Kapital is one of my favorite brands right now. It is doing the wackiest shit in the workwear/hobowear space, and there’s just no other brand like it. This review of Kapital’s Century Denim made of 3 differently dyed yarns is one example of what makes it so, damn, good.
A bit of Malaysian pride going into this article recommendation, but it’s always fun to see designers peel behind the curtain of how they got where they are now, espcially for a young and exciting brand like MING.
This is really embarassing for me to admit, but the Failing Upwards podcast is my favorite thing to listen to at this moment. Much more than high brow shit like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History or Longform or 99% Invisible. It honestly feels like a cult. Anyways, Mordechai Rubenstein (or Mister Mort) has been a permanent fixture in the menswear game for a while now and is a super cool guest.
For the longest time, I would fight the weather with the way that I dressed. Warm day? Button-up and a cardigan. Flannel and a jacket. I wanted to look good, and I was very willing to endure pit stains for it.
Recently, though, the Californian beach city guy, if-you-know-you-know, laid-back aesthetic has been rubbing off heavily on me. The people I’m describing probably aren’t even conscious of the vibe they’re giving off, which is a big part of why I think it’s cool. I’ve also been trying to draw less attention to myself, but without looking like a bum. As such, I’ve been drawn heavily towards the highest quality basic garments, and the loopwheeled tee is one of those garments.
Loopwheeling refers to a knitting method in which yarns are knit slowly around a cylinder, with the resulting tube-shaped fabric falling downwards.
Because the only tension present in the knitting process is its own weight, the resulting fabric is a low tension weave that retains the softness and natural characteristics of the yarn used.
The Bandanna Almanac, has a great writeup on his visit to the Kanekichi factory — a factory that makes loopwheeled products for many of your usual suspects in the Japanese workwear space. In the article, you can really see how old-school-industrial looking the loopwheeling process is. Yet, you also see that loopwheeling is an artisanal process, requiring the careful hand of shokunin (Japanese for artisan/mastery of a craft) to regulate the machine’s operation.
While loopwheel tees only provide a marginal difference in comfort and construction, it remains the end-all tee for the most discerning of workwear enthusiasts. It is rare, expensive, made like the good ol’ days and completely unnecessary. Just how I like it.
The T-shirt’s proliferation is also heavily linked to masculine ideals. In the same article, Fisher talks about how the its military, hard labor and rebel associations were what really drove its popularity. Masculinity, amirite guys.
Companies also marketed these undergarments for the general citizenry using strangely ambiguous rhetoric that played up the garment’s comfort, construction, and ease of maintenance, focusing on the image of the virile, heteronormative soldier or dad on one hand, while performing a parallel function as a homoerotic signifier of the taut male torso on the other.
The loopwheel machine’s invention came somewhere in the middle of that. Invented by Guiseppe Nigra, an Italian inventor, the technology was licensed out to American sportswear makers (like Champion, for example) and was used continuously between the 30s and 60s. The loopwheeled sweatshirts made in this period were so soft and durable that Japanese vintage buyers would scour all over America to buy them up and sell them back home.
Right around the middle of the century, the slow weaving process of the loopwheel was no match for growing consumerism. With its hard labor and army connotations, the T-shirt was marketed by undergarment makers like Hanes and Fruit of the Loom as a masculine garment that could be worn on its own. Combined with its ease-of-use (no buttons and no need for ironing) and superior comfort, the tee shirt grew in popularity among the young and old alike.
As such, loopwheeling was slowly phased out in favor of 2-part flat knit bodies that are sewn together at the seam — the standard tee construction you see today.
Not all hope was lost for the loopwheeling, though. As with a lot of mid-century American cultural production, the Japanese noticed that manufacturing methods were changing and decided to preserve them. Workwear enthusiasts in Japan saw that the loopwheeling as a knitting method was being phased out, and those super soft 1950s and 60s sweatshirts were drying up in stock. Japanese clothiers then bought up loopwheel machines, brought them back to Japan and started making them there.
