September 29, 2014
Item Roundup: Chukka Boots
The leaves are starting to change colors (or so I’m told), everyone’s talking about pumpkin spice lattes, and the dollar is gaining ground on the euro. When put together, these signs can only mean one thing - it’s time to grab some autumnal footwear.
The chukka boot is an incredibly versatile shoe and is perfectly at home in the autumnal months. I have two pairs and find myself reaching for them more than any other style. They make a great in-between shoe and I highly suggest that you try out a pair if you haven’t already.
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Chukkas can be made in any number of materials, but their somewhat casual nature means that they look particularly good in textured materials like suede and pebble grain (although they’re also popular in cordovan). Here are just a few of my favorite models:
Meermin: This wallet-friendly brand has chukkas in four colors of suede: snuff, sand, navy, and dark brown (note that some have rubber soles and some have leather). All models are built on the Hiro last, which is classically round shape. Most people size down one full size from their US size, but consider sizing down 1/2 if you have a wide foot or a high instep. At under $235 shipped these provide a great value.
Carmina: the other Spanish darling has many models that come and go quickly, but one of their classics is a chocolate suede chukka on the Soller last, available at Quality Shop and Skoaktiebolaget for between $450 and $500. This is similar to the Meermin model, except that it is made of notably higher quality materials and has some slight design differences. Whether it’s worth the twofold price increase is up to you. 
Loake: Loake shoes come in a few different lines, but the “1880” line is the best by a good margin and is really the only one worth looking at. There are a few sources for ordering Loake shoes; I have had good luck with Pediwear but feel free to shop around for better deals. There are two popular Loake chukka models - the Kempton, which is a snuff suede model on a classic round last, and the Pimlico (pictured above), which is in dark brown suede and is built on the slightly chiseled Capital last. Both Loake pairs come in at under $290 from Pediwear.  It’s worth noting that the Kempton is also available at Brooks Brothers in snuff, dark brown suede, and pebble grain; these are currently sitting at $360 but can dip lower during sales. If you buy abroad in UK sizing, know that Loake lasts are generally quite roomy and you should have no problem sizing down one from your US size. EDIT: I’m told that the Brooks Brothers pairs above are actually made by Alfred Sargent; if this is the case, their current sale price is quite good (see more here and in the comments below). 
Alden: America’s best shoe company makes several exceptional chukkas, my personal favorite being the unlined suede chukka on the Leydon last (available in snuff, tan, and dark brown suede). The Leydon typically fits a bit narrow so consider sizing up in width. There is also a cordovan model built on the Barrie last (generally speaking, go 1/2 size down). The product shots don’t do the shoes justice - they look great in person. 
Allen Edmonds: this go-to brand is surprisingly light on chukka boots since they discontinued the Amok (sad face). The only one of note is their new "Gobi" boot, which is currently on sale for $249. I’m not a fan of the contrast lacing shown in the stock photo, but that can be easily changed, and for the price it could be a good option for those that don’t want to deal with international purchases.
Clarks: The company’s ubiquitous desert boots are a popular option for those that are uncomfortable spending big bucks on shoes. I think it’s worth saving up for the Loakes or Meermins above, but for the price these are a solid option. 
Well, those are my picks. Which do you have (or want) in your rotation?

Item Roundup: Chukka Boots

The leaves are starting to change colors (or so I’m told), everyone’s talking about pumpkin spice lattes, and the dollar is gaining ground on the euro. When put together, these signs can only mean one thing - it’s time to grab some autumnal footwear.

The chukka boot is an incredibly versatile shoe and is perfectly at home in the autumnal months. I have two pairs and find myself reaching for them more than any other style. They make a great in-between shoe and I highly suggest that you try out a pair if you haven’t already.

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

February 19, 2014

It’s Back, and On Sale: Allen Edmonds “Amok” Unlined Chukka

Some of you may remember the unfortunate tale of the Allen Edmonds Amok; the shoe was hit hard on release due to some construction issues that created a squeak when worn. Allen Edmonds fixed the issue, but the damage was done and the shoes proved hard to sell. Eventually, the shoes moved to the clearance section, which was bittersweet because it meant their price had hit rock bottom but they would not be made again.

