“Having a new pair of sneakers is like having a great wine at your house: You get it and stare at it and you don’t really think you should drink it. I’m in a constant conflict of wanting to put them on but not wanting to get them dirty.” Andre Agassi. (Eds. note: get your sneakers dirty.)

Cleaning Sneakers

Some things look better new; some things look better old. Anyone who has ever bought a brand new pair of white Supergas, for example, can you tell you how self-conscious one can get when those bright white uppers are shining from your feet like beacons. It really takes about a dozen wears before they get dirty enough to look good. Any of the sneakers sold by Nike, on the other hand, look best when they’re box fresh.

At the end of every summer, I clean those sneakers I own that I think could use a cleaning. There are a number of different methods for this. My co-writer Pete, for example, mentioned a technique last year involving Mr. Clean Magic Erasers (which are fantastic for cleaning around the house, by the way). Your local supermarket probably has a generic version of the same thing, if you want to save a little money. Just be warned: as Pete mentioned, these are made from melamine foam, which is a mild abrasive that can take the finish off of your shoes.

This past weekend, I tried Jason Markk’s Premium Shoe Cleaner, which is popular among sneakerheads. The kit is simple: there’s a 4oz bottle of cleaning solution and a stiff bristle brush. You dip the brush in water, apply the solution, and scrub away. The combination is surprisingly effective, and the solution is said to be safe on any material (leather, suede, nubuck, canvas, etc). It does take a couple of rounds of cleaning to get things back to like-new conditions, however, and I found that a little elbow grease is needed on the textured sides of rubber soles.

The kit runs for about $16-24 at Amazon, Nordstrom, and other locations, and $12 at Jack Threads. The company also has a store in Los Angeles for more involved sneaker restorations. Unfortunately, as of now, they’ll only take drop-offs, so you have to be in the local area.

(Pictured above: My Engineered Garments x Vans slip-ons, before and after a cleaning. For more examples of people cleaning with a Jason Markk kit, you can check out videos posted on YouTube)

Why Are My Sneakers Fuzzy?
Following yesterday’s post on sneakers, I thought I’d share this great find by GazEtc. If you look at the bottom of your Chuck Taylor All Stars, you’ll notice that certain parts of the sole are fuzzy. The hairs are hard to notice at first, especially if you’ve already worn your shoes, ‘cause your soles will just look like they’ve collected gunk off the street. If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that little hairs are embedded into the rubber.  
Why? GazEtc investigated the patent for Chuck Taylors and found that they’re actually classified as house slippers with fabric bottoms, rather than sneakers with rubber soles. As he explains: 

Since my shoes were made in China, they were subject to an import tariff when they were shipped to the United States. And the import tariff is much lower for shoes with fuzzy fabric soles (like house slippers) than it is for shoes with rubber soles (like sneakers). According to the inventors, changing the shoe material can lower the duty from 37.5% down to just 3%. 
To benefit from a lower tariff, it isn’t necessary to cover the entire sole with fabric. According to the inventors, “a classification may be based on the type of material that is present on 50% or more of the bottom surface.” This explains why the “fabric” fuzz extends mostly around the edges of my shoes, where it can take up a lot of area without interfering too much with the traction of the bare-rubber centers.
So the invention embodied in my shoes is not a technological advancement. It actually seems to be a small step backward in quality. Instead, my shoes embody an advancement in “tariff engineering.” But perhaps, by putting up with a bit of fuzz, I can pay just a bit less for each new pair of sneakers.

You can see the original patent for Chuck Taylors here. The Smithsonian also has an interesting clip about how Marvel went to court to argue that the the X-Men weren’t human in order to get lower tariff rates.

Why Are My Sneakers Fuzzy?

Following yesterday’s post on sneakers, I thought I’d share this great find by GazEtc. If you look at the bottom of your Chuck Taylor All Stars, you’ll notice that certain parts of the sole are fuzzy. The hairs are hard to notice at first, especially if you’ve already worn your shoes, ‘cause your soles will just look like they’ve collected gunk off the street. If you look closer, however, you’ll notice that little hairs are embedded into the rubber.  

Why? GazEtc investigated the patent for Chuck Taylors and found that they’re actually classified as house slippers with fabric bottoms, rather than sneakers with rubber soles. As he explains: 

Since my shoes were made in China, they were subject to an import tariff when they were shipped to the United States. And the import tariff is much lower for shoes with fuzzy fabric soles (like house slippers) than it is for shoes with rubber soles (like sneakers). According to the inventors, changing the shoe material can lower the duty from 37.5% down to just 3%. 

To benefit from a lower tariff, it isn’t necessary to cover the entire sole with fabric. According to the inventors, “a classification may be based on the type of material that is present on 50% or more of the bottom surface.” This explains why the “fabric” fuzz extends mostly around the edges of my shoes, where it can take up a lot of area without interfering too much with the traction of the bare-rubber centers.

