Bad Hat Brothers - A Brand Introduction

It’s the end of the year and I went to Korea to visit my family in Seoul. I thought it would be a great chance for me to visit a street in east Seoul, where a lot of shoemakers have gathered. You might think that it could look like Northampton in the UK where a lot of traditional brands such as Tricker’s or Crockett and Jones are located. It looks a bit different from Northampton. It’s in the middle of an area called Seongsu. The street name is Seongsu handmade shoes street. It’s a name that is a bit odd, but I guess from the name, we can guess that there will be shoemakers here.

Seongsu Handmade Shoes Street

Here is just a brief history of Seongsu’s shoemaker street. They were able to trace back the history to the 1920s, but this area only was popular for the cobblers. Previously, Korea didn’t really have the cobblers that we know now. During Japan’s colonisation of Korea a lot of Western clothes and shoes started to appear in Korea. After the colonisation and the Korean war, there were cordwainers that made shoes and boots out of second handed boots from the U.S Soldiers. Korea used to export a lot of shoes between the 1960s and 1980s where a lot of shoe factories were located around the country. These top quality shoes were also popular. But the real reason that this street was formed, is because one of the biggest brands for the quality shoe making company was located in Seongsu and other shops gathered nearby.

So, today, I will visit a brand called “Bad Hat Brothers” located in Seongsu. Now, this is not a brand that existed since the old times as I have mentioned, but Bad Hat Brothers produce shoes and boots that are high quality and they also looked really good. I think looks are as important as quality anyway. I was also very intrigued by their boots. I immediately called them up and asked if I could visit and take some photos and videos to introduce the brand.

Bad Hat Brothers Custom Shoes
Bad Hat Brothers Boots

The brand is owned by two brothers, they both learnt cordwaining in Seongsu before number of years before they set up their own store. They were inspired by “Amecaji” style and hand welted style boots and they decided to open this brand 5 years ago. The brand seems quite young, but the brothers have been cordwainers for 10 years, so they definitely know what they are doing.

I was confused when I first arrived at their shop because it was hidden and it was hard to tell if I could just go into their shop.

However, the whole experience of entering their shop was amazing. I was welcomed by the smell of incense and the shoe lasts that are stacked on the side of the wall. There were a lot of boots displayed and were ready to be tried on, or bought by the customers. The main body of the shop was mainly workstations. You are able to see where they make the uppers, put the outsole and construct the entire boots.

Shoe lasts one the side

All of their shoe lasts that you see here are customised and developed by the Bad Hat Brothers. I didn’t get a chance to ask more about the lasts, but they said normally people should take their True to Size if you wear US11, to take 290 on their website etc. However, once you send them a message regarding purchase, they will contact you to ask some questions beforehand so that they can try to make it fit as much as possible. They also had some interesting looking lasts, for example, last inspired by the Japanese Tabi shoes.

Their hand welted boots and shoes are currently made by the two brothers of the shop and no one else. They currently only produce hand welted boots and the reason is because they enjoy the aesthetic of the hand welted boots and also they are used to the hand welted construction. Personally, I agree and I think the hand welted shoes have their own beauty and enjoyable moments.

Bad Hat Brothers Boots

The boots and shoes on the shelves were extremely good quality and I was happy to have found a brand that is so cool to look at. They also do custom orders, so contact them if you are interested in certain styles and configurations.

The Bad Hat Brothers use outsoles from Vibram and Dr. Soles as their main suppliers. Just like any custom cordwainers, there are various types of leather in the shop. Some are imported to Korea from reputable tanneries like Horween and others are sourced locally. I saw one of the engineer boots that I liked and asked if the boots are made of Horween Roughouts, but I was informed that it wasn’t and it’s sourced from Korea. They also mentioned that they are always looking into importing high quality leather.

Another impressive thing about their boots is that everything (except for the outsoles and stitches) is made of leather. They use leather lining, insoles and midsoles. They do not make shoes from other materials that wouldn’t last long. So they mean serious business.

Now, I know everyone is probably interested in knowing the price of the boots. Currently they are priced around $650 – $750 depending on the custom leather and design. Their engineering boots however, are priced around $800 – $850. This is a ballpark figure, and I was informed as the individual orders can be different, it really depends on the buyers. One of the best things about this, is that it’s a free delivery from Korea to the USA or to Singapore. For Europe, as they didn’t have any customers yet, they need to see the shipment cost first. I suspect that it’ll be free though. I would say considering the quality and the material used, the price is very good. These boots will definitely last you a lifetime as well if you take good care of them. You can also send these back to them for a resole job for a small cost.

Their MTO time is around 6 to 8 weeks. That is really quick as MTO boots go. Usually MTO boots take more than 20 to 30 weeks and often it takes over a year.

Their website is currently temporary and still getting made, so if you have any interest in buying the boots, contact them directly.

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