my everyday school bag. Backpacks were so much easier on my back, especially when I was carrying a day’s worth of stuff – my gym clothes and sneakers, a laptop and charger, water bottle, camera, and sometimes a tripod. Also, about all of my classmates were also using backpacks (98% of 200 people)!
Less than 6 months later, my now ex-girlfriend purchased a Vermilyea Pelle Briefcase for my birthday. I was raving to her at least a month earlier how I wanted one. Read up on my other VP Weekender Duffle Bag Review to find more information on the construction of the bag (the quality of the weekender is exactly on par to the briefcase).
The Filson 258 Padded Computer Briefcase I bought used on eBay because it was from the “YKK zipper era”, had a single leather piece padded shoulder strap, and an absolute steal ($132.40 USD shipped). Head over to read my review on the Filson Zippered Tote to learn more about the my opinion on Filson’s change in quality over the years and why I recommend buying a used one. Again, another impulse purchase that I didn’t need!
Bookmark an eBay search for “Filson” in the category “Backpacks, Bags & Briefcases” and only show “Pre-owned” condition. I recommend sorting by “Time: newly listed”. Modify the title if you want a specific model like a 257, and you can also add email notifications.
During my final year in graduate school which is all clinical rotations (no more classroom lectures), it finally was appropriate to bring a briefcase over a backpack. At this point I owned 3 briefcase options – the Filson 256, the Filson 258, and the Vermilyea Pelle briefcase. The 256 could not fit my 15.6″ Acer laptop at all even without a case. The VP briefcase was able to fit the naked laptop but occasionally scratched the laptop it from the YKK zippers. The 258 had too much unnecessary padding which made it quite bulky in width and heavy.
Looking for something larger than the 256 and VP, but also less bulkier/heavier than the 258, I was certain the Filson 257 Computer Briefcase was perfect regarding size and bulk for my needs. After checking eBay for several nights, I eventually found a “YKK era” used one at $188.88 USD shipped.
Vermilyea Pelle Ranger Tan/Brown Chromexcel Briefcase
Price: $320-375 depending on leather/canvas makeup
Dustin Spencer of Vermilyea Pelle produces several makeups of the briefcase in varying leathers and briefcase material. At time of the purchase, I wanted the “standard” Ranger Tan / Brown CXL version which was the most popularly makeup posted on social media. The Ranger Tan waxed canvas is a dark tan color, is quite heavily waxed, and the texture of the canvas feels pebbly/bumpy (because of the canvas weave compared to unidirectional twill on Filson bags).
Waxed Canvas 18oz
The wax provides additional water and abrasion resistance for the canvas. Filson’s signature rugged twill is treated with some sort of water repellant which eventually wears off over time. If you want to keep your Filson bag pristine from rain and dirt, hit it up with a coating of Scotchgard spray every so often. Scotchgard is a synthetic water repellant spray used for furniture/fabric/carpet, and it does not change the original color.
Brown Chromexcel Leather from Horween
“9/11oz leather on the straps and 5/6oz on the bag”
The CXL on this bag was the thickest CXL I’ve ever handled. The CXL on my Alden footwear, Viberg footwear, and Tanner Goods wallets did not even come close!
I pulled out some digital calipers to test out the thickness of the CXL leather. Before measuring, I guessed that the exterior leather bottom and double stitched leather parallel to the zippers were thinner than the rest of the bag, and I was somewhat right.
The shoulder strap, shoulder pad, briefcase handles, parallel stitched leather were very similar in thickness 4.0mm +/- 0.2mm. For reference, 2 US quarter coins together are 3.5mm. Even the handle tabs holding the handles to the briefcase were just as thick. The leather bottom was thinner at 2.3mm +/- 0.2mm.
Leather lined bottom exterior
The bottom is also two layers (one leather, one canvas) just like Filson’s (two layers of 22oz twill canvas)
My bag’s bottom has superficial scuffs at the corners and a few nicks not too deep. I haven’t felt the need to condition the CXL bottom yet or other leather pieces. But when I do, I plan on using Lexol Leather Conditioner (I prefer it over Venetian Shoe Cream).
Copper rivets at stress points
The copper rivets are at the bottom of the bag to attach the handle straps to the bag, at the handle holders, and also at the shoulder strap attachments.
Because the CXL leather is very thick and packed with oils, the D ring leather attachments at the briefcase’s ends bend easily without any leather cracking. Filson briefcases have the tendency of their bridle leather to crack at this area.
