For years, Tyler Hays sustained an affection for vintage hiking boots. (He’s also into painting, sculpture, and BDDW, the furniture line he founded in 2005). So when he discovered two flawlessly executed versions of the shoes—the Unlined Hiker and Wool Hiker, produced by handmade footwear label FEIT—he became an instant fan. In 2012, a FEIT staffer spotted Hays sporting the kicks at an exhibition opening in BDDW’s New York store, and insisted on introducing him to FEIT’s founder, Tull Price. When the two connected over dinner, it was like meeting another member of their tribe: both are part of a growing cohort of companies dedicated to using noble materials to create expertly made objects intended to last a lifetime. Today, Hays and Price share a brotherly bond that, as I gathered from our collective conversation, is fueled by very strong feelings about craftsmanship (positive), mass-production (negative), and the future of luxury, which may entail producing things by hand using time-honored techniques and materials (inevitable).
Neither is typically a fan of collaboration—“We are very particular about who we work with,” Price explains—but, because of their shared principles, decided to create something together. The fruit of their labor, a limited run of 60 pairs of Hays’s two favorite FEIT boots, launches today in both brands’ New York outposts and at FEIT’s online shop. Each shoe was hand-cut in FEIT’s workshop in southern China, sent to Hays’s Philadelphia studio to be hand-painted and dyed, then returned to FEIT’s cobblers for finishing. No two pairs are exactly alike: some feature painterly swaths of color, while others show off calligraphy-esque doodles. Each pair is numbered and packaged in a handmade wooden box.
“We ended up making something that is pure and unique, and that represents both companies well,” Price says of the collaboration. Hays couldn’t agree more. “I’m kind of a control freak,” he says. “But I enjoyed every part of this experience.”