June 24, 2014 by Ville Raivio
The newest chapter in my journey in Austro-Hungarian shoemaking was assisted by SourceCulture, the only webstore with stock pairs from Rozsnyai Shoes. The order: made to measure black nubuck hippo leather chukka boots from Rozsnyai. They feature 360-degree storm welts with a combined, white hand-sewn stitching, Vibram Eton rubber soles (similar to Dainite, but better in grip and durability), elongated almondy round chisel toe, rounded chukka style with black calf piping, clean and seamless back, dark purple lining, three hidden eyelets. The hide is CITES-certified and made from the grain part, lightly sanded for a nice, soft nubuck finish.
Two house style features come to boot: a full, separate sock liner with cork bottom and gimped edges, and extended leather heel stiffeners that reach out almost to the vamp. Not quite arch supports but close and lovely. Continuing the pleasant fit of a previous austerity pair, the boots contour very well indeed. Most readymade boots have more room around the ankle than necessary, and my bulbous left Os cuineiforme II (or pinky toe) has proved troublesome in the past. Removing the bugger would be a unique option, but true MTM averts such thoughts. It’s a funny thing still; around a year ago I used to think that I had a few well-fitting pairs.
Hippo leather is an interesting new acquaintance. While the striated surface interest gives a rough and coarse look, the hide is extremely flexible and soft to touch. Scars and rough spots vary from animal to animal — the hippo that lives on in this boot form bears marks from battles lost and won. Unlike reverse calf and other bovine suedes, hippo has no nap to brush. My Finn in London, the cordwainer Teemu-Pekka Leppänen from Cleverley, tells me that hippo is a very tough, durable and comfortable leather. Time will tell how it ages. The Internet, in turn, informs me that hippo hides are around 3 cm thick on average but some parts, like the butt, measure 5 cm. Coupled with a hefty layer of fat, the hippopotamus has an armour of skin like few others.
The leather is split to some 2mm thickness for use in footwear. Returning to the boots; while the uppers are glove-soft and light, the soles provide sturdy heft that makes the pair feel like regular boots. White stitching gives added contrast to an otherwise matte, almost devoid-of-light leather, and a study in purple decorates the lining. I plan to wear them with some nice, dark corduroys and moleskins in rain, ice, dung, dirt and melancholy Finnish winter gloom for the next decades to come.