Hidden Characters – The Forefathers

Hidden Characters is a new wave Streetwear brand run by a shadowy group of people from America’s midwest. However some members of this organization are based around the world, such as Tepei and Hong Kong. The brand has been around for more than 3 years and immediately found a following among young adults, primarily 90s kids and people looking for a more forward thinking Streetwear brand. Most of this is due to the fact that many long time fans of Streetwear have become largely apathetic towards the current state of Streetwear. As many of the brands they used to love have grown too big and fallen away from what they originally were, becoming very generic, so that they could appeal to a broader spectrum of people. Hidden Characters has continued to maintain it’s status as an artistic yet sought after brand, as its concepts appeal to many young adult, while also being representative of what Streetwear used to mean.

At the start of 2016 HC had been riding a wave of 2 years filled with well received releases. The first half of 2016 saw another another shift in HC’s focus. 2015 was characterized with HC’s desire to create more cut n sew pieces. As a result the brand dropped a fair amount of non graphical apparel that were loved by customers. However this also meant that there were fewer graphic tees. Many initial fans came to respect the brand from their 2014 drops, which were mostly focused on creating dope designs. 2016 has seen a slight return to that form, ergo more emphasis had been put on the graphics. As well as giving their graphics a more traditional fine arts execution. Fans were hyped on the 2015 tees, though some of the tees felt a bit too perfectionist. HC has a demonstrated that it has a variety of fine art skills, but much of Hidden Characters’ style has been rooted in its affinity for asymmetrical designs and its subtle rejection of perfectionism. Regardless the 2015 tees were still loved by fans.

HC’s 2016 pre season releases included a solid gold pendent and the BDU 1.5 pants. Hidden Characters have been tinkering around with jewelry since 2015. Their first pendents were made of enamel and gold plated. It was not overly ambitious. However their second major attempt definitely was. The pendent was based on Hidden Characters Ifrit logo. Made of 14k solid gold, complete with a chain. The chains also came with another incentive, one person would be given all the items from Spring 2016. Later a preorder was also made for the BDU 1.5. These newer BDUs were made of a nylon/cotton material , making these more expensive than their previous pants, though with a different fit, better quality materials, and unique costomer customizations. Both products were well received by fans. As promised one fan who bought an Ifrit chain was given the full product line of S/S 16.

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It’s about the music, man

Spring 16 was probably one of HC’s high points. The brand was given a a few features by Hypebeast. Exposing HC to a wider audience. This further culminated to the drop selling out quicker than the last few releases. S/S 16 was broken up into 2 parts.

S/S 16 drop 1 had a nice balance of Cut n sew and graphic pieces. The Cut n sew consisted of the Split crewneck, Bleach hoodie, and the Webbing jacket. The graphic tees consisted of Ghost Army, Teachers, and Fuck Ian Conner tees.

