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Fair Trade Coffee & Handmade Footwear: A Match Made in Austin

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Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

If you're a true shoe maven, maybe you already know about Helm. An Austin-based line of handmade boots, the capsule collection has been trickling into a handful of the country's hottest retailers—American Rag in Los Angeles, Atrium's locations in New York and Miami—since spring. Now, with pre-fall wares hitting before it's even cool enough for sleeves, an extended array of Helm is about to hit.

The boots are gorgeous—made of buttery Dutch and Italian leathers and hand-stitched in Istanbul—many feature canvas insets and flourishes of hard denim. But we're not just fascinated with the shoes, their artisanal pedigree, and their classic all-American aesthetic (which will surely win the line many fans amongst the khaki-and-chambray set). These shoes come with a story.

Journey with us to the central east side of Austin, Texas—the hipster enclave of this little town/big city known for its thriving arts community, passion for living, and glut of advanced degrees. There you'll find Progress Coffee—a community hub since 2004. Progress serves a locally-sourced menu of simple, organic foods and, of course, fantastic, Austin-roasted coffee of the shade-grown, fair trade variety. Also on the menu: Local music, art exhibitions, and the interactive community of creatives Austin is famous for.

Opened by entrepreneur and hug-lover Joshua Bingaman, he wasn't content to merely serve coffee. So, naturally, he started roasting it at his own Owl Tree Roasting. Now, in addition to supplying himself and his café customers with coffee from his own roasting plant, he's wholesaling his Owl Tree and Progress blends to places like Whole Foods.

From there: Shoes? You see, Bingaman is a major shoe aficionado. When we met him at the brand's launch and preview last week at New York's Lafayette House he peeped our shoes from several feet away and knew all about them—impressive! It turns out Bingaman helped open Subterranean Shoe Room (now called Shoe Biz)—a San Francisco mainstay for sneakerheads and shoe-philes. Compound all that shoe-love with the familial connections that brought him to Istanbul, where he experienced the city's expert, old world, leather working first hand. From there: Helm—see, it was only a matter of time.

Each pair—many are unisex—is named for someone in Bingaman's life: Samuel, Ray Ray, Brock. Inspired by classic footwear—a Chelsea boot, a ski-style lace-up with hiking soles and canvas insets, a zipper-backed captoe, a many-eyed, two-tone riding boot—Bingaman designs the footwear in Austin before renderings are shipped to Istanbul. There each shoe is handmade using exclusive molds. A pair of shoes takes a full five days to make. That's some serious craftsmanship; but not too serious for Helm to package each pair with alternate laces in puce, pink, red or violet.
· Helm [Official Site]
· Progress Coffee [Official Site]
· Owl Tree Roasting [Official Site]
· Shoe Biz [Official Site]

Progress Coffee

500 San Marcos St., Austin, TX