Bryan is currently living in Taoyuan, Taiwan, with his wife and two dogs. He was born in Scotland and growing up lived in many countries, such as Egypt, Venezuela, Singapore, and so on, because his dad was often transferred for work. He studied high school and got his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in Texas.
He moved to Taiwan in 2012 and worked as a writer/editor for Heddels.com. In 2017, he decided to start his own vintage-inspired workwear brand, The Rite Stuff.
► My Favorite Boots
(Click/tap to zoom in an image)
The first time we learned about Bryan was when he reached out to us for resoling his Red Wing 875s back in 2015. One year later, we got an email from him asking us if he could write an article featuring our boot repair service on Heddels.com. Then we knew he worked as an editor for Heddels.com. Later on, he let us know he was about to launch his own apparel brand, inspired by the pre-1940s workwear. We are glad to see the collection of his brand, the Rite Stuff, has been growing during the past several years. His first product, the Heracles shirt, is still one of my favorite chambray shirts in my wardrobe.
We seldom met, but we still kept in touch on Instagram and Facebook. Several
weeks ago, I saw his post of his boot collection and left a comment saying: I think it is about time to have you on our “My Favorite Boots” interviews. Then you guys know the rest of the story. Please scroll down to see the full interview with Bryan.
Lin: What is the beginning of your leather boots journey?
Bryan: It started in 2014 when I wasn’t into any kind of stuff like this. When I was a college student, I wanted to dress better. But, you know that was in 2002 or 2003 in the USA; we didn’t have Instagram, blogs, or anything we are using today. All we had was magazines like GQ. So I didn’t really know what I was doing and I don’t think anyone my age in the States did.
Then flash forward to 2014, I had to write an article on a blog called “Mensweardog.” This is a guy who puts his clothes on his pet, a shiba, and takes photos of it. When I looked at the bio on his site, it said something about “Never washing my selvedge denim!” Then I thought “Selvedge denim? What is that?” So I looked it up online and all the information I found blew my mind. I started to search where I can get this in Taipei as I lived in Taipei back then. I googled it and it told me to go to TAKE5 Taipei Shop, where I got my first pair of selvedge jeans. I remember they were Pherrow’s 441.
When I was in the shop, I noticed everyone in the shop was wearing boots and most people were wearing Red Wing at that time. So, I looked up where I could get a pair and I found the Red Wing Store was just down the street. Two or three months later, I went into the store seeking my first pair of Red Wing boots. I had seen online that most people begin with the classic moc toe boots 875. So, this is where it started.
I don’t have the 875 anymore. They had been resoled twice and I didn’t get many chances to wear them at that time. One of my friends wanted them, so I sold them to him.
Lin: What is your personal favorite pair if you must choose from your collection? Why?
Bryan: It’s really hard to say, but in my viewpoint, engineer boots are the top among all sorts of boots. So, I would say these John Lofgren engineer boots in black CXL are my favorite pair. This leather is nothing fancy I guess these days, but I really like everything about these boots. The leather is soft and thus, it takes no effort to break in. And we can easily get the “tea core” aging result with frequent wear.
The pattern design is also classic and timeless. The shafts are not too tall nor too short; the heel height is not high nor too short; they are not made of some crazy or rare leather, which is fine; they are Goodyear welted, which is commonly seen. Overall, I would say they are the most standard engineer boots, but nothing on them is compromised. And that is also why I love them.
Besides, I also love the heel counter design, which looks like a pear or apple. The curve can hold your heel cup well while walking on them. I even love the storm welt on them. When you look at old catalogs from the 1940s and 1950s, you can see the storm welt were used on engineer boots. But I didn’t see any storm welt on modern engineer boots before John Lofgren’s.
I remembered they were first launched in 2012 or so. I was in love with them when I first saw them back then around 2014. There are so many engineer boots to select from on the market, some of which are even more expensive and difficult to get than John Lofgren’s, but I view them as my holy grail of engineer boots. I am glad I finally got them in 2019.
But you know what, it is a hard choice between the John Lofgren engineer boots and the John Lofgren M-43 service boots. I got these John Lofgren M-43 boots a couple years ago and I love them a lot too. The M-43 boots are built on the Munson last and thus, they are very comfortable. If I need to walk all day, they are definitely a better choice. I remember when I went to Japan and England, I wore them all day long, every day for a week or more, and they were just comfortable. The engineers are comfortable too, but my feet might get tired walking in them all day.
Another thing I like about these M-43 boots is that I don’t need take care of them very much. The roughtout natural Chromexcel just ages better and better with wear.
Lin: What is/are your most-valued criteria/criterion when you decide to purchase a pair of shoes/boots?
