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)

Improvements at John Doe

John Doe recently loaned me a pair of their latest oxfords so I could check out the improvements they made since my last review. The shoes arrived last month, and they’re indeed much better. The new leathers are sourced from a different tannery, and feel much more supple and natural than their previous materials. The linings are also better attached, so there’s no more bubbling from an uneven application of glue. Additionally, the stitching is straighter, and without the punched brogue decorations, there are fewer places for something to go wrong. All in all, it seems they’ve upgraded their materials, tightened up their quality control, and are better at working with their factories.

I think readers will find there’s still a significant jump in quality as you go from these to brands such as Allen EdmondsLoake, and Meermin, but those will range anywhere from $200 to $350 at full retail. There are, of course, things such as Allen Edmonds’ factory seconds and the companies that Loake privately produces for (such as Charles Tyrwhitt), and those will sometimes go on sale, but none will match the very competitive price of John Doe at ~$150. For people with a hard budget of ~$150 or less, there are really only a few options.

The first, of course, is to go second hand, which you can get through thrift stores (using Jesse’s very useful thrifting guide) or our eBay roundups. I really like Ralph Lauren and Jesse likes Florsheim, but Allen Edmonds, Loake, and Brooks Brothers are also good names to search for. Just be discerning, as not all shoes from these companies are worth buying.

If you’re not comfortable with buying used shoes, then there’s suede, where you can “by-pass” the manufacturer’s need to cut back on quality materials. In comparison to “regular” leathers, the difference between low- and high-quality suede will be much smaller. Whereas corrected grain leathers can develop unsightly “cracks” over time, low-quality suede can stay pretty consistent if you know how to take care of it.

Outside of that, there are a number of shoe companies who sell products very similar to John Doe. The difference? John Doe uses a Goodyear welting method to attach their soles, instead of gluing them on like other manufacturers. This allows you to more easily resole your shoes over and over again, which can extend the life of your shoes considerably (assuming you take care of the uppers). That translates to better value for your money and less junk in landfills. I think everyone can applaud that.

Chelsea Boots
For as long as I’ve been interested in shoes, I’ve always favored boots, and one of the first kinds of boots I fell in love with were Chelseas. Chelseas are a kind of ankle-length, pull-on boot with elastic side gussets. They were invented in the mid-19th century as an alternative to the button boot, but they didn’t really gain popularity until the 1960s, when they were picked up by young men in Chelsea, London (hence the name) and then famously worn by The Beatles (though technically speaking, the Beatles wore a modified version of the Chelsea).
Various English shoe companies make Chelseas in their most classic form (the kind that we associate with the Mod movement of the 1960s). On the uppermost end, there’s Edward Green’s Newmarket, which are fantastically beautiful, but also fantastically expensive. A bit more affordable (but still quite expensive) is Crockett & Jones. They have three versions, simply named models 3, 5, and 8. Their Chelsea 3, being the sleekest and featuring a single-layer leather sole, is the dressiest. Models 5 and 8, on the other hand, are built on studded Dainite soles, with number 8 being a nice, almond-toe compromise between the sleekness of number 3 and the roundness of 5. You can buy these from Crockett & Jones or Barneys New York, though Pediwear, Robert Old, and P. Lal will likely have better prices (note, P. Lal’s prices are denoted in Malaysian ringgit, so you have to convert them).
Slightly more affordable options can be had through Grenson, Shipton & Heneage, and Carmina. Our friends at The Armoury stock the Carmina version in the very sleek Simpson last, while Skoaktiebolaget sells them in the slightly less tapered Rain (a last, as many readers know, is the form that the shoe’s leather is pulled over, and is what determines the shoe’s shape). Carmina can also custom make Chelseas for you, where you choose the last and material, but this comes at a 50% upcharge.
For something more affordable still, there’s Loake and Herring, Charles Tyrwhitt (don’t be fooled by the sale, as they’re always on sale), Markowski, and RM Williams. You can also check eBay, although you’ll want to be careful to avoid the frumpy versions (I’m not a fan of Blundstones, though my friend Jake over at Wax Wane likes them).
If you’re considering getting a pair, try them in black. Those are arguably the easiest and most versatile to wear. If shaped right, and built on a leather sole, they could span everything from suits to jeans. Brown leather would also work well, although on the suit end, they might need to be paired with more casual options (Mark over at The Armoury can be seen here looking great in his tan suit, blue gingham shirt, and Gaziano & Girling Chelseas). Brown suede could also be nice, especially under a pair of tan cavalry twill trousers or some light, washed blue jeans. Whatever you choose, I recommend wearing them with a slim trouser leg, just to keep with the Mod tradition.