So the invention embodied in my shoes is not a technological advancement. It actually seems to be a small step backward in quality. Instead, my shoes embody an advancement in “tariff engineering.” But perhaps, by putting up with a bit of fuzz, I can pay just a bit less for each new pair of sneakers.

You can see the original patent for Chuck Taylors here. The Smithsonian also has an interesting clip about how Marvel went to court to argue that the the X-Men weren’t human in order to get lower tariff rates.

Jerry Seinfeld on his omnipresent white sneakers…

It started with wanting to be Joe Namath of the 1969 New York Jets, who at that time was one of the only football players to wear white shoes. And I wanted to be like him, so I always wore white sneakers. Also, Bill Cosby on I Spy always wore white sneakers. And they were my fashion icons.

Germany Army Trainers
If you’ve ever wanted German Army Trainers, now might be one of the better times to get a pair. Readers might remember when Jesse wrote about them last year. German Army Trainers (or GATs for short) are simple white sneakers accented with a bit of grey suede at the toe. They were designed by two brothers who would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, which is perhaps why the design feels so familiar.
For many people, the easiest and most recommendable source for GATs is Zeemon – a StyleForum member in Germany who has been supplying people with these shoes for years. Unfortunately for us - though fortunately for him - he’s moving to Japan in April for a study abroad program. Which means if you want a pair, you should contact him soon. He’ll send you a pair for $85 flat, and you can either message him on StyleForum or email him here for details.
Another option is to go through ajdesa – a StyleForum member who’s organizing a bulk-buy for slightly used trainers. Used pairs can be found through military surplus dealers on eBay Germany, but you’ll have to deal with Google Translate and not all sellers are willing to ship to the United States. Plus, ajdesa is selling them for slightly less than what you’ll find on eBay. Since he’s a new user, however, I’d recommend paying him through Paypal, but via your credit card, so that you get a bit of protection in case anything goes wrong. You can private message him on StyleForum if you’re interested.
For the most affordable (and easiest to order), there’s JC Penny, who surprisingly came out with a GATs inspired design this past season. Cost? $25.50 with the code LASTDASH. I haven’t handled them, but some people have reported them as being surprisingly good for the price.
Lastly, if you have a bit of money to spend, the current round of seasonal sales makes this the best time to snag a pair of Margielas (the most popular replica). End has a 60% off sale going on right now with a couple of Margiela GATs priced between $215 and $250.

Germany Army Trainers

If you’ve ever wanted German Army Trainers, now might be one of the better times to get a pair. Readers might remember when Jesse wrote about them last year. German Army Trainers (or GATs for short) are simple white sneakers accented with a bit of grey suede at the toe. They were designed by two brothers who would later go on to launch Adidas and Puma, which is perhaps why the design feels so familiar.

For many people, the easiest and most recommendable source for GATs is Zeemon – a StyleForum member in Germany who has been supplying people with these shoes for years. Unfortunately for us - though fortunately for him - he’s moving to Japan in April for a study abroad program. Which means if you want a pair, you should contact him soon. He’ll send you a pair for $85 flat, and you can either message him on StyleForum or email him here for details.

Another option is to go through ajdesa – a StyleForum member who’s organizing a bulk-buy for slightly used trainers. Used pairs can be found through military surplus dealers on eBay Germany, but you’ll have to deal with Google Translate and not all sellers are willing to ship to the United States. Plus, ajdesa is selling them for slightly less than what you’ll find on eBay. Since he’s a new user, however, I’d recommend paying him through Paypal, but via your credit card, so that you get a bit of protection in case anything goes wrong. You can private message him on StyleForum if you’re interested.

For the most affordable (and easiest to order), there’s JC Penny, who surprisingly came out with a GATs inspired design this past season. Cost? $25.50 with the code LASTDASH. I haven’t handled them, but some people have reported them as being surprisingly good for the price.

Lastly, if you have a bit of money to spend, the current round of seasonal sales makes this the best time to snag a pair of Margielas (the most popular replica). End has a 60% off sale going on right now with a couple of Margiela GATs priced between $215 and $250.

Maintenance: Sneaker Rehab with Mr. Clean

I never advocate fussy treatment of sneakers—boxfresh is nice and all but most improve with a little dirt and creasing. When simple canvas sneakers like Vans authentics or Chucks get too far gone, they can be tossed in a washing machine, but what to do with leather is less clear.

A potential solution: Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. Kyle (previously featured as a Real Person) recently uploaded before-and-after photos of his Pierre Hardy sneakers, which he’s been wearing on and off since 2009. He scrubbed them with a Magic Eraser, added new laces, and they’re looking 4 years younger. I’m going to try this out on an older pair of Nike Dunks as soon as I can.