Bryan: I know there are many people looking for some crazy leather, for example, horsebutt, shell cordovan or so; some are chasing the construction or the straight and clean stitching on the uppers.
For me, when I am looking at boots or shoes, the first thing I always check is the last. Take the John Lofgren engineer boots for example, the profile is another reason why I got them. The shoe last used to build the boots determines the profile. And I loved the Lofgren engineer boots at the first sight of the last.
The flat toe and narrow engineers have been very popular for the past decade, but they are just not my type of boots as I have wider feet. The Lofgren's is kind of between the flat toe and regular round toe engineer boots, which I like a lot, and most importantly, they fit me very well.
Although there is slight heel slip, it is inevitable for pull-on boots as there is no lacing system. And the instep is always higher for engineer boots so that you can put on and take off easily. I am totally fine with that.
Another thing that factors into my decision to purchase boots is the style I have and I don’t have. I don’t need to have three or four pairs of same style of boots. I realize there are many people collecting some certain kind of boots, but that is not what I’m after right now. I would rather have just one or two pairs for one style of boots. If I need to have two pairs for one style, maybe one is black and the other is brown.
So simply put, the first thing is the profile of the boots. And the second one is if the boots are the style or color I don’t have and I really want.
Lin: Is there any style of boots you don’t have and you plan to get now?
Bryan: I don’t have monkey boots right now and have always wanted to get. I missed out on your collaboration monkey boots with Unmarked couple years ago and I really regretted it.
But if I am buying monkey boots now, there is another type of monkey boots that I really want. They are the 1920s sports shoes style, which are also lace-to-toe style and usually very, very flat at the toe. It is hard to imagine people back then doing sports on them, but those are what they wore for sports. I know you guys are launching something similar to this style soon, and I am kind of excited about them.
The other type of boots that I really want is 6” cap toe boots. John Lofgren’s Combat boots seem very perfect to meet my requirements. I am planning to get a pair in black in the near future.
Lin: What are the most wanted boots that you intend to get currently? (It could be some pair no longer available or some pair still can be purchased in the market)
Bryan: For collection purpose, the 1940s Chippewa engineer boots are really amazing; probably the best engineer boots ever been made in history. Of course, I am not going to wear them if I am lucky enough to get them, because they are too old to wear.
Lin: What made you decide to start your own brand?
Bryan: After I got my first selvedge jeans, I tried to find some shirts to match my jeans. I tried many shirts from Japanese makers, which are very well made and with good heritage style design. However, they just didn’t fit me well because they are designed to fit the Asian market. These Japanese shirts in size medium fit me OK but the sleeve length was at times too short for me as I have long arms. If I get size large, the sleeves are ok but I need to send them to tailor the waist. So, the fit issue kind of bothered me when I was buying shirts from Japanese makers.
You know, the shirt fits me the best back then was from Gap. But you know the quality of Gap is…OK. So, I was expecting some shirt that can fit me well and are made with higher quality. This is the reason why I wanted to start my own brand.
I still lived in Taipei when I had the thought to start my own brand, but it would be very difficult for me to communicate with the factories here in Taiwan as my Mandarin is not good enough. The US factories are just so far that the shipping costs would be very high. Then I remembered that John Lofgren helped some people make clothing in Japan. To have the shirts be made in Japan via John Lofgren seemed very doable for me because firstly, the quality is ensured, and then the shipping costs from Japan to Taiwan are not as high as the ones from the USA. And most importantly, I can communicate with John in English. It’s very convenient.
So, I wrote him a message on Instagram to express my ideas to make my own shirts. Gladly he got back to me, and we’ve been working together since then.
Lin: As an American, how do you view the current heritage style market/trend which is dominated by Japanese makers?
Bryan: It is interesting but it makes sense if you look at the history. Back in the 1960s-1970s in the USA, the big companies started to move their productions overseas. During this time, many interesting design elements, fabrics, the way they make things, and so on, had been changed to fit mass production. This is also why I always prefer the workwear made before the 1940s because during and after that decade, mass production and cutting down on details had gradually become the major way to produce things.
When American brands were abandoning the traditional way to make clothing, Japanese makers were saving them. Years later, the Japanese people even create their own “American” style and spread it worldwide. You can read all the history about this from the book “Ametora: How Japan Saved American Style.”
Of course, there are some American brands getting back in the game, but that has been several decades later. And it would be very difficult without the previous preservation by Japanese makers. So, for me, it is very natural.
Lin: The Rite Stuff is an American-owned, Taiwan-based, and Japanese-made brand. What are the benefits and drawbacks as a cross-border brand?
