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


Suede unlined loafers - perfect for summer.

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

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

Nobody does tassel loafers better then Alden. 

Blue suede shoes. 

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

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

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

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

Read More

June 9, 2014

It’s Back On Sale: J. Crew “Bennett” Goodyear-Welted Suede Chukka for $60

If this post looks familiar, it’s because I put it up a couple of months ago when these shoes were on sale for $87.50; I deleted the post when the sale ended, but since they are currently on sale for a mere $60 (code TODAYONLY) I thought it was worth revisiting. It also seemed like a well-timed sale, given my post today about in-between shoes; these are a great example, and are about as cheap as you will ever find for a decent welted shoe. They are also off the Final Sale list (as Aliotsy noted), so you can return a pair if the sizing doesn’t work out.

When these first went on sale I headed down to my neighborhood J. Crew to check them out in person. Here’s what I learned:

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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

May 2, 2014
Wingtips at Wingtip
This one’s for the Bay Area shoe aficionados - Phillip Car of St. Crispin’s will be holding a trunk show at Wingtip on Montgomery St. today. There are dozens of ready to wear models to browse in the store, and orders for custom shoes can be made as well. 
I had the opportunity to chat with Phillip yesterday, and he was able to tell me a bit more about the company and their products. Saint Crispin’s is a small shoe company that makes stunning hand-made shoes - about 1,500 pairs per year - for some of the best men’s stores in the world. They are carried by The Armoury and Leather Soul in the US, but this is their first trip to San Francisco (at least as far as I know). The shoes speak for themselves, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. Click the link below for a few more photos of these beauties.
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Wingtips at Wingtip

This one’s for the Bay Area shoe aficionados - Phillip Car of St. Crispin’s will be holding a trunk show at Wingtip on Montgomery St. today. There are dozens of ready to wear models to browse in the store, and orders for custom shoes can be made as well. 

I had the opportunity to chat with Phillip yesterday, and he was able to tell me a bit more about the company and their products. Saint Crispin’s is a small shoe company that makes stunning hand-made shoes - about 1,500 pairs per year - for some of the best men’s stores in the world. They are carried by The Armoury and Leather Soul in the US, but this is their first trip to San Francisco (at least as far as I know). The shoes speak for themselves, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. Click the link below for a few more photos of these beauties.

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. 

December 26, 2013
Trends That Need to Die in 2014
Every new year brings with it a slew of trends that slowly permeate the menswear scene; they are an unavoidable phenomenon and definitely affect the landscape of the menswear market. Many of these trends can be fun to experiment with, but in the end-of-the year spirit I’ll highlight some that I believe have overstayed their welcome.
Part II: Double Monks
There. I said it. I’m sorry, but I had to put it out there.
I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with double monks. I like them. Years ago I created a saved ebay search that picks out all the best double monks out there, and I am often tempted to buy a pair. 
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To me, this trend needs to pass not because double monks are unattractive or aesthetically off, but because they have permeated so deeply into the menswear id that they have somehow become regarded as a “staple.” I’m sorry to say it, but I don’t think that men’s shoes with little brass buckles are a staple of a classic wardrobe and it seems unlikely that they ever will be. I’m always a bit wary when I see bloggers suggesting double monks to impressionable anons asking for basic shoe choices, and I feel a bit bad when I see that a blogger’s wardrobe of high end footwear consists of only three double monks and two tassel loafers. What about oxfords? Derbys? Penny loafers? Double monks are like dessert - fun in small doses, but unhealthy when consumed as a main course. 
Moreover, the incredible force with which double monks burst into the menswear world almost guarantees their inevitable demise. They arrived with such strength and conviction that it seemed impossible for them to ever fade away, and that in itself almost assures that they will fall out of favor as rapidly as they rose into it.
Keep in mind that outside of the menswear circle(jerk), double monks are not a normal shoe. Only once have I seen a non-menswear gentleman comment on nice double monks, and all he had to say was “What are those…leprechaun shoes?”
Are double monks fun? Yes. iGent? Perhaps. Staple? No.
Remember, you heard it here first - next year is the year that double monks die.
(previously - Part I)
(photo via Unabashedly Prep)

Trends That Need to Die in 2014

Every new year brings with it a slew of trends that slowly permeate the menswear scene; they are an unavoidable phenomenon and definitely affect the landscape of the menswear market. Many of these trends can be fun to experiment with, but in the end-of-the year spirit I’ll highlight some that I believe have overstayed their welcome.

