Put This On Season 2 Episode 3 Clothing Credits

Intro & Savile Row

Coat - Vintage by Capper & Capper

Scarf - Courtesy of Christine Cariati

Gloves - Vintage

Hat - Vintage by Royal Stetson

Suit - Vintage by Giacomo Trabalza

Cardigan - Vintage by Brooks Brothers (From S2E2)

Shirt - Thin Red Line

Tie - Ralph Lauren Purple Label

Pocket Square - Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

Shoes - Vintage Alden

How It’s Made: Drake’s Necktie

Suit - High Society Tailor (cloth by Molloy & Sons)

Cuff Links - Vintage

Shirt - Thin Red Line

Tie - Vintage Carroll & Co.

Square - Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

The Charm of Tassel Loafers
I really like tassel loafers. I’m wearing a shell cordovan pair now with brown sharkskin trousers, a dark green v-neck sweater, light blue oxford cloth button-down shirt, navy over-the-calf socks, and a dark reddish-brown alligator belt. With clothes that are a bit too fully cut, tassel loafers can look a little fuddy duddy; with clothes that are too tight, they can look overly hip. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is where they look best.
Tassel loafers came into being in the post-war period of the 1940s, right when tweed jackets, Shetland sweaters, and penny loafers dominated prep schools and Ivy League campuses. As college students graduated, they wanted something as comfortable as their slip-ons, but were a bit dressier and more sophisticated for their new life in the business world. It was around this time that an actor named Paul Lukas came back from Europe with a pair of oxfords. They had little tassels at the end of their laces, which Lukas thought made them look more lively. So he took them to a couple of New York shoemakers to see if they could make something similar, and they in turn took the job to Alden. The company’s president at the time, Arthur Tarlow, came up with tasseled loafers and they were an instant success. That makes Alden’s model the original, and Paul Lukas the first man to wear this style of footwear. You can read more about this wonderful history in this article by Bruce Boyer.
Tassel loafers come in a variety of colors and leathers. The most common is brown calfskin, but the ne plus ultra is the reddish-brown shell cordovan that comes from Chicago’s Horween Tannery. Shell cordovan has the particularly good quality of holding the color burgundy well. In calf, burgundy can sometimes look cheap, but in horsehide leather, it absolutely glows. 
As for where to get them, there are probably a dozens of versions on the market. I’ll only cover a few. As mentioned, Alden’s is the original and its history as the classic makes it hard to beat. They also make a similar model for Brooks Brothers. The main deviation is the piece of leather that’s added to the heel cup. From England, we have Crockett & Jones’ Cavendish and Edward Green’s Belgravia. Crockett & Jones also makes a shell cordovan version for Ralph Lauren called the the Marlow, and it has a slightly more unique shade of shell cordovan brown.
My own pair is Allen Edmonds’ Grayson. It’s quite similar to Alden’s, but it has a higher vamp, which is the part the shoe that covers the top part of your foot. I thought it looked slightly better this way, so I bought a pair in shell cordovan. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase and recommend them highly.
If you’d like more affordable options, consider Loake’s Lincoln and Meermin’s 101381. Both come in around $175, but Meermin has the added advantage of being able to do special orders. If you’d like to get a pair in shell cordovan or suede, or made from a different last or sole, they’d be happy to make you a pair for a small surcharge. I have a pair of their made-to-order shoes and couldn’t be more impressed with their value. To order, read this buyer’s guide and then go to Meermin’s website. My only comment on that guide is that you should ask Meermin for sizing advice; don’t just assume. 
Tassel loafers aren’t anything I’d call “an essential,” but they’re certainly very enjoyable to wear. If you work in an environment that lets you get away with more casual footwear, try wearing a pair of these with a wool sweater and corduroys, or maybe a checkered tweed and flannel wool trousers. Both will carry a great sense of American style that’s both casual and sophisticated. 