Teachers is a tribute to Blue Note records. It is a historic jazz record label founded in 1939. Though many people probably won’t recognize the label for its artists or albums. They might recognize some of the sounds Blue Note produced. Jazz has been in existence for more than 100 years. Though the common man probably won’t directly listen to Jazz, they have likely listened to it indirectly through hip hop. Jazz is inherently tied into black culture. As with other genres of music that originated from the African American zeitgeist, it was almost always initially perceived in a negative context. Until the genre or elements of it were appropriated by white musicians. Jazz was no exception to this process. Jazz was not initially popular in America, largely due to people labeling it the “Devil’s music,” and its origins as black music. However it was popular in speakeasies during the 20s and 30s. The height of Jazz’s mainstream sensibilities were arguably the 40s and 50s. Though it would be a lie to say the genre died outright. Elements of Jazz were absorbed into other forms of music. Blue Note records is particularly important because they recorded music for some of the most notable Jazz musicians at the time. Such as Jimmy Smith, Horace Silver, Sidney Bechet, Miles Davis, among many others. Eventually the label went defunct and was later revived. Many hip hop artists have actually sampled music from Blue Note artists. Such as Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake, Yasiin Bey, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Eminem, the list goes on…Though it’s intriguing seeing HC give props to an often overlooked label that has indirectly contributed a lot of inspiration to many genres of music. The front graphic of Teachers is cover art from Wayne Shorter’s album Speak No Evil. The back of Teachers has a line of text at the top which is the title of the Horace Silver album Song for my Father. Blue Note 1017 is HC giving a nod to Blue Note’s 1500 series of albums. Below is a track listing of Blue Note songs, all of which have been sampled by hip hop artists. The graphic below appropriates art from Art Blakey’s album Indestructible! Below is a quote from prominent black poet Langston Hughes. The graphic to the left is from Lou Donaldson’s album Quartet/Quintet/Sextet. The next line of text is HC paying tribute to Reid Miles’ aesthetic. As he designed many of Blue Note’s album art, including all the albums referenced on this tee. The text below that is a flip on Horace Parlan’s album “Happy Frame of Mind.” Below that is the Blue Note logo, though in a dual colorway instead of  one. Theres actually not a lot of original interpretations by Hidden Characters on this tee, however thats likely the point. Rather than trying to create something easier for people to understand, HC chose to bring many elements from Blue Note together. In essence accentuating what Blue Note was all about. While also subtly representing hip hop’s re-appropriating of Jazz. Though as a whole Teachers was likely meant to convey that artifacts from black culture never die, but are simply adopted by more modern black zeitgeists. This tee works well on so many levels, conceptually it is on the same level as Ghost Army, and even surpasses it in some respects.

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Possibly the most well designed and hyped piece from this release was the Ghost Army tee. GA is a prime example of HC’s graphic skills. The graphic was moody, it was well designed, there were smaller designs that accentuated the main print, and it had some embroidery along with nice tags. Firstly the name itself is a reference to the actual US Army group nicknamed the “Ghost Army.” They were a special unit of the Army who were active during WWII, they were tasked with deceiving the Axis powers. Their official designation was 23rd Headquarters Special Troop. The Ghost Army were not made up of soldiers, but instead with artists. They had more than 1,000 members. They often created large and elaborate diversions. The Ghost Army accomplished their tasks by using inflatable tanks, fake radio transmissions, and phony artillery. Some of their biggest deceptions occurred during the Allied landing of Normandy and Operation Plunder.   There is text found throughout the front and back of the tee, much of it is crossed out, save for the text on the corner in the front. Some of the text are just indicative of Hidden Characters, such as SRANK, HIDDEN CHARACTERS, and COMPOSITION HIDDEN C. Whereas certain key words are references to the Ghost Army such as SONIC & VISUAL STAGE ENSEMBLE, SABOTAGE SUBVERSION, and 23rd HEADQUARTERS. The text of DUALITY OF MAN is essentially the overarching theme for both s/s pts 1 &2. The back graphic is obviously a reference to war and humanity. While mankind is capable of doing great things, we also have the capacity to do great evil, war often being our outlets for committing crimes against humanity as a whole. The left sleeve has a lightning bolt, which is partially utilized from the emblem patches of the Ghost Army. The bolt came in three random colors, white (common), green (rare), and red (rarest). These colors are based off the Ghost Army’s emblem. Overall this tee had lots of time and effort put into its design and execution. The tee dropped in White, black, gray, olive, and sand.

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Front.

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Back.

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Left sleeve.

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WWII Ghost Army patch.

The Fuck Ian Conner tee seems to be Hidden Characters finally trying to creating some sort of logo for themselves. For the past 3 years the brand has been toying around with fonts, but seemingly never chose a particular style of text to match its overall aesthetic. The front graphic is very clean and well executed. The back has a large melting “srank” text which is possibly channeling the same art style as Salvador Dali. Dropped in blk, wht, baby blue, olive, yellow (friends&family only).

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Standard tags for S/S 16 pts 1 and 2.