Antique button snaps for each full length document pocket and also the hand grip
The snaps are most useful to keep the pockets close to the briefcase for a compact look. It also adds another layer of security in those pockets in case your bag ever completely flips over (lol). Filson document pockets sometimes tend to flare out both when empty and filled.
Another small detail that provides durability is that a circular leather piece was placed in between MALE parts of the stud to prevent the canvas from ripping through when using the snaps. The stud is the part that receives the most stress when unbuttoning with the Snap cap.
(outside of bag) Stud – waxed canvas – leather piece – Post (inside of bag)
Solid Brass YKK zippers with Rawhide Leather Pulls
The main zippers are Heavy duty YKK and have a great brass shine. I really like the rawhide leather pulls that Vermilyea Pelle includes on their zippers. They come with edges burnished, are well waxed, and likely come from the same quality supplier as the laces I use on my Viberg boots.
Absence of Vermilyea Pelle branding on the bag
All my VP bags came with a thick VP logo leather tag (removable) attached to a bag handle with rawhide laces. I’ve never been more impressed with a company’s tag! From the 3 tags I joyfully have now, the average width of a tag is 3.7mm (+/-0.4mm), basically the width of two US quarter coins! The leather of the tag looks like some kind of vegetable tanned leather.
Shoulder strap pad is a single, long piece of leather
VP’s shoulder pad length is about 12 inches while Filson’s shoulder pad length is about 8.5 inches.
The shoulder pad doesn’t need any breaking in from day one. It starts off soft (likely because it’s Chromexcel leather) and the underside surface has more grip than Filson’s. With Filson’s shoulder pad, I have to take sandpaper to the underside to create some grip or else it slips off my shoulder.
No end pockets
On the Filson Briefcases, the end pockets are available for use. The 256 end pockets are very small and practically unusable. The 257 and 258 briefcases have much larger end pockets, enough to fit in a large water bottle such as my 1L HydroFlask after being stretched. All of Filson’s briefcase end pockets start out stiff but do stretch a bit over time. If you have a new bag, I recommend wedging random objects in those pockets to stretch them out.
Because the Filson briefcases have end pockets, this also means that the leather which attaches the shoulder straps/D rings are actually connected to the pocket fabric instead of the fabric directly on the bag. While this difference seems minor, there was one occasion with my Filson x Apolis Philantropist Briefcase where the tailor had an easier time repairing it. The D ring leather piece was detaching from the frayed canvas. The tailor was able to place piece of leather behind it (in the pocket) and stitch them altogether using the same stitching holes.
I actually don’t think this is a con. Given the smaller dimensions of the VP briefcase, a “fair” matchup is comparing it to the Filson 256. As I mentioned earlier, the end pockets on the 256 are absolutely unusable anyways.
The design of the VP forgoing the end pockets actually increases the bag’s durability. Similar to how the Snap caps were placed in the document pockets, the leather piece that holds the D rings attaching the shoulder strap are held by a rivet. The rivet goes through the thick leather all the way into the interior where it again is complemented by a leather piece to prevent the waxed canvas from ripping/tearing through. When the shoulder strap is used, this leather piece helps distributes the stress (the bag’s weight) over a larger area.
Handle attachment obstructs easy access to document pockets
The VP briefcase handles attach to the document pockets which makes the pocket access obstructive because the handles have to be folded away from the bag.
On the other hand, this design allows the bag to display the beauty of the leather used on the bag (more leather is required). From what I can see, two very long leather pieces were used for the handles. The simplest way I can describe the design is two upside down “U” leather pieces as the handles, one on each side of the bag. The handles attach at the bottom of the bag by huge huge copper rivets (so 4 copper rivets total at the bottom).
Key clip on the bag’s interior is short/small
The length of the key clip is about 0.5 inches and located on the interior side of the bag (later models changed this).
Maximum shoulder strap length is short
The total length of the strap at its last hole is about 51 inches. I use the last hole even though I tend to like my shoulder straps short to keep the bag closer to my body. I’m sure if you request/contact Dustin regarding a longer strap, he’ll be able to accommodate that for you!
From what I see on the most recent briefcase models, Dustin has moved the key clip to attach at a seam above one of the three interior pockets and also lengthened it (great change!). Also, a small leather logo patch placed on one of the interior dividers.