The Charm of Tassel Loafers

I really like tassel loafers. I’m wearing a shell cordovan pair now with brown sharkskin trousers, a dark green v-neck sweater, light blue oxford cloth button-down shirt, navy over-the-calf socks, and a dark reddish-brown alligator belt. With clothes that are a bit too fully cut, tassel loafers can look a little fuddy duddy; with clothes that are too tight, they can look overly hip. Somewhere in the middle, I think, is where they look best.

Tassel loafers came into being in the post-war period of the 1940s, right when tweed jackets, Shetland sweaters, and penny loafers dominated prep schools and Ivy League campuses. As college students graduated, they wanted something as comfortable as their slip-ons, but were a bit dressier and more sophisticated for their new life in the business world. It was around this time that an actor named Paul Lukas came back from Europe with a pair of oxfords. They had little tassels at the end of their laces, which Lukas thought made them look more lively. So he took them to a couple of New York shoemakers to see if they could make something similar, and they in turn took the job to Alden. The company’s president at the time, Arthur Tarlow, came up with tasseled loafers and they were an instant success. That makes Alden’s model the original, and Paul Lukas the first man to wear this style of footwear. You can read more about this wonderful history in this article by Bruce Boyer.

Tassel loafers come in a variety of colors and leathers. The most common is brown calfskin, but the ne plus ultra is the reddish-brown shell cordovan that comes from Chicago’s Horween Tannery. Shell cordovan has the particularly good quality of holding the color burgundy well. In calf, burgundy can sometimes look cheap, but in horsehide leather, it absolutely glows. 

As for where to get them, there are probably a dozens of versions on the market. I’ll only cover a few. As mentioned, Alden’s is the original and its history as the classic makes it hard to beat. They also make a similar model for Brooks Brothers. The main deviation is the piece of leather that’s added to the heel cup. From England, we have Crockett & Jones’ Cavendish and Edward Green’s Belgravia. Crockett & Jones also makes a shell cordovan version for Ralph Lauren called the the Marlow, and it has a slightly more unique shade of shell cordovan brown.

My own pair is Allen Edmonds’ Grayson. It’s quite similar to Alden’s, but it has a higher vamp, which is the part the shoe that covers the top part of your foot. I thought it looked slightly better this way, so I bought a pair in shell cordovan. I couldn’t be happier with the purchase and recommend them highly.

If you’d like more affordable options, consider Loake’s Lincoln and Meermin’s 101381. Both come in around $175, but Meermin has the added advantage of being able to do special orders. If you’d like to get a pair in shell cordovan or suede, or made from a different last or sole, they’d be happy to make you a pair for a small surcharge. I have a pair of their made-to-order shoes and couldn’t be more impressed with their value. To order, read this buyer’s guide and then go to Meermin’s website. My only comment on that guide is that you should ask Meermin for sizing advice; don’t just assume. 

Tassel loafers aren’t anything I’d call “an essential,” but they’re certainly very enjoyable to wear. If you work in an environment that lets you get away with more casual footwear, try wearing a pair of these with a wool sweater and corduroys, or maybe a checkered tweed and flannel wool trousers. Both will carry a great sense of American style that’s both casual and sophisticated. 

Chukkas for Fall

Fall for me is about boots. Brass-buckled tan jodhpurs worn with olive moleskins; shell cordovan balmoral boots, in that perfect tone of reddish brown, worn with grey flannel trousers; and handsewn, chunky moc-toe boots worn with dark blue jeans. There are dozens of styles, but the most versatile and easy-to-wear of them all is the chukka. Brought over from India by the British Raj, these were named “chukkas” after the playing period in polo. They were quite popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and today can still be worn with a wide range of ensembles – anything from chinos to jeans to wool trousers, put together with something as dressy as a sport coat or as casual a four-pocket field jacket. They can even be worn with suits, although it’s advisable to stick with more “casual” varieties, such as ones made from flannel, linen, or tweed, rather than smooth, lightweight worsted wools.

