Kirby Allison, the founder of The Hanger Project, unboxes his new pair of bespoke Russian Reindeer Split Toe Derby’s. Featuring a distinct, rugged appearance, Russian Reindeer is one of the rarest leathers in all of shoemaking. Learn a little about the history of this unique pair of shoes as Kirby showcases it's design and features.
Hi I'm Kirby. And here at the Hanger Project we loved to help the well-dressed take care wardrobes. Today is a very special day. It's one of our unboxing days where I reveal a new pair of bespoke shoes that I just received in the mail. So, we get to share the experience of opening a new pair of Bespoke shoes for the first time. Here, I've got my most recent pair bespoke George Cleverley shoes. I believe that the split toned Derby Russian reindeer shoes so without any further ado let's open these up. So, George Cleverley really has some fantastic packaging as you can see every pair of shoes comes packed in one of their leather shoe boxes. I really can't wait to see these shoes. I've waited so long to receive them. You know the Russian reindeer comes with a little bit of a premium to the rest of their calfskin shoes so. I went through several pair of shoes before I got to the point where I was even comfortable ordering a pair of Russian Reindeer, but you just reach a point and kind of the Cleverley life cycle where you just have to order a pair of the Russian reindeer shoes. It is an iconic Cleverley shoe only Cleverley has permission of the Prince of Wales to even make shoes out of the Russian reindeer. And you know it's just as much a conversation piece as it is a piece of history even having a pair of shoes made from this leather. You know Cleverley does a great job with all of their branding so this is new catalog learners with their travel dates and all their different shoe models so. There's something about their shoe tree.
Upon opening these shoes and taking them out of a box I mean you can smell the Russian reindeer filling the room with the smell of of birch oil. All bespoke shoes have an incredibly distinctive smell. But the Russian reindeer is particularly aromatic and you know the aroma of a pair of Russian reindeer shoes or even the Russian reindeer accessories really cannot be mistaken by anyone that's familiar with that. So you know just smelling these is kind of getting even more exciting.
Wow look at these. So this is pretty exciting. Waited a long time for these shoes. So here we are my newest pair of bespoke George Cleverley shoes. These are the split toe derbies and Russian reindeer. It's a derby because it has the open lacing and then the split toe is really quite subtle it's done with the blind stitch. It's got a hand stitched vamp right here. All this work is completely stitched by hand which just gives it a nice detail. And the smell of these shoes. I wish you could smell that through the video. There's really something to behold. You can even see that they've tied this using the broody knot which we feature in one of our videos. So again one of those subtle hallmarks of a shoe enthusiast or a bespoke customer are just kind of these details that you know taken alone really aren't very significant but put together really are kind of a calling card if you will of a bespoke shoe customer. Now one of the things that you can really see to appreciate about this shoe and this is really all bespoke shoes is just look at the heel you know look how you know there's no overhang here. Look how sleek that is. You know all the wheels on a bespoke shoe are built specifically for that shoe. And so they're really able to get this to be tight and really follow the silhouette of the shoe itself. Another hallmark of a bespoke shoe heel is that they're always slightly taller than what you would find ready to wear. And a really beautiful bespoke heel is always going to have a slight pitch and word just to give it a little bit of extra elegance.
And of course, all of Cleverley shoes come with the bespoke trees. One of the details that I particularly like is they always stamp your initials onto the trees. Just one of those small kinds of bespoke details. So, another hallmark of the Russian reindeer is this distinct kind of Hatch grain pattern that you see embossed into the leather. Now you can see hatch grain leathers these days that are done with embossing plates and they're very symmetric and kind of regular patterns. But the Russian reindeer which was tanned back in the 18th century the Russian reindeer would have had the hatch grain actually and embossed into the leather by hand. So the Hatch grain isn't natural to the leather it's something that's added to the leather as almost a decorative feature afterwards during the tanning process. Now those who aren't familiar with Russian reindeer allow me a moment to tell you the story. It's really I think the most remarkable story really in all of menswear. So the Russian reindeer as actually salvaged from a shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall that sank in 1786 right. You heard that correctly 1786. So this leather is literally almost as old as the United States itself. And who knows it could have been roaming Russia as reindeer you know before this country was even founded. It was discovered by two recreational divers you know kind of amateur ship hunters or treasure hunters. And the water in which it was discovered is actually controlled by the Prince of Wales. So George cleverly had to actually go and approach the Prince of Wales for permission to even have this leather salvaged from the sea and used in shoes. Now the story is that whenever they approach the Prince of Wales about using the Russian reindeer for shoes of the Prince of Wales said Yes you know of course I'd be more than happy to allow you to make shoes out of this beautiful Russian reindeer but under three conditions. The first condition is that the first pair of shoes you'll make are for me. The second condition was that they weren't to price gouge anyone.
