Q & Answer: How Do You Pick the Right Shoe Size Online?

Zack writes to us to ask: I’m interested in buying a pair of shoes online, but am having trouble figuring out if they’d fit. I emailed the manufacturer and they gave me the length and width measurements in millimeters. The problem is, I don’t know whether the longest part of my foot aligns with the longest part of the shoe. Do you have any suggestions for what measurements I should ask for, so I can make an educated guess?

I’m not a big fan of measurements for shoes. Like you, I never know what I’m supposed to do with them. 

The length of a shoe can vary depending on a few factors.

  • Size, most obviously. But you’d be surprised how little changes from size to size. The difference can be as small as an eighth of an inch.
  • Welting technique. By welting technique, I mean how the sole was attached to the uppers. The length of your shoes — as measured from the bottom of your soles — can vary depending on the welting technique, as well as within the same kind of construction. Check out the two shoes above, for example. One is from Allen Edmonds, the other from Edward Green. Both are made with Goodyear welts, but the heel on the Allen Edmonds sticks out a bit more from the heel cup, while the heel of the Edward Greens hugs the shoe. 
  • Heel design. Although not as common, some shoes will have what’s known as a canted or Cuban heel, such as these from Saint Crispin’s. Again, compare them to the straight-down heel of the Allen Edmonds shoe above, and you can see how this would affect the measurement of the shoes at the bottom of the sole. 
  • Most importantly, the last. The last is the wooden form on which the leather is pulled over so that it can take a certain shape. You can have lasts in all sorts of shapes. Some shoes can be round and stubby (like Alden); some can be very long and pointy (like Gaziano & Girling). This will affect the length of a shoe more than anything else. You can have two perfectly fitting shoes, but one might be slightly longer simply because the toes were designed to look sleeker. 

In the end, it’s not even the length of your shoes that matter, but rather the heel-to-ball measurement. Critical to your fit is where the heel and ball of your feet sit in your shoes, not whether the ends of your shoe come within a certain distance to your toes.

There’s really only one way to figure out your size online, assuming you can’t try stuff on first.

  • Figure out your Brannock size. Go to a place like Nordstrom and ask someone to measure you. It’s sometimes good to get both feet measured, as few people have the same sized feet. 
  • Ask the store or manufacturer for advice. Not all salespeople will know what they’re talking about, so take their advice with a grain of salt. That said, there are few better places to get sizing advice than from the store or manufacturer you’re buying from. They’re the ones who are likely to be most knowledgeable. Tell them your Brannock size, and if you have other high-end shoes, your size in other brands and models. I don’t mean sneakers like Nike, but rather dress shoes from companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, etc. 
  • Check this advice against the forum threads. Styleforum has the biggest archive of all clothing forums, but depending on what kind of shoes you’re buying, Superfuture and Ask Andy About Clothes can be useful as well. Iron Heart and Denimbro are also good for workwear type stuff. The key here is to search the archives before posting anything, as there’s usually a wealth of information you can mine. 

Finally, once you get your shoes, you can check to see if they fit according to this post.

Long story short: measurements are good for clothes, but bad for shoes. To find your size, you have to do some other stuff.

(Photos via Leffot, The Shoe Buff, and Bengal Stripe)

It’s On Sale: Aldens

Readers living in or near Vancouver, Canada might be interested to know that Roden Gray is offering a 20% discount on all Aldens. The deal is only good for in-store purchases, however, and the promotion starts tomorrow (Friday) and ends Sunday. 

Real People: The Much Neglected Derby

The poor derby doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its slicker cousin the oxford. The difference between a derby and an oxford, as many readers know, is in the lacing system. Derbys have eyelet tabs that sit on top of the shoe, like flaps, while oxfords have theirs completely sewn in. 

The cleaner, slicker style of oxfords means that they’re a bit more formal, but dressiness isn’t always a good thing. Derbys are a much better choice if you’re in casual clothing, such as jeans and a light jacket, or a sport coat with wool trousers. Oxfords, on the other hand, often only look right with suits. 