There are number of good options to consider. For those on a budget, I recommend Loake or Meermin. Loake has two models: the Kempton, which is built on the round toe 026 last, and the Pimlico, which is built on the slightly sleeker, soft-square toe Capital. These are also available rebranded as the Harwood at Charles Trywhitt, as well as the Gosforth and Barrow from Herring. Meermin, on the other hand, has two suede models on their Rui last, which is a round toe design you can more closely inspect here. If you happen to not like the Rui, Meermin can also custom build you a chukka with any last, leather, and sole you wish for a small surcharge. Just drop them a note through their website to order. Their quality is just as good, if not considerably better once you go made-to-order, as Loake’s. 

If you’re willing to spend a little bit more money, there’s a wider range of options. Allen Edmonds, for example, has their Malvern on sale for about $250. For a few hundred dollars more, there’s a number of designs at Crockett and Jones, which you can peruse by doing a search on their website for “chukkas.” My favorite from them is probably the Brecon, a country calf leather boot built on a Dainite sole. It’s a very rustic shoe that can be successfully paired with corduroys, moleskins, and jeans. For something sleeker, check out Kent Wang, who has something similar to the Crockett and Jones’ Tetbury for about $350. Additionally, there’s this handsome shell cordovan version from Alden. If you want one, but can’t afford the price, you can have something similar made through Meermin, custom ordered, for about half the cost.

Of course, those just scratch the surface of the most basic models available. There’s also crepe rubber soled chukkas, which are an incredible pleasure to walk on. Like other well made shoes, these can last years and years if properly taken care of and given regular resolings. Simple, basic designs include Clark’s Desert Boots, Church’s Sahara, Loake’s Campden, and A Suitable Wardrobe’s Easy Fitting Chukka. For something lighter and more breathable, try ones that are unlined. Unlined chukkas lack structure around the uppers, so they feel more like slippers. Models here include Allen Edmonds’ Amok and Alden’s 1494. The Amok is noticeably sleeker, but I find more charm in Alden’s wider 1494 version. Crockett and Jones also has unlined models called the Milton and Hartland, as well as one simply named the “Chukka.” All of those are available for view on their website and for purchase through their New York City store.

Whatever you choose, I encourage you to pick up a pair (if you don’t already own some) and try wearing them this fall with jeans and tweeds, corduroys and Shetland sweaters, and wool trousers and waxed cotton coats. In a smooth brown calfskin or russet shade of suede, these can be some of the most versatile shoes you will ever own. 

Casual Summer Footwear

Like most men of my generation, I rarely wear more “formal” clothes such as dark wool suits and black oxford shoes. Much of my wardrobe consists of more casual items, though I admit it leans towards the dressier side of things. That means lots of odd trousers and sport coats, casual button-up shirts, and shoes such as derbys, boots, and slip-ons. With the passing of Memorial Day and the unofficial arrival of summer, I thought I’d review some casual footwear options for the new season. Basically things that will work with what I think most men already have in their closet.

Generally speaking, I think men tend to look smarter in a pair of leather shoes than trainers. The one exception is white sneakers during the summer. For some ensembles, such as a pair of navy chinos and a colorful madras shirt, there may be nothing better. My favorites in this category include Superga, Chuck Taylors’ All Stars, and Vans’ Authentics, but there are many others. I covered a bunch of them last year in a post about plimsolls. In addition to those, you can consider the Common Projects and German Army Trainers that Jesse has talked about, as well as Svensson’s Classic Low Whites, Superga’s 1705s, and Superga’s decks. Svensson is a bit more refined looking, like Common Projects, but comes at a lower price point and even less branding. Men of Ilk is offering a 20% off discount code right now (GLCCW49), which puts the Svenssons at $180 for American customers. As for the Supergas, I bought a pair of the 1705s a few months ago and have been really enjoying them. The branding is less obvious and the design is basic enough to pair with most things.