I’ll first talk about the Filson “guaranteed for life” warranty. With Filson products including bags, garments, etc, they will either repair or replace the item free of charge. In some rare cases, such as those occurring not due to normal wear/tear, there may be a small charge. Such examples I can think of is if you spilled battery acid on your briefcase, your child decided to take a pair of scissors to your bag, or if your used your shoulder strap as a chew toy.
The most common reasons why Filson bags are repaired is because the twill canvas is fraying or the leather piece attaching the D rings are cracking or have completely torn through.
I’ve heard stories of hunters absolutely wearing the hell of of their Tin Chaps, getting them ripped and torn against brush or rough terrain, and then sending them back at the end of every season to get them repaired. That’s pretty cool! To me, that’s considered “normal” wear/tear.
This is the summarized information I received from customer service at Filson regarding the warranty process:
You send in your item to be evaluated by Filson’s return team for a possible repair (no guarantees that they can until they receive and evaluate it). The return team would determine whether they would be able to repair the bag. Most repairs are covered under the warranty, and would not incur any costs. Repairs take about 4-6 weeks to be completed, and they would only contact you if more information is needed.
If you decide you want to send it in to be evaluated, include your contact information on the package. You should include your full name, a returns address, daytime telephone number, and/or email address. And please explain the reason for the return and the outcome you desire.
Address your package to:
Attention Returns Department
3851 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA 98134
Vermilyea Pelle Warranty:
Now regarding that warranty from a company that has been around for more than a century, let’s talk about Vermilyea Pelle’s. I’ve searched on VP’s website, social media, and the rest of the web for anything mentioning a warranty but couldn’t find anything.
The only thing that is most similar is the Repairs section in the FAQ of the website – let’s just call that the “warranty”. I’ll contact Dustin later to see what he says directly, but I think I have an idea of their company stands behind.
“Vermilyea Pelle is enthusiastic to keep all our products in good working order and stand behind our craftsmanship. Unfortunately, nothing is indestructible, but we will to do everything we can to keep our products is use. Contact us with a description of the problem and we will email shipping instructions. Charges will occur if it is determined that the repair is not needed due to faulty material. (We do not repair non Vermilyea Pelle product.)”
So the question that’s more important to ask is what’s covered and what’s not. To my understanding, normal wear and tear is NOT covered by the warranty such as the waxed canvas eventually fraying/wearing through because of abrasion, the stitching coming undone, or bottom leather getting deep cuts. (I’m not even sure how you’d even repair this other than replacing the whole bottom anyways).
These issues are easily repaired by taking it to your local tailor or leather repair shop. A tailor can stitch up the fraying prevent it from becoming worse, and a leatherworker can apply a bit of glue in the cut in the leather gash so it’s hardly visible.
What I believe IS covered by the warranty is any hardware failure or overlooked/missed stitching. Such as a snap cap popping off randomly and from either the document pocket or the hand grip or rivets coming undone. Holding the bag in front of me, I think those are the areas that the bag will actually “fail” first.
Vermilyea Pelle has been around producing briefcases for only a few years. A couple years may not provide enough wear to a bag to come to a conclusion about even having a warranty. In fact, Dustin posts his pics of prototype bags on Instagram quite often! Comparing VP to Filson who has been producing luggage since the 1980s wouldn’t be fair. Also Filson started off producing garments before luggage!
When I was younger and out and about grocery shopping with my parents, they always carried a small zippered coin pouch with them. Often times, it was filled to the brim with quarters, what we used in coin laundry. All of this was part of the experience growing up under a generation that was not used to using credit cards or loans. Instead, every other weekend or so, my parents would withdraw cash from the ATM and allocate that towards for groceries and expenses. That way, we would know how much money we were spending and not go over budget. Continue reading “One Star Leather Coin Pouch Business Card Case Review”
There are so many camera straps available out there in many material types such as nylon or leather. Hopefully, this Tanner Goods leather camera strap review will be of use to you. Shortly after I purchased my first DLSR in 2014, I visited the recently opened Tanner Goods flagship store in Downtown LA. At the time, Tanner Goods was still using Horween Chromexcel as their primary leather with the colorways “Rich Moc”, “Chicago Tan”, “Dark Oak”, Black, and Natural. Every couple of years, Tanner Goods switches the leather on their goods to change things up. I had a hard time deciding between Chicago Tan and Rich Moc. I ended up purchasing the Rich Moc camera strap because I felt that the light brown tone would patina well. The Dark Oak was a medium brown and would have been a solid choice also. I liked the simple design of the strap and lack of “synthetic” materials (other than the nylon cords).