Part II: Double Monks

There. I said it. I’m sorry, but I had to put it out there.

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with double monks. I like them. Years ago I created a saved ebay search that picks out all the best double monks out there, and I am often tempted to buy a pair. 

Read More

December 16, 2013
Styleforum Spotlight - Greg Lellouche and No Man Walks Alone
One of the most anticipated vendors in the Styleforum Trunk Show last month was No Man Walks Alone, the new online men’s store recently founded by Greg Lellouche. I had the pleasure of chatting with Greg that afternoon, and talked to him about his store, his products, and his own sense of style.
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Styleforum fans will know Greg as the esteemed GDL203; He has been a prominent figure there for many years, but also credits the styleforum crew with helping advance his own style. “I joined styleforum at a reasonably late stage compared to some of the young members here,” he explains.  ”I was already a working professional in my thirties, having worked in finance for years and therefore being quite accustomed to wearing suits and ties. My taste clearly evolved quite a bit while exposed to the style and choices of great dressers on styleforum and by getting acquainted with different makers and products. For instance - without styleforum, I wouldn’t have traveled the road to explore bespoke options. Now that I have, I can see clearly the benefits and drawbacks of each and wear both ready-to-wear and custom.”

One aspect of Greg’s style that is surprisingly unique is his interest in both traditional men’s clothing and edgier “streetwear” garments. Most men align themsleves with one camp or the other (as seen in the “Great Schizm” of styleforum), but Greg promotes a more holistic approach. ”I feel that we should embrace the opportunities to experiment a bit more, to discover interesting designers, fabrics, patterns, silhouettes,” he says. “I have for years felt that part of my ‘mission’ was to bridge the gap that exists between classic menswear and the more contemporary fashion - something that goes both ways, by the way.”
This approach to menswear can be seen in the items available in Greg’s e-store, where classic brands like Alfred Sargent and Drake’s sit next to streetwear favorites like Buttero sneakers and sweaters from EO TO TO. It’s an eclectic-seeming mixture of items, but with the common thread of high quality and good taste.

I also had the opportunity to chat with Greg about some his favorite items in the store, and how he came about finding them. Some brands are well-known in the menswear circle, but many are quite unfamiliar and can’t be found at any other retailer in the United States. For instance, I was enamored with the suits from Sartoria Formosa; they come from a bespoke tailoring house in Naples, and represent the company’s first and only foray into ready-to-wear clothing. They are made to the same standards as the bespoke commissions, expressly for No Man Walks Alone. They are incredibly attractive garments, and it should come as no surprise that they have been a big hit thus far. 

Greg has also been busy working to bring as many customization options as possible to his clients. Made-to-order options have been available for Vass shoes and Inis Meain sweaters, to name a few, and Sartoria Formaosa was just in New York City taking bespoke orders for No Man Walks Alone clients. 
All told, Greg and his team have done a wonderful job of tracking down unique and attractive items for the store. I’m glad that I was able to see them in person, since so many of their wares have intricate details and luxurious materials that can’t be easily portrayed in photographs.The items are not inexpensive, but they are definitely the type of pieces that would be a crowning item in any wardrobe. I’m looking forward to seeing what else Greg brings in to his store for “men of contrast & character,” and I encourage everyone to take a look through his items as well.
I’d like to thank Greg for taking the time to answer my incessant questions and congratulate him on the launch of his wonderful store. More photos from the Styleforum trunk show can be seen below.

Vass shoes

Talarico umbrella

Sartoria formosa flannel suit - some absolutely incredible fabric here.

Dents England gloves - perhaps the softest things I have ever felt. The rabbit fur ones were so incredible that “after feeling these, cashmere-lined gloves feel like sandpaper,” according to Greg. I’d be inclined to agree.

Sweaters galore

Casentino wool by LBM 1911

Styleforum Spotlight - Greg Lellouche and No Man Walks Alone

One of the most anticipated vendors in the Styleforum Trunk Show last month was No Man Walks Alone, the new online men’s store recently founded by Greg Lellouche. I had the pleasure of chatting with Greg that afternoon, and talked to him about his store, his products, and his own sense of style.

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

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.