For something slightly dressier, you can consider chukka boots. I know boots are a bit of an odd suggestion for summer footwear, but depending on your regional climate, I think they can work quite well. Alden’s unlined suede chukka, for example, is so soft and buttery that it wears very much like a slipper. The lack of leather lining inside makes the upper more malleable and breathable, much like a canvas shoe. My friend Stephen at The Simply Refined has said everything I could say about them. For something similar, you can consider Church’s Sahara and Allen Edmonds’ Amok. The brown version of the Amok is on clearance right now for $125.

If you prefer a bit more structure in your leather chukkas, you should check out Loake’s Kempton, Sahara, and Camden. Brooks Brothers also has a suede boot that gets discounted to $130 or so at the end of every season, and there’s of course Clark’s desert boots that everyone already knows about. If you have a bit more money to spend, I would also recommend A Suitable Wardrobe’s crepe sole chukka. I really like the shape of the toe box and think the crepe sole/ suede upper combination helps underscore the casualness of the shoes.

Finally, I’ll also suggest you get a pair of loafers this summer. Like with chukkas, these can be worn mostly year round, but feel especially nice for the warmer seasons. There are a good number of styles to consider, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with the classic American penny loafer. Inspired by the Norwegian moccasin, the penny loafer was the sine non-qua for the post-war “Ivy Look,” and still looks quite sharp today. I recommend getting them from American manufacturers such as Alden, Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Rancourt, and Oak Street Bootmakers. Bass also has some, though their quality is much lower these days. Outside of American companies, you may also want to look into Markowski, Herring, and Loake, as well as some of the models that Crockett & Jones offers.

Of course, there are dozens of good causal footwear styles, and some may be better suited for warm weather conditions than the ones above (e.g. espadrilles, white bucks, and spectators). However, for good, versatile basics that can work well for summer and transition into fall, I think you’d do well with white sneakers, suede chukkas, and leather penny loafers. 

Five Footwear Brands under $250

There’s no article of clothing that reveals more about the wearer’s taste, as well as attention to detail and care, than a pair of nice shoes. Perhaps that’s why the legendary menswear journalist, George Frazier, once said, “Wanna know if a guy is well dressed? Look down.”

Unfortunately, nice shoes are also very expensive. Allen Edmonds, for example, sells their models for around $350, and they’re one of the more “affordable” brands. Most people would hesitate to spend $350 on shoes, so I thought I’d name some companies that price theirs a little lower. Here are five brands that sell shoes for $250 or less. 

Note that this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, nor is it meant to compete with what you can get on eBay or at a thrift store. These are full retail prices for brand new shoes. You may be able to get better deals through sales, auctions, or second-hand stores, but that’s a discussion for another time. 

Meermin: Meermin is a Spanish manufacturer that’s just getting started, but they look very promising. They have two lines - Classic and Linea Maestro. The Classic line is the more affordable one, so that’s what we’ll concern ourselves with. The shoes in this range sell for between $150 and $200, and they’re made with Goodyear welt construction and leathers sourced from some of Europe’s best tanneries. Their suede, for example, comes from the same company that serves Alden. You can look at this page to get a sense of some of their lasts, and order any of their shoes by sending them an email. 

I don’t have first hand experience with any of their products, but the company is sending me a pair to review soon. I’ll report back when I get them. 

Markowski: Markowski sells slightly sleeker looking models for about $150. They use full-grained European leathers and construction techniques in all the respectable forms - Goodyear, Norwegian, and Blake. If you need your shoes shipped outside of Europe, you’ll need to call their shop in Paris to order. The manager at the shop speaks decent English. 

Note that I also haven’t handled Markowski in person, but everything I’ve read about them at StyleForum suggests they represent a good value. You can read more about the company in an old post I wrote.

Loake: Loake has a few lines, but the only one I’d feel comfortable recommending is the 1880, which is available on their site and through Pediwear. These are made with full grained leathers, classic designs, and Goodyear welt construction. They’re essentially decent English shoes for a reasonably affordable price. Perhaps one of the biggest upsides to Loake is that they’re a much bigger operation than Meermin and Markowski, which means sometimes you’ll find their shoes pop up on eBay for even less than they retail for. 

