June 26, 2014
Out & About: The Alden Shop of San Francisco (170 Sutter St.)
There are quite a few clothing stores in downtown San Francisco. Some are common and approachable, like Uniqlo and Macy’s, while others like Nieman Marcus and Wilkes Bashford are only for the true ballers among us. Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite store is neither of these things - it is small, unassuming, and focused on doing just one thing but doing it well. It’s something surprisingly unique to the Bay Area, too - the Alden Shop of San Francisco.
I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alden was a Massachusetts brand! It says ‘New England’ right there in the photo!” Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alden shoes are indeed made in New England, and they’re sold at high-end retailers all over the world. What makes the San Francisco shop unique is that it is one of only two stores that is directly affiliated with the factory (the other one is in Washington, D.C.). For that reason, it is the biggest - and best - collection of Alden shoes anywhere.[[MORE]]
As most of you know, Alden is considered by many to be the quintessential American shoe company; although there were many in decades past, most of them have declined into corrected grain oblivion. Fortunately for us, Alden has continued to make exceptionally handsome and comfortable shoes out of wonderful materials. These shoes are not particularly dressy, sleek, or sexy; rather, they’re solid, informal, and decidedly American-looking. 
I had a chance to chat with Mike Golden, general manager of the store, and we discussed a few aspects of the San Francisco shop that make it unique. The first is its breadth - the store has a huge amount of styles, most of which are available in a large size range (from 6AA to 14EEE). I personally verified this by taking a quick peek in the back room - there are thousands of little green boxes back there. If you order a pair of Aldens online from their website the order will be fulfilled from the San Francisco shop for this reason. 
The second point of distinction is that the shop carries many unique models due to its close relationship with the factory. You will often see shoes and boots bear the store’s name on their insole, a sign that they were made expressly for this location. Some models catch on and are brought into the regular rotation. Others end up on the top-secret sale display in the back of the shop (it’s one of the very few places you can find discounted Aldens).
The last (and perhaps the most important) unique aspect of the SF Alden shop is their access to rare makeups. Those that keep up with the shell cordovan scene know that Alden is one of the best companies around when it comes to working with the unique material, and that there are many rare models that never get to see the light of day. Colors like cigar, whiskey, and ravello are made in very small quantities by Horween and are extremely difficult to find. Mike told me that they never advertise the available stock in these rare models because they sell so quickly. What’s a blogger to do, then? Just give the store a call and they’ll happily tell you what they have in the back room. In fact, while I was chatting with the staff, we had to pause for an incoming phone call - a gentleman wanted a pair of 12D longwings in whiskey cordovan, and it was his lucky day.
Alden’s prolific use of Horween shell cordovan has made them popular in many circles, but it’s important to remember that they have many other classic models as well. Personally, my favorite are Alden’s suede shoes. They are soft, supple, and come in a beautiful array of colors - I have a hard time resisting the urge to buy them whenever I stop in.
I took a few pictures around the tiny store, but the best way to experience it is to stop by. The shop is small enough that you could walk right by it if you weren’t paying attention, but that’s just part of what makes it so special. It’s like a little secret club for people that appreciate simplicity and good taste. Be sure to take a peek next time you’re in the area.


Suede unlined loafers - perfect for summer.

The Horween Cordovan wall - only black and #8 colors are displayed. 

Unlined bluchers - I’m hoping to grab a pair in suede soon. 

Nobody does tassel loafers better then Alden. 

Blue suede shoes. 

A simple but rare shoe - Alden’s chukka boot in Horween ravello cordovan.  

Out & About: The Alden Shop of San Francisco (170 Sutter St.)

There are quite a few clothing stores in downtown San Francisco. Some are common and approachable, like Uniqlo and Macy’s, while others like Nieman Marcus and Wilkes Bashford are only for the true ballers among us. Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite store is neither of these things - it is small, unassuming, and focused on doing just one thing but doing it well. It’s something surprisingly unique to the Bay Area, too - the Alden Shop of San Francisco.

I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alden was a Massachusetts brand! It says ‘New England’ right there in the photo!” Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alden shoes are indeed made in New England, and they’re sold at high-end retailers all over the world. What makes the San Francisco shop unique is that it is one of only two stores that is directly affiliated with the factory (the other one is in Washington, D.C.). For that reason, it is the biggest - and best - collection of Alden shoes anywhere.