To me, Tanner Goods and Horween Leather come hand in hand. I feel that the brand’s success was because of their selection of leather, particularly Chromexcel, at an early time when not many other leather makers were using it. Nowadays, CXL is very prominent especially in footwear.
Tanner Goods SLR Camera Strap in “Rich Moc” Leather Price: $130 USD
Made of 3.5oz Horween Chromexcel Leather
Attaches to camera via two high density nylon cords
Nonmetal hardware attachment reduces possibility of damage to camera
Easily detachable for tripod use
Burnished, waxed, and dyed by hand
Dimensions 36″ end to end
Made in the USA
The design of the camera strap is pretty innovative. It uses Tanner Goods’ signature belt loop and brass button stud attachment which is very secure. While many companies use a button stud, Tanner Goods went further to secure it using a leather loop so that unintended stress in any direction will not detach the leather. While I have no doubt that the button stud will stay secured, the leather loop adds that extra comfort of mind.
The main leather piece that sits on your neck or shoulder has 6 parallel slits on each side. The straps are connected to this piece by weaving through these slits alternatingly and then looping through itself to secure it. This placement allows the strap to occupy 3 of the 6 slots at a time. The camera strap initially comes with the straps at their longest (aka the lateral-most 3 slots of the 6). If you want to shorten the straps, you can remove them and position them in the slots more towards the center. Therefore, there are 4 potential positions to shorten/lengthen the strap. (654, 543, 432, 321).
I’ve carried a DSLR with a hefty lens without any problem or doubt. The main strap actually has a curved side which is supposed contour around your neck. Keep that in mind when you’re re-attaching the cords! Personally, it doesn’t make a difference to me whether the shoulder strap is facing the correct way as I carry the strap on my shoulder not neck.
I have tried to utilize the inner slots to shorten the strap length on several occasions but felt that in doing so, the main leather piece sticks out at its ends, making it look awkward. Also, it takes several minutes to adjust the straps, using the other side as a model to find out what loops through what. Ever since, I just leave it on the most longest position which is the most natural looking as the strap position allows the main shoulder/neck piece to completely curve. Moving to the straps shortest position only decreased the total length by about 4 inches!
The stitching and leather burnishing is very well done on the main leather piece. The lateral straps, however, do not have burnished edges which is one of my main irks. This leads to the straps having “fuzzy edges” which looks like a bad hairday! Perhaps the straps could not be burnished because of they were too thin.\
A trick that I used to get the nylon cord through my Fuji X-T10 was using dental floss to thread it through. On larger cameras, it is more practical to use O rings.
I love how easily the straps can detach so that it does not dangle in the way when on the tripod. Another technique is to to wrap the strap several times around my hand to prevent the strap flopping in front of my camera. The straps do not have any metal hardware that can scratch your camera. The nylon cords at the ends seem very securely riveted to the leather. But if anything were to fail first, it would probably be the nylon cords detaching.
I nearly forgot about the MSRP of the Tanner Goods camera strap being $130. Even though the price was steep, it’s pretty much been the only camera strap I’ve used. I like the design and innovation of Tanner Goods being made of a material that ages gracefully. You can, however, find the straps lightly used on eBay for around $70-80. That’s a more affordable price!
The Rich Moc Chromexcel leather developed very prominent creases and perhaps even creased in an undesired looking manner. However, this creasing does not at all affect the durability of the product and is just cosmetic. The second Natural tooling camera strap that I also owned has darkened significantly in the places exposed.
The current leather that Tanner Goods uses is English Bridle Leather. I haven’t had much experience with that leather, but the design of the strap is still the same. One thing I love about Chromexcel is how soft it starts with. The Bridle Leather that I felt in person initially felt a lot more rigid and dry.
When I’m not using the camera or strap, it’s stored away safely in my Filson Photographer’s Backpack (check out that review here)!
I’ve been very fond of Dustin’s work since I heard of his company in 2014 on Styleforum and Instagram. Back in 2015, my girlfriend at the time ordered a briefcase from Vermilyea Pelle for my birthday. I let her know beforehand that I wanted the typical Brown CXL and Ranger Tan Waxed Canvas makeup. She exchanged emails with him a few times, and on my birthday I became a new owner of a VP Briefcase!