Charles Tyrwhitt: Although the intention of this list was to recommend companies that sell shoes for under $250 at full-retail value, Charles Tyrwhitt holds sales so often that their sale prices might as well be considered the norm. Most of their models are made by Loake, and they may even use them exclusively. 

I’ve owned shoes by both Loake and Charles Tyrwhitt. They’re more or less comparable to Allen Edmonds, though mine have aged slightly less well. At full retail, they’re about $250, which I think is a fair price. You can also easily find them on eBay or wait for deeper discounts. 

Calzados Correa: Argentina has a rich tradition of shoe making, and one of the older operations is Calzados Correa, a company in Buenos Aires that makes both bespoke and ready-to-wear shoes. Their ready-to-wear range can be had for as low as $120, and they’re made with Goodyear welt construction and full grained, Argentine leathers. At least from photos I’ve seen online, the craftsmanship doesn’t seem to be as good as some of the makers above, but they’re also about half the price. If you go with them, I would recommend picking something in suede, as per Jesse’s advice, and perhaps choosing a simple design. Of course, I have no experience with them, so their calf leathers and construction might be very nice, but in this way, at least you hedge your bets. 

If you speak Spanish, you can call their shop; if you don’t, you’ll have to call and ask for an email address. They have someone who can write in English, or you can use Google Translate

A Tale of Two Shoes

StyleForum has a great thread titled "A Tale of Two Shoes." In it, a member named Demeter shows a pair of Bruno Maglis that he picked up at a thrift store. The things look like garbage. The outsole is peeling away from the shoe, there are salt stains on the leather, and the uppers look like they haven’t been cared for even once in their entire life. 

Demeter brought these to a local cobbler to have them repaired, and the results are nothing short of magnificent. Through a series of steps that Demeter documents in the thread, the cobbler turned the pair you see in the top picture to the pair you see on the bottom. It’s as though he made them brand new again. 

If you’re on a tight budget, you can use the same trick to score a pair of decent, workhorse shoes. Pairs as beat up as those Maglis can be had for as little as $5 at your local Goodwill store or thrift shop. Depending on who you go to for the repair, and what kind of work needs to be done, the recrafting service should run you anywhere between $90 and $150. The key is to just make sure the uppers, liners, and insole are still intact when you buy your shoes. They don’t have to be beautiful (as Demeter has demonstrated); they just have to be intact. The shoes should of course also be Goodyear welted or Blake stitched

If you happen to pick up a pair of Allen Edmonds of Aldens, the original manufacturer can recraft the shoes for you, as well as reshape the uppers on the original last. You can also take your shoes to B. Nelson or Cobblestone, two of the most frequently recommended shoe repair shops on sites such as Ask Andy and StyleForum. If you’d like to use someone local, try looking up your city on the Shoe Service Institute of America’s website. Finding someone shouldn’t be difficult, though you may get more expert service from some of the previously mentioned operations. 

To read more about recrafting shoes, check out this thread at Ask Andy

Save on Suede
Ryan Plett from [you_have_broken_the_internet] dropped a recommendation for these reasonably affordable Johnston & Murphy suede derbies, which weigh in at $135 full retail.
If you’re looking to cut corners on shoe spending, this is exactly where you can do it. The suede in casual shoes like these serves the same purpose as corrected-grain leather - it helps cover up imperfections in hides, allowing the shoemaker to save money on cheap leather. Unlike corrected-grain leather, though, it still looks perfectly decent. Maybe not quite as lustrous as fine-quality suede, but plenty good enough.
Similarly, the rubber soles on these casual shoes save the manufacturer money, but they’re also appropriate for the shoe style. Since you’re unlikely to re-sole a rubber-soled buck anyway, the advantages of quality construction, like ease of re-soling, are greatly reduced. These are knock-around shoes, and you should pay knock-around prices.
If you buy a wingtip at full retail and pay $125, you’ll get something that is very obviously of poor quality. The leather will be visibly cheap - shiny and plasticky. The shoe won’t be resolable, and will be unlikely to last. It’s simply not a good decision.
Buy a suede buck for $125, and it’s a different story. When it comes to suede casual shoes, $125 buys you a shoe that’s pretty darn close to what you’d get for $300, at least in practical terms. There will be a difference: the construction of the expensive shoe will be better, the materials better, the styling perhaps more elegant, but the performance gap is much, much smaller than with a dress shoe. And when you consider that shoes by mid-range companies like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy can often be found on deep discount, there’s no reason you have to spend more than $75 or $80 for a pair of bucks or suede saddles.