Read More

June 9, 2014
The In-Between Wardrobe, Part II: Shoes
The “In-Between Wardrobe” is a series of articles aimed at helping men find items that will play a versatile role in their closet. It is written with the idea that most men don’t wear extremely formal or casual clothing on a regular basis; they usually need items that are somewhere in the middle. See all articles in the series here.
Shoes are a critical element of in-between dressing, and are one area that is constantly being messed up by men that don’t know any better. The core idea behind finding an in-between shoe is balancing casual and formal features to achieve something that can be worn with a large variety of clothes. 
First, it is important to understand what makes a shoe a “good” shoe and how to look for high-quality materials and construction in footwear. If you’re not familiar with these concepts, read my previous post on that topic. Once you’re on board with that, join in below.
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1. Understand what makes a shoe casual or formal. Finding a great in-between shoe is about finding balance; go too far in the formal or casual direction and they will lose their versatility. To gauge a shoe’s formal/informal balance, remember the following principles:
A smooth shine is more formal than texture. In other words, materials like suede, pebble grain, cordovan, and so forth are intrinsically less formal than plain calf leather.
A sleek toe is more formal than a round toe. A shoe’s last determines the shape of a shoe; dressier options will have slimmer profiles or chiseled toes, while others will be rounder and follow the natural shape of a foot more closely. Compare this to this, for example. 
A leather sole is more formal than a rubber (or other synthetic) sole. Each type of sole has its own benefits and disadvantages, but a thin leather sole will appear more formal than a thicker double leather sole, and that will be more formal than a chunky rubber one. 
A dark color is more formal than a light color. Pretty self-explanatory.
Fewer seams are more formal than more seams. Compare a wholecut to a captoe, for instance. 
No brogueing is more formal than brogueing.
Closed lacing is more formal than open lacing. More on that in a minute.
2. Understand what an in-between shoe is not. I’m hesitating writing these because they are not hard-and-fast rules and can all be broken effectively; nonetheless, it’s easiest to avoid shoes with these characteristics if you’re looking for maximum versatility.
With that said, an in-between shoe is not:
Closed laced. Closed lacing is one of the defining characteristics of oxford/balmoral shoes. Shoes with closed lacing are on the most formal tier and don’t look as correct with more casual clothing; they’re great for suits and can be worn with sportcoats, but an open-laced shoe will be more versatile. Don’t be the guy wearing sleek captoe oxfords with denim.
Aggressively shaped. In-between shoes should have rounded toes because a strong point or chisel will evoke a formality that is incongruent with in-between clothing (and they also look best on closed laced shoes). Square-toed shoes are best avoided altogether.
Black. If you’re just beginning then it’s probably best to save the black shoes for formal designs. There is a wide spectrum of browns, tans, and burgundies that look great on in-between shoes. While we’re at it, save the navy, green, and red for later too (if you get them at all).
3. Pick your style. So what designs make great in-between shoes? I’d say that there are four main categories, although options exist outside of these. They all can be found in a myriad of materials, shapes, and styles, so take some time finding what you like. 
Bluchers/Derbys: These are characterized by their open lacing pattern. This family includes variations of longwings, shortwings, plain toe bluchers, and captoes, to name a few. 
Boots: Many boots come in styles similar to bluchers - wingtips, captoes, etc - but there are also some new shapes introduced. For instance, chukka boots are one of the most versatile shoe styles out there, in my opinion. 
Loafers: there are many of styles and configurations to choose from, but the most popular are penny loafers and tassel loafers. I wrote an article on these here. 
Monksraps: Single and double monks can make great in-between shoes because their buckle configuration increases the casual appearance of an otherwise formal shoe. I’ve mentioned my opinion of double monks before, but I won’t deny that they are cool shoes. 
4. Save up and buy something nice. Well-made shoes are expensive; it’s just an unfortunate truth. There is a huge range of prices, but none of them are cheap. If you’re comfortable going secondhand, ebay and thrift stores can be a great option. The list below covers some of my favorite makers, although there are plenty more. 
 “Accessible” ($300 and under at MSRP): Loake (1880 line), Meermin Classic line, Jack Erwin, Markowski, Ed Et Al, Allen Edmonds (on sale/factory seconds), Rancourt
Expensive ($300-$800 at MSRP): Crockett & Jones, Alden, Carmina, Alfred Sargent, Sid Mashburn (most made by Alfred Sargent), Peal & Co. for Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren
Look but don’t touch: John Lobb, Edward Green, Vass, Gaziano Girling, St. Crispin
Shoutout to jacobbockelmann for letting me photograph his grail shoe collection for this post; few people understand the in-between wardrobe as well as he does so follow his blog for continued reading on that topic.
EDIT: for those that want to know the shoes in the picture above (L to R):
Top: Vass, Charles Tyrwhitt, Alden, Allen Edmonds, Alden
Bottom: Carmina, Ralph Lauren, Alden, Alden, Peal & Co. for BB