Chelsea Boots

For as long as I’ve been interested in shoes, I’ve always favored boots, and one of the first kinds of boots I fell in love with were Chelseas. Chelseas are a kind of ankle-length, pull-on boot with elastic side gussets. They were invented in the mid-19th century as an alternative to the button boot, but they didn’t really gain popularity until the 1960s, when they were picked up by young men in Chelsea, London (hence the name) and then famously worn by The Beatles (though technically speaking, the Beatles wore a modified version of the Chelsea).

Various English shoe companies make Chelseas in their most classic form (the kind that we associate with the Mod movement of the 1960s). On the uppermost end, there’s Edward Green’s Newmarket, which are fantastically beautiful, but also fantastically expensive. A bit more affordable (but still quite expensive) is Crockett & Jones. They have three versions, simply named models 3, 5, and 8. Their Chelsea 3, being the sleekest and featuring a single-layer leather sole, is the dressiest. Models 5 and 8, on the other hand, are built on studded Dainite soles, with number 8 being a nice, almond-toe compromise between the sleekness of number 3 and the roundness of 5. You can buy these from Crockett & Jones or Barneys New York, though Pediwear, Robert Old, and P. Lal will likely have better prices (note, P. Lal’s prices are denoted in Malaysian ringgit, so you have to convert them).

Slightly more affordable options can be had through Grenson, Shipton & Heneage, and Carmina. Our friends at The Armoury stock the Carmina version in the very sleek Simpson last, while Skoaktiebolaget sells them in the slightly less tapered Rain (a last, as many readers know, is the form that the shoe’s leather is pulled over, and is what determines the shoe’s shape). Carmina can also custom make Chelseas for you, where you choose the last and material, but this comes at a 50% upcharge.

For something more affordable still, there’s Loake and Herring, Charles Tyrwhitt (don’t be fooled by the sale, as they’re always on sale), Markowski, and RM Williams. You can also check eBay, although you’ll want to be careful to avoid the frumpy versions (I’m not a fan of Blundstones, though my friend Jake over at Wax Wane likes them).

If you’re considering getting a pair, try them in black. Those are arguably the easiest and most versatile to wear. If shaped right, and built on a leather sole, they could span everything from suits to jeans. Brown leather would also work well, although on the suit end, they might need to be paired with more casual options (Mark over at The Armoury can be seen here looking great in his tan suit, blue gingham shirt, and Gaziano & Girling Chelseas). Brown suede could also be nice, especially under a pair of tan cavalry twill trousers or some light, washed blue jeans. Whatever you choose, I recommend wearing them with a slim trouser leg, just to keep with the Mod tradition.

Finding Affordable Shoes
Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.
eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.
Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.
Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.
Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.
Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:
Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).
Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666. 
Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible. 

Finding Affordable Shoes

Shoes may or may not be the most important part of a man’s ensemble, but they can certainly be the veto point. A man can look sharp as a tack in a well-tailored suit, but if he’s wearing dull, square toe shoes, everything was for naught. Unfortunately, nice shoes are expensive. Even the ones commonly recommended as “entry level” brands will retail for $350 or more. So, in an effort to direct readers to where they can find well-made shoes for less, I’ve compiled a list of every place that I know of.

eBay: The most obvious is eBay. We have a customized search link you can use, but you can also employ other methods. Last week, for example, I talked about how Ralph Lauren shoes are some of the hidden gems on eBay, so long as you know how to look for them. The same goes for shoes made by Brooks Brothers. Theirs don’t get as bad as some in Ralph Lauren’s range, but you would still be wise to look for indicators of quality. You can also check out sausages234, an eBay seller who specializes in footwear.

Thrift stores: These will take a little more work than doing a search on eBay, but you could potentially walk away with some better deals. The key is in knowing where to thrift and how to spot quality. Use Jesse’s series on thrifting as a guide.

Good online retailers: There are two online retailers who consistently have some of the most competitive prices around - Pediwear and P.Lal. It would be smart to check with them before you purchase anything, as they’ll often offer price-matching guarantees. You can also check out A Fine Pair of Shoes. They sell really nice English models, and will discount much of their stock at the end of each season. Finally, Franco’s will often have shoes on sale. Right now there are a bunch of Rider Boots, which are very well made.

Online discount houses: Likewise, there are a bunch of online discount sites. Classic Shoes for Men, Shop the Finest, and Virtual Clotheshorse come to mind (though the last two focus more on the Italian variety). Sierra Trading Post also regularly stocks Trickers. You can knock 30% off or more if you sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter. Different coupons are released every day.