As for the Cut n Sew there were a few dope looking products. First off is the grey Bleach hoodie. This was originally released in 2015 as a DC auction item in black. The Bleach hoodie is a reference to Nirvana’s first studio album called “Bleach.” The hoodie is likely grey because the album itself is an inverted black & white photo, as such the grey tones are very visible. The Webbing jacket was a nylon coach jacket that dropped in black and sand cws. It sports a sewn on Ifrit H patch, while the back has a vertical rectangle with an x in middle. Finally theres the Champion split crewneck. It was a heavily 90s inspired  garment, the split look of the crewneck was personally cut n sewn together by the HC crew. They also added an embroidered “HC” on the right sleeve, the front sports an embroidered “Hidden,” and the left sleeve has a 3M “Competition.”

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Right sleeve. Embroidered.

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Left sleeve, 3M.

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Following the release of SS drop 1. Many og and prospective fans where left disappointed. As many were unable to cop the ghost army tee. HC decided to help out their og fans by creating another version of the ghost Army tee, dubbed HB Edition. The tee was made availiabe via pre order. The biggest difference between the HB and GR version is that the HB Ed has a sewn on tag in the front of the tee. HB Ed also has printed tags instead of neck tag, and instead of having embroidered lightning bolts, it has printed HB lightning bolts. Released in the same cws as the GR version.

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Note the HB text on the left sleeve.

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Though SS drop 1 had plenty of hype, drop 2 had even more anticipation. primarily because of their lookbook. In past lookbooks HC tended to create a sort of narrative. Their SS lookbook did the same. However instead of taking photos of live model, the lookbook used clay models. Needless to say the clay figures looked very bizarre. This added another element to their lookbook’s narrative, capturing an ugliness/style that could only be expressed through clay rather then conventional photography. The lookbook caught the attention of HB and was promptly posted. HC was lauded by many newcomers, especially CLSC, a fairly respected streetwear brand.

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Lookbook.

S/S drop 2 consisted of two tees, hat, sweater, and jacket. The cactus Jack design made a return in 3 new cws. Burgundy was the most hyped and sold out instantly. The black cw was fairly sought after, and the inverted white cw sold out within a day. The inverted white cw is the most unique as HC inverted the printing process from the 2014 tee.

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The Militia tee was another design heavily inspired by the militarism. The front has a sort of cross design with the words HC and SR respectively. This small graphic is possibly invoking a feeling of WWI, possibly WWII war insignias. Below is the word HIDDEN, followed by “Trot & Guerrilla Task Force.” These last few words are important as they refer to the back graphic. Trot is possibly a shout out to that particular style of Korean music, furthermore it is probably personified by the fox on the back. Guerrilla is of course a term that describes a type of unconventional warfare strategies. Wherein a rag tag group of people attack their enemies with unconventional tactics and hide in plain sight, it is symbolized by the gorilla on the back. The back graphic is fairly big. A fox and gorilla are flying, likely, a WWII plane. The gorilla seems to be looking for their enemies, whereas the fox is identifying them. Behind the fox is a machine gun. This design is definitely playing off of the Animation style of Momotaro’s Sea Eagles (1943)  and it’s feature length sequel Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors (1945) . They were both WWII Japanese propaganda Anime films. Momotaro’s Divine Sea Warriors is one of the earliest, if not the first Anime movie. The story follows Japanese folk hero Momotaro and animals as they join the Japanese military. The animals specifically join the Navy and eventually gain prominent positions. Later Momotaro leads the animals/soldiers in an invasion of the island of Celebes. The British forces are taken by surprise, the story ultimately ends with the British surrendering the island. While Momotaro and the animals plan another attack. This film is often overlooked by many fans of Anime, for various reasons, though it is undoubtedly an important aspect of Japanese Animation History.

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Momotaro plans a surprise attack.

Though the tees were well received the cut n sew was very hyped. Inner Demons returned as a jacket and the Split Crewneck dropped in a new black cw. There was also the H cap and  a pin.