Today, apart from Merz B. Schwanen in Germany, loopwheeled machines exist only in Japan, where factories have multiple machines running simultaneously and an additional few on ice for when those break down.
If I had to pick one thing about loopwheel fabric to talk about, it would be its texture. Because of the slow weaving process, loopwheel fabric has this irregular texture that is not only visual but physical. It is neppy in the selvedge denim sense, meaning that parts of the cotton fabric sticks out slightly from the main fabric surface. With this naturally heathered look, even a blank loopwheeled tee has enough visual interest to stand out on its own.
That distinct horizontal nepping gives loopwheeled fabric a look that you cannot really replicate with other knitting methods. On top of that, the horizontal streaks become more obvious with wear and I find that super cool.
Because loopwheel tees are made by very slowly knitting hanging fabric around a tube, the result is a very low tension weave. This means that the natural characteristic of the yarns used is preserved in the knitting process, (usually) resulting in a softer hand feel. This also enables the production of a heavyweight and thick tee that is still breatheable and soft.
Additionally, the removal of the side seams means that there isn’t a raw edge to chafe against the skin, providing for a more comfortable tee when moving around.
While not directly related to loopwheeling itself, loopwheel tees often come with high-end construction elements that improve their structural quality over generic tees. On loopwheel tees, you will commonly find reworked collars that don’t overstretch, tighter stitching, better quality cotton and nicer hems.
Obviously, the whole reason you’re buying expensive garms is to flex on your Internet friends. Just watch how many more Internet points you get when you say that the shirt is made by The Flat Head or Real McCoys vs. American Apparel or Gap. Trust.
Yep. Loopwheeled shirts, especially in America, will run you about $100 per. And because of the nature of the stores that sell loopwheel stuff, they almost never go on sale.
Sure, it is expensive because it takes so many skilled artisans to make that slow-ass machine run(to be specific, one machine makes one meter of fabric per hour). Loopwheeled shirts are also better made and thus will last you longer. You could even get them proxied from Japan to save a bit of cash. But, just because one can explain its cost doesn’t make it worth it.
It really is up to you to decide if the marginal benefits that loopwheeled products provide are worth the huge jump in price. I personally have a bunch of Bella+Canvas blanks that share body time with my fancy schmancy loopwheeled stuff, that costs one-tenth the price. The point of diminishing returns for clothing differs for different people, and I respect that.
To me, a major downside of loopwheeled tees is that it fits inherently boxy. Because the body shape of the tee is fixed by the diameter of the tube the fabric is woven around, the chest, hip and waist measurements are the same. Unlike a 2-part tee that can be made to complement the natural V-shape of the torso, there is no way to change that in a side-seam-less loopwheeled tee.
While some people prefer tees that fit like ones made from way back, I personally prefer tees that fit a bit more ‘tailored’. Because my waist is quite a bit smaller than my chest, the bottom hem of my loopwheeled tees tends to look flared out and unshapely.
Furthermore, without the side seam to hold the shape of the tee together, garment twist is a much more noticeable issue.
You’re Really Only Flexing On Yourself
Let’s face it. You may have racked up hella Internet points on reddit, Styleforum and Superfuture, but irl people aren’t gonna know the difference between your fancy Japanese loopwheel tees and a tubular knit, Walmart Gildan thing. You’re gonna claim that your tee is special because it doesn’t have a side seam, but many of your friends probably own tees like that too. And when you start going into how soft it is because it was made on a vintage, low tension weave machine by artisans, you’ve already lost them.
If you’re really trying to flex with a tee shirt, you’d be better off dropping this fake blue-collar dressing thing and buy some Off-White or Supreme instead.
