There are no shoes in the world like Yuketens.
This is not hyperbole. It’s a pure and simple fact that becomes immediately evident as soon as you set eyes on Yuki Matsuda’s creations, shoes and boots of beauty and daring and masterfully harnessed inspiration—and something…else. Something that has emerged from Yuki’s mind since 1989 and likely couldn’t have arisen from anywhere else.
Then there is the construction. Handsewn moccasins are an ancient shoe; the techniques most handsewn makers deploy are largely similar whether they’re made in Maine or the Dominican Republic. Yuki can’t stop there. Steel shanks, veg-tanned full leather insoles and midsoles, gigantic single-piece vamps wrapping themselves under wearer’s foot. Top quality leathers. Unique leathers (below you’ll see some shoes that look like they’re made of fabric. They’re not; it’s printed leather). Beaver fur, when deemed necessary. Near-flawless stitching—and there is a lot to be stitched. Yuki told me his handsewn workshop is but three people in Maine. While they work gigantic needles through those hefty midsoles, finished uppers sit on lasts for a full week before they’re deemed ready.
And after that, the range. In terms of the patterns and leathers of the handsewns, to be sure, but also Yuketen’s mastery of Goodyear welted shoes and boots. Those are every bit as remarkable and unique, from shell cordovan Polish Work Boots with channeled insoles (which themselves Yuki says take two days to make), to angular bump-toe military-inspired boots built on 100-year-old orthopedic lasts. “Look at this heel,” Yuki said, holding a boot in front of his face, one eye closed. “Can you see the slant?” I barely could, but said yes anyway.
Then I looked again, closer, and it was there. “These are shoes,” Yuki said, “that make you walk the right way.” Function, and the details that drive it. Some of the most beautiful Goodyear welted examples I’ve seen aren’t represented in the below photos, as Yuki says he has moved on. My personal hope is that he doubles back.
Another personal hope is to cover Yuketen more deeply in the future, to learn as much as possible about the things that we cannot see—as well as the things we can, and can’t look away from.
For now, enjoy these photos of the Yuketens (and Yukes, Yuki’s new, more affordable line) that will be available this fall and winter. It’s a collection full of both Yuketen classics and a rare vision of the future, while also serving as an ignition for the creativity of those he works with and encourages to make “anything. We can do anything.”