And then the third condition was that they would continue to pay the two divers that discovered it did do the salvaging and that only those two men were the ones allowed to dive down to the ship wreck and salvage this leather to be used in making shoes. And George Cleverley. Have really has the exclusive rights to use this leather. And so it's totally unique to them. Anyone else that selling anything that they call Russian reindeer is merely just hatched and ordered to look like Russian reindeer. But it's not the authentic kind of bonafide Russian reindeer that came from this particular ship wreck because of that it's really quite rare. I mean George ?Cleverley only gets so many hides a year. There's only so many pairs of shoes that they can do a year with this leather. So and once the leather runs out because there's only so much of it at the bottom of the sea once all of that is salvaged then the Russian reindeer is gone forever. Another really interesting story about the Russian reindeer is that whenever Old Man Cleverley first saw it he said. Oh my goodness. This is the Russian reindeer that my father used to talk about. And so apparently all the way until the early 20th century you could still acquire Russian reindeer. Now would have been new at that point it wouldn't have come from this particular shipwreck, but you could still acquire Russian reindeer in order to make shoes. And it was particularly prized just for its texture and the way in which it was tanned.
And so, it really developed a reputation amongst shoemakers as being one of the most prized materials then for whatever reason whether it be environmental or health and safety reasons you know Russia stopped being able to tan this leather sometime in the early 20th century and then it essentially just felt extinct you couldn't get it anymore. And till these hives were discovered and that shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall.
There's actually a book written about the wreck of the Metta Catharina called The Wreck of the Metta Catharina that actually talks about the Russian reindeer. And you can see photographs of them salvaging this from the ship itself. And it's really quite remarkable. It's unfortunately not in print anymore. You can occasionally find a used copy on eBay or Amazon. But again, an absolutely remarkable story. So, this split toe Derby from George Cleverley again has a completely hand sewn apron on it. And what that means is that again this is actually sewn together by hand. So, it just has a certain refinement to it that you're not going to get with anything that is machine sewn and really outside a bespoke shoe. I have no ready to wear shoe maker is going to spend the time to actually hand some of the apron you know. Not only does this have a handsome apron but you can see that the rear quarters are also hands sewn and it's just that again it's just those details of a beautiful bespoke shoe. As with many bespoke shoes and especially those from George Cleverley you really expect this kind of beveled narrow waist. And again, you're only able to achieve that with a bespoke shoe because if you have a particularly flat foot you might not be able to achieve this, so you know if you had a feature like this done on a ready to wear shoe I mean it wouldn't fit you know 50 or 60 percent of the people that try it on. And then if you even just look at the level of finishing on the sole you know it's just remarkable.
You know one of the things that's unique to a bespoke sole is that they actually will spend about two hours soaking the out soul and water and then hammering it on an anvil in order to tightly compress the poor structure. It's something that you would never even know that they do. But what it achieves is it just creates a denser outsold that doesn't wear down as quickly as a factory made out of it. Now it is time for of course what is my favorite moment of receiving a new pair of shoes and that is the opportunity to try them on. Now with bespoke shoes especially it's important to completely loosen the laces as we're putting them on. The reason is because the shoes fit so tightly that it's actually impossible to put them on without totally loosening the laces. So here we are. They look absolutely great. Exactly as I have expected. Beautiful Shoes I really look forward to wearing these. I think that you know I could wear them with a suit I have on today. You could wear them with an odd jacket like a tweed or maybe a gun club. And you know really a more casual pair of shoes. You could also even wear these with a pair of jeans. As long as they were nice jeans and certainly get away with that.
As with all bespoke shoes they will require a certain level of break in probably about six or eight weeks of just wearing them a few times a week. Not too far but as these are Derby as you know with the open lacing they should probably break in a little bit more easily than say a pair of oxfords which would have less kind of movement in the shoe itself.
I hope you enjoyed sharing this and boxing with me as much as I did. If you have any questions or comments about anything I discussed in this video please feel free to ask him in the comments section below. I really enjoy getting back to those comments personally. If you liked this video give us a thumbs up and don't forget to subscribe to our channel and turn on your notifications by clicking the small bell in the top right corner so that you know when we release new videos and of course please visit Hanger Project dot com where we have the largest most comprehensive collection of luxury garment care and shoe care accessories in the world as well as other accessories for the well-dressed. And while you're there please subscribe to our newsletter so that you can receive notifications of new product launches promotions as well as a weekly digest of videos that we publish here on our YouTube channel. I'm Kirby Allison here at the Hanger Project. We love helping the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. Thanks for joining us.