Now, onto the product we’ll talk about. I will state that there are only so many designs of bags that are practical. The VP 20″ Weekender Duffle seems to encompass many elements of the retired Filson Traveler’s Bag. I, myself, currently own both the Medium and Large sized Filson Travel Bags, so my review on the VP Duffle bag will be based primarily upon my comparison with those.
I purchased the VP Weekender Duffle bag in person at Railcar Fine Goods on 11/26/2017 at a price of $282.31 after tax. Because I knew of the canvas and leather beforehand from my VP briefcase, I knew the quality of the bag was to match. It fact, back in 2015, Railcar was the only local stockist that carried VP! The reason I purchased the bag was that it was discounted – I can’t remember off the top of my head what the % discount was on the tag, but to my knowledge, it was the first time I’ve seen a VP included in a sale.
Dimensions: 20″L x 10″ W x 12″
Tumbled Solid brass Hardware (patinas much nicer than Lacquer coated brass)
Hand hammered Solid Copper Rivets
Hand Antiqued USA Made Snaps
18oz Heavy Wax Duck Canvas
5/6oz leather on Bag, Double Thick 5/6oz Leather strap work from Horween Tannery in Chicago
#10 Solid Brass YKK zipper
(+) This is a simple, well-designed bag with quality materials. The copper rivets and stitching on the bag are very well done. I can’t imagine the bag failing at all anytime soon. VP utilizes the best Horween Chromexcel Leather, and Ican see that supported by the leather on the bag being very thick and displaying no signs of loose grain creasing (seen prominently in boots). Compared to Filson’s Bridle Leather, the CXL leather on the straps is nearly twice as thick (5.3mm vs 2.7mm). The main compartment is accessed by two YKK zippers with burnished, waxed leather pulls. The quality of these rawhide leather pulls feel a lot more substantial than Filson’s and I think they are very similar to the laces I use on some of my Vibergs.
The thickness of the waxed Ranger Tan canvas is essentially the same as Filson’s 22oz Rugged Twill, 3.35mm to 3.30mm. However, the canvas is very well waxed for additional abrasion resistance. Filson’s twill comes with an applied treatment (not “waxed”) and still holds up to rain well fresh out of the factory. In my experience of rainy days with both bags, the waxed canvas sheds water much better.
The interior is a large one compartment with a keychain clip on one side. The simplicity of this bag’s design allows you to throw whatever you want into it, or to use your own pouches to seperate goods. I like duffle bags for this reason as I tend to just throw everything in the same compartment and just shuffle through it when I need something!
What’s cool about VP’s bags is that they use copper rivets at all places of stress. I learned a couple years ago that rivets are able to handle stress from any direction where as bar tack stitching handles stresses from the directions perpendicular to them. Take a look at your pair of raw denim – Belt loops are typically attached to the pant with bar tack stitches while your front pockets and coin pocket will have rivets.
Another feature that VP added was a leather bottom exterior. The primary reason for this is to prevent the bottom of the bag getting wet when setting it down on a rainy day. Also the leather bottom will be more durable than cotton/canvas. I don’t baby where I place my bags, and as you can see, I can’t even find any scratches or nicks on the CXL leather bottom yet!
The inner seams are bounded by what feels like another lighter weight waxed canvas for added durability.
(-) The interior keychain clip is really tiny compared to the rest of the bag. I might have preferred it to be on the interior of one of the outside pockets like Filson has for their Tote bags.
The pull tabs at each end of the zipper are too short to be usable. When you open a zippered bag, one hand pulls the zipper while the other holds the tab to allow you to unzip. I get around this by just grabbing a lateral part of the bag with my other hand while zipping and unzipping. No biggie!
The shoulder strap is actually quite short compared to Filson’s. But it’s actually beneficial to carry the bag higher up on your back/side for ergonomic reasons. The minor issue I have with the single piece leather shoulder pad is that the pad’s leather ends tend to fold in. You can basically fix this by not looping the strap through the exterior slits on the pad so that the shoulder pad sits flush on your shoulder.
The VP 20″ Weekender Duffle basically is an upgraded version of Filson’s bags. Compared to the MSRP of Filson’s bags, the price of the VP bag is well worth the $385. The improvements include a leather bottom, copper rivets, “better” materials (both canvas and leather), added snap buttons on the two exterior pockets to prevent the pockets from flaring out. Oh yeah, I only thing that’s missing from this bag is the two “water bottle” pockets at each end. But with the bag loaded, the shoulder straps should essentially prevent any items from fitting at each end. I just toss my water bottle into the main compartment.