Loopwheel vs Tube Knit
Because loopwheeled T-shirts are generally delineated by the lack of side seam, it is commonly mixed up with tube knit T-shirts. Another type of T-shirt construction, the tube knit/circular knit, also results in a tee sans side seam. To make things more confusing, loopwheel tees can come with side seams if the loopwheeled fabric is cut up and restitched at the seams — something I’d like to see more of.
Compared to the low density, slow-moving loopwheel machine, the modern tube knit machine draws from 10+ yarns simultaneously and rotates super fast to spit out knits at a rapid pace.
Because of the tension needed to support that high-speed knitting process, the resulting fabric is thinner, tighter in weave and flatter in appearance. This is in contrast to the fluffy, loosely woven and highly textured loopwheeled fabric.
Because it is difficult to distinguish the far more expensive loopwheeled tees from the inexpensive tubular knit ones in pictures, many companies get away with mislabelling their tubular knits as loopwheeled. As seen in the Superdenim/Real McCoys mislabelling of the two-pack tees (they are not loopwheeled), it’s the retailers that get it wrong, too.
As such, it is important to do your research on the brands and the retailers to get the product you’re after. You can trust shops like Self Edge, Rivet & Hide and Corlection to provide accurate listings and specification sheets for their products.
For something non-Japanese and with a better distribution network worldwide, Merz B. Schwanen is your only option. They’re the only company producing loopwheeled stuff outside of Japan, but they’re pretty damn good at it. The fabrics are excellent, the construction is top-notch, and they have that triangular armpit thing that is pretty unique.
To make an already bougie product even more bougie by adding an artisanal element, check out Tezomeya. They take a blank loopwheel tee made at the same Wakayama factories and hand-dye it in-house. They also make a version of it with shibori (tie-dye), resulting in some funky (and weird if seen without context) patterns that will sure to impress even the most discerning of your Internet friends.
I have a feeling that Die, Workwear! is going to have a permanent spot in this new series, but for good reason. With this article, Derek thoroughly covers how the seasonal fashion cycle came to be, how it is being sped up, why that’s damaging and how we can do better.
Hudson Yards, New York’s newest large scale property development project, has not had the greatest of reviews this week. The Baffler adds to that beat down, but this article doesn’t feel like a pile-on as it brings up new points that I haven’t seen around the web.
When I first found out about the print version of this article originally published in 2015, I scoured the Internet to try to buy the sold out magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine was flipping for over $100 in most cases, and I wasn’t ready to pay that much for an article. Luckily, it is now free to read on 032C’s website, and boy is it a read. Raf Simons is the G.O.A.T., and holds a solid place on my Mount Rushmore of menswear designers.
I’m an engineer by training, but I’ve always seen myself as a creative. I first learned of this article through David Chang’s podcast episode with its author, Jerry Saltz. While this article talks specifically about the plight of the artist, I think its lessons could be applied to any other form of content creation.
When the KBD67 was first announced, I thought it was the one. The high-end custom killer. The game-changer. The man of the people, but like, for keyboards. Because of its complete feature set, simple-yet-great looks, and relatively low price point, I thought that the keyboard would eventually attain iconic status in the community purely on the back of how objectively good it is.
Fast-forward to now, the KBD67 hasn’t proliferated the market as well as I’d hoped. Wondering what went wrong, I wanted to review the keyboard for myself. As such, when I was given the opportunity to review it as part of a build commission for a friend of the blog, I jumped at the chance.
Case Material: Anodized 6063 T6 Aluminum
Plate Material: Anodized Aluminum
Weight Material: PVD-finished Brass
Layout: 65% with Bottom Blocker
Elevation Angle: 5 degrees
Front Height: 20mm
Case Construction: 2-Part Case with Bottom-Mounted (!!!) Plate
PCB: Proprietary KBD67 PCB with QMK and USB-C support (Non-Hotswap)
As per usual with KBDfans keyboards, the unboxing experience is very spare. The KBD67 came in a generic black cardboard box with a custom cut foam insert. It’s good enough to prevent any damage during shipping and transportation, but nothing to write home about.
