Ron Rider gives some simple tips on how to clean up and restore shell cordovan shoes. Above is a pair of black boots he worked on. The right shoe is what the restored one on the left used to look like. If you want to purchase the various products he mentions in his post, you can buy them from his store. 
I love photos like this. It reminds me that if you invest in quality shoes, you can get as much, if not more, from taking care of your shoes as you can from buying new ones. 
Also, note that in the comments section, Ron explains what causes those welts on shell cordovan shoes once they’ve gotten wet. 

Ron Rider gives some simple tips on how to clean up and restore shell cordovan shoes. Above is a pair of black boots he worked on. The right shoe is what the restored one on the left used to look like. If you want to purchase the various products he mentions in his post, you can buy them from his store

I love photos like this. It reminds me that if you invest in quality shoes, you can get as much, if not more, from taking care of your shoes as you can from buying new ones. 

Also, note that in the comments section, Ron explains what causes those welts on shell cordovan shoes once they’ve gotten wet. 

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. 

It’s On Sale: 6PM.com Boot Sale
6PM.com is having a sale on boots. Among the offerings are Sorel Caribous, a classic snow boot offered here at an exceptionally reasonable price: $65. I know warm temperatures are here, but for those of you in snowy places, I can promise: it will get cold again eventually. Winter is coming.
There are also a pile more Sorels available, including some other classic models, like their 1964 line. They’ve got the Allen Edmonds Bayfield for $261.99 (from $350), some nice boots on deep discount from Timberland Boot Company like these Tackheads, Polo Ranger boots at 40% off, and a couple pairs of decent Clarks, like these Desert Mali Boots.
I’ve clicked a few brands we think might interest you in this sale link.

It’s On Sale: 6PM.com Boot Sale

6PM.com is having a sale on boots. Among the offerings are Sorel Caribous, a classic snow boot offered here at an exceptionally reasonable price: $65. I know warm temperatures are here, but for those of you in snowy places, I can promise: it will get cold again eventually. Winter is coming.

There are also a pile more Sorels available, including some other classic models, like their 1964 line. They’ve got the Allen Edmonds Bayfield for $261.99 (from $350), some nice boots on deep discount from Timberland Boot Company like these Tackheads, Polo Ranger boots at 40% off, and a couple pairs of decent Clarks, like these Desert Mali Boots.

I’ve clicked a few brands we think might interest you in this sale link.

Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank Boot Sale
Allen Edmonds’ Shoe Bank, their national outlet, is offering boots half off through this weekend. The Shoe Bank mainly sells seconds, but they’re usually nice enough to tell you if they see any visible issues. At this discount, they drop all the way to $117-149, a tremendous bargain.
Call them at 262 785 6666, and they can tell you what they’ve got in your size; they’ll gladly ship. It’s best if you know your AE models or at least are at a computer where you can Google them.

Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank Boot Sale

Allen Edmonds’ Shoe Bank, their national outlet, is offering boots half off through this weekend. The Shoe Bank mainly sells seconds, but they’re usually nice enough to tell you if they see any visible issues. At this discount, they drop all the way to $117-149, a tremendous bargain.

Call them at 262 785 6666, and they can tell you what they’ve got in your size; they’ll gladly ship. It’s best if you know your AE models or at least are at a computer where you can Google them.

Q and Answer: What’s the Difference Between Chukka Boots and Desert Boots?

Derek writes to ask: What’s the difference between Chukkas and Desert Boots?  They seem to be all the rage right now.

This is a sort of square/rectangle situation. All desert boots are chukkas, not all chukkas are desert boots.

Chukka boots get their name from polo - a chukka is a period in that sport. They’re a two- or three-eyehole ankle-high boot like the dark brown ones pictured above. They can be made in anything from canvas to shell cordovan, it’s their form that makes them chukkas.

Desert boots are a specific subset of chukka boots. Like chinos, their popularity stems from WWII soldiers (and surplus-sellers) bringing them home from the war, and the emergence of casual style in the 1950s. They’re based on the boots worn in desert campaigns by British soldiers. They always have crepe rubber soles. The classic style is the light suede seen above, though crepe-soled chukkas come in all kinds of leathers.

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.

Folks are always asking me about more affordable boot options for the cool-weather months. It makes sense - most of the good stuff starts in the $300-400 range and goes up from there. That’s a serious dent in anyone’s pocketbook. It’s tough to find something that’s both cheap and recommendable.
These look like they might be an exception: the Lands’ End Fulton. A Chelsea boot can be very versatile - it can be casual enough for jeans, and can even be pulled off with a suit in some circumstances. It also moves easily from day to night. They’re a classic utility player. These ones look like a bargain, too.
It can be tough to find shoes (to say nothing of boots) made of actual full-grain leather for less than $300, and these guys retail for $158. Add one of those 25 or 30% off coupons that Lands’ End is always passing around, and you’re barely over a hundey.
These aren’t RM Williams or Crockett & Jones. They’re “imported” (presumably made in China), they advertise a “full leather welt,” but don’t say whether the welt is functional or decorative, and I’m sure that full-grain leather falls short of ultra-premium. Still, this looks like a workhorse boot for an excellent price. The best part is that they’re Lands’ End, so if they don’t work out for any reason at all, you can return them, no questions asked.

Folks are always asking me about more affordable boot options for the cool-weather months. It makes sense - most of the good stuff starts in the $300-400 range and goes up from there. That’s a serious dent in anyone’s pocketbook. It’s tough to find something that’s both cheap and recommendable.

These look like they might be an exception: the Lands’ End Fulton. A Chelsea boot can be very versatile - it can be casual enough for jeans, and can even be pulled off with a suit in some circumstances. It also moves easily from day to night. They’re a classic utility player. These ones look like a bargain, too.

It can be tough to find shoes (to say nothing of boots) made of actual full-grain leather for less than $300, and these guys retail for $158. Add one of those 25 or 30% off coupons that Lands’ End is always passing around, and you’re barely over a hundey.

These aren’t RM Williams or Crockett & Jones. They’re “imported” (presumably made in China), they advertise a “full leather welt,” but don’t say whether the welt is functional or decorative, and I’m sure that full-grain leather falls short of ultra-premium. Still, this looks like a workhorse boot for an excellent price. The best part is that they’re Lands’ End, so if they don’t work out for any reason at all, you can return them, no questions asked.

"Wee Walker" shoes. A gift for my new son from some close family friends.
Almost unspeakably adorable.

"Wee Walker" shoes. A gift for my new son from some close family friends.

Almost unspeakably adorable.

“I need some help finding a durable, comfortable pair of summer shoes. As to whether they should be fashionable: I dress like a rich hobo — fitted terry cloth jackets; flowing, baggy jewel-tone silk tunics; baggy, pleated, high waisted pants in cottons and silks, frayed shantung cravattes with wing collared shirts, earthy linens — yet my color tone is very muted, for the most part. Normally, I wear alligators loafers or patent oxfords or opera pumps, but this summer I’ll be walking extensively along the Great Wall, and I need a more practical shoe suggestion.”

A reader who has just set the gold standard for Put This On questions. If you can’t meet this standard, I’m not sure you should even type “contact@putthison.com” into your email “to” field. In fact, I may shut down this blog, because this question is so amazing that there is nowhere else to go.

(PS: My suggestions were jodhpur boots or desert combat boots.)