The In-Between Wardrobe, Part II: Shoes

The “In-Between Wardrobe” is a series of articles aimed at helping men find items that will play a versatile role in their closet. It is written with the idea that most men don’t wear extremely formal or casual clothing on a regular basis; they usually need items that are somewhere in the middle. See all articles in the series here.

Shoes are a critical element of in-between dressing, and are one area that is constantly being messed up by men that don’t know any better. The core idea behind finding an in-between shoe is balancing casual and formal features to achieve something that can be worn with a large variety of clothes. 

First, it is important to understand what makes a shoe a “good” shoe and how to look for high-quality materials and construction in footwear. If you’re not familiar with these concepts, read my previous post on that topic. Once you’re on board with that, join in below.

Read More

March 17, 2014
Loafers for Spring and Summer
After recently writing an article on my favorite spring items, I decided to delve in to a few specific pieces that are worthy of their own conversation. One of these items is the loafer, which can be an attractive and versatile addition to any shoe wardrobe. I generally wear loafers as a replacement for sneakers, when I have a casual outfit that I want to polish up a bit. Loafers can certainly be worn with more formal clothes, but I like them best with heavily worn chinos or denim and button-down collar shirts.
My preferred loafer is of American or English descent; I enjoy the comfortable and casual sensibility that they evoke, and I am not particularly fond of the more aggressively styled Italian loafers I see out there. Although there are many derivations of loafers on the market these days, I will focus on tassel and penny varieties (both of which have a rich history in the US). I feel that the penny loafer is easier to wear (and therefore a better first purchase), but tassels are certainly having a moment right now and have more than earned their reputation as a “classic” over the years. The list below highlights the best manufacturers and models for those looking to add to their footwear selection this Spring.
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Of course, buying high quality footwear is a worthwhile but expensive endeavour; if these prices are higher than your budget allows I highly suggest combing ebay for the models below. As long as you know your size well it can be a great place to stock up on well-made shoes for a reasonable price.
Alden: Nobody makes American loafers better than Alden (and the price reflects that, unfortunately). Noteworthy loafer models: cordovan tassel, calf tassel, suede tassel, cordovan penny, unlined suede and calf penny. If you’re in the Bay Area I’d highly recommend stopping by the Alden store in San Francisco, whether you’re in the market to buy or not.
Allen Edmonds: AE makes a wide range of loafers, but they are not all made to the same standard of quality (and some are much more attractive than…others). Here are their classic models: “Grayson” tassel in calf and cordovan, “Patriot” classic penny in calf, suede, and cordovan, and “Randolph” full-strap penny loafers in calf and cordovan. The price for AE calf shoes is significantly cheaper than Alden, whereas their shell is comparable in price. However, AE will hold regular sales when Alden does not.
Ralph Lauren: There are a few noteworthy shoes from RL, the most impressive of which are the “Marlow” penny and tassel cordovan loafers. These are part of a wider collection made exclusively for RL by Crockett & Jones. They are made out an exceptionally beautiful deep brown shade of Horween cordovan that can not be found on any other shoes (that I am aware of). They are incredibly expensive, but can usually be had for a (still incredibly expensive) price of $500-600 during seasonal sales. RL also carries loafers made by Allen Edmonds, but it’s usually worth going directly to AE unless these pairs are on deep discount (which happens occasionally).
Brooks Brothers: Like Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers has a few classic models made by high-end shoemakers that can sometimes be bought at good prices during sales. Their cordovan tassel and unlined penny are made by Alden, and are sometimes included in the 30% off corporate discount sales (see here; next one is on 3/20/14). They also carry these handsome calf penny loafers made by C&J; they’re the ones in the photo above. Brooks Brothers has many more models but a good portion of them are unattractive or not of good quality.
Carmina: This Spanish shoemaker has a wildcard option: the extremely popular string tie loafer. It may not have the historical significance of the penny and tassel, but has the same casual elegance. They also have more traditional models like this one.
Meermin: This blogger favorite is easier on the wallet and has many tassel and penny loafers in a variety of colors and materials. I prefer the styling of Meermin’s tassel loafers over the penny, but both are a good buy at about $225.
Jack Erwin: Another wallet-friendly option is Jack Erwin, a young company offering simple shoes for under $200 (free shipping and returns included). I have no experience with them, but their penny loafer could be a good option for the price. Some notes - the shoe is Blake welted and features a slightly sleeker last when compared to the sturdier and rounder goodyear-welted shoes featured above. This is not a bad thing, just a difference in construction and styling. The shoe does look a bit more “Continental” because of this, but is still simple enough to be a versatile choice.
There you have it - any of these options will keep your feet handsome and happy in the warm months ahead (whether you wear socks or not is completely up to you). If you know of another model that should be mentioned, please let me know in the comments below!

