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

January 29, 2014
In a few hours I’m heading down the street to a private event at the new Ghurka store in San Francisco. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing their products up close, as well as hanging out with the SF menswear gang. Here’s what I’m thinking about wearing…we’ll see if I change my mind. That scarf in particular might be a bit too hopeful since the local temperature is currently hovering around 60 degrees. Oh, San Francisco. 
Blazer - Brando |  Shirt - Proper Cloth | Donegal tie - Kent Wang | Trousers - J. Crew (more coming soon) | Belt - Equus Leather | Chukka boots - Loake | Scarf - Moon Mills via STP| Watch - vintage Omega

In a few hours I’m heading down the street to a private event at the new Ghurka store in San Francisco. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing their products up close, as well as hanging out with the SF menswear gang. Here’s what I’m thinking about wearing…we’ll see if I change my mind. That scarf in particular might be a bit too hopeful since the local temperature is currently hovering around 60 degrees. Oh, San Francisco. 

Blazer - Brando |  Shirt - Proper Cloth | Donegal tie - Kent Wang | Trousers - J. Crew (more coming soon) | Belt - Equus Leather | Chukka boots - Loake | Scarf - Moon Mills via STP| Watch - vintage Omega

January 21, 2014
As a native Oregonian I grew up loving the rain, and it’s unfortunate to say that California just hasn’t been getting enough of it. Our state is deep into a drought, but the good news is that we had a day of showers recently, and that gave me the opportunity to wear my rainy day gear. 
All told, I’d say that this is a good example of how I like to dress - neutral colors and fairly classic proportions. I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to clothes, so I try to stick with simple things that are hard to mess up.
Blazer - Suitsupply | Tie - Kent Wang | Trousers - Beckett & Robb (part of a suit) | Shirt - Proper Cloth | Pocket Square - the Tie Bar | Shoes - Loake | Trench coat - Club Monaco | Umbrella - Howard Yount

As a native Oregonian I grew up loving the rain, and it’s unfortunate to say that California just hasn’t been getting enough of it. Our state is deep into a drought, but the good news is that we had a day of showers recently, and that gave me the opportunity to wear my rainy day gear. 

All told, I’d say that this is a good example of how I like to dress - neutral colors and fairly classic proportions. I’m not much of a risk-taker when it comes to clothes, so I try to stick with simple things that are hard to mess up.

Blazer - Suitsupply | Tie - Kent Wang | Trousers - Beckett & Robb (part of a suit) | Shirt - Proper Cloth | Pocket Square - the Tie Bar | Shoes - Loake | Trench coat - Club Monaco | Umbrella - Howard Yount

November 25, 2013
What I wore in New York, day three.
Trench - Club Monaco | Sweater - Polo Ralph Lauren | OCBD - Gant Rugger | Denim - Gustin | Chukkas - Loake

What I wore in New York, day three.

Trench - Club Monaco | Sweater - Polo Ralph Lauren | OCBD - Gant Rugger | Denim - Gustin | Chukkas - Loake

November 14, 2013
I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow. I’m counting it as a vacation, but I’ll definitely be doing a lot blog work while there - meeting with vendors, trying on awesome clothes, taking pictures, writing - sounds terrible, doesn’t it?
Oh, and since I always get so many questions about where each item comes from in these posts, I’ve included product links when available. Keep in mind, though, that none of these items were bought at full price and many were bought used.
Here’s what’s going with me:
Two wool blazers - one brown, one navy
Trench coat for inclement weather
Two blue striped spread collar shirts
Three button-down shirts - two blue oxfords, one blue chambray
Gray flannel trousers (I’ll bring a second pair if I have room)
Raw denim
Navy knit tie
Unassuming pocket square
A simple cashmere scarf
Two crewneck sweaters - one shetland, one cable-knit cashmere
Suede oxfords
Suede chukkas
A great brown belt
Hopefully I’ll get to meet some of you all while I’m there! You can find my other packing posts here.

I’m leaving for NYC tomorrow. I’m counting it as a vacation, but I’ll definitely be doing a lot blog work while there - meeting with vendors, trying on awesome clothes, taking pictures, writing - sounds terrible, doesn’t it?

Oh, and since I always get so many questions about where each item comes from in these posts, I’ve included product links when available. Keep in mind, though, that none of these items were bought at full price and many were bought used.

Here’s what’s going with me:

Hopefully I’ll get to meet some of you all while I’m there! You can find my other packing posts here.

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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October 17, 2012

Completing the Seven-Shoe Wardrobe: Loake Pimlico Chukka Boots

When I arrived home from my recent trip to New England, I was met with a welcome surprise: a large box from Pediwear containing a pair of Loake Pimlico chukkas. It is not often that I buy “investment items” like shoes brand new, so getting a nice item in its original box is quite exciting for me. 

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