Sales Roundup

Four notable sales today:

  • Exquisite Trimmings, an online retailer of high-end men’s accessories, is having a sale from now until the end of the weekend. Customers can take 25% off with the discount code 25OFF. That’s on top of the ~20% discount they give for customers who don’t have to pay VAT (European taxes). Shipping is also free. Note the code works on everything except hangers and issues of The Rake. That still leaves plenty of things, however, such as neckties, pocket square, and gloves from high-quality makers around the world (including Drake’s, Rubinacci, and Dents). The code even works on stuff that has already been marked down from a previous sale. 
  • Brooks Brothers just dropped stuff in their sale section to 70% off. The selection is slim since it’s all leftovers from last summer, but there are a few things here and there. These extra-slim-fit linen shirts, for example, are on sale for $40. You obviously can’t wear them now but, you know … summer will come again. 
  • I get most of my cedar shoe trees from Sierra Trading Post. You sign up for their DealFlyer newsletter, wait for those 35%-40% discount codes to drop, and buy as many pairs of shoes you want for ~$11 a pop. However, those models don’t work so well for boots. For boot trees, I shop at Cedarville Store, who right now is having a 20% off sale with the check out code Snow (expires Tuesday). Note, if you only need one pair, it could be cheaper to go through Zappos, who will ship them for free.  
  • FInally, LL Bean is having a 30% off sale on their famous “Bean Boots,” which rarely get discounted more than 10%. Their offer is good for today only. 

Shetland Sweaters for Fall

I have mixed feelings about Shetland sweaters. On the one hand, they’re itchy, scratchy, and not the most refined looking of knits. They neither have the softness of cashmere nor the smoothness of merino. On the other hand, that’s what makes them charming. As one member at Ask Andy once unironically (but hilariously), put it, “merino is too ‘metrosexual.’” A rather ridiculous statement, but point taken – these are not fashionable sweaters; they’re frumpy.

But sometimes a little frumpy is good. With a pair of dark green, wide-wale corduroys and reddish-brown shell cordovan tassel loafers, what could be more appropriate than a navy or mid-grey Shetland wool sweater? It has a classic American-trad/ schoolboy charm. To protect yourself from the scratchiness, you can layer it over an oxford cloth button down shirt. Those are the kind that belong underneath these sweaters anyway.

There are a number of places to pick up a Shetland. The best are from O’Connell’s and The Andover Shop. I slightly favor O’Connell’s because it has the more traditional form of a saddle shoulder, but both are top notch in terms of quality. There are other good Scottish ones at Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver, as well as an American made Shetland from Bill’s Khakis, which you can read more about at Ivy Style

For something more affordable, consider LL Bean and Brooks Brothers. If you’re an unusual size and need something custom made, try Spirit of Shetland. They’ll knit you a custom Shetland if you tell them the chest size your best fitting sweater. Like with most MTM clothing, I advise erring on the side of fullness rather than slimness. Remember that you can always wear a sweater if it’s slightly full (these are meant to be a bit frumpy anyway), but you’ll never wear a sweater if it’s too tight.

Should you pick one of these up and find that they’re too itchy, consider brushed Shetlands, which have that charming uneven loft that J Press made famous. There are also lambswool sweaters. They look similar to Shetlands in that they’re more textured than merino and harder wearing than cashmere, but they’re not as itchy. You may still need to layer them over a shirt, but at least your loved ones won’t be afraid to hug you. 