I’m okay with this, though. With higher end custom keyboards, I would expect a better unboxing experience as it is an additional platform for group buy runners to flex their design chops. For cheaper keyboards like the KBD67, on the other hand, I would prefer a more basic unboxing experience to bring down the price of the kit.
After a quick physical inspection of the board, I’m glad to say that the keyboard came dent-free, with only a small scratch on the top case right below the spacebar — nothing a blob of Sharpie can’t hide. The PCB also came preflashed with a good default layout, which is always good to see.
One other cool thing that KBDfans has done here is that they’ve provided an extra plate screw and an extra case screw with the kit. As a serial screw loser (or screwed loser, depending on who you’re asking), this is a godsend. As far as I know, the only other manufacturer who does this routinely is LZ. I hope that this becomes the norm rather than the exception in our hobby. #innovation
Building the KBD67 was a smooth process, even if it didn’t seem like it would be the case.
My first impressions of the brass plate was ‘well shit, the switch cutouts are fucked’. Just looking at them, they were wonky and not perfectly rectangular. The thought of needing to pull out a dremel made me anxious as this was a customer build. Luckily, the Zealios V2 switches used here clicked in assuringly. To my surprise, the switches were perfectly aligned, too. 5 of the cutouts were slightly too tight and a bit of twisting and pushing was needed for perfect insertion, but it’s not a big deal.
Even better, the plate has a fixed bottom row — a much-welcomed feature for 65% and 75% keyboards. The PCB has support for multiple bottom rows (insert joke about swiss cheese), but the relatively fixed plate layout meant that none of the switches needed aligning before soldering.
As an unabashed layoutist, I believe that certain layouts (Tsangan on 60% and TKLs, 6.25u on 65% and 75%) are objectively better than others and KBDfans chose my favorite 65% layout for the KBD67. As such, I’m glad to see the largest custom keyboard maker supporting fixed layouts, even if it was at the cost of a small amount of sales.
This point doesn’t need mentioning because the plate is so good, but for completion sake, the PCB mount leg holes were perfectly sized for both my go-to retooled Cherry MX Blacks and the customer’s Zealios V2s. This means that the PCB is good to go for future plateless 65% keyboards if KBDfans chooses to go down that route.
Programming the PCB is also a breeze as it supports QMK out of the box. It’s no VIA configurator, but it gets the job done.
Case Design and Quality
Aesthetic design-wise, the KBD67 almost has the simplest construction possible for a bottom-mounted keyboard. It has your standard 2-part case with a seam running around the sides that joins the top and bottom cases.
However, unlike many other 2-part cases, the KBD67 does nothing to hide that seam. While other popular 2-part cases like the TGR Alice, Noxary X60 and LZ CLS try to make the seams as flush as possible, the edges on the KBD67’s top and bottom cases are filleted, meaning that the seam is both visible and tactual.
The one deviation from a simple case profile is the OTD Koala-esque bottom curve. It’s a feature that’s found on a few of 2018’s more popular keyboards like Quantrik’s QXP, but it doesn’t do much for me. I personally prefer a case recess that is more functional in terms of making the keyboard easier to pick up, and the Koala curve is not that.
The PVD-coated brass plate found here is a welcomed addition. That brighter-than-my-future, gold-hued plate seen through the keycap layer adds a low-key-baller feel to the keyboard. It does attract fingerprints, but it could be easily brought back to full sparkle with alcohol wipes.
Quality-wise, the case is hit-or-miss.
First of, the top case-bottom case color matching is excellent. On all 4 sides, I see virtually no difference in its black shade or tone between the cases. While black anodization tends to hide flaws a lot better than other anodization colors, it is still very impressive. I would even put the matching on the KBD67 up there with the TX and Ducks of the world — two makers with the best reputation for color matching in the hobby.
This is one of the benefits of joining a large-scale group buy; it’s easier to color match when there are multiple top and bottom cases to choose from. Smaller-scale, more expensive keyboards don’t always mean better quality.