Take Ben in Los Angeles, for example. In the above, he’s wearing the plainest of all derbys - the plain toe blucher (aka the PTB). No broguing, cap toes, or any other detailing to set them apart. But with the kind of casual clothing Ben wears on weekends, they look just right underneath those cotton trousers. 

You can, of course, play around a bit with the other details of a PTB to suit whatever style you wear. The shell cordovan of Ben’s Aldens perfectly complement his workwear clothes, while the same style in black calf would go better with the kind of minimalist tailoring Pete featured here. And if PTBs are too plain for you, try a pair with brouging or a split toe. The point really is to just dial back your shoes so that they’re in concert with whatever you’re wearing. Unless you’re in a suit, oxfords are more often than not going to look too formal. If you’re not so dressed up, consider something like a derby. 

A Summertime Favorite: Penny Loafers
Once the weather warms up and the days get long, I often find that the best shoes are either sneakers or slip-ons. I typically wear sneakers with jeans and casual outerwear, and slip-ons with dressier trousers and sport coats. Styles can really range, but most of the time, sneakers tend to be white and minimalistic, and the slip-ons tend to be penny loafers.
The penny loafer is often thought of as a quintessentially American shoe — a style that’s most at home with tweed jackets and Shetland sweaters, as they were originally worn on Ivy League campuses in the mid-20th century. Today, however, you can safely wear them without any preppy connotations (although, you can also wear them as such, if you wish). With a sleeker pair of European pennies, for example, you can combine them with a soft-shouldered sport coat, wool trousers, and an open collared shirt for a very dégagé Continental look. With some beefroll loafers, jeans, and a light jacket, you can go back to looking like an American, but in a way that doesn’t feel too preppy. 
If you haven’t yet got yourself a pair, consider some of these:
Highly expensive at $750+: JM Weston’s 180 moccasin and John Lobb’s Lopez are pretty iconic, with the first having uniquely high walls around the toe that help distinguish it from the pack. My favorite loafers in this price tier, however, are all from Edward Green – an English firm known for its tasteful designs, quality construction, and beautiful finishing. Check out the Piccadilly, Montpellier, Sandown, and Harrow to start.
Pricey options between $350 and $500: Less expensive, but no less well-made, are loafers from all of your usual suspects. Carmina, for example, has something that looks very much like Edward Green’s Montpellier, while Alden has a wide range of handsome American designs. More recently, Wildsmith (a bespoke shoemaker once famous for their unlined loafers) relaunched as a ready-to-wear brand, and although their loafers aren’t as close to their originals as Edward Green’s Harrow, they’re priced competitively. Shipton & Heneage will also have a nice range of options, and they’re made a bit more affordable through the company’s Discount Club. Additionally, Crockett & Jones is very much worth a look, as are Alfred Sargent, Sid Mashburn’s house line, Kent Wang’s antique calf loafers, and the newly launched Paul Evans.
A bit more affordable at $350 and below: Of course, for more affordable shoes, there’s always Allen Edmonds’ factory second store, where the company heavily discounts shoes that didn’t pass quality control. Flaws are often very, very minor, if even visible at all. Loake’s 1880 line is also worth a look, and they sometimes produce for Charles Tyrwhitt and Herring (just note that some Loake-made shoes aren’t of terribly good quality, so use good judgment). Similarly, Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers will have some nice models, even though their quality can really range. Stick to the stuff that retails for $350 and above, and wait for end-of-season sales. In addition, Meermin offers some of the best price-to-value ratio right now in footwear, especially once you take into consideration their made-to-order program, and Jack Erwin is the best I’ve seen in the sub-$200 price range. For more American styled loafers, check out Rancourt and Bass’ Made in Maine collection.
Shell cordovan: Lastly, shell cordovan loafers are worth highlighting. Although shell cordovan is traditionally a workboot material, it works wonderfully today for slightly dressier styles (think wingtips, tassel loafers, and penny loafers). Alden’s Leisure Handsewn is a really beautiful American model, while Carmina will be more European. Meermin may also be able to make you something through their made-to-order program.
(Pictured above: Hooman Majd in his fifteen year old Edward Greens)

A Summertime Favorite: Penny Loafers

Once the weather warms up and the days get long, I often find that the best shoes are either sneakers or slip-ons. I typically wear sneakers with jeans and casual outerwear, and slip-ons with dressier trousers and sport coats. Styles can really range, but most of the time, sneakers tend to be white and minimalistic, and the slip-ons tend to be penny loafers.

