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The Story Behind the Kiffen

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A few years ago, we moved our office from Cesar Chavez to the top secret bat cave we inhabit now. (Ok, not really top secret. Just tucked away and hard to find on a road that no one has ever heard of). With the move came a lot more space and new neighbors, one of which quickly became a favorite morning coffee companion. Gentle spoken and big hearted, Kiffen was the welcome wagon in this new space, whether he meant to be or not.

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Easy to talk to from the beginning, his friendship with the entire HELM staff grew over the years. He worked as a tailor next door, popping in once in a while and giving us an excuse to step away from our work; allowing us to ply him with coffee and ask him about his fiancé, Gwen, their adorably shaggy dog, Danger, or his latest project. He would show Joshua vintage styles of boots he owned and they would talk back and forth about old boot design.

Over the years as we talked about the “HELM family”, the phrase grew to include him. He has helped us with opening an installation space in Los Angeles, running a SXSW location on Congress Ave., designing and constructing multiple furnishings in the East 6th store, and has modeled many, many styles of our boots in the Texas heat. With an extremely talented eye for design and a self-possessed, easygoing personality, it seemed obvious we needed a boot of the same name. “I like to name boots after people who are hard working without bragging about how they are,” Joshua says. “Kiffen gets his hands dirty but doesn’t need to show you that he does.”

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As the design of this Fall 2016 style came into existence, we quickly realized how unique it was going to be and how much it stands out from other styles we have carried. Joshua spotted the Vibram Ripple sole at the factory during a visit and had to include it on an upcoming boot, not just for it’s individual appearance, but for it’s history in design. It was invented for paratroopers in the 50’s and was built for durability and comfort, needing to give cushion to a sky landing.

With a taller shaft and made using a rich oxblood leather, it reminded Joshua of some of the styles Kiffen brought over to show him in the past. “It just fits his style,” Joshua says of why he chose the name. The tradition of naming our boots after skilled and artistic friends (or HELM family members) continues throughout the seasons, and sticking with traditions, we asked Kiffen the six questions we like to ask the eponyms of our boots, so read on –

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How do you know Joshua?
I met Joshua while working next door to the HELM studio. He would bring me a cup of amazing coffee and take some time to catch up with me and chat about life. I always  admired Joshua’s friendliness.

What three words do you think he would use to describe you?
Outgoing , diligent, cheerful. (Joshua said quiet, stoic, and clever).

Have you ever had anything named after you before?
No, never. It’s a pretty wild honor.

What is your favorite fashion staple/clothing item you own?
I would have to say a well broken in pair of jeans. Can’t beat it.

What is the most important thing you look for in clothing or footwear that you buy?
Quality first and foremost. It’s important to me that I can see and feel the merit of a maker in the finished product.

Has Joshua ever asked you what astrological sign you are? What sign are you?
No he hasn’t. I’m a Sagittarius – large hearted and impatient.

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