Affordable brands: There are probably more brands than ever before selling well-made, affordable shoes. Here’s a list:

  • Loake: Loake makes a few different lines, but the one that’s generally worth buying is their 1880 range, particularly the ones that are Goodyear welted and made with hard-bottom leather soles.
  • Charles Tyrwhitt: Many of Charles Tyrwhitt’s shoes are made by Loake or equivalent factories. Ignore the lure of sale prices, however. Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on sale.
  • Herring: I have no first hand experience with the line, but my understanding is that many of their shoes are also made by Loake (or, again, equivalent factories).
  • Meermin: One of my favorites of the lot. Their shoes are handwelted, which is believed to be a better construction method than Goodyear welting, and they have a semi-affordable made-to-order program. You can read a review I did of them here.
  • Shipton & Heneage: Shipton & Heneage sells shoes made by various well-respected manufacturers in England and Italy. Sometimes you’ll find shoes here selling for less than what the original manufacturers would have you pay. Sign up for their Discount Club to receive coupons.
  • Made in Maine: There are a bunch of quality shoe manufacturers in Maine. The first that comes to mind is Rancourt, who sells handsewn shoes at a very reasonable price. There’s also Town View Leather and Arrow Moccasins, both of whom also sell handsewn shoes, but mostly of the moccasin variety. Those give less foot support, but they can be good for short walks. Additionally, there’s Eastland’s Made in Maine collection. I bought one of their boots last year, and on the inside, there was a strip of reconstituted leather covering the back (where the heel cup would normally go). The leather fell apart after my third wear, and customer service wasn’t terribly helpful, but to be fair, the shoes still wear fine. Finally, a reader of ours suggested Dexter 1957, but I have no first hand experience with them. Reviews online are scant and mixed.
  • Kent Wang and Howard Yount: Both these companies can usually be relied upon for selling decently made things at lower-than-average prices.
  • Markowski: I have no first hand experience with this line, but their customers have given positive reports on StyleForum. The shop is based in Paris, but the shopkeepers speak decent English. They also hold sales, which knocks their prices down somewhat even further.
  • Andrew Lock: Jesse gave a good review of them here (he even had a shoe expert take them apart).

Allen Edmonds factory seconds: The term factory seconds just means shoes that haven’t passed the quality control process, but often the “defects” are incredibly minor (like a very small nick). You can contact Allen Edmonds’ “shoe bank” store in Brookfield, Wisconsin to make a purchase. Their number is (262) 785-6666. 

Suede: Let’s say all the above are still out of range to you. If you can’t afford higher-quality shoes, at least aim for suede. They’ll generally look better with age than a pair made from corrected grain. Perhaps the most affordable suede shoes I know of are Clarks’ desert boots, which sometimes go for as little as $60 on sale. Once you get them, know how to take care of them well, so that you get as much out of your purchase as possible. 

It’s On Sale: T.M. Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt Dress Shirts

If you need to stock up on dress shirts, then you’ll want to check out T.M. Lewin’s clearance sale right now where they’re offering 4 shirts for $144, which comes to $36 per shirt. Please note though that it only applies to certain styles (it’ll say so under the shirt’s thumbnail on the site). You should also note there are three types of sizing on the shirts, too — including a slim fit.

And at Charles Tyrwhitt, shirts are as low as $30 on sale right now with an even larger selection up to $35. They also have three different fits to pick from. Plus, you get an extra $10 off when you spend $75 or more. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our Black Tie Guide continues to help you find all the elements of an eveningwear ensemble. Today, we discuss finding the right shoes — at the right price.

Part 3: Formal Footwear

I don’t want to introduce hyperbole, but wearing bad shoes can take the sharp look of a tuxedo and throw it in the Dumpster. Few things are as disappointing as seeing a gentleman going to extraordinary lengths to wear a tuxedo to only see he’s slipped on a pair of cheap, sport-hybrid, corrected-grain, bicycle-toed “dress shoes”. 

Here’s some basic guidance on what to look for in formal footwear:

  • Black calf leather (patent leather optional)
  • Laced shoes should be balmorals; no blüchers
  • Plain-toe and cap-toes are acceptable; avoid brouging and wingtips
  • Opera pumps are an acceptable slip-on; avoid loafers

Some traditionalists would consider opera pumps as the only footwear choice for black tie (Jesse is a fan), but I can sympathize with those of you who have hesitation. Unless you find a way to score a pair cheaply (or you have disposable income), it’s probably not a good purchase as you can’t really wear it outside of formal events. As someone who only finds an excuse once a year to don black tie, it’s probably not practical. 