Why do we care about the melodrama of the Amok? Well, the shoe is a very close replica of the celebrated Alden unlined chukka, but for a much lower price. Both feature unlined suede uppers, two eyelet construction, and an oil-soaked leather sole. The Alden version is built better and is made from better materials, but $486 is a steep price for a casual suede shoe. You can read more about unlined shoes here.

So, here’s the catch: sizes are limited (especially in the snuff), and it seems that for some sizes delivery will take 8 weeks since the shoes still need to be built (This seems odd, since the style is supposedly discontinued, but there you go). Snuff suede and tan suede are available for $117.60 at checkout (20% off clearance price), a fantastic price for a workhorse shoe. In my experience, this shoe fits true-to-size.

If your size is not available, consider the Mojave (olive, dark brown, and snuff suede). After the discount it comes in at $141.60. It is also an unlined chukka, but with a crepe sole and a slightly rounder last. 

September 9, 2013
After a few hours of dancing on the forest floor at a recent wedding my trusty Allen Edmonds McAllisters were looking quite rough around the edges. They were covered in dirt and scuffs and needed some serious attention before they were going to be work-appropriate again. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to breathe life back into a nice shoe.
I discuss my polishing routine for cleaning heavily-worn shoes here, but this was my method for the above pair:
Remove all dust and dirt with a brush and cloth
Apply leather conditioner (I used Saphir Renovateur)
Brush off remaining conditioner, apply creme polish
Buff out creme polish, apply thin layer of colored wax polish
Polish with a horsehair brush and then a cotton cloth
Touch up edges with edge and sole dressing
Don’t forget to wait at least 10 minutes between each step and you should be golden. 

After a few hours of dancing on the forest floor at a recent wedding my trusty Allen Edmonds McAllisters were looking quite rough around the edges. They were covered in dirt and scuffs and needed some serious attention before they were going to be work-appropriate again. Fortunately, it’s not that hard to breathe life back into a nice shoe.

I discuss my polishing routine for cleaning heavily-worn shoes here, but this was my method for the above pair:

  1. Remove all dust and dirt with a brush and cloth
  2. Apply leather conditioner (I used Saphir Renovateur)
  3. Brush off remaining conditioner, apply creme polish
  4. Buff out creme polish, apply thin layer of colored wax polish
  5. Polish with a horsehair brush and then a cotton cloth
  6. Touch up edges with edge and sole dressing

Don’t forget to wait at least 10 minutes between each step and you should be golden. 

June 24, 2013
Saturday’s forecast in Minnesota: Thunderstorms with a chance of weddings.
I spent a warm and wet weekend in Minneapolis for a friend’s wedding - this lightly lined, breathable coat was a lifesaver.
Single-Breasted Trench - Club Monaco (with a few extra touches) | Shirt - Proper Cloth | Tie - E&G Cappelli | Shoes - Allen Edmonds | Suit - Beckett & Robb (more coming soon)

Saturday’s forecast in Minnesota: Thunderstorms with a chance of weddings.

I spent a warm and wet weekend in Minneapolis for a friend’s wedding - this lightly lined, breathable coat was a lifesaver.

Single-Breasted Trench - Club Monaco (with a few extra touches) | Shirt - Proper Cloth | Tie - E&G Cappelli | Shoes - Allen Edmonds | Suit - Beckett & Robb (more coming soon)

