Chicago has a well-deserved reputation for making things the quote-unquote right way: carefully, deliberately, effectively.
It’s a tradition that dates back to Daniel Burnham but remains vital today, and no two purveyors better embody it than Horween Leather and Oak Street Bootmakers.
Fitting, then, that the two have just teamed up on a shoe for the ages: a classic bit loafer in Horween’s fabled Chromexcel.
What’s special about Chromexcel? Horween is the only tannery in the world that makes it, for starters. It’s the yield of a 28-day, 89-step “cooking” process that utilizes both chrome and vegetable tanning. In non-leather-nerd speak: you get the durability of the former, but also the malleability of the latter, meaning it will develop a unique patina quickly … and then continue to develop that patina for years.
(And if you prefer the full leather-nerd version, Nick Horween has an excellent blog post on the process.)
Oak Street Horween Chromexcel Bit Loafer (3 images)
The benefits of Chromexcel in Oak Street’s signature bit loafer are obvious.
Loafers exist firmly at the Casual Friday end of the dress-shoe spectrum. You don’t need to shine, brush and baby them (though you can); rather, they tend to look best after a few hundred wears, bearing the scars, stains and well-earned comfort of your, well, loafing. And for that, Chromexcel is the best canvas you’ll find.
But it’s certainly not the only thing top-shelf about these slip-ons. From the stacked leather heel to the hand-stitched moccasin upper to the shiny brass horsebit that buttons it all up, it’s hard to imagine a more carefully considered iteration of the form.
They’re available in two colorways: a warm, summery natural or a more fall-appropriate dark brown. Just don’t take too long choosing between ‘em — as Oak Street warns, “extremely limited quantities” are available.