The anodization itself is also top-notch. The grains are smooth to the touch and consistent to the eye. There is minor streaking on the sides that is very difficult to spot in perfect lighting, much less in photos. Not a deal breaker by any means.
The keycap-to-bezel distance is questionable, to say the least. While the bottom distance is pretty much perfect, the top and side distances are way too small. The reverse Tokyo60, one could say. While a cropped distance does look better, it makes it difficult to fit a keycap puller through the crevices.
The bottom screw holes also aren’t dimensioned long enough, causing the screw head to protrude out slightly from the bottom case even when fully screwed in.
The brass weight on the KBD67 is a thin, grill-shaped insert that screws on to the back of the bottom case. Because of how thin (and thus light) it is, it’s more of an aesthetic accent than a vibration reduction element.
The light brass weight means the keyboard itself is light, too. In combination with the generic round bump ons found underneath, the KBD67’s low weight means that it slides around my desk pretty easily.
Typing Feel and Sound
A keyboard’s plate material and plate-mounting system are the most important factors in determining the typing feel and sound. The KBD67’s bottom-mounted brass plate setup combines my favorite plate material with my favorite plate-mounting system, and it performs as well as I thought it would.
As I’ve mentioned in my guide on keyboard construction, if the plate were mounted to the heavier bottom case instead of the lighter top case (as found in top mounts), the typing feel would theoretically be more stable. This is because the case vibrations from bottoming out would have to pass through more material and thus would be more dampened.
While I can’t say for certain that a bottom-mounted case feels much better than a top-mounted case because the KBD67 only supports the former, I will say that the keyboard types like a dream. The bottom out feel is firm with very little give or shake — just how I like it. Sound production is also singular and deep with little reverb.
Do take this with a grain of salt, though. The Typing Feel and Sound section of my keyboard reviews is something I find difficult to write with any authority because of how subjective it is. Because of how important it is as a performance marker, I feel the need to write about it as part of a comprehensive review. However, the difference in ‘feeling’ between keyboards of similar setups is almost negligible in most cases. As such, I can only be sure of an opinion when a keyboard is egregiously bad. Quantifying how good a keyboard is, on the other hand, is a far more difficult task.
Quick note on the Zealios V2: They’re amazing. Without going into too much detail on the switch (if you want detail, check out Krelbit’s excellent review), the Zealios V2’s tactile bump occurs right at the top of the depress motion and is the most tactile switch I’ve ever tried. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who prefers a more subtle tactile bump (think MX Browns and Topre), but I’ve since changed my mind. Typing on Zealios V2 is flat-out fun. I have concerns about the switch’s durability, especially when desoldering, but performance-wise it’s my favorite tactile switch out right now.
I think that the KBD67 could be the point of diminishing returns for most people, and is definitely so for the rational keyboard enthusiast. Its complete feature set meets all the basic requirements that I have for a keyboard, plus some. It’s an easy board to build and has a relatively special plate mounting system in the bottom mount. The case quality is also one of the best out there irrespective of price. While KBDfans keyboards have previously carried the ‘great, but for the price’ caveat, they’ve now shown that they’re ‘great at any price’.
If you’re looking for a great performing board and don’t mind too much about reddit/Discord clout, the KBD67 is the board to get.
Right from its inception on geekhack’s Interest Check subforum, GMK Space Cadet was an insta buy for me. This keycap set appealed to me on a personal level because 7bit’s old SA run of this colorway was what really pushed me out of my Magicforce-Leopold-KUL phase into custom keyboards and keysets. I remember seeing the group buy post for Round 6 and getting sticker shocked, but intrigued.
Now that I’ve had a chance to really play with GMK’s remake of the fabled MIT Lisp computer keycaps, here are my thoughts.