Save on Suede

Ryan Plett from [you_have_broken_the_internet] dropped a recommendation for these reasonably affordable Johnston & Murphy suede derbies, which weigh in at $135 full retail.

If you’re looking to cut corners on shoe spending, this is exactly where you can do it. The suede in casual shoes like these serves the same purpose as corrected-grain leather - it helps cover up imperfections in hides, allowing the shoemaker to save money on cheap leather. Unlike corrected-grain leather, though, it still looks perfectly decent. Maybe not quite as lustrous as fine-quality suede, but plenty good enough.

Similarly, the rubber soles on these casual shoes save the manufacturer money, but they’re also appropriate for the shoe style. Since you’re unlikely to re-sole a rubber-soled buck anyway, the advantages of quality construction, like ease of re-soling, are greatly reduced. These are knock-around shoes, and you should pay knock-around prices.

If you buy a wingtip at full retail and pay $125, you’ll get something that is very obviously of poor quality. The leather will be visibly cheap - shiny and plasticky. The shoe won’t be resolable, and will be unlikely to last. It’s simply not a good decision.

Buy a suede buck for $125, and it’s a different story. When it comes to suede casual shoes, $125 buys you a shoe that’s pretty darn close to what you’d get for $300, at least in practical terms. There will be a difference: the construction of the expensive shoe will be better, the materials better, the styling perhaps more elegant, but the performance gap is much, much smaller than with a dress shoe. And when you consider that shoes by mid-range companies like Cole Haan and Johnston & Murphy can often be found on deep discount, there’s no reason you have to spend more than $75 or $80 for a pair of bucks or suede saddles.

Season Two, Episode One: Clothing Credits

Introduction

Cap: J. Press

Scarf: Johnstons of Elgin

Coat: Capper & Capper (Vintage)

Gloves: Brooks Brothers

The ‘Lo Heads

Coat: Polo Ralph Lauren

Shirt: Charvet (Vintage)