May 1, 2013
One Year Later: Allen Edmonds McAllister Wingtip
As I’ve mentioned before, men’s clothing enthusiasts often tout the importance of buying high-quality products, an ideal that I generally agree with. Of course, few of us have the funds to buy the best of the best of everything, so the process of finding and purchasing clothing and accessories becomes more of a decision of when to save and when to splurge. Even then, cost does not inherently imply quality, so determining where money is well spent can be difficult. This is a series of posts that show some of my purchases (both expensive and affordable) after a year or more of hard wear in order to display how they have held up over time. Only you can decide what is worth spending on and what isn’t, but the more information you have the better-informed your decision will be.
Although I always liked the idea of dressing well, I didn’t get into it seriously until graduate school. Being at that place in my life made me see that my days as a college student were numbered and that my future career was closing in (if I was lucky enough to get a job). For that reason I wanted to prepare ahead of time in order to get the most out of the small amount of money I had. As engineers - and Jesse Thorn  - often say, “Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two.” I started hunting for deals on basic and versatile items like khakis and shirts so that I wouldn’t be blindsided at my first job. I made some foolish purchases, but overall it was a lifesaver when I began working and already had a small amount of solid items to turn to.
I digress. These shoes were one of my first purchases in preparation for my career. I bought them in like-new condition off of ebay before secondhand shoes started to get more expensive. I was the only bidder - they were about sixty bucks. 
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Now that my shoe collection has slowly expanded I don’t need to rely on them as heavily as I did a year or two ago, but they still get used around once per week. I worked them hard and cared for them gently, and they have stood up to everything well. Their color has become richer and more variegated over time and they have remained some of my most comfortable and best-fitting shoes. I could go on about the respectable quality and durability of Allen Edmonds shoes, but I wouldn’t be saying anything that hasn’t been said many times before. Instead, I’ll tell you an interesting story. 
After a few months of wearing these shoes I noticed that the rubber on one of the heels started to detach and flap around. This surprised me a bit since I had received the shoes in new condition and had been caring for them properly. Not sure if the issue was inconsequential or a harbinger of bad things, I stopped by the San Francisco Allen Edmonds store for an expert opinion. The store associate assured me that the issue was minor and that any competent cobbler could fix it. He then told me that they’d be happy to take care of it for me. This made me somewhat uncomfortable; I sheepishly explained that I had bought the shoes off of ebay and it felt dishonest to use any sort of store warranty. The man remained unphased and assured me that it was really no problem at all. A few days later they arrived in a box from Wisconsin, nicely repaired and polished. I was stunned. Good companies earn my business not only because of quality products but because of quality customer service. Allen Edmonds is one of those companies.
Would I pay full price ($345) for these shoes? I don’t think so. The “entry level shoe” market has gotten more crowded in the past couple of years and the choices are far more vast compared to what they once were. However, Allen Edmonds shoes are often on sale and when that is the case I think that they are still among the best options for quality shoes at a reasonable price. Not only that but the shoes are much more accessible than the many online-only storefronts so many people can find a place to try them in person, which makes all the difference. Combine that with the recrafting service, large variety of sizes, and the great customer service and it starts to look like a pretty good deal.
 Granted, those that are looking for a sleek English oxford will not find it at Allen Edmonds. Nonetheless, the American sensibility and “not too formal, not too casual” look that their classic models provide work well for most lifestyles and provide a great starting point for the man looking to understand what a quality shoe really looks like.
The rest of the “One Year Later” series can be found here.

One Year Later: Allen Edmonds McAllister Wingtip

As I’ve mentioned before, men’s clothing enthusiasts often tout the importance of buying high-quality products, an ideal that I generally agree with. Of course, few of us have the funds to buy the best of the best of everything, so the process of finding and purchasing clothing and accessories becomes more of a decision of when to save and when to splurge. Even then, cost does not inherently imply quality, so determining where money is well spent can be difficult. This is a series of posts that show some of my purchases (both expensive and affordable) after a year or more of hard wear in order to display how they have held up over time. Only you can decide what is worth spending on and what isn’t, but the more information you have the better-informed your decision will be.

Although I always liked the idea of dressing well, I didn’t get into it seriously until graduate school. Being at that place in my life made me see that my days as a college student were numbered and that my future career was closing in (if I was lucky enough to get a job). For that reason I wanted to prepare ahead of time in order to get the most out of the small amount of money I had. As engineers - and Jesse Thorn  - often say, “Fast, Cheap, Good: Pick Two.” I started hunting for deals on basic and versatile items like khakis and shirts so that I wouldn’t be blindsided at my first job. I made some foolish purchases, but overall it was a lifesaver when I began working and already had a small amount of solid items to turn to.

I digress. These shoes were one of my first purchases in preparation for my career. I bought them in like-new condition off of ebay before secondhand shoes started to get more expensive. I was the only bidder - they were about sixty bucks. 