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The most hype piece for this drop was without a doubt HC’s first hat. It’s no secret that HC strives to make to the best apparel that they can. However There have been a few instances wherein they designed, but did not directly manufacture their own products. The most notable being their first BIBO jackets and their gold H necklaces. Their BIBO jackets were produced by artisans, and their H necklaces were made by experienced jewelers. Not wanting to make hats with standard textile blanks, HC tapped Ebbets Field Flannels to produce some very high quality caps. They only dropped in burgundy, though it appears some black samples exist. Made of melton wool, they are very soft, have a leather strap, and have a sewn on wool Ifrit H. The hats did not have a satin underbrim, they were shipped in a custom box, and they came with a special pin that was not available for purchase.

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Special pin. “Hidden Frame of Mind”!

The hooded Inner Demons jackets was made of nylon and dropped in 3 cws: black, navy, and forest green. This jacket uses HC’s 2014 Inner Demons design. Its basically taken from an ep of Attack on Titan. The graphic is demonstrating how to kill a titan. The front has a sewn on tag. There are small vents near the pits, buttons are brass, and the graphic is 3M vinyl. Green is arguably the best cw, as its probably another lowkey reference to AOT. Eren Yeager, the main character joins the Survey Corps, a branch of the military. One of their notable characteristics is that they are often seen wearing a forest-green cloak with their symbol sewn on to them.

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Back, 3M vinyl.

Finally HC dropped a pin that was based on their snake oil design, and they made a new type of cologne.

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Its interesting to note that the most common theme for s/s pts 1 and 2 is militarism. Though more so that HC doesn’t necessarily base everything on Ameriaca. The light and subtle Japanese inspirations in Militia tee are a nice contrast to the darker Americana inspired Ghost Army tee. Back back the Cactus Jack tee was also pretty cool. Although its obvious that the Ghost Army and Fuck Ian Conner tees were the most loved out of both drops. HC’s cap was also an instacop for everyone. Though its not clear if or when it will come back, as it was not reissued last year. Beyond this there was plenty of cut n sew that many people were digging. Its a testament to HC’s growing skills outside of their graphic design skills. As such many fans, OG and new have patiently been waiting in the shadows for the next drop. As usual stay hidden.

*All s/o

*Hidden Character’s twitter

*Hidden Character’s instagram

*Hidden Character’s website

* Official Hidden Character’s forum

*Largest fan run forum

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Ludwig Van Selvedge 2 – From Europe to ‘Nam

In 2012 Ludwig Van and Quintin Co decided to continue their Selvedge Project partnership. Which has yet to spawn anything ordinary or predictable. However interestingly enough the collab falls a bit into a grey area. Primarily because the hats were not composed of denim. Instead vintage WWII, Vietnam, and canvas fabrics were used. As well as some vintage Japanese broadcloth fabrics, for added contrasted.

In WWI both the Central and Allied powers employed trench warfare tactics. Huge trenches were dug and soldiers stayed there for prolonged periods. Partially as a results soldiers would wear thick woolen clothing. Wool is a strong material, it would be difficult for someone to be impaled by a bayonet and it would keep soldiers warm in the damp trenches. However when WWII rolled around trench warfare was gone. War was fought everywhere across Europe and Asia. Uniforms changed to reflect changing philosophies in what was deemed the best uniforms at the time. Woolen uniforms became lighter, twill was introduced, and canvas was beginning to take a backseat.

One reason why twills were replacing duck canvas in US uniforms were that they were lighter and more pliable. Furthermore twills would eventually go on to replace standard woolen US military uniforms. Later in the late 1950s a new type of uniform was developed, dubbed Mitchell camo, during the Korean war. Originally the uniforms came in reversible coats. One side being known as “leaf,” the other known as “clouds.” Mitchell camo was in service long enough to actual see some soldiers don it in Vietnam. Duck canvas was  also an old military fabric being used as late as the early 20th century before falling out of favor in the military. It is made of a heavy gauge woven cotton, its origins being attributed to the Dutch term “deok.” The actually meaning of the term refers to sailor’s garments. It was also used by US laborers. This is evidenced by Levi’s making Duck Canvas pants for miners.