The penny loafer is often thought of as a quintessentially American shoe — a style that’s most at home with tweed jackets and Shetland sweaters, as they were originally worn on Ivy League campuses in the mid-20th century. Today, however, you can safely wear them without any preppy connotations (although, you can also wear them as such, if you wish). With a sleeker pair of European pennies, for example, you can combine them with a soft-shouldered sport coat, wool trousers, and an open collared shirt for a very dégagé Continental look. With some beefroll loafers, jeans, and a light jacket, you can go back to looking like an American, but in a way that doesn’t feel too preppy. 

If you haven’t yet got yourself a pair, consider some of these:

  • Highly expensive at $750+: JM Weston’s 180 moccasin and John Lobb’s Lopez are pretty iconic, with the first having uniquely high walls around the toe that help distinguish it from the pack. My favorite loafers in this price tier, however, are all from Edward Green – an English firm known for its tasteful designs, quality construction, and beautiful finishing. Check out the Piccadilly, Montpellier, Sandown, and Harrow to start.
  • Pricey options between $350 and $500: Less expensive, but no less well-made, are loafers from all of your usual suspects. Carmina, for example, has something that looks very much like Edward Green’s Montpellier, while Alden has a wide range of handsome American designs. More recently, Wildsmith (a bespoke shoemaker once famous for their unlined loafers) relaunched as a ready-to-wear brand, and although their loafers aren’t as close to their originals as Edward Green’s Harrow, they’re priced competitively. Shipton & Heneage will also have a nice range of options, and they’re made a bit more affordable through the company’s Discount Club. Additionally, Crockett & Jones is very much worth a look, as are Alfred Sargent, Sid Mashburn’s house line, Kent Wang’s antique calf loafers, and the newly launched Paul Evans.
  • A bit more affordable at $350 and below: Of course, for more affordable shoes, there’s always Allen Edmonds’ factory second store, where the company heavily discounts shoes that didn’t pass quality control. Flaws are often very, very minor, if even visible at all. Loake’s 1880 line is also worth a look, and they sometimes produce for Charles Tyrwhitt and Herring (just note that some Loake-made shoes aren’t of terribly good quality, so use good judgment). Similarly, Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers will have some nice models, even though their quality can really range. Stick to the stuff that retails for $350 and above, and wait for end-of-season sales. In addition, Meermin offers some of the best price-to-value ratio right now in footwear, especially once you take into consideration their made-to-order program, and Jack Erwin is the best I’ve seen in the sub-$200 price range. For more American styled loafers, check out Rancourt and Bass’ Made in Maine collection.
  • Shell cordovan: Lastly, shell cordovan loafers are worth highlighting. Although shell cordovan is traditionally a workboot material, it works wonderfully today for slightly dressier styles (think wingtips, tassel loafers, and penny loafers). Alden’s Leisure Handsewn is a really beautiful American model, while Carmina will be more European. Meermin may also be able to make you something through their made-to-order program.

(Pictured above: Hooman Majd in his fifteen year old Edward Greens)

It’s On Sale: (Almost) Everything at Need Supply

Want those on-sale Aldens that Pete talked about yesterday? Well, they’re available at Need Supply, where you can take 20% off your whole order with the checkout code EVERYTHING20. The code works on everything except select items from APC. For footwear alone, check out Common Projects and Alden (two brands that are rarely discounted), as well as Converse, Vans, and Quoddy. You may also want to check out their sale section, where you can stack discounts. 

Pictured above: Alden Indy bootsQuoddy bluchersChuck Taylor high tops, and Common Projects Achilles. Sale will last until the end of tomorrow, June 24th. 

WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage
If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.
Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 
(Photo via LeatherSoul)

WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage

If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.

Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 

(Photo via LeatherSoul)


coppingandscheming asked:


Hi, I’m a big fan of the Clark desert boot. However i think it’s time to upgrade. I would like to find an option that is one step up in terms of quality and price. Do you have any suggestions?