Loafers for Spring and Summer

After recently writing an article on my favorite spring items, I decided to delve in to a few specific pieces that are worthy of their own conversation. One of these items is the loafer, which can be an attractive and versatile addition to any shoe wardrobe. I generally wear loafers as a replacement for sneakers, when I have a casual outfit that I want to polish up a bit. Loafers can certainly be worn with more formal clothes, but I like them best with heavily worn chinos or denim and button-down collar shirts.

My preferred loafer is of American or English descent; I enjoy the comfortable and casual sensibility that they evoke, and I am not particularly fond of the more aggressively styled Italian loafers I see out there. Although there are many derivations of loafers on the market these days, I will focus on tassel and penny varieties (both of which have a rich history in the US). I feel that the penny loafer is easier to wear (and therefore a better first purchase), but tassels are certainly having a moment right now and have more than earned their reputation as a “classic” over the years. The list below highlights the best manufacturers and models for those looking to add to their footwear selection this Spring.

Read More

September 16, 2013
Fall Favorites - 10 of my go-to Autumn Items
It’s been difficult for me to start thinking about fall because San Francisco is just now leaving its second winter (“Fogust”) and things are finally getting warm here. Nonetheless, most of us are entering a period of sartorial transition by slowly trading in linens and loafers for tweed and suede. To me, Autumn is about casual comfort. Items that are approachable, comfortable, and reflect the changing temperature end up getting the most use from me.
I will refrain from saying that this is a list of “essentials”; what you might need depends very much on how you like to dress, where you live, and the formality of your lifestyle. That being said, here are some of my favorite items for the coming months. 
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1. Trench Coat. - I’ve spent most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, so in my mind Autumn means rain. Glorious, glorious rain. The classic trench coat style is a double breasted khaki number, made famous by Burberry. I like the styling there, but I’ve always preferred single-breasted coats on my body, and navy to khaki. The trench above (from Club Monaco) was exactly what I wanted - except for the buttons, which I upgraded. 
2. Boots. Boots come in many forms - hearty work boots, sleek balmorals, wingtips, chukkas, jodphurs, chelseas, and more. I thoroughly enjoy chukka boots, especially in suede. These Loake Pimlicos have treated me well, but I’ve recently had my eye on Alden’s 1493. There’s also the nearly identical Allen Edmonds Amok on sale for $110, which is a screaming deal. I would have absolutely gotten one in snuff suede if they were available in my size. I also love wingtip boots, but have yet to acquire any. If you’ve got some serious coin then get a pair of these and make me super jealous. Consider getting something with a Dainite sole to stand up to wet sidewalks and soggy leaf piles.
3. Grey flannel trousers. I’ve mentioned previously that grey trousers play a large role in my wardrobe, and grey flannels are probably my favorite. I highly recommend Howard Yount, but I’ve also been keeping an eye on Luxire’s offerings.
4. Patterned Sportcoat. Fall is a great season for sportcoats because the weather is finally cool enough to wear a hearty jacket without overheating. A nice wool blazer can take on infinite forms, but try a simple pattern if you’ve already got a classic navy blazer. Try out herringbone, houndstooth, Prince of Wales check, or windowpane. Get one in a simple neutral colorway and find out for yourself how easy they are to wear. The sportcoat above is from Suitsupply’s F/W ‘12 line. 
5. Textured Tie. Wooly ties are great things. There are a million variations of seasonal ties, including wool challis, flannel, ancient madder, tartan, and more. I love this vintage tartan tie, but any reputable tie maker should have a good selection of seasonal ties.
6. Sturdy chinos/trousers in a dark hue. Lightweight chinos are great, but I find that most of mine are in the khaki/off white colorway and get worn heavily during the warmer months. For the cooler seasons I turn to heartier fabrics - moleskins, corduroy, and heavy twill, for example. I also like more saturated, overdyed earth tones like brown, burgundy, and forest green.  Shown above are a pair of Bonobos' garment-dyed denim from a few years back. J. Crew and Club Monaco have solid options, and Howard Yount is usually a good source for dressier trousers.
7. Raw Denim. Breaking in raw denim takes dedication, and nobody wants to wrangle in a pair of 16 oz. jeans in the heat of summer. Now is the perfect time to start, since we have months of cool weather ahead of us. My personal favorites are 3Sixteen SL-100x and Gustin straight leg - I own a pair of each. 
8. A crewneck sweater. - A couple of years ago I used to hate on the crewneck sweater; I found the dressy shape of V-necks much more appealing. As I’ve started to settle in to my own style, though, I’ve found the crewneck to be much more approachable, especially in the fall. Its athletic background gives it a much more casual feel, and it looks especially great in rougher materials like shetland wool or rough cotton. It can be made a bit more luxe in the form of a cable-knit cashmere. I own this shetland from Gant and a cashmere cable-knit by Polo. Save the fine-gauge merino and cashmere V-necks for later. 
9. Blue oxford shirts. I sincerely hope you have already given oxford shirts a try, but if you haven’t yet then now is the time to start. They’re appropriate all year round, but I especially like them in the fall; their comfortable aesthetic and association with academia make them particularly appropriate this time of year. Wear them under just about everything. There are tons of places to find a nice OCBD but Brooks Brothers is a staple (especially when on sale). Kamakura shirts have been getting a lot of good press recently, too.
10. Scarf. You can make scarves complicated if you’d like, but I prefer to keep mine simple. This caramel-colored cashmere number I bought from Last Call is hard to mess up. I’ve also had good luck with Sierra Trading Post - look for Johnstons of Elgin or Moon of England.
BONUS: A nice flavorful beer. It pairs well with rain puddles and dark skies. Grab a Black Butte Porter (or maybe a Shipyard Pumpkinhead if you want to get in to the whole seasonal thing) and get cozy. 

