If you’ve ever ordered a pair of boots made in the Pacific Northwest or Indonesia, you’ve likely plunged into the box, pulled your boots out, tried them on, smiled with your soul, and then kept digging. Maybe there’s some extra laces in there! Possibly stickers!! And almost always, a pair of kilties—false tongues featuring sawtooth edges at the bottom.
And then you either 1) lace them into your boots and wear them with pride (Some people! Bless you all!) or 2) just keep them on a forgotten shelf in a shoe box jammed full of other kitlies and laces (me).
Kitlies, for many boot lovers, are an afterthought, and an anachronism. They’re meant to keep dirt and grime and possibly even HOT SLAG out of your boots, but when they’re not being used in a true work situation, they become more of a highly optional stylistic call-back to the boots’ original purpose.
But what if kilties were expressly designed for style? And what if—and this is the best part as far as I’m concerned—they also served a truly important purpose: making boots that are a little too big just fit much better??
Enter Trinity Handmade, the very noble leatherwork project of one Jimmy Bruce, a tattoo artist in Petaluma, CA. With his shop shut down once more by COVID lockdowns in late 2020, Jimmy had time on his hands, and an idea: creating custom kilties in an expansive range of leathers that were specifically designed to 1) just look damn good, and 2) eat up some volume in boots when needed.
Jimmy set to work, picking up a ton of leather from a distributor in town and hand-cutting patterns at first, then creating a custom stamping die that gets things 90% of the way there before some hand-work comes in.
Over the months, Jimmy honed his base pattern: a bell-shape with a wide top that extends under the eyelets and quarters much more than your average kiltie, which “helps them stay in place better, protects your stock tongues from eyelet rub, and adds enough volume to spread out the facing just a little bit,” according to Jimmy.
From there, he developed four kiltie styles that he’s selling exclusively through his Instagram (yes you have to DM him) @nerdin_with_boots. Let’s run them down:
The Weekender: Plain profile with a pleasing bit of curvature to it. Classy!
The Weekend Logger: Basically the Weekender with two teeth cut in at the corners. Jimmy can also do these with some pretty hot stitching to dress things up/match your boots, as seen below on my man @redwingeddie’s Wesco x Standard & Strange Axe Breakers. I have to say I love these.
Mini Logger: The most traditional, a fine tooth logger-style kiltie. Everyone follow shell-cordovan-beating king @aerosurferlv on Instagram!
Type B aka “Invisible” Kiltie: My personal favorite: a no-show kiltie that’s cut with a reverse curvature of the Weekender so the whole thing pretty much hides behind your laces, as seen here in my White’s 350s that I only waxed one of so the Invisible would be a little less invisible.
Full Custom: This can be pretty much anything you can dream up in tandem with Jimmy (that he thinks he could pull off). @1damn8nvision‘s logo-referencing kilties are the best example yet, and they are nothing short of insane. So start dreaming if you want to keep up.
The Type B is the exact answer I’ve wanted for a long time on various pairs—boots I love, but are just a little roomy. Acting basically as a reverse tongue pad (a viable but flawed solution for too-big boots), it eats up JUST enough volume on a few of my pairs, and fits perfectly up the lacing system, even with a fully gusseted tongue.
Does this make me a closeted kiltie lover, in need of their charms and function but afraid to let the world know they exist?? Yes, yes it does. And I’m ok with that. Because my boots fit better now. But maybe, just maybe, they’ll set me on a path to showing some others off.
The range of leathers Jimmy has is always growing but already robust: natural, brown, and black CXL along with Horween dark brown waxed flesh and natural veg tan horse strip; SB Foot marine olive rough out (a near-match for Red Wing’s Hawthorne Muleskinner) and tumbled amber harness; and Law Tanning’s cognac shrunken Bison.
And as for prices, Jimmy’s charging $35/pair shipped US for horse veg-tan and shrunken bison, $25 for all other leathers, and $50/pair and up for full custom.