While I don’t have the original Space Cadet keycaps nor the SA 7bit caps to compare this to, in isolation, the blue modifier-grey alpha colorway of GMK Space Cadet is amazing. In natural light, the blue modifiers in particular really pop. The cool grey alphas paired with the (obviously) cool blue modifiers also give the set a coherent look. Oblotzky is one of the 4-5 keycap designers I trust with getting the colors right, and this set exemplifies that.
On a more personal note, grey and blue are two of the three colors (the other being brown) I gravitate towards in the clothes that I wear, and as such the keycap set fits my vibe too. I’m not sure about you all, but the only thing I ever think about is how my fit pairs with the colors on my keyboard. It is God-tier accessorizing at the highest level.
GMK Space Cadet is also a relatively flexible colorway (with sets like GMK Laser on the other end of the flexibility spectrum, for example). It looks great on a wide range of keyboard colors like grey (pictured above), black, navy, and silver. The special dual-legend grey alphas could also be paired with existing sets like GMK Oblivion and GMK Serika.
All-in-all, it’s a great looking colorway and my favorite GMK set to date.
The 1.5mm-thick ABS found here is keycap quality par excellence. The keycaps are generally free of burrs and defects. The longer keys like the spacebar, ‘Return’ and ‘Shift’ are also straighter than men with monster trucks and AR-15s. This means that they will always sound and feel great on correctly lubed stabilizers.
The surface texture is relatively smooth from the get go, sitting somewhere between EnjoyPBT (rougher) and BSP (smoother) in terms of roughness. While a rougher surface texture usually means a slight bump in typing accuracy for me, I personally prefer it smoother for that premium, lush feel.
Where GMK’s ABS really shines is in its long term use. Shine as in the keycaps lose their surface texture, and not the good shine. Like moonshine. The quirks of English, amirite?
I quite like the look of a fully-shined keycap set, and I’m keeping this set past it’s initial wear to hopefully get to that point, but it’s not for everyone.
Apart from issues with long-term durability, GMK keycaps set the bar for keycap quality.
Legend quality on GMK keycaps are the best in-class for doubleshot ABS, and it’s not even close (I’m looking at you, JTK).
The legend files used here are pretty great. Typography and kerning issues are few and far between (Get it? Kerning… Far between… I’m on a roll here), with the minor spacing issue here and there. Check these photos out:
In the ‘Shift’ and R3 ‘Control’ photos above, we can see that there is a difference in typography between keys with the same legends. One could be perfect, but the other could be badly kerned. As such, I’m guessing that it’s not so much am inherent production flaw but a more fixable file flaw. New molds may be needed to support those changes (which is costly), but there’s no need to upend their entire production method.
Legend sharpness is also excellent. In the past, high contrast legends on GMK sets tended to feather at the edge between legend and base, but all my latest GMK sets (see: GMK Laser Review) do not have this problem. Look at the sharp-as-a-tack edges of the control key here:
However, some of the sharpness benefits that doubleshot ABS brings over dye-sublimated PBT are offset by what I call ‘pooling’ on the smaller letters. ‘Pooling’ is the blobbing/gathering of plastic at the end points of the smaller legends that is inherent in the doubleshot production method. Check these out:
The ‘Rub Out’ keys are also somehow much taller and larger than the other legends in the set, which is odd and annoying:
Those few issues aside, the legends found here are still some of the best in the market. The ‘pooling’ issue and some small kerning issues mean that it’s not perfect yet, but we’re getting there.
In short, GMK Space Cadet is great. As someone who loves the colorway but far prefers Cherry profile over SA, this keycap set is the one. GMK and Oblotzky have done great work
While there are some things that the best dye-sublimated keycap sets do better (typography, no pooling, deeper sound, dat sweet PBT feel), there will always be a place for GMK in any collection because properly color matched custom colorways are, in my opinion, the coolest thing about this hobby.
For me, GMK Space Cadet is a keeper. Considering the fact that I now I have a one-in-one-out system of collecting, I think this says a lot.