Ah, the desert boot. The shoe that launched a thousand menswear blogs. One step up from Clarks unassailably basic desert boot (best in sand suede) is sort of a no man’s land of footwear. Clarks boots retail at $120 (although currently on sale <$100 at Need Supply). As you shop up the price ladder, styles vary a little, but quality doesn’t too much, until you get into the welted footwear makers; of course, their prices are triple the price of a pair of Clarks, or more. Some options:
A choice so obvious it risks being taken for granted is J. Crew’s Macalister boot. Macalisters are a little sharper and shapelier than Clarks and made in Italy of decent if not superlative soft suede. In the range between Clarks and $200, I’d pick the Macalisters. Plus they’re on sale for about $100 through May 24 with code PACKME.
Loake makes a desert boot that runs about $150. Loake is a Northampton-based shoe brand but their desert boots are made outside the UK in the EU. A little more interesting than the Clarks, but in my opinion, part of Clark’s appeal is their knockaround, anonymous quality. I’m borderline allergic to Loake’s darker color versions with contrast stitching.
If you’re willing and able to spend more or wait for sales, two upgraded desert boots worth buying are Church’s Sahara (pictured above) or the Alden unlined chukka, which is more often sold with a leather sole rather than traditional desert boot crepe.
The Church’s version drains any vintage milsurp vibe from the desert boot—Sahara are more narrowly lasted with Goodyear welting with much finer stitching that the Clarks boots. If you’re into desert boots for their mod connotations, I think the Church’s shoes fit the narrow-trousered aesthetic better than current Clarks. Note that if you have large feet, the slightly longer last and higher lacing may exaggerate that effect.
The Aldens are considered by many the perfect casual shoe. Neither too sharp nor too clunky, they’re quite comfortable and go as perfectly with denim as a good leather jacket and a plain tshirt. They’re also distinctive looking, with a double line of stitching on the  quarters, which are much less sharply angled than most chukkas/desert boots. The only drawback for me is the cost—about $500 and rarely discounted.  Ebay or other secondary markets are better bets for off price Aldens.
-Pete

Hi, I’m a big fan of the Clark desert boot. However i think it’s time to upgrade. I would like to find an option that is one step up in terms of quality and price. Do you have any suggestions?

Ah, the desert boot. The shoe that launched a thousand menswear blogs. One step up from Clarks unassailably basic desert boot (best in sand suede) is sort of a no man’s land of footwear. Clarks boots retail at $120 (although currently on sale <$100 at Need Supply). As you shop up the price ladder, styles vary a little, but quality doesn’t too much, until you get into the welted footwear makers; of course, their prices are triple the price of a pair of Clarks, or more. Some options:

  • A choice so obvious it risks being taken for granted is J. Crew’s Macalister boot. Macalisters are a little sharper and shapelier than Clarks and made in Italy of decent if not superlative soft suede. In the range between Clarks and $200, I’d pick the Macalisters. Plus they’re on sale for about $100 through May 24 with code PACKME.
  • Loake makes a desert boot that runs about $150. Loake is a Northampton-based shoe brand but their desert boots are made outside the UK in the EU. A little more interesting than the Clarks, but in my opinion, part of Clark’s appeal is their knockaround, anonymous quality. I’m borderline allergic to Loake’s darker color versions with contrast stitching.

If you’re willing and able to spend more or wait for sales, two upgraded desert boots worth buying are Church’s Sahara (pictured above) or the Alden unlined chukka, which is more often sold with a leather sole rather than traditional desert boot crepe.

  • The Church’s version drains any vintage milsurp vibe from the desert boot—Sahara are more narrowly lasted with Goodyear welting with much finer stitching that the Clarks boots. If you’re into desert boots for their mod connotations, I think the Church’s shoes fit the narrow-trousered aesthetic better than current Clarks. Note that if you have large feet, the slightly longer last and higher lacing may exaggerate that effect.
  • The Aldens are considered by many the perfect casual shoe. Neither too sharp nor too clunky, they’re quite comfortable and go as perfectly with denim as a good leather jacket and a plain tshirt. They’re also distinctive looking, with a double line of stitching on the  quarters, which are much less sharply angled than most chukkas/desert boots. The only drawback for me is the cost—about $500 and rarely discounted.  Ebay or other secondary markets are better bets for off price Aldens.

