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: Superga Sneakers
Here’s another great sale. This one is at East Dane, where Superga sneakers have been put on discount. Really basic colors such as white and navy are available in all sizes for $32.50 (with free shipping to boot). Slightly more off-beat colors, such as red, grey, and black, are being offered for as little as $19.50. Note, these are final sale, and for what it’s worth, I find that I have to size down half-a-size in this model (so my usual footwear size is 9, but I wear an 8.5 in Superga’s 2750 sneaker).

It’s On Sale: Superga Sneakers

Here’s another great sale. This one is at East Dane, where Superga sneakers have been put on discount. Really basic colors such as white and navy are available in all sizes for $32.50 (with free shipping to boot). Slightly more off-beat colors, such as red, grey, and black, are being offered for as little as $19.50. Note, these are final sale, and for what it’s worth, I find that I have to size down half-a-size in this model (so my usual footwear size is 9, but I wear an 8.5 in Superga’s 2750 sneaker).

Lord & Taylor Sale
Lord & Taylor has a 25% off sale right now with the discount code FRIENDS. The code works on much of their stock, including these Ray Ban sunglasses, Superga sneakers, Timex watches, and various things by Ralph Lauren.
I really like their Ray Ban Clubmasters, which you see above. They’ve been discounted from $150 to $108, with free shipping given to boot. Note, the store has them offered in black and tortoise, but the tortoise listing has the wrong photo. I bought from the same listing over the summer, and true enough, it was the tortoise model that came. 
Code expires this Tuesday. Oh, and if you get any Ray Bans, you can use this penny trick to scratch off the logo. 

Lord & Taylor Sale

Lord & Taylor has a 25% off sale right now with the discount code FRIENDS. The code works on much of their stock, including these Ray Ban sunglasses, Superga sneakers, Timex watches, and various things by Ralph Lauren.

I really like their Ray Ban Clubmasters, which you see above. They’ve been discounted from $150 to $108, with free shipping given to boot. Note, the store has them offered in black and tortoise, but the tortoise listing has the wrong photo. I bought from the same listing over the summer, and true enough, it was the tortoise model that came. 

Code expires this Tuesday. Oh, and if you get any Ray Bans, you can use this penny trick to scratch off the logo. 

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.

Q & Answer: What Shoes Should I Bring On Vacation?

Ben writes: This May, my wife and I are honeymooning in Europe for two weeks. I know that I will be doing a heavy amount of walking. Do you have any suggestions for footwear that will allow me to keep pace with my wife without looking like the ugly American?

Packing shoes for a trip - especially one that requires more than one level of formality - is always tough. When I travel, I fight not to bring more than two pairs of shoes, with one of those pairs on my feet. I don’t always win the fight.

I’ve got plenty of dress shoes that are perfectly comfortable, but none that I’d want to walk miles in. So if I’m bringing a pair of dress shoes to make a big presentation or what-have-you, I’m usually looking to compliment them with a “walking shoe.”

Depending on the season and context, that usually boils down to one of two things: a simple sneaker, or a comfortable boot.

I actually own the Grenson chukka boots pictured above, in a slightly darker brown. I find they work great with jeans or khakis, though I obviously wouldn’t wear them with shorts were I headed somewhere hot. In fact, they’re sort of a three-season shoe - fine anytime but summer. Sometimes I’ll substitute the chunkier, hardier Alden Indy Boot for these. Most importantly, I can put in a few miles on these, and be happy to see them the next day.

I also frequently bring sneakers on trips that will involve walking. As usual, I’d say the simpler the better. Above are a classic, the Adidas Samba. I usually wear Common Projects, which are great but expensive. I’m hoping Kent Wang gets in a full size run of his plain white sneaks soon. And of course if it’s summer, there’s stuff like Jack Purcells and Supergas, among others.

Traveling’s really an exercise in building a capsule wardrobe. You want to carry as few pieces as possible, and have as much interchangability as possible. So: keep it simple, and you’ll be fine.

It’s On Sale: Suprega Sneakers

Gilt has several canvas sneakers from Superga for $49 today, including two versions in white (plus another logo-less version for $65). Of course, other colors are available, too, but I don’t think they’re quite as versatile.

Admittedly, these aren’t the cheapest we’ve seen Supergas go for — in the past they went for as low as $20 at Overstock.com, but I can’t find any pairs for a similar price right now on the web. 

You can read what we’ve said about Superga sneakers in the past, but they will make a good casual summer shoe to wear with denim or chinos and a casual, button-down shirt for weekends. 

(And if you still don’t have a Gilt login, you can use our referral code here). 

-Kiyoshi

Casual Summer Footwear

Like most men of my generation, I rarely wear more “formal” clothes such as dark wool suits and black oxford shoes. Much of my wardrobe consists of more casual items, though I admit it leans towards the dressier side of things. That means lots of odd trousers and sport coats, casual button-up shirts, and shoes such as derbys, boots, and slip-ons. With the passing of Memorial Day and the unofficial arrival of summer, I thought I’d review some casual footwear options for the new season. Basically things that will work with what I think most men already have in their closet.

