In tomorrow’s Shoecast episode, Ticho and I take look back at 2021, and make a few (reasonably?) bold predictions about 2022 and beyond. One is something I’d absolutely love to see, and have a hunch will happen at some point before too long: the rise of bespoke rugged boots.

I spoke last week with David Parent of Atelier Buck, who just so happens to share that goal. A Canadian who recently relocated to Portugal to be closer to all that stuff you need to make boots, David’s background in orthopedics propelled him into handwelted bookmaking in 2020. Now he’s on the verge of offering a tidy made-to-measure line of custom boots—with an eye towards offering a full bespoke option in the future.

The Atelier Buck boots appear to be pretty darn real. David’s personal pair of derby boots seen here, which he’s been wearing for about a year, are made with beastly thick brown CXL upper leather, a thick leather shank, and a massive 6mm oak bark midsole and insole, and are attached to a Dainite outsole 100% by hand. He’ll also be offering Maryam and Wickett & Craig upper leather options.

atelier buck derby boot brown CXL

Buck’s product looks incredibly solid, but David’s far from done pushing it forward. “As a clinician I observed a lot of feet,” said David. “So I can really understand biomechanics, and work on different toe shapes, heel heights, rocker shapes.” David’s going to continue fiddling with the patterns and lasts, and possibly work towards creating a tighter waist. “Where I would like to aim is to give some of the aspect of bespoke shoes that I like, with a lot of shaping with hand tools.”

The made-to-measure process will be remote for anyone not in Portugal, with customers guided in measuring themselves by a video tutorial. Buck currently has a Kickstarter going—with five days left—in which a customized version of his derby boot shown here (plus an engineer and a lace-to-toe boot, whose price will be higher) will be discounted, running between $800 and $1000—not cheap, but definitely not insane for a truly handmade boot. Future full price looks like it’ll be around $1200-$1400.

atelier buck derby boot brown CXL

So are they worth it? Well I haven’t worn or even handled the boots, so it’s hard to say. But the feeling I got from talking him is that David is incredibly passionate about his craft, has a very interesting background to inform his future work, and absolutely has the right outlook about materials, construction, overall quality—and just creating something pretty darn cool that simply doesn’t exist in nearly enough abundance.

To me, there simply aren’t enough made-to-measure and true bespoke boots that aren’t something classically beautiful—balmoral boots and the like can be wonderful, but they’re not what I’d personally plunk down a bunch of scratch for. The venerable Goto-san of White Kloud leads the short list of offering something exceptional in that vein, and some of the top Indonesian and Chinese makers can sometimes make a last adjustment if necessary. But I’d love to see more true MTM offerings with a burlier aesthetic come onto the scene. And I really think the market is there for it.

Whether or not the Kickstarter gets funded, my hope is we’ll be hearing plenty from David and Atelier Buck in the future, and begin to see a similar outlook from other makers as well.

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