-Pete

John Helmer Haberdasher in Portland

I found myself puttering around downtown Portland on a recent morning, and decided to type “menswear” into my phone and see what came up. Luckily enough for me, the answer was John Helmer Haberdarsher.

Helmer is the kind of old-school men’s clothing store you find in the downtown of most major cities. It’s been on the same location for nearly a century, its ownership is in the hands of its third John Helmer, and the staff are a mix of young guys in bow ties, old guys in bow ties, and women who would wear bow ties if that were a reasonable and tasteful option.

Walk into Helmer and you’ll find the right half of the store taken up by hats of every shape and size. Sadly, it’s tough to find a really fine hat these days at retail, and the best of these was only fine, but there truly was a selection to beat the band. After putting on and taking off a summer hat by the German brand Mayser about a dozen times, I resolved to buy it. I recently cut my hair quite short and the sun in Los Angeles is unforgiving.

On the left-hand side of the store was traditional haberdashery fare. Rep ties, Southwick sportcoats, and a clerk helping a customer with a custom order of Bill’s Khakis. Behind glass was a beautiful selection of Alden shoes - I had to restrain myself from trying on a pair of shell cordovan plain-toed bluchers.

The service at the shop was uniformly excellent - you could tell that this was what these folks do, not just a summer job. The styling was uniformly, well, dad-ish. Maybe grandpa-ish… but if you expected something different perhaps you thought you were down the street at the high-end department store Mario’s. John Helmer Haberdasher offers a comfortable place to shop for traditional clothes, and next time I’m in Portland, I’ll pop in again.

It&#8217;s On Sale: Allen Edmonds&#8217; Amok
I&#8217;m told that Allen Edmonds is discontinuing their Amok boot, which is a shame because I think it&#8217;s a nice, affordable alternative to Alden&#8217;s suede unlined chukka. Like Alden&#8217;s, the Amok is unlined, so the suede uppers are very soft and wear like slippers. The single leather soles are also oil-soaked and very flexible. The only real difference between the two is that Allen Edmonds&#8217; is slightly sleeker in shape, whereas Alden&#8217;s look a bit more casual. Which one you prefer is all up to taste.
On the upside, they&#8217;re on pretty heavy discount right now. They&#8217;ve gone from $250 to a clearance price of $147, and with an extra 25% taken off at checkout, that puts them at ~$110 before taxes. You can get them in chocolate, tan, and snuff suede. They also have their Malvern chukkas on sale, but at a more expensive $185 price tag (again, the additional discount will be given at checkout). 
Promotion ends Tuesday.
Update: Looks like the shoes all sold out! Congrats to folks who got in on a great deal.  

It’s On Sale: Allen Edmonds’ Amok

I’m told that Allen Edmonds is discontinuing their Amok boot, which is a shame because I think it’s a nice, affordable alternative to Alden’s suede unlined chukka. Like Alden’s, the Amok is unlined, so the suede uppers are very soft and wear like slippers. The single leather soles are also oil-soaked and very flexible. The only real difference between the two is that Allen Edmonds’ is slightly sleeker in shape, whereas Alden’s look a bit more casual. Which one you prefer is all up to taste.

On the upside, they’re on pretty heavy discount right now. They’ve gone from $250 to a clearance price of $147, and with an extra 25% taken off at checkout, that puts them at ~$110 before taxes. You can get them in chocolate, tan, and snuff suede. They also have their Malvern chukkas on sale, but at a more expensive $185 price tag (again, the additional discount will be given at checkout). 

Promotion ends Tuesday.

Update: Looks like the shoes all sold out! Congrats to folks who got in on a great deal.  

Put This On Season 2, Episode 6 Clothing Credits

Intro & Outro

Suit: High Society Tailor (Fabric by Molloy & Sons)
Tie: Saks 5th
Shirt: CEGO Custom Shirts
Pocket Square: Put This On

In Interviews

Suit: Vintage
Shirt: CEGO Custom Shirts
Tie: Vintage
Shoes: Alden
Pocket Square: Put This On