If you’re looking for a pair, Shipton & Heneage has two options for $245. And Brooks Brothers has their pair for around $450.

For most men, you probably will find the black cap-toe oxford to be the most accessible and affordable option. The cap-toe shoe will be versatile in the rest of your wardrobe for when you wear a regular suit, making it a better value purchase. 

The Allen Edmonds Park Avenue frequently turns up on eBay for prices below $150 — if not significantly cheaper. You can sometimes find them new and on sale at around $200, too. A retail budget option would be Charles Tyrwhitt, which has a full-grain cap-toe oxford for around $150. 

If you’re able to find it, the plain-toe oxford, in my mind, is a preferred option for footwear. Not so formal that it can’t be worn with a regular suit, but the cleaner, sleek look fits better with the tuxedo. You can see Fred Astaire’s pair (given as a gift to Dick Clark for his 50th birthday) above. One can only hope they dance in a tuxedo so often that their shoes look so well worn. 

The cheapest plain-toe oxford I can find is also from Charles Tyrwhitt, at around $200 in patent leather. For around $260 you can get patent leather pairs from Herring or Shipton & Heneage. My favorite though has to be from Kent Wang, whose $350 plain-toe balmorals aren’t patent leather, letting you wear them with a suit.

If you choose to go the laced shoe route, then you should consider buying a pair of black silk shoelaces, like on Astaire’s pair above. I only know of two places you can buy them: from George Cleverley (you’ll have to e-mail them) or from A Suitable Wardrobe’s online store. The cost is about $40 either way, but they definitely elevate the look of even a simple cap-toe shoe to something much more formal. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide. 
Part 2: The Evening Shirt
While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 
A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:
French cuffs
Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
Spread or wing collar 
Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)
Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 
As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 
Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 
I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.
Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 
Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 
-Kiyoshi
(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide

Part 2: The Evening Shirt

While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 

A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:

  • French cuffs
  • Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
  • White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
  • Spread or wing collar 
  • Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)

Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 

As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 

Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 

I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.

Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 

Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 

-Kiyoshi

(Photo via Time/Life)

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. 

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

Brown Suede Shoes for Autumn
While I think brown suede shoes are great for every season (perhaps except winter), they’re particularly fitting for autumn. The soft, warm looking texture fits in well with the season’s mood and looks great against the brown corduroys, gray flannel trousers, and olive moleskins that should be in your standard Fall rotation. 
If you don’t already have a pair, consider getting something nice for this Fall. If you can afford to splurge, I recommend Crockett & Jones’ Belgrave in polo brown calf suede. It’s a pretty expensive shoe, but I think one of the most handsome ones you can buy. For something more affordable,  check out this Charles Tyrwhitt suede chukka (which is on sale right now), Loake’s suede Eton loafer, and Rancourt’s suede camp mocs. For something a bit cheaper than those, there’s Florsheim’s Haviland longwing. I’m not that crazy about Florsheim, but they’re one of the cheapest Goodyear welted shoes on the market. Use the code NewFW11 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off as well as free shipping (thanks to The Silentist for the tip). 
Lastly, it’s not released yet, but the guys at Run of the Mill are coming out with a suede double monkstrap on a Danite sole. The price will be around $450 and it should be released in a month or so. 
(photo credit: NOBD from StyleForum)

Brown Suede Shoes for Autumn

While I think brown suede shoes are great for every season (perhaps except winter), they’re particularly fitting for autumn. The soft, warm looking texture fits in well with the season’s mood and looks great against the brown corduroys, gray flannel trousers, and olive moleskins that should be in your standard Fall rotation. 

If you don’t already have a pair, consider getting something nice for this Fall. If you can afford to splurge, I recommend Crockett & Jones’ Belgrave in polo brown calf suede. It’s a pretty expensive shoe, but I think one of the most handsome ones you can buy. For something more affordable,  check out this Charles Tyrwhitt suede chukka (which is on sale right now), Loake’s suede Eton loafer, and Rancourt’s suede camp mocs. For something a bit cheaper than those, there’s Florsheim’s Haviland longwing. I’m not that crazy about Florsheim, but they’re one of the cheapest Goodyear welted shoes on the market. Use the code NewFW11 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off as well as free shipping (thanks to The Silentist for the tip). 

Lastly, it’s not released yet, but the guys at Run of the Mill are coming out with a suede double monkstrap on a Danite sole. The price will be around $450 and it should be released in a month or so. 

(photo credit: NOBD from StyleForum)