As someone who designs and makes shoes, it is assumed by most of the people I meet that I have the best pairs from my current collection and that I have a large selection of shoes. A large collection, maybe, with the 10 pairs in cycle; but not the best pairs. I usually test pairs when a new last comes out or when am toying around with a new leather or build method. What I actually have is a collection of misfits and rejects. I have been trying to push some builds but no takers, either clients find it too eccentric or some styles and builds are just novelty pairs which appeal to people but can’t seem to fit it into their wardrobe. So here is a short tour of what a shoe tester’s collection might look like.
1. BWS Original Imperial Derby Wingtip (2013)
This was one of the first serious pairs that I tested and used for my prenup shoot. The c013 last was still being tested back then and had a bulkier profile than the current c013 profile that you would see in more modern pairs. The leather used is a corrected calf pull-up which has a flat finish due to the nature of the leather used. The lining was a combination of pigskin and fabric, which was typical of Marikina made builds. This was also where I tested our rubber soles which we recommend over leather outsoles due to is durability and grip. It isn’t the most comfortable pair, 6 hours being the maximum that I could wear it, but it did teach me a lot about what I can improve on our builds to make the shoes more comfortable.
2. Spectator Brogue Oxford Longwing (2013)
I designed this for my wedding. This is also the pair which gave me enough confidence to start offering Black Wing’s services to friends and family. The longwing was very much at home with the tuxedo which I wore. I didn’t want the traditional black and white spectator so I used a light gray calf pullside with a black brushup leather which is shinier than our standard local leathers. This was also lasted on a c013 last. I remember panicking before this pair was made because the first version of this was finished 5 days before the wedding and the pattern was wrong in so many places and we had to redo everything to finish within 3 days so that it’ll make the suit fitting.
This was the pair which convinced me that what we make at the workshop is good enough because if I could wear it for a whole day, other guys most likely would be able to as well since I was pretty much a sandals kind of guy (comfort > style) before I took an interest in creating shoes.
3. BWS Imperial Sneaker Wingtip (2014)
The BWS Imperial Sneaker Wingtip is a design born from my wanting to create a unique sneaker which is distinctively Black Wing. The materials used are a combination gray suede and calf pullside with a padded fabric lining. One of the few pairs that I’ve actually used almost every other day. It’s really a comfortable and relaxed pair which easily goes with shorts, chinos and denim. The original outsoles were akin to those found on Onitsuka Tigers for that retro vibe but I needed to test a cupsole which recently came out from a local manufacturer so I transplanted the upper there. We also added additional side stitches to prevent the sole from separating and ultimately breaking apart at the crease point which is a common problem among beater vulcanized sneakers.
4. Imperial Derby Longwing Jutte (2014)
The Imperial Derby Longwing Jutte was supposed to be “the summer shoe” at the height of the dapper craze. Its relaxed build is something one could easily pair with khaki shorts with a shirt or polo while enjoying a warm sunny afternoon. The upper was taken from one of our best sellers back then which was the Imperial Derby Longwing Luna. While the Luna version can also be considered casual, this build is even more laid back as the dressiest it will go is with a pair of chinos with brightly colored tops. Designed to be worn with foot socks, its soft uppers and rubber midsoles (jutte wraps around the rubber midsoles forming a “vulcanized” build) ensure comfort while staying stylish and unique while having that raw but appealing vibe.
5. Wholecut Fairfax Luna (2014)
This Fairfax Luna was actually the first of its kind in Black Wing. It is the first wholecut to ever have a Luna sole and it is also the test for the local museum calfskin which was also release a couple of weeks prior to the creation of this pair. The museum calf reacted poorly to lasting and was easily creased so we eventually decided not to offer it to clients. I wear this usually on Sundays until I shifted to my daily beaters and those became my Sunday shoes as well last year. This year, I wanted to try out spit polish and took this pair out again. The polish did wonders and was able to do a nice contrast polish on the tip and now it has become my Sunday pair again. Very nice natural patina and with the polish, makes the pair a very nice classy casual pair.
