Brian the Bootmaker of Role Club in Los Angeles makes some the best Engineer Boots in the world. His dedication to the craft and attention to detail are absolutely unrivaled. Whether you are looking for a new pair of boots or you're looking to breathe some new life into a pair you already own, Role Club should be on the short list of places you look.
In the picture above, Brian poses with his maestro, Ignacio Palacios, who's been making boots since he was 8 years old. In the interview, Brian talks about his maestro, how he got started, what inspires him, and his newest boot style - the Underdogs. Make sure to watch the video at the bottom by Paul Sun.
How did you get started?
Brian: Even though I knew how to make boots, Role Club began with repairing boots. My first customer was named Daniel. He was from Canada. I remember I repaired his Red Wing Engineer boots. I always had a vision of my holy grail engineer boots. In 2014, I announced on my Instagram that I was going to release an engineer boot after 2 years of designing. I was blessed to have a small waiting list of people excited to buy my boots.
(Here's a short clip of Brian resoling a pair of Redwing 877s)
When did you decide to start your own brand?
Brian: All throughout high school, I enjoyed creating things from screen printing t-shirts to customizing sneakers, and even trying to push a small clothing brand. I always had a vision of having a brand. At the end of high school, I decided to focus more on customizing sneakers. Once I stepped into the shoe repair shop and met my teacher, I felt this was the opportunity I was always waiting for.
Where does the name Role Club come from?
Brian: In almost everything I create, I add a little part of my life. When I decided to call my brand Role Club, I wanted a name that always reminded me of my beginnings. So I decided to use the word Role to remember my teacher because he is my role model. If I can become half the Bootmaker he is, I would be satisfied. Then I decided to add Club because I knew the work I was creating is specifically for a small community who truly understand Quality.
Tell me about your teacher and his role in your life and business.
Brian: His name is Ignacio Palacios. Ignacio is from Guanajuato and has been making boots since he was 8 years old. He taught me everything I know about boot making, but he also taught me to stay humble. Ignacio is a great friend of mine. He actually has his own customers that he tends to because my shoe repair shop has been around for about 70 years. Many local customers still come and get their shoes repaired.
How did you create your logo? It's awesome!
Brian: Thank you! I really love vintage sport wear labels, and I wanted Role Club to have that kind of style.
(Check out the process he uses to print his box designs)
How did engineer boots become your primary product?
Brian: When I first came to the shop, I told Maestro I want to learn how to make a pair of boots. At that time, he was working on many vintage engineer boots. He told me, "Repair these old boots and take them apart. You will then understand how a boot is constructed." In the beginning, all Engineer boots looked the same to me, but over time I started to notice the small details and began researching the different brands. All the repair work inspired me to create my own engineer boot.
I'm really excited about the introduction of the Underdog boot. What were your sources of inspiration? What stylistic decisions have you made to make them distinct?
Brian: If you look on vintage_american_workwear on Instagram, you will see many inspiring pictures. This gave me an idea of creating a 1940's style work boot. I did a black hand finish so the Underdogs will patina and build a really interesting character. I also have really cool customers who send me vintage work boots and I used them for inspiration. I used large solid brass eyelets on the Underdogs, so it has more of a workwear style. I also added a signature stitch on the right boot where the woven label is sewn. The spacing between the eyelets is about an inch, I did it on purpose because I wanted the boot to look slightly semi-dress. The boots are lasted on my RC1940 last. It is a toe shape I designed inspired from an old vintage engineer boot. It has a slightly raised toe box that will collapse with wear and eventually it will become a nice square round-ish toe shape. I also put a low woodsman heel. I have also created white cork half soles and heels to add a little accent to the boots. Usually you always see full cork soles, so this was my way of adding my own design.
I know you've also made some limited edition chukkas. Do you ever plan to include the chukka boots or any other styles full-time in the future?
Brian: The chukka boots can be ordered any time. Usually the only people who know about them are the people who follow me on Instagram.
I think a very distinguishing mark of Role Club boots is the 1 7/8" heel you offer. Please talk a little about your thoughts on boot heel heights. What is your favorite height and why?
Brian: My favorite boot heel height is the woodsman heel. It is my favorite because in my opinion it gives a boot a nice profile. Also the process of shaping a woodsman heel takes a lot of work so I appreciate the craftsmanship as well.
What are your favorite brand/type of boots to resole?
Brian: I enjoy resoling any type of boot, especially when they're broken in and have a lot of character. They tend to look the best when resoled.
I know your go-to work clothes are your overalls, fedora, and chambray (and of course your RCs). What brands are your other staples?
What other small batch brands of boots, clothes, accessories do you really appreciate?
What does style mean to you? How would you describe your personal style?
Brian: To me, style means that you are comfortable with what you are wearing, if that makes sense. My style is inspired by vintage Workwear.
What else should we know about Brian the Bootmaker and Role Club?
Brian: I am a one man team at the moment, and I really appreciate those who support my work because I work on people's boots from start to finish, so it may take a while until you receive your boots. I try my very best when I resole or make a pair of boots because I want to be remembered as someone who has a lot of pride for his work.