House Shoes
Although it’s very much a cultural issue, I prefer having separate shoes for when I’m at home. You can change between shoes at the porch, and doing so will ensure that you don’t track in filth. Indoor shoes can also provide your feet with support and, at the same time, be more comfortable than lace ups.
There are a variety of options. On the more “formal” side, there are Prince Albert slippers, which are typically velvet and have quilted silk linings. The English aristocracy used to wear these when they received people into their homes. They were worn with tuxedos and smoking jackets, but in the past few decades, they’ve migrated to the more casual side of the spectrum. I think they look quite smart with a pair of casual trousers, button up shirt, and a sweater. Black is the most traditional color, but brown, navy, and British racing green work nicely as well. I like them plain, but if you get an emblem, I suggest that it be of something with personal relevance (e.g. your initials, a sport you play, or a school you attended). You can buy such slippers from Brooks Brothers, Stubbs & Wooton, Broadland, Bowhill & Elliot, and Shipton & Heneage. You’ll also find that most major English shoemakers have them for sale.
For more casual options, there are Grecian, mule, and moccasin-styled slippers. These typically come in leather and sometimes have sheepskin lining. I think such slippers look best with a heel cup, but the mule style will be easier to take on and off. Drapers of Glastonbury makes really excellent models, and Pediwear has them for pretty attractive prices. You can also get some handsome ones at Brooks Brothers, Morlands, Jeremy Law, and Mr. Porter.
Some American men may want even more casual options still. For those men, I’d recommend LL Bean, Lands End, and Ralph Lauren. I personally don’t find those styles to be as attractive, but they can look more suitable if you wear jeans or sweatpants at home. You can also check out Muji (both the European and American webshops). They have slippers at extremely affordable prices.
Finally, two additional pairs I think you should consider are the travel and bath slipper. If you travel a lot, a pair of travel slippers can be nice for when you’re at the hotel. They’re also wonderful for long flights since your feet swell during air travel. La Portegna makes some really handsome ones, but as I’ve written before, their shipping is a bit high. I’ve been told, however, that they’re working on expanding their US distribution. The other pair of slippers you may need are terry cotton bath slippers. These should be worn underneath a bathrobe when you’re heading off to the shower. Having a separate pair helps ensure that you don’t stick damp feet into your lounge slippers, which can be bad for both your feet and your shoes. If you buy nice slippers, you might as well make sure they last.
(pictured above: Derek Rose Gower slippers)

House Shoes

Although it’s very much a cultural issue, I prefer having separate shoes for when I’m at home. You can change between shoes at the porch, and doing so will ensure that you don’t track in filth. Indoor shoes can also provide your feet with support and, at the same time, be more comfortable than lace ups.

There are a variety of options. On the more “formal” side, there are Prince Albert slippers, which are typically velvet and have quilted silk linings. The English aristocracy used to wear these when they received people into their homes. They were worn with tuxedos and smoking jackets, but in the past few decades, they’ve migrated to the more casual side of the spectrum. I think they look quite smart with a pair of casual trousers, button up shirt, and a sweater. Black is the most traditional color, but brown, navy, and British racing green work nicely as well. I like them plain, but if you get an emblem, I suggest that it be of something with personal relevance (e.g. your initials, a sport you play, or a school you attended). You can buy such slippers from Brooks Brothers, Stubbs & Wooton, Broadland, Bowhill & Elliot, and Shipton & Heneage. You’ll also find that most major English shoemakers have them for sale.

For more casual options, there are Grecian, mule, and moccasin-styled slippers. These typically come in leather and sometimes have sheepskin lining. I think such slippers look best with a heel cup, but the mule style will be easier to take on and off. Drapers of Glastonbury makes really excellent models, and Pediwear has them for pretty attractive prices. You can also get some handsome ones at Brooks Brothers, Morlands, Jeremy Law, and Mr. Porter.

Some American men may want even more casual options still. For those men, I’d recommend LL Bean, Lands End, and Ralph Lauren. I personally don’t find those styles to be as attractive, but they can look more suitable if you wear jeans or sweatpants at home. You can also check out Muji (both the European and American webshops). They have slippers at extremely affordable prices.

Finally, two additional pairs I think you should consider are the travel and bath slipper. If you travel a lot, a pair of travel slippers can be nice for when you’re at the hotel. They’re also wonderful for long flights since your feet swell during air travel. La Portegna makes some really handsome ones, but as I’ve written before, their shipping is a bit high. I’ve been told, however, that they’re working on expanding their US distribution. The other pair of slippers you may need are terry cotton bath slippers. These should be worn underneath a bathrobe when you’re heading off to the shower. Having a separate pair helps ensure that you don’t stick damp feet into your lounge slippers, which can be bad for both your feet and your shoes. If you buy nice slippers, you might as well make sure they last.

(pictured above: Derek Rose Gower slippers)

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.

Date Night with Alex Grant: A Charlie Brown Christmas
Valet looks at some moccasins, starting with the LL Bean Blucher Moc.

Beautiful 1940s LL Bean Boots, via Swimsuit Department

It’s On Ebay
Vintage LL Bean Norweigan sweater.
Starts at $9.99, ends imminently.

It’s On Ebay

Vintage LL Bean Norweigan sweater.

Starts at $9.99, ends imminently.

It’s On Ebay!
Vintage LL Bean wool vest.  Perfect for your hunting trips.  Hunting for organic cottage cheese at Safeway, for example.
Starting at $24.95, ends tomorrow

It’s On Ebay!

Vintage LL Bean wool vest.  Perfect for your hunting trips.  Hunting for organic cottage cheese at Safeway, for example.

Starting at $24.95, ends tomorrow