Cheap Shoes That Age Well
Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.
Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:
Converse Chuck Taylors and Jack Purcells
Vans Authentics and Classic Slip-Ons
Superga 1705 and 2750
Sperry Top-Sider’s striped CVOs
Tretorn Nylites
All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.
The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.
You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

Cheap Shoes That Age Well

Although I wouldn’t call it a “rule” for myself, when I can, I try to buy things that I think will look better with time, rather than worse. That is, after all, why most of us value full grain leather shoes over corrected grain ones. It’s not because they’re cheaper in the long run (because they’re not). It’s because high quality shoes acquire a beautiful worn in look that only good materials and years of wear can impart. Shoes made from corrected grain leather, on the other hand, look terrible new and even worse with time.

Unfortunately, shoes that age well are typically expensive. The exception to this is canvas sneakers, which always look better with a bit of dirt and grass staining. Think:

All of these retail for under $75, but can be had for less than $50 if you wait for sales.

The best thing about these shoes isn’t their price, however. It’s their designs. Most have been around for decades and their designs are hard to improve on. Take Maison Martin Margiela’s interpretation of Vans’ slip-ons, for example. The heavier look and feel of leather doesn’t evoke the airiness of summer like canvas, even if the design itself looks more luxurious. Similarly, Nigel Cabourn’s interpretation of Chuck Taylor All Stars has a nice retro feel, but truth be told, I think the standard model today is hard to beat.

You can wear these with any number of spring or summer ensembles. I often wear my Chuck Taylor high tops with a white t-shirt, leather jacket, and pair of jeans, and my Superga 1705s with chinos and a madras shirt. On a cooler spring day, the madras shirt gets swapped out for a sweatshirt and light parka. Neither of these feel like compromises over full grain leather shoes, and they’re appreciably much cheaper. It’s nice that good things don’t always have to be expensive. 

It’s On Sale: Jackets and Accessories

Two really good sales just popped up. The first is at Oi Polloi, where jackets can be had at 20% off with the discount code JERKIN. There are some exclusions, but not many. For example, I bought this Barbour Beaufort and Nike x Undercover jacket earlier this season, and the code applies to both of them. The Beaufort is a longer version of Barbour’s Bedale, and will go handsomely over a sport coat if you take your regular size. The Nike x Undercover jacket is a bit expensive, but it’s a nice indulgence if you’re a runner. Just make sure to take your next size up, as that line runs quite slim. An extra 20% will be automatically taken off at checkout if you’re exempt from European taxes. 

The other sale is at Vanda Fine Clothing, one of my favorite makers for men’s neckties and pocket squares. To celebrate the two founders’ coming marriage (congrats to Diana and Gerald!), they’re offering 20% off everything in their store with the discount code TIESTHATBIND081213. The downside? The code ends in about four hours (GMT +8), so if you want something … you’ll need to get on it. 

A Popover for Summer
The spate of hot weather recently had me thinking about what kind of shirts I might like to get this summer. High on the list are popovers. A popover is a woven shirt with a placket that only goes partially down the chest. I suspect they’re a holdover from when sport shirts weren’t all made with coat fronts (an early version of such a design can be seen here). They’re less common now, but I think they can look quite good on men with slim stomachs. They’re more relaxed than a traditional shirt, but more dressed up than a polo shirt, and this in-between-ness makes them just right for when you want to look smart on casual days.
I bought this one from Gant two years ago, but sadly the cut didn’t work out for me, so now I’m on the market for another. The nicest one I’ve seen is by Isaia, which is pictured above. My friend Agyesh, who actually took the image shown, works for Isaia and tells me that the brand still makes these. They should be available at Saks Fifth Avenue (especially the one in New York City), but if not, any store that offers Isaia’s made-to-measure program will be able to custom make one for you. You can get the model above, or one with a button-down collar and mitered placket. 
In addition, Sid Mashburn has some very handsome ones with a deep, long placket. Epaulet, New England Shirt Company, and Wharf also look promising. 
For something a bit more fashion forward, there’s a small selection at Need Supply, and a few designs by Engineered Garments this season at French Garment Cleaners and Oi Polloi. Steven Alan happens to have one of them on sale, which you can knock another 15% off by signing up for their newsletter. For something a bit more workwear-ish, check out Thoroughstitch and Levis Vintage Clothing.
All the aforementioned companies make really nice shirts, but they can be a bit expensive. If you want something more affordable, and don’t mind short-sleeves, J Crew has a bunch on sale right now. You can take 30% off the listed price by punching in the code SUMMER at checkout.
And finally, for people who need a special size, there are a number of options for custom. In addition to the Isaia you see above, Individualized Shirts and Mercer & Sons have made-to-order programs. They’re not exactly made-to-measure, meaning you can’t get things made to your exact measurements, but you can choose from different cuts and patterns to get the shirt you need (for Individualized, you’ll have to go to their factory, however). Luxire also makes them through an online made-to-measure service, and I can recommend my shirtmaker Ascot Chang for bespoke. Ascot Chang is actually running a promotion right now where you can get one shirt free for every six you order. Granted, they’re not cheap – so buying six at a time is pretty expensive – but they do fantastic work and offer tremendous value at their price point. You can visit them at one of their stores, or catch them on their US tour this month. 
(Photo credit: Mad House, Inc)