Lugwig Van x Quintin’s duck canvas snapback is featured. Duck canvas makes up the primary material used for the cap’s construction. Unlike modern hats, that are made of twill, the cap is very stern and doesn’t seem frail at all. Moving your fingers over the bill of the cap gives you a sense of how touch this duck canvas is, the canvas is rough and rigid. Instead of dying the duck canvas a different color, Ludwig chose to stick with the default color of the canvas, which is somewhere between a semi-subtle brownish orange. Giving the hat more contrast a full grain leather, likely cowhide, Selvedge X Project patch is sewn onto the front. Moving to the underbill vintage Mitchell Clouds camo is used, giving the hat a stronger sense of Americana. The inside of the hat comes with  a red selvedge denim stash pocket. Finally rounding off the hat Ludwig decided to include a broadcloth backing to the front panel. Broadcloth itself having roots in both Japan and Europe. Regardless of its origin broadcloth is recognized as a luxury fabric. The vintage Japanese broadcloth has a unique print, which provides contrast as well as a touch of inconspicuous luxury. Like the first Selvedge X Project the Scout Series caps are silent hits for Ludwig Van and Quintin Co. Although they are very difficult to come across.

Duck Canvas construction, full grain leather patch.

Ludwig Van tags

Vintage Mitchell Camo underbill, Vietnam era.

Red selvedge denim stash pocket. Vintage Japanese broadcloth backing.

Converse – Before the Swoosh, there was the Star pt 2

1918-1929: Rise in Basket and Alliance with Chuck Taylor

In 1918 Chuck Taylor, who at the time was in High School comes across the Converse All Star. He is instantly smitten with the shoes. Later in 1921 he is hired at Converse, one of his biggest roles with Converse was adding the star ankle patch to the All Star shoes. Likewise he changed the sole of the All Star in order to improve both the flexibility and traction of the shoe. Furthermore Chuck Taylor was Converse’s biggest salesman, going city to city selling pair of Converse from the back of his truck. Converse adds Chuck Taylor’s signature to the All Star, making it the more modern “Chuck Taylor All Star,” as there way of saying thanks for his loyalty to the company. Chuck Taylor was also a well known basketball advocate occasionally setting up basketball programs so kids could be introduced to the sport. Slowly but surely basket became a more recognized and serious sport. Converse was quickly growing in recognition because of this. Converse began to dabble in other shoes models. Around this time the fabled Skoots was created. It featured various types of soles and design changes and was eventually lost to time.

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Chuck Taylor originally introduced the all star patch to the Converse All Star in 1921.

Converse Skoots 1920s. What it was designed for it not 100% known. The model was later used for the military, without the Skoots logo. They are highly sought after.

In 1929 Converse goes bankrupt and is sold to Mitchell Kaufman.

1930-1947: WWII and Rise to Power

By the time the 1930s rolled around basketball was starting to become a pro sport. Because of Chuck Taylor’s endless devotion to both basketball and Converse The All Star becomes the standard shoe of choice for Professional basketball players. Mitchell Kaufman dies in 1930 and Converse is handled by Albert Wechsler.

In 1933 Jack Purcell, a Canadian citizen, becomes the badminton champion of the world. That same year Converse is sold to the Stone family. Jack Purcell released his signature shoes the Jack Purcell in 1935. Bf Goodrich manufactured the shoe, and it was one of their most popular models. As WWII rolled around many privatized American companies either worked under the US government or had a contract with them. Converse inked a contract with US government in December of 1946. Under this contract they initially made basic training shoes for US army recruits as well as making flight boots for soldiers in the air force. After WWII ended, Converse would begin to carve out their empire.

Jack Purcell designs shoes for tennis and they are made by BF Goodrich, the tire company, starting in 1935.

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1930s All Star leather shoes. They featured the Comfort Arch system, double players name box on interior tounges, no star patch, welt style sole, and interior line stitching.

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1938 -39 ad.

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1946 basic US Army training shoes.

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Converse WWII flight boots.

