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

November 21, 2013
Coming to America - A Visit to the Meermin Trunk Show
One of my most anticipated stops during the recent trip to NYC was the Meermin trunk show last week. The brand has been getting lots of press in the past year or two and I have been increasingly curious about their wares. The problem, though, is that their shoes are only physically present at their storefronts in Spain and Japan. Their web store is well set up for international orders, but since the shoes cannot be tried on it makes determining the correct size a difficult and somewhat risky undertaking.
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(Linea Maestro Auesterity Brogue in Snuff Reverse Calf)
Fortunately, Luisa and Pepe are working to change that. During their first official visit to the United States, the Meermin duo was able to help hundreds of men and women find the size and style that fit them best. Many shoes were available for purchase, but they encouraged anyone and everyone to come in and get sized. I tried on at least a dozen pairs, and Luisa and Pepe were happy to accommodate my incessant questions and requests. They had a good representation of their products available to try on, and even had some new items that have not made their way to their website yet.

(Classic Line Oxford in Cognac)
All told, their shoes are attractive, well-made, and competitively priced. I think that any menswear enthusiast would be hard pressed to find a shoe at Meermin’s pricepoint of equal or greater value. I should state that I do not (yet) own any pairs so I can not comment on how they wear, but from what I was able to learn from my visit there is no reason to be pessimistic. Meermin is a young company and only time will tell how their shoes will age, but they seem to have the right ingredients in play – good materials, solid construction, and classic designs.
Most of Meermins’s classic line of shoes start at 160 euros, including VAT. Their higher-grade “Linea Maestro” models start at 260 euros, with additional costs for shell cordovan and made-to-order options. Meermin is able to offer their shoes at these prices in part because the shoes are partially assembled in China and finished in Spain.
Another benefit of seeing Meermin’s stock in person was that I was able to directly compare their “Classic Line” and “Linea Maestro” offerings. I definitely think that their classic line of shoes are priced very competitively and reflect one of the better options out there, but even with my limited exposure to their products I was able to see that there is a significant increase in quality between the two lines. In terms of style, the Linea Maestro options are often more refined and sleek, but there are also increases in material and construction quality. For example, while the Classic line uses traditional split suede (suede side is the outside of a split leather piece) for some shoes, the Linea Maestro uses full-on reverse calf from a very well-known manufacturer. For those that don’t know, reverse calf is a suede that uses the “flesh” side of a whole skin as the suede, which results in a much higher quality and more supple end product (read more here).

(Linea Maestro Copper Reverse Calf Oxford and Snuff Austerity Brogue)
An example of improved quality between the two lines is the use of a hand welted goodyear welt in the Linea Maestro shoes (as opposed to a machine goodyear welt on the Classic line).  Beyond the gut-reaction of “hand welted” sounding better than “machine welted,” the differences can be seen and felt. According to Pepe, hand welting results in a slimmer profile and will also create a more comfortable shoe. “The hand welting will feel much more like a Blake-welted shoe, but with the durability of a Goodyear welt,” he explains. For those that aren’t familiar, Blake-welted shoes are well-known for their comfort but usually does not have the durability or ease of repair that a goodyear welt offers.
Another aspect of the company that has been popular with style afficianados is their (comparably) affordable made-to-order program. Many high-end shoe companies have something of this nature, but prices can get very high very fast. Meermin is probably the most inexpensive way to start with a relatively blank canvas and create a shoe to any number of specifications – shape, material, design, and more. One needs to only look at the Styleforum thread or Meermin’s tumblr to see the numerous examples of shoe dreams turned to reality.

(MTO leather options)
Pepe and Luisa are very knowledgeable about the products they sell, and it is clear that they are passionate about what they do. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to bring so many shoes over to the good ol’ USA, and for hosting a wonderful trunk show. If you have any questions about their products you can send them an email or check out their affiliate thread on Styleforum.

Luisa (left), Pepe (right)

Black Cordovan Balmoral Boot

Snuff Suede Boots

Classic Line oxfords - burgundy, cognac, black

Classic Line oxford and Linea Maestro cordovan longwing

Channeled soles on Linea Maestro shoes

Last comparison - Olfe (left), Hiro (right), size 8UK

Pepe’s lovely copper reverse calf double monks

Green shell double monk MTO - an example of Meermin’s versatility

Coming to America - A Visit to the Meermin Trunk Show

One of my most anticipated stops during the recent trip to NYC was the Meermin trunk show last week. The brand has been getting lots of press in the past year or two and I have been increasingly curious about their wares. The problem, though, is that their shoes are only physically present at their storefronts in Spain and Japan. Their web store is well set up for international orders, but since the shoes cannot be tried on it makes determining the correct size a difficult and somewhat risky undertaking.

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November 20, 2013

unclebeebo said: Were those Dub Monks pebble grain leather? I don't recognize them from the site. Also those tassels must have been unique for the trunk show as well. I look forward to the post.

The monks were pebble grain leather with their faux-Dainite sole. I think I’ve seen them on their website in the past but they’re not there now. 

Yeah, they had lots of their classic models and many more that I did not recognize. All in all, a very fun time.

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November 20, 2013

Over the weekend I spent an exorbitant amount of time trying on shoes at the Meermin trunk show. Here are just a couple of pairs from their classic line. Full story coming tomorrow.

November 18, 2013

Over the past couple of days my girlfriend Mary and I have taken nearly a thousand photos at men’s clothing events and have had many great conversations with some of the best in the menswear business. It’ll be a day or two before I can start posting more extensively about what I’ve seen and learned while in NYC (I am on vacation, after all), but stay tuned for lots of great content over the next week or two! 

November 11, 2013
Hey New York City - I’m heading your way.

As Put This On mentioned, there are a lot of cool events going on in NYC this weekend. I was planning on pouting and being grumpy because I couldn’t attend, but after looking at the (surprisingly inexpensive) cost of flights last week I decided that it would be much more fun to go to these events in person instead of reading about them later. Here are some things I’ll definitely be doing:

Hopefully I can see some of you all while I’m there as well! 

I’ll have lots of articles to write up about the events (I’ve already set up a few exciting interviews…) and you can expect those throughout next week. If you want the blow-by-blow account of my time at the trunk shows, be sure to follow me on twitter to get the full scoop.

See you then!

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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