Tie: Ralph Lauren Purple Label

Sweater: Vintage

Pocket Square: Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

Trousers: Pro Tailor

Shoes: Alden

Q & Answer

Suit: High Society Tailor, cloth by Molloy & Sons

Shirt: Thin Red Line

Tie: Drake’s

Pocket Square: Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

The Black Tie Shoe That’s Good For Something Else
Kent Wang just announced a new shoe, a black plain toe balmoral (pictured to the left, above). In keeping with Kent’s commitment to basics (he started making white pocket squares and double-sided cufflinks from vintage buttons), the shoe is a simple as can be.
(The balmoral, in American usage anyway, refers to a shoe with closed lacing - you can see in the photos above that the bit of leather with the lacing holes is sewn into the body of the shoe, rather than left open, as in a blucher. This makes for a dressier aesthetic.)
Kent says he made a plain-toe bal because it’s the simplest black dress shoe there is. It’s appropriate for any formal occasion, from wearing with a suit all the way up to black tie. That’s a convincing argument, if you ask me.
Shoes are one of the biggest problems for men who want to have their own black tie rig rather than renting. Tuxedos are available at a variety of price points, especially if you’re willing to go vintage. Shoes are tougher.
Patent leather looks like a cheap rental to my eyes no matter how high-quality the shoe. Cheap rentals look fantastically awful. Evening slippers (also called opera pumps), the most elegant option, can be prohibitively expensive - the Brooks Brothers version, while handsome, costs a hefty $448, and they’re tough to find used. Five hundred bucks is a lot for most folks to spend on shoes they’ll wear once a year.
Many men simply wear black wingtips with their tuxedo, or worse, black loafers. Frankly, you might as well wear sneakers - only you don’t get any rebel points for wearing loafers. Black cap toes are marginally better, but still look out of place, particularly if they feature any broguing. They simply read as, “I was doing great until I got to the shoes, then I gave up.”
A plain-toe black shoe, with closed lacing, highly shined, is a very reasonable alternative to evening shoes with black tie. You avoid the cheap, plasticky look of patent leather, and you get a shoe that can actually be worn for more than just black tie events. That’s a very solid investment, if you ask me.
Kent’s version, which is made in Vietnam (albeit to a high standard), is $350. The Alden version, with a more American shape, is about a hundred dollars more. Crockett & Jones Wembley model, available made-to-order from Pediwear, runs at about $390, plus shipping. Brooks Brothers’ offering, made in England (quite possibly by C&J) is $448.

The Black Tie Shoe That’s Good For Something Else

Kent Wang just announced a new shoe, a black plain toe balmoral (pictured to the left, above). In keeping with Kent’s commitment to basics (he started making white pocket squares and double-sided cufflinks from vintage buttons), the shoe is a simple as can be.

(The balmoral, in American usage anyway, refers to a shoe with closed lacing - you can see in the photos above that the bit of leather with the lacing holes is sewn into the body of the shoe, rather than left open, as in a blucher. This makes for a dressier aesthetic.)

Kent says he made a plain-toe bal because it’s the simplest black dress shoe there is. It’s appropriate for any formal occasion, from wearing with a suit all the way up to black tie. That’s a convincing argument, if you ask me.

Shoes are one of the biggest problems for men who want to have their own black tie rig rather than renting. Tuxedos are available at a variety of price points, especially if you’re willing to go vintage. Shoes are tougher.

Patent leather looks like a cheap rental to my eyes no matter how high-quality the shoe. Cheap rentals look fantastically awful. Evening slippers (also called opera pumps), the most elegant option, can be prohibitively expensive - the Brooks Brothers version, while handsome, costs a hefty $448, and they’re tough to find used. Five hundred bucks is a lot for most folks to spend on shoes they’ll wear once a year.

Many men simply wear black wingtips with their tuxedo, or worse, black loafers. Frankly, you might as well wear sneakers - only you don’t get any rebel points for wearing loafers. Black cap toes are marginally better, but still look out of place, particularly if they feature any broguing. They simply read as, “I was doing great until I got to the shoes, then I gave up.”

A plain-toe black shoe, with closed lacing, highly shined, is a very reasonable alternative to evening shoes with black tie. You avoid the cheap, plasticky look of patent leather, and you get a shoe that can actually be worn for more than just black tie events. That’s a very solid investment, if you ask me.

Kent’s version, which is made in Vietnam (albeit to a high standard), is $350. The Alden version, with a more American shape, is about a hundred dollars more. Crockett & Jones Wembley model, available made-to-order from Pediwear, runs at about $390, plus shipping. Brooks Brothers’ offering, made in England (quite possibly by C&J) is $448.

Q and Answer: Ten In-Between Shoes

Matt asks: I need a new pair of shoes!  What I have right now is either too casual (a sneaker) or too formal (a fancy dress shoe), but I’m trying to figure out something in between. Any suggestions?

This is a question we get a lot. For men who want to wear something a little more put-together than their beat-up Nikes, but aren’t yet ready for a full-on sportcoat-trousers-dress-shoes ensemble, is there anything in between?

The simple answer is: yes. Here are ten choices for casual footwear that will keep you a head above the dirty sneaker crowd. (It’s a little tougher in the summer, so I’ll start there - the pictures run left to right and top to bottom.)