A Popover for Summer

The spate of hot weather recently had me thinking about what kind of shirts I might like to get this summer. High on the list are popovers. A popover is a woven shirt with a placket that only goes partially down the chest. I suspect they’re a holdover from when sport shirts weren’t all made with coat fronts (an early version of such a design can be seen here). They’re less common now, but I think they can look quite good on men with slim stomachs. They’re more relaxed than a traditional shirt, but more dressed up than a polo shirt, and this in-between-ness makes them just right for when you want to look smart on casual days.

I bought this one from Gant two years ago, but sadly the cut didn’t work out for me, so now I’m on the market for another. The nicest one I’ve seen is by Isaia, which is pictured above. My friend Agyesh, who actually took the image shown, works for Isaia and tells me that the brand still makes these. They should be available at Saks Fifth Avenue (especially the one in New York City), but if not, any store that offers Isaia’s made-to-measure program will be able to custom make one for you. You can get the model above, or one with a button-down collar and mitered placket. 

In addition, Sid Mashburn has some very handsome ones with a deep, long placket. EpauletNew England Shirt Company, and Wharf also look promising. 

For something a bit more fashion forward, there’s a small selection at Need Supply, and a few designs by Engineered Garments this season at French Garment Cleaners and Oi PolloiSteven Alan happens to have one of them on sale, which you can knock another 15% off by signing up for their newsletter. For something a bit more workwear-ish, check out Thoroughstitch and Levis Vintage Clothing.

All the aforementioned companies make really nice shirts, but they can be a bit expensive. If you want something more affordable, and don’t mind short-sleeves, J Crew has a bunch on sale right now. You can take 30% off the listed price by punching in the code SUMMER at checkout.

And finally, for people who need a special size, there are a number of options for custom. In addition to the Isaia you see above, Individualized Shirts and Mercer & Sons have made-to-order programs. They’re not exactly made-to-measure, meaning you can’t get things made to your exact measurements, but you can choose from different cuts and patterns to get the shirt you need (for Individualized, you’ll have to go to their factory, however). Luxire also makes them through an online made-to-measure service, and I can recommend my shirtmaker Ascot Chang for bespoke. Ascot Chang is actually running a promotion right now where you can get one shirt free for every six you order. Granted, they’re not cheap – so buying six at a time is pretty expensive – but they do fantastic work and offer tremendous value at their price point. You can visit them at one of their stores, or catch them on their US tour this month. 

(Photo credit: Mad House, Inc)

It’s On Sale: Superga Shoes
Oi Polloi is having a 20% off sale on Superga sneakers. The 1705 model, which you see above, is my favorite, but hard to find on discount (and near impossible to find in the US). Once you account for the sale, VAT exclusion, and shipping, these come out to $59. I recommend sizing up (I’m regularly an 8UK, but take a 9UK in the 1705).
Superga’s most popular mode, the 2705, is also part of the sale, though some of those are easier to find in the US for less.

It’s On Sale: Superga Shoes

Oi Polloi is having a 20% off sale on Superga sneakers. The 1705 model, which you see above, is my favorite, but hard to find on discount (and near impossible to find in the US). Once you account for the sale, VAT exclusion, and shipping, these come out to $59. I recommend sizing up (I’m regularly an 8UK, but take a 9UK in the 1705).

