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.
[[MORE]]
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 25, 2013
Made in the suede.
Suede captoes by Alfred Sargent for Sid Mashburn - easily one of my favorite eBay finds.

Made in the suede.

Suede captoes by Alfred Sargent for Sid Mashburn - easily one of my favorite eBay finds.

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.

Read More