Bryan: I have had some US-made products and materials, for example, bandanas and my brand tags. But to have most of my products made in Japan is relatively simple and easy. Like we discussed earlier, Japan has been leading the industry in the game of heritage style, and they have everything, such as the supply chain, fabric mills, hardware, buttons, experienced production labors, and so on, ready. Basically, I can pick anything I need from their existing selections. This is the advantage for me, as a small brand, as I don’t need to start everything from zero.
But the disadvantage would be that I can’t always talk to the production team in person. When the sample is done, I need have it shipped internationally to Taiwan. If there is something that needs to be changed, there will be back-and-forth shipping. Besides, the custom duties are always charged with every big shipment. It takes time and money, but it is inevitable for a small business like mine.
Lin: How did you come up with your brand name, the Rite Stuff?
Bryan: Well, I like brand names that are self-explanatory, like yours, Dr. Sole. I know what you are doing when I see the name. The Real McCoy’s is also good brand name in my view; it is clear and simple. So, I wishes my brand name could be so simple that people can get it right away. I use “RITE” to represent “RIGHT” as misspelling was quite common for company names or advertisings years ago. For example, LITE would be used, rather than LIGHT; NU is used instead of NEW, and so on. I want my brand name to be very Americana, not that modern. You know I am selling something that looks like old stuff, so the name has got to sound old enough too.
Lin: Is there any up-coming new products or plan for the Rite Stuff?
Bryan: People keep asking me when I will bring the Daybreak pants back again, which are basically mostly sold out. I am thinking about it.
Besides, I am having the Atlas Shirt in sage green re-stocked, which were sold out very fast when they were launched. A new color, cedar, will be available too. Also, I just had the loopwheel pocket T-shirts in new color ready now.
So recently I am just bringing back some of my best-selling items back, or making them in a new color. But I am thinking to make an indigo wabash pull-over work shirt. This would probably be the next new style for the Rite Stuff.
Lin: Is there any role model you think he/she is a good objective to follow?
Bryan: In the world of heritage style, I like John Lofgren, as he is the guy who guided me to start my own brand, and I learn a lot from him, though he is putting most of his efforts into boot-making now.
I also admire Mike Hodis, the founder of Rising Sun and the current director of Runabout, and Christophe Loiron of Mister Freedom. The products they make all express their mindsets, which I love very much.
Lin: What is your favorite clothing brand other than yours?
Bryan: I like Anatomica. Well, not lately, but I liked their stuff couple years ago. Though the styling shown on their Instagram accounts look very modern, the products they are selling are nothing modern. They use traditional fabrics to make traditional clothing with their own interpretation.
I like some items from Freewheelers. However, they can be quite expensive.
I also like Workers. The owner runs a blog about old workwear makers, such as Carhartt, Big Yank, etc., stores, such as Sears Roebucks, Montgomery Ward, and fabric makers, such as Stifel. He uses his knowledge of workwear to make his own products, which I think are often very attractive.
Lin: How did you know about Dr. Sole?
Bryan: This is an interesting story.
Around the time I purchased my first pair of boots, which was 875, i noticed there is a chain shoe repair shop at the SOGO Department Store. I tried to memorize the name so that I could reach them when I needed a resole in future. However, I remembered the name wrong. I thought the shop name was “Mr. Sole”. One year later or so, I did need to resole my 875, so I googled “Mr. Sole”. And guess what, your name showed up and I sent you an email. This is how I knew about you.
But later, I realized the one I saw in the department and you are not related, and the shop name is Mr. Cobbler, not Mr. Sole as I remembered. So, you guys should thank Google for bringing you a customer.
Lin: If someone who is about to purchase his/her first pair of leather boots asks you for suggestions, what would you suggest?
The first thing you should know is your Brannock size. I didn’t know my feet are 10E until I was measured. I also remembered that every time I went to the Red Wing Store in Taipei to try on boots, the staff measured my feet with the Brannock device, even though I know my size. But they still measured my feet. I think this is really good as sometime our feet can change and we are not aware of it.
This reminds me of my childhood when I went to the department store or shoe stores to buy shoes, they would always measure my feet. Though I didn’t like the cold feeling when I stepped on the device back then in the funny disposable socks.
Buying shoes online is a trend. And I always see people provide their Red Wing size, Wesco size, Alden size, or so, and ask what size to buy for a certain style of boots. It’s so complicated. If everyone knows his/her own Brannock size and get the proper size from there, wouldn’t it be much easier?
Then, pick the boots that would last you for years. The first pair could be someone simpler, maybe in 6” height, and easy to wear. Something classic will never fail you.
Thanks to the interview, we had the chance to meet each other again. Since Bryan has moved to Taoyuan couple years ago and lives there with his wife and two lovely dogs. It is always happy to see an old friend doing great, especially during the pandemic. We are looking forward to more great stuff from the Rite Stuff coming out in the future.