Superga’s most popular mode, the 2705, is also part of the sale, though some of those are easier to find in the US for less.

December Fair Isle
December is one of the last months you can best wear Fair Isle. They’re not holiday sweaters, but there’s something holiday feeling about them, and while they look great in the fall, I think they look best in the winter. You can stretch them out to maybe about January, but past that, they start to lose their appeal.
A Fair Isle sweater, for those unfamiliar, is a type of knitwear garment that uses a distinctive geometric motif originating from the remote Fair Isle island. They were originally made from undyed wool, so they came in various shades of brown and grey, but nowadays they’re mostly recognized for their very colorful patterning. The best ones, in my opinion, still use the traditional Fair Isle knitting technique: two strands of yarn are knitted throughout an entire row, and continually intertwined on the “wrong” side of the garment. This creates an almost double-thick knit that can lend a lot of warmth.
Now, to be sure, there’s a lot of ugly Fair Isle around, but that can be said about almost anything. The key is to find one you like, and know how to wear it best. I have this tobacco, moss, and oatmeal one from Drake’s, and usually layer it underneath a coat, just so the pattern isn’t too overwhelming. You can see an example here, where I’ve paired the Drake’s sweater with a Loden coat by Aspesi. You can, of course, also wear the sweater without the extra layer, but generally, I find that the louder the pattern, the better it looks when layered underneath something more subdued.
There are plenty of places that sell Fair Isle sweaters. Traditional clothiers such as J. Press and O’Connell’s regularly stock them, as do stores on the slightly more fashionable side of classic, such as Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and Gant. You can also find a selection by Jamieson and Barbour at Oi Polloi, William Fox and Sons at Present London, and Howlin by Morrison at End Clothing. For more affordable options, turn to Land’s End and J. Crew. Both of those merchants regularly discount their stock by 30-40%, and a full array of sizes is usually still available once they hit their sales.
Finally, if you’d like one custom made, check out Spirit of Shetland and Louise Irvine. As usual with online made-to-measure garments, you want to take multiple measurements and figure out the averages before you submit your numbers. And when in doubt, err on the side of large. You can always wear something that’s just a touch too big, but you’ll never wear something that’s too small.

December Fair Isle

December is one of the last months you can best wear Fair Isle. They’re not holiday sweaters, but there’s something holiday feeling about them, and while they look great in the fall, I think they look best in the winter. You can stretch them out to maybe about January, but past that, they start to lose their appeal.

A Fair Isle sweater, for those unfamiliar, is a type of knitwear garment that uses a distinctive geometric motif originating from the remote Fair Isle island. They were originally made from undyed wool, so they came in various shades of brown and grey, but nowadays they’re mostly recognized for their very colorful patterning. The best ones, in my opinion, still use the traditional Fair Isle knitting technique: two strands of yarn are knitted throughout an entire row, and continually intertwined on the “wrong” side of the garment. This creates an almost double-thick knit that can lend a lot of warmth.

Now, to be sure, there’s a lot of ugly Fair Isle around, but that can be said about almost anything. The key is to find one you like, and know how to wear it best. I have this tobacco, moss, and oatmeal one from Drake’s, and usually layer it underneath a coat, just so the pattern isn’t too overwhelming. You can see an example here, where I’ve paired the Drake’s sweater with a Loden coat by Aspesi. You can, of course, also wear the sweater without the extra layer, but generally, I find that the louder the pattern, the better it looks when layered underneath something more subdued.

There are plenty of places that sell Fair Isle sweaters. Traditional clothiers such as J. Press and O’Connell’s regularly stock them, as do stores on the slightly more fashionable side of classic, such as Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and Gant. You can also find a selection by Jamieson and Barbour at Oi Polloi, William Fox and Sons at Present London, and Howlin by Morrison at End Clothing. For more affordable options, turn to Land’s End and J. Crew. Both of those merchants regularly discount their stock by 30-40%, and a full array of sizes is usually still available once they hit their sales.

Finally, if you’d like one custom made, check out Spirit of Shetland and Louise Irvine. As usual with online made-to-measure garments, you want to take multiple measurements and figure out the averages before you submit your numbers. And when in doubt, err on the side of large. You can always wear something that’s just a touch too big, but you’ll never wear something that’s too small.