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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Carmina, the small Spanish shoe company that has been making big waves in the menswear world, has risen to prominence in an impressive fashion over the past few years. In a landscape dominated by England and Italy, Carmina has shown that Spain is a major contender in the world of fine footwear, and did so by creating beautiful lasts and using extremely handsome leathers. There was a time that Carmina shoes were described as “undervalued” and “the next big thing,” but that honeymoon period has inevitably passed, as we have seen Carmina prices slowly rise in parallel with their popularity.
The Armoury is quite possibly the most celebrated vendor of Carmina shoes, and their stock is exceptional. Their selection starts at around $550, excluding shipping. Epaulet is the biggest stateside vendor; they have a unique collection of shoes and are known for their made-to-order programs. Their stock starts at around $550 as well, and includes shipping in the US.
There are several other vendors available, but one that is often overlooked is the actual Carmina website. Prices there are generally a bit lower, but the stock is somewhat miscellaneous and the product photos are not nearly as majestic as the other options, and fail to do the shoes justice. Compare the photo above with this one (or this with this) and you’ll see what I mean.
However, it is worth noting that the Carmina e-store is offering free worldwide shipping until December 31st (on orders over 250 euros, which shouldn’t be difficult to meet). This is a savings of about $70 for US customers. Not huge, but definitely noteworthy. Also note that non-EU countries can deduct VAT, which divides the list price by 1.21.
There are a few things to note about this sale. First, the dollar is currently getting dominated by the euro, which takes a bit of the sting out of the discount. Nonetheless, there is still a comfortable net savings. Second, shoe returns are challenging and expensive, so if you don’t know your size then it is important to do your homework and understand that there will be some risk involved. Lastly, it is my understanding that not all available models are shown on the website, and that the free shipping discount will be applied to other available stock as well. All inquiries can be made to Betty (firstname.lastname@example.org), the lovely lady that deals with more menswear nerds than most people face in a lifetime.
Some personal favorites of mine: the celebrated Inca last double monks (~$445), the popular string tassel suede loafers (~$360), and the suede balmoral boot shown above (~$500). There are also lots of great cordovan options as well. None of these are cheap by any means, but the prices are about as low a price as I’ve seen, at least for those of us who don’t live near one of their stores.
Tomorrow marks the beginning (and end) of Brooks Brothers’ Cooperate Membership Sale, which takes 30% off all full priced items (double the usual discount). If you don’t have a corporate discount, never fear; you can sign up for a membership here - it worked for me last year. I post this now because when I signed up it took a little while for Brooks Brothers to process it, so this way yours should be up and running by the time the sale starts. The sale is one day only and some items will sell out so it pays to be prepared (yeah, I’m an Eagle Scout. It’s kind of our motto).
As mentioned, the discount only works on full-priced items, so I recommend using it in one of two ways:
2) For items that have a “mutli-buy” discount already. For example, now is a great time for buying three of their oxford cloth button downs (one of my fall favorites). All fits have the same discount, and come to about $52/shirt when combining the 30% discount with the “3 for $225” price. Many other shirts have this discount as well. Some suits also have a bulk price, bringing their “2 for $1699” down to about $595 each - a great deal, especially if you’re the kind of guy that wears suits to work.
Some sweaters have multi-buy discounts as well, so if you were to buy two cashmere sweaters (like this cable knit, another fall favorite) they would come out to $210 each. Expensive, but a pretty solid discount nonetheless.
Of course, it is possible that these discounts won’t stack but in the past it has worked well, and the rumor on the streets is that this sale will be no different.
All in all, this is a good time to stock up on some high-quality basics. If you have any trouble getting your corporate discount to be applied to your order or have any other questions, I highly suggest calling the BB service desk. In my experience, they have been very helpful (and very accommodating); they seem to understand that sales like this are a big deal to some of us menswear enthusiasts and are there to help us make the most of it.
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.