6. Imperial Oxford Wingtip Classic-Ch (2016)
This is a classic formal pair which I put aside because I started exploring blue and gray suits recently. The oxblood is just perfect and the details fancy. I also love the chisel toe since it makes the shoe look sharper and classier. The silhouette is just right for my height which makes the CH15 my go-to last for formal pairs. The HB16 that is coming out soon will also be one to watch and I’m very excited for that one.
7. BWS One Oxford Wingtip R-Type (2016)
This R-Type is actually a spare upper from when I was developing the BWS Oxford Wingtip for the one sole project last year. I had this pair lasted and put a R-Type sole on it to test out a new EVA formulation which was being offered by another supplier. It was timely because I had some vacation time coming up and I needed something which I can walk the whole day in. Needless to say, this quickly became one of my casual favorites next to the Imperial Sneaker Wingtip. We used a local calf leather for bags with foam padded lining on the CE15 last. This pair will soon undergo major cleaning and shoe painting to make it a truly one of a kind pair.
8. BWS Proto-Runners/Sneakers (2016)
The Proto-Runners is a representation of me still not giving up on rubber shoe design. I’m not entirely happy about some “bowling shoe” comments but I take it that I need more time in studying sneaker design and philosophy before I can claim to be able to design sneakers. This is a new concept though with it having no lining and that the leather accents on the side are flexible and pull with the laces. The white material is actually neoprene (tried premium spandex and it worked too) which I have been testing as a material for making shoes for diabetics and gout patients. The result is an ultra lightweight and flexible pair which can adapt to changing foot widths when attacks occur without causing discomfort to the wearer. I have to work on extending the heel panel though in order for the shoe to properly grip the back of the foot especially if it will be used for running.
9. BWS Original Imperial Derby Wingtip (2013/2016)
This is my current beater. It is a custom finish which I am trying out since it has been one of my frustrations that I cannot spit shine the shoes I make due to the nature of the water based paint that I use to create the patina effect. I used tractor tires on this pair as well since I’ve been wanting to since 2013. Which is why this pair, has 2 build years. The left pair was built late 2013 and the right pair recently when I wanted to test out the new leather finish. Am liking it because it has that softness which can be found in Spanish or Italian calfskin while having a natural patina after the finishes are applied. The gloss represents the waxes and oils put into the pair hence it makes the pair more water resistant than our standard pullside leathers. This leather will be reserved for our Prestige Line where we will upgrade the build and have more customization options for the pairs we create.
10. BWS One Oxford Wingtip (2016)
This particular BWS One Oxford Wingtip is the 0/300 in a limited run which will sponsor donation pairs for children which we are developing to be able to create some work by teaching OSY and unemployed parents in the community where our shoemakers live how to make shoes without having to use a shoelast. I will expound on the mechanics soon when we finalize the design for the school donation pairs. I’m liking the distressed look from using the museum calf which I have decided cannot be used for formal pairs because although it does not crease as much, it tends to wrinkle a lot due to the leather being too soft and thin while having glossy finish.
So there you have it, a peek at my personal pairs. I still a few pairs missing there which are due for some restorations and some repairs. Most of them the beaters which I have worn from 2013 to 2015 and a special 2013 pair which I designed also for my prenup shoot. So while we have created sleek looking pairs, there are also quite a number of bulky misfits which the general public can’t accept as of yet but are really fun to wear. A recent wardrobe change (a less “pambahay” look) has recently caused be to retire my regular casual beaters and start wearing the derby wingtips with the BWS One in museum calf being the most casual pair that I’d wear to work especially when meeting with clients. And yes, I never bought another pair of shoes after I started making wearable and useable prototypes. My last acquisition being a Crocs Ocean Minded sneaker back in 2012.
The next Perspective essay will be a more serious piece again which will discuss how the dignity of our shoemakers as craftsmen were eroded due to the changing trends but unchanging ways of the Marikina shoe industry. The background of this can be found in the Looking Forward P2 – Shifting Trends essay. Next week will be another Style piece discussing our Luna build.