Some caveats—the eraser pads are made of melamine foam, a whiz-bang space-age product that’s mildly abrasive, like an incredibly fine sandpaper. It took all the dirt off Kyle’s kicks, and the original glossy finish, too. If you’re concerned about that, test it out on an inconspicuous spot before you attack your Margielas. Kyle also said that the eraser was less effective on the rubber sole than on the leather upper. For suede sneakers, I’ve found suede cleaning kits (which often include a traditional, rubber eraser and a brush) effective, and would expect the Magic Eraser to be less so.

-Pete

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK
I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.
I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.
All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.
Coats
I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.
Shirts
I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.
Trousers
I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.
Shoes
I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.
Etc.
I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK

I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.

I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.

All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.

Coats

I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.

Shirts

I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.

Trousers

I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.

Shoes

I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.

Etc.

I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

It’s On Sale: Common Projects and Margiela Sneakers

Oki Ni is having a spring/ summer sale for customers in the United States and Canada. Take 30% off with the code SUMMER30. The code works on the Common Projects and Maison Martin Margiela sneakers you see above, both of which come out to about $275 after discount. You can then email the store and ask for VAT to be refunded. That’ll knock these down even further, to about $220. Shipping is free. 

(These run true to size, from my experience. Also, note that in order to get the code to work, you have to specify your shipping destination to be either the US or Canada). 

Kent’s White Sneakers v. 2.0

Kent Wang just released version two of his plain white leather sneakers. I bought the first version late last year, but winter weather being what it is, I haven’t been able to wear them until the last month or so.

Kent’s design can be most easily compared to Common Projects’ Achilles, a white low top that has been immensely popular with style enthusiasts for the last five years or so. Like the Achilles, Kent’s is plain and minimalistic, which is a nice break from all the over-designed sneakers we’ve seen in the last two decades or so. The biggest difference between the two, however, is the silhouette. The Achilles is a bit sleeker, the sole comes up a bit higher on the shoe, and the shoe itself comes up a bit higher on the ankle. You can see this difference in the last two photos above. Kent’s second version, however, improves on the first by elongating the toe, so it looks a bit less stubby, and also pushes the sole ever so slightly so that it comes on top of the toe box.

The remaining sizes of Kent’s first version have all been discounted to $65 and the second has been introduced at $95. Not cheap, but in comparison to other white minimalistic sneakers – Saint Laurent Paris ($500), Common Projects ($350), Svensson ($300), and Erik Schedin ($135, once you deduct for VAT) – Kent’s is the most affordable around. Of course, affordability does come at a price. The Achilles, for example, is made from a higher-quality leather and the sole is reinforced with stitching. Still, for $95, these are pretty nice and would look great with jeans and chinos this coming summer.

Available sizes right now include 7, 8, and 9, but sizes 10 and larger will be made available in about six weeks.

Keeping Summer Simple

I don’t love shorts, but I wear them. Why? The truth is that I’m a San Francisco guy living in Los Angeles. My internal thermostat can handle temperatures from about 55 to 80, so when the weatherman says “high of 91” and I don’t have a meeting or a reason to wear something fancy, I reach for a pair of shorts. It’s tough to admit, but it’s true.

When it’s genuinely hot outside, I work hard to keep things simple and lightweight. Above is the kind of outfit I’m talking about. The shirt’s from J. Crew - right now they’re full retail, $89.50 (!), but I didn’t pay more than $30 for any of the linen in my closet. I usually buy them in-store late in the summer, when they’ve been marked down a couple times. When I see some plain white linen that works well for me, and it’s $23 a pop, I buy a few. I’ve got a couple with something going on, and a couple more in white and light blue solid. Perfect for every occasion.

The shorts are by Uniqlo, and they’re $30. These aren’t world beaters, quality-wise, but they’ll get you through a summer or two. Focus on basics - khaki is of course number one, but white’s surprisingly easy to wear when it’s genuinely summer out. Navy blue’s pretty useful, too.

The shoes are plain plimsolls - traditional canvas sneakers. I actually bought this pair a few weeks ago right after posting about them here, they’re Keds. Thirty five bucks out the door (though there are only a couple sizes left now). Plain white and navy are workhorses for summer sneakers. If they get dirty, don’t sweat it. If they get gross and ratty, replace them. Besides Keds, we like to recommend Converse and Superga. Keep those feet fresh with no-show socks like these.

There are other options, of course. I love the madras shorts and shirts from Lands’ End, for example. I’m a big ghurka shorts man, and if it’s really summery and I’m not walking too far, I wear espadrilles. But frankly, with a simple, coordinated outfit like this, you’ll have 99% of the other chumps beat. Heck, just by covering your toes you’ll have 90% beat. And trust me: no one wants to see your toes.