Ludwig Van x Gourmet – From East Germany to your Feet

     After the end of WWII in 1945 Germany was considered the biggest loser of the war. The Allies, specifically the British and French, wanted to completely dismantle Germany and let other adjacent countries take pieces of Germany for themselves. This however was ultimately stopped, in part because of the Soviet Union’s desire to expand the scope of Communism to the world. Under the wing of the Soviet Union the Deutsche Demokratische Republik or Democratic Republic of Germany, East Germany, was established on October 7, 1949. 

     Ludwig Van, having an eye for vintage deadstock (unused) materials, always makes something new out of something thought to be old. Not too long ago they stumbled on to some vintage deadstock DRG camouflage. Since 2011 it seems as though Ludwig Van has been on a mission to locate fine deadstock army materials. These same materials have a history that is all their own, they are often overlooked for being obsolete or uninteresting. Many enthusiasts, including Ludwig Van, of vintage army apparel, usually see how patterns of old camos have relevance today. Partnered with Gourmet, Ludwig Van unveils the first release for their Utility Project.

     Gourmet is an American footwear brand established in 2005. Like Ludwig Van, Gourmet tends to go in a different direction with their shoes compared to most other brands. They like to experiment and explore with their footwear. Coupled with Ludwig Van the collaboration makes perfect sense. For the Utility Project release there will be four different models: the Kilgore Cinque  in duck canvas, the Kilgore Cinque in a vinatge army twill, the DDR Quattro Skate midtop, and the DDR Cinque lo. Probably the biggest stand outs in this release are the duck canvas Kilgore and the DDR midtop shoes.

     The highlights on the DDR Quattro Skate mid is its construction of vintage DDR camo, a leather heel tab, black leather logo on the tongue of the shoe, and a Ludwig Van side tab on the heel. While not constructed of DDR the Kilgore Cinque is instead built together using duck canvas. The highlights on the Kilgore include a Ludwig Van tab on the upper of the shoe, a leather patch on the heel of the shoe, and its construction of duck canvas in a rich utilitarian orange. The origins of this particular pattern of DDR camo goes back to 1965, it was used by the East German army until 1990. Much of the DDR camo has since ended up in places all over the world, being adopted by other regimes and guerrilla fighters. As a result any DDR camo is highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts looking to hold onto a unique German made design. Ludwig Van and Gourmet bring new life to something old, they modernized the East German soldier.

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Leather heel tab. Highly sought after “teardrop” pattern.

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Ludwig Van side tabs.

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Leather Gourmet embossed patch on tongue.
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Gourmet embossed patch on heel.

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Ludwig Van side tabs.

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Constructed of vintage Walls Outdoor Duck Canvas. A rich orange-brown color is typically used for duck canvas material.

Snap back made entirely of DDR camo.

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Two soldiers wearing DDR camo, during the Cold War.

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Various examples of East German uniforms.

*Shoes will be released by both Ludwig Van and Gourmet on their respectives webstores on 2/16/13 at noon PST.

*Ludwig Van webstore:

http://shop.ludwigvantheman.com/

*Gourmet webstore:

http://gourmetfootwear.com/

**UPDATE 7~16~13**

Due to the increased flow of traffic on this article I am including additional information on these products. For enthusiasts of authentic Vintage DDR and army fabrics, it should be noted that all of these fabrics are real. Two of the Cinques are made of deadstock US army fabrics. While these fabrics were meant to be made for US soldiers, some just sat around for years because of an abundant surplus. Likewise the shoes and hat made of real DDR fabrics. Today that are many fakes and reproductions of DDR camouflage, but Ludwig Van shunned the idea of doing such a thing. Compared to the fakes and reproductions used by various brands, this is something that is worth having for any lover of old school army products, just updated for modern wear.

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DDR Cinque.

The Cinque, or Kilgore, made of  a Vintage US Army twill fabric from the 1970s.

*Note that in order to make the project truly unique, Ludwig Van and Gourmet released these shoes with their brand logos swapped from their respective locations on the footwear, so there might be some variation.

*Primitive also has the Utility Project shoes in stock:

http://www.primitiveshoes.com/brands.cfm?Brand=Gourmet