  1. Refined sneakers. When choosing sneakers, look for simplicity. White’s a great color for spring and summer, black and brown will do you well in the cooler months. You want as few details as possible here, and if you’re going to try and dress them up, they should be clean and sharp. I’ve got some Common Projects, the gold standard for this kind of thing, pictured above, but if you can find similarly simple leather sneakers from a brand that doesn’t cost a bajillion dollars, go for it.
  2. Boat shoes. While their ubiquity the past few years or their inherent preppiness might be a turn-off, boat shoes remain the default casual summer shoe (non-sneaker category). Wear them without socks in pretty much any casual situation during the hot-weather months. Then put them away.
  3. Espadrilles. These are the classic European vacation shoe - what Cary Grant might wear to the French Riviera. They’re cheap, comfortable and refined. Just don’t try to wear them outside of summer vacation, and for goodness’ sake don’t wear those awful Toms.
  4. Crepe-soled Chukkas. Desert boots are a comfortable, good-looking mostly-casual shoe for nine months of the year. Like boat shoes, they’re starting to overwhelm with their ubiquity, but if you try an alternative style like the calf version above, you can get a little more refinement and a little less “been there, done that.” (I can’t believe I just typed “been there, done that.”)
  5. Leather-soled Chukkas. Chukkas with leather or dainite soles like the brown suede pair above are one of the most versatile shoes you can own. They’re great with jeans, and in a pinch they could even be worn with a suit (though maybe not in suede). 
  6. Camp Mocs. Camp mocs are the cool-weather equivalent of the boat shoe. Inexpensive, casual, preppy and a little more refined than sneakers. The LL Bean Blucher Moc is the standard here, though the quality isn’t as high on them as it once was. Works great with jeans or chinos, but not so much with a more formal look.
  7. Plain-Toe Bluchers. This is the classic casual shoe. My own pair is an old double-soled pair of Florsheims in shell cordovan. I wear them with everything short of a suit. Black looks like security guard shoes, so avoid it. Brown is a touch more casual than burgundy, and crepe soles a touch more casual than leather.
  8. Country Brogues. Grenson is the classic maker of real country brogues, so that’s what you see above. The leather in shoes was originally perforated by folks who lived in marshy, wet conditions and wanted shoes that shed water. It’s purely decorative now, but still casual relative to other oxfords. If you want to wear brogues casually, look for prominent broguing, a stout shape and heavy soles. These are too casual for most suits (save country suits like corduroy or tweed), but if they’re clunky enough, they can stand up to blue jeans well. The boot equivalent of these shoes is even more casual. Note, also, that crepe soles or (especially) suede can turn down the formality of most dress shoes.
  9. Work and Outdoor Boots. There are a broad range of work-style boots. I’ve pictured something in the middle, the Red Wing Gentleman Traveler. On the casual end are hunting and hiking boots (like Danners) and real work boots (like traditional Red Wings, with lug soles and moc toes). I love my Alden Indy Boots, which are moc-toed, but otherwise quite refined - I wear them with chinos or jeans and a casual blazer all the time. Also in this category are military-inspired boots, like Polo Rangers.
  10. The Chelsea Boot. I’ve pictured a pair by the Australian maker R.M. Williams. A hefty, chunky Chelsea like these is more casual. A more refined model can even be worn with a suit. In fact, the Chelsea is probably the shoe that most comfortably goes from casual to formal.

Remember: city is more formal than country. Leather soles more formal than rubber (and lug soles the least formal of all). Smooth leather is more formal than textured, which is more formal than suede, which in turn is more formal than unpolished. Shoes are more formal than boots. Shapely is more formal than clunky.

And always, always stay away from hybrids. Nothing good can come of two shoes mating.

Finding a level of formality that’s between slovenliness and traditional business dress is vital for anyone who isn’t a slob or a traditional businessman. Hopefully this will set you on your way.