Read More

February 19, 2013
Restoring Old Shoes
As I’ve mentioned before, I recently inherited a few pairs of wonderful vintage shoes from my uncle and late grandfather. They are all high quality and have been taken care of well, but they’re 20-30 years old and are a bit rough around the edges. This pair is a nice burgundy plaintoe by Ferragamo that my uncle describes as his “dancing shoes.” Needless to say, they’ve seen some serious action. They still have some life in them but needed a bit of maintenance before they were going to look their best again. 
Things you’ll need:
an old, tired pair of high-quality shoes (no product can make cheap shoes look good)
a clean cotton cloth (old shirts work well)
Horsehair brush (or two)
Leather cleaner
Leather conditioner
creme polish with a pigment that will resemble (or complement) your shoe’s color
Sole edge dressing
Ready? Let’s get started.
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1. Remove the laces and brush the shoes down with a horsehair brush. Dust often collects in the creases and seams and will make polishing much more difficult if not removed.
2. While the laces are out and the shoe trees are in, use a leather cleaner to remove the old wax. Wax often builds up on shoes over time and leather cleaner provides a way to create a clean, fresh surface on your shoes. This is especially true for old shoes. As you can see above, the old dried wax made the creases look much worse than they actually were. 

Unlike putting polish or conditioner on shoes, leather cleaner needs to be worked on in small areas rather than across the whole shoe. Concentrate on cleaning one area (the toe and vamp are usually the worst) before you move on to the next part of the shoe. Use the cotton cloth with a bit of water on it to rub the cleaner in. This step will take some serious elbow grease, and be warned that the cleaner might make your fingers tingle a bit. I use Lexol leather cleaner. You’ll probably see some color come off of the shoes (this is ok) and when you’re finished they will look a bit dull. Let the shoes rest for a while before you move to step 3. 
3. Apply a conditioner to the shoe. I use Saphir Renovateur and apply it with the cotton cloth. Make sure you get the tongue and all the welts (some even recommend conditioning the sole, but I haven’t experimented with this much).  Let the shoes sit for a while - some say to leave them overnight but I usually wait about a half hour. They should get a bit foggy and shouldn’t be greasy. Buff off the remaining conditioner with the cotton rag.

I highly recommend Renovateur for this step. It’s a very unique product that is an exceptional conditioner but also helps clean the leather and raises a surprisingly nice shine. The mink oil also smells wonderful. I noticed a distinct change when I switched from Allen Edmonds products to Saphir. 
4, Coat the shoes with a small amount of creme polish. Creme polish will not give the water resistance of wax polish, but it keeps the leather healthier and the pigment in it will help bring color back to the leather (wax polish will put color on top of the leather, but creme polish is better for getting pigment back into the leather). Many people use wax polish to achieve a high shine, but I’ve found that the uneven surface of old shoes makes bulling very difficult. I used a black creme polish from Saphir to deepen the patina in the seams and to add some depth of color to the shoe. Rub the polish in so there is no streaking and wait for it to cloud (10-20 minutes). Remember - less is more.

5. Buff off the polish with a horsehair brush, and then again with a cotton rag.
6. Apply a sole edge dressing to the…sole edges. The soles can get pretty chewed up on old shoes and this simple fix can make a big difference. Be careful to not get any color on the uppers. I use the Allen Edmonds travel size because the applicator is easier to use.

7. Let them dry and then lace them up. Hopefully the difference is noticeable.

Above: one shoe completed. Below: both shoes finished. Do they look brand new? Not at all. This process certainly won’t hide all the signs of wear, but I don’t really think that’s the point. These shoes look well loved. They’ve seen decades of action, but if I’m lucky I think they might see a few more.

Restoring Old Shoes

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently inherited a few pairs of wonderful vintage shoes from my uncle and late grandfather. They are all high quality and have been taken care of well, but they’re 20-30 years old and are a bit rough around the edges. This pair is a nice burgundy plaintoe by Ferragamo that my uncle describes as his “dancing shoes.” Needless to say, they’ve seen some serious action. They still have some life in them but needed a bit of maintenance before they were going to look their best again. 

Things you’ll need:

  • an old, tired pair of high-quality shoes (no product can make cheap shoes look good)
  • a clean cotton cloth (old shirts work well)
  • Horsehair brush (or two)
  • Leather cleaner
  • Leather conditioner
  • creme polish with a pigment that will resemble (or complement) your shoe’s color
  • Sole edge dressing

Ready? Let’s get started.

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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November 5, 2012
For the Allen Edmonds fan that finds Walnut shoes too flashy and dark brown too muted: the new "Bourbon" color looks to be just right. 

For the Allen Edmonds fan that finds Walnut shoes too flashy and dark brown too muted: the new "Bourbon" color looks to be just right.