Written by Chris
I didn’t set out to, I am a victim of circumstance, but somehow, over the last few years, I became Indiana Jones. I get comments on my photos and walking down the street (yes, even in South America) but it’s really not my fault. I just wanted some practical clothing and here’s how it all went down:
A few years ago, I was in need of a new jacket. My wardrobe had been transitioning from a black-oriented one to more earth tones and I was trying to find a brown jacket to go with it. I found a great looking one at REI and, since I was traveling a lot for work at the time, the plethora of pockets made it a must-buy. It’s not leather like the Real Deal wears, but the look is right.
When we started planning this trip, I realized we were going to be spending a lot of time in the tropics, outside in the sun, and often at high altitude. That is a recipe for some serious solar radiation and heat, so I looked for a shirt to combat this as much as possible. I needed the following: light in color to reflect the sun, long-sleeve to cover up as much as possible, and synthetic fabric for breathability and quick drying. I found what I needed in the REI Sahara Tech shirt. It just so happened to come in a nice light khaki color…
Here is where things start to get a little strange.
In the last few years, I have started to become obsessed with quality. I was getting tired of having such a disposable lifestyle and I started to resolve that, whenever I had to buy something, it would be The Last I’ll Ever Buy. So when it came time for a new pair of shoes, I spent quite a while shopping for a pair lifetime boots. I eventually found a pair I loved, the Danner Mountain Light; all-leather and waterproof, resoleable, looks good enough to wear with anything, and hand-made right in the USA in Portland, OR. Who could ask for more?
I found a store in San Francisco that sold them and went to try on a pair before I ordered a them. To my great disappointment, I immediately discovered that Danner, it seems, only makes boots for people without a big toe. It every pair I tried on there cut in sharply where my big toe should have been. It was kind of like wearing high heels. I was somewhat crushed since I had spent the last several months in my search for the perfect boot, but when fate closes a door…
This was a pretty high-end store with a nice selection of some quality boots, so I tried on a few more while I was there. They had another excellent boot that fit my criteria, the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot. It fit great and looked nice, but they only came with a smooth sole and I wanted something with more traction. The clerk brought out one more pair for me to try. Little did he know, he was about to change the course of history for me and my feet forever.
They were a pair of boots made by a company called Alden who I had never heard of before. It was by far the nicest looking boot I had seen (they are primarily a dress shoe company) and it had a rugged Vibram work boot sole. All the specs where met. But when I tried it on, that’s when the magic happened.
It was as though, long ago, a young man had decided to pick up the boot-making craft. He started by assisting the master craftsman; handing him tools, cleaning the shop, and occasionally, under the watchful eye of the master, placing a stitch in a shoe or polishing the leather to a shine. He slowly proved his dedication and earned the right to perform more complex tasks; forming the sole, selecting the leather, designing the form. He toiled every day, for years, for a lifetime; studying the materials, biomechanics, the technique, the craft. One day, he realized, he had become the master, and as the master, he decided to craft one more boot. He envisioned his customer in every detail; who he is, how he lives, what he believes. He envisioned his foot; the shape and size, every curve, every line, and he began to craft. This boot, he thought, would be the culmination of his life’s work and the foot, which was My Foot, would soon find its match.
And so it was, at the Unionmade shop in San Francisco that fate closed the loop and brought me together with my lifetime boot. The Alden model 404. Made in the USA in Middleborough, Massachusetts since 1884 of oiled kudu leather with matched eyelets, speed hooks, moc toe stitching, all around reverse welt and a lugged rubber sole.
“The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore… These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand.”
—Garrick Ollivander on wands. Except I think he was talking about boots.
And, guess what boots Harrison Ford wore during the filming of the Indiana Jones movies. The Alden model 405. It is slightly different from mine in that is has white instead of brown stitching and it does not have the lugged sole. The story goes that the wardrobe people on the film had Ford trying on all kinds of boots for Indy’s outfit and nothing seemed to work quite right. Eventually, Ford just said, ‘screw it, I’m wearing my boots’ (probably a direct quote) which happened to be his Alden 405’s that he used to wear while he worked as a carpenter for their comfort and durability. Imagine that.
It is the hat, more than anything else, that has been getting people to stop and comment. And I didn’t even do it on purpose. Again, I needed something to shield me from the sun for this trip. It had to provide good coverage and be packable. I guess I could have got one of those sun hats, but I could do better. I wanted something with some style as well as the function, I wanted it to look good while it kept me cool, I wanted to do my part to bring back the hat, I wanted to wear a Man’s Hat.
So I found it at, where else, REI. A dark brown fedora, 3″ brim, made from breathable canvass. Man, does it do a great job of keeping me cool and shaded and, surprisingly to me, it is excellent at keeping me dry in the rain. And guess who else happens to wear a brown fedora (though leather)…
Though when I took off the hat, I got accused of being Chuck Norris (the hair is getting a little bushy). Apparently, if I traded in the fedora for a cowboy hat, I could have been Walker, Texas Ranger.
Up until this point, I now look like Indiana Jones, but I just claimed that I am Indiana Jones. The missing link: Archeological Adventure. As luck would have it, part of our trip involved exploring the lost ruins of the Incas in what is now Peru.
So the outfit is not perfect, but I think it is darn good for being sheer and total coincidence. I can only think of two things that could be added to make things absolutely perfect; a bullwhip and: