A couple times a year, Viberg is nice enough to stop by my hometown for the MAN show at market week, a gauntlet of trade shows at which they display what’s coming up about six-to-nine months out. (Presumably they’d come to New York to do this even if lived somewhere else. I didn’t ask.)
Last week I got a look at this year’s Drop One and Two from Viberg. Last week (and for this rundown), all focus was on Drops Three and Four, which will unleash themselves later this year.
The big Drops represent Viberg’s seasonal collections that seem as if they’ll continue to make up a larger and larger portion of the boots/shoes released, in addition to 1) their core, always-on line (CXL Service Boots, for example, and a few other styles), and 2) smaller one-off drops—that’s where you’ll find all of the forthcoming shell—plus smaller, more tightly themed collections a la this one from last year.
Before we get into some of the standouts from the second half of 2020, a few things worth noting:
-Everything in this collection features a hardwood shank in lieu of a steel shank. According to Viberg brand director Guy Ferguson, one of Viberg’s goals is to focus on natural materials whenever possible while growing Viberg’s eco-conscious outlook. The shank-shift, however small, is a representation of that growth. From Guy: “The choice for the wooden shanks is about natural/traditional materials and processes. It serves the same function as a metal shank, but being a natural material it’s obviously harder to work with. It’s not really about performance; it’s more of a philosophical choice.”
-Anything with a structured toe is now supported by a leather toe insert, doing away with celastic and other toe-puff materials, also in favor of something natural. Using leather toe puffs is actually exceedingly rare in shoemaking, partially because of the expense, and also because it can be a bit trickier to use than the activated synthetics.
-While Viberg will presumably always be defined by its stitchdown boots, you’re going to continue to see plenty of Goodyear welt boots and shoes with flat welts, split welts, and storm welts. All service Boots and some Hikers are still stitchdown, but derby boots/shoes, Chelseas, and Scout boots are almost exclusively Goodyear welt of one form or another.
-Viberg’s leaning hard into its new semi-anatomical 2020 last, something of a hybrid of the 2030 and its Cantilever last—all the derby boots and derby shoes you’ll see below are on it. Here’s a full rundown on the new 2020 last. Personally, I dig it, especially the fit. The look isn’t quiiiiiite as perfectly sculpted as the 2030. But hey, neither is your foot! (Except for that one guy.)
-For the curious/concerned/otherwise: as of now, from what I saw represented, there will be no sneakers in either drop of the fall/winter collection.
Ok, let’s hit it.
We might as well start with Horween, one of Viberg’s most longstanding tannery partners. The Chicago stalwarts have provided the Chestnut Essex for these 2020-last derby shoes, which I feel works really well with the natural storm welt.
I’m personally really feeling the storm welt on a lot of the derby shoes especially—while the flat welt and obviously stitchdown constructions also work quite nicely and keep things really clean, the storm welt provides a bit of heft to the look of the shoe. It’s just more substantial, pushing towards a Northampton country shoe—but not quite there, in a good way. They look great in person
The derby boot gets the same Chestnut Essex, and the eyelets/hooks give this otherwise straightforward boot—whose veg-tan Essex leather should age really interestingly—a bit of pop. Also 2020 last.More from Horween: Dublin Spice leather on a 1035 perforated cap toe service boot. This stuff is pretty wild.
A closer look at the Horween Dublin Spice grain.
And here it is on some 9220-last Hikers.
Keeping things on the aggressive-leather side, England’s Charles F. Stead provided this Fog Waxed Veldt antelope leather, which boasts boundless character, and works really well to keep things good ‘n’ rugged on this storm-welted Scout boot. You’ll also see this leather on a plain-toe service boot and a Morflex-soled Hiker.
Much like 2020’s first-half Drop One and Two, you’ll be seeing plenty of Stead suede in the second half of the year from Viberg, including this creatively named brown calf suede. While they might not necessarily scream “VIBERG,” I do think they at least say it in a hushed, dignified tone. I have to say I love these shoes.
Cap toe derby in the same leather.
Stead Earth calf suede slippers.
And Earth calf Chelseas on Dainite.
I didn’t pay enough attention to these Stead Winter Smoke calf Service Boots on the first pass—they’re kinda sleepers. But I ended up spending a lot of time with them throughout the days I was at the Viberg booth. It works great on this 2030 Service Boot, but maybe even better on the Chelsea with a blacked-out storm welt (no pics of that one—sorry). Will also be available in the Mule. This leather is one of Guy’s personal favorites.
Kudu and suede are what Stead does best—so here’s the kudu portion. Hard to find a better looking rugged Chelsea than this one in bronze brown kudu.
Definitely a natural fit for the Pachena Bay as well.
But to me, this derby shoe is really the showcase for this leather. The kudu takes the classic brown derby, and turns it just the right amount of sideways.
More Stead antelope: Nomad Bokhara, which is processed as a nubuck. Character upon character upon character.
Stitchdown Needs Your Support to Continue Doing Boot Journalism Like This: Learn More About How You Can Help (And Get Some Great Benefits) Here
So yes, I’m an admitted sucker for interesting lighter-shade roughouts, but these Stead anthracite 1035 Service Boots are just heart-stoppers. Can only dream about what these look like trashed (for now).
And then, perhaps the crown jewel of the Drop 3/4 lineup: plain toe 2030 Service Boot on Ridgeway soles in a ridiculously compelling used tan Italian horsebutt.
So I imagine the above aren’t going to be the top seller overall. But because I myself love them, and because I get to do whatever I want in this particular boot publication, we end on these, my favorite boot of the whole line: 310 Service Boot in that same used tan horsebutt. @ me.