Fall Favorites - 10 of my go-to Autumn Items

It’s been difficult for me to start thinking about fall because San Francisco is just now leaving its second winter (“Fogust”) and things are finally getting warm here. Nonetheless, most of us are entering a period of sartorial transition by slowly trading in linens and loafers for tweed and suede. To me, Autumn is about casual comfort. Items that are approachable, comfortable, and reflect the changing temperature end up getting the most use from me.

I will refrain from saying that this is a list of “essentials”; what you might need depends very much on how you like to dress, where you live, and the formality of your lifestyle. That being said, here are some of my favorite items for the coming months. 

Read More

February 5, 2013

Business Casual Basics, Part III: Shoes

Previously: Part I, Part II. This is the third installment for my fellow white collar ballers.

If you’ve spent any time learning about men’s clothing (be it from family, friends, or the internet) you’ve probably heard a disproportional amount of talk about shoes. Shoes are a huge part of what dressing well is about (both in cost and importance), even though they take up a fairly small amount of space on your body. It can’t be stressed enough; shoes are often what separate the men from the boys, and business casual workplaces are notorious for bad shoe choices. A little bit of knowledge here will go a long way. Shoes are also the foundation of your outfit in stylistic and structural terms; if you buy well and take care of your purchases they will in turn keep you comfortable and stylish for decades.

1. Save up some money.

This one has the potential to get expensive. Accept the fact that high-quality shoes will be expensive if bought new, and can even be pricey when bought secondhand. Thrifting can be a good option here as well.

2. Learn the differences between “real shoes” and bad shoes.

High-quality shoes are expensive for many reasons, but the biggest two are material quality and construction. These qualities are much more important with shoes than they are in a shirt or pair of pants because shoes need to stand up to a tremendous amount of wear. Read Kiyoshi’s post and Put This On’s article to get a sense for what I’m talking about. If you buy a high-quality welted shoe that fits well and is well taken care of it will last for decades. Trust me.

Need some help finding out which brands can be trusted for high quality shoes and which can’t? I’ve included a short list at the bottom of this post, but my rule of thumb (toe?) is this: don’t buy shoes from any manufacturer that can’t tell you what last their shoes are made on. Any respectable shoe maker will have products on a range of last choices and will be able to tell you about them.

3. Understand the different styles and their applications.

Ready for some shoe terminology? This should be enough to get you started.

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