Generally speaking, I think men tend to look smarter in a pair of leather shoes than trainers. The one exception is white sneakers during the summer. For some ensembles, such as a pair of navy chinos and a colorful madras shirt, there may be nothing better. My favorites in this category include Superga, Chuck Taylors’ All Stars, and Vans’ Authentics, but there are many others. I covered a bunch of them last year in a post about plimsolls. In addition to those, you can consider the Common Projects and German Army Trainers that Jesse has talked about, as well as Svensson’s Classic Low Whites, Superga’s 1705s, and Superga’s decks. Svensson is a bit more refined looking, like Common Projects, but comes at a lower price point and even less branding. Men of Ilk is offering a 20% off discount code right now (GLCCW49), which puts the Svenssons at $180 for American customers. As for the Supergas, I bought a pair of the 1705s a few months ago and have been really enjoying them. The branding is less obvious and the design is basic enough to pair with most things.

For something slightly dressier, you can consider chukka boots. I know boots are a bit of an odd suggestion for summer footwear, but depending on your regional climate, I think they can work quite well. Alden’s unlined suede chukka, for example, is so soft and buttery that it wears very much like a slipper. The lack of leather lining inside makes the upper more malleable and breathable, much like a canvas shoe. My friend Stephen at The Simply Refined has said everything I could say about them. For something similar, you can consider Church’s Sahara and Allen Edmonds’ Amok. The brown version of the Amok is on clearance right now for $125.

If you prefer a bit more structure in your leather chukkas, you should check out Loake’s Kempton, Sahara, and Camden. Brooks Brothers also has a suede boot that gets discounted to $130 or so at the end of every season, and there’s of course Clark’s desert boots that everyone already knows about. If you have a bit more money to spend, I would also recommend A Suitable Wardrobe’s crepe sole chukka. I really like the shape of the toe box and think the crepe sole/ suede upper combination helps underscore the casualness of the shoes.

Finally, I’ll also suggest you get a pair of loafers this summer. Like with chukkas, these can be worn mostly year round, but feel especially nice for the warmer seasons. There are a good number of styles to consider, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with the classic American penny loafer. Inspired by the Norwegian moccasin, the penny loafer was the sine non-qua for the post-war “Ivy Look,” and still looks quite sharp today. I recommend getting them from American manufacturers such as Alden, Allen Edmonds, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, Rancourt, and Oak Street Bootmakers. Bass also has some, though their quality is much lower these days. Outside of American companies, you may also want to look into Markowski, Herring, and Loake, as well as some of the models that Crockett & Jones offers.

Of course, there are dozens of good causal footwear styles, and some may be better suited for warm weather conditions than the ones above (e.g. espadrilles, white bucks, and spectators). However, for good, versatile basics that can work well for summer and transition into fall, I think you’d do well with white sneakers, suede chukkas, and leather penny loafers. 

It’s On Sale …
Overstock.com has a good sale on Supergas again. The classic whites are $31.50, but if you’re willing to go with a slightly less traditional color, such as ecru, you can get a pair for $18.50. 

It’s On Sale …

Overstock.com has a good sale on Supergas again. The classic whites are $31.50, but if you’re willing to go with a slightly less traditional color, such as ecru, you can get a pair for $18.50. 

It’s on Overstock.com

I like the fact that this post is going to reward people who spend their Friday nights at home surfing menswear blogs. Your dedication is rewarded. 

Three good deals at Overstock.com right now:

Superga 2750 Classic for $29.99: My favorite plimsoll. I wrote about them for the Five Days of Summer series. I think they retail between $65 and $90, normally. Oh, and they also have them in navy and camel for the same price.

Tom Ford aviator sunglasses for $149.99: These typically retail for $300. They’re one of the best aviators out there, in my opinion. I hate to do “celebrity styling” shots, but this photo of Brad Pitt gives a decent sense of how they would look when worn (assuming the shape of your face is similar to his). A Head Long Dive also made a good post about them last year.

Timex Easy Reader for $22.49: Again, something I wrote in my Five Days of Summer series. Not that big of a savings here, as this normally retails for about $35, but I wanted to include three things to round this post out, so here you go. 

The Five Days of Summer Series, Part II: Plimsolls

Let’s be honest - nothing beats the comfort of sneakers. That comfort comes in handy when you’re taking long strolls during those warm summer days. Thus, for the second installment of this summer series, let’s talk about plimsolls. 

"Plimsoll" is a British term for shoes with a canvas upper and rubber sole. The first was invented in the 1830s by Liverpool Rubber Company and designed for beachwear. As such, its original name was "sand shoe." It wasn’t until the 1870s actually that the name plimsoll took hold. The new name derived from the horizontal colored stripe that ran along the upper part of the sole, which resembled the Plimsoll line on a ship’s hull. Like the line on ships, the stripe on the shoe was a kind of waterline (though it was clearly for just aesthetic purposes). 

These days, the plimsoll isn’t necessarily just for beachwear. People wear them everywhere, and they make for great summer shoes. So let’s review a few. 

To me, there are three classics - Superga, Spring Court, and Converse. Superga is an Italian label, and if you’ve been reading me for a while, you already know about my predilection for Italian menswear. It’s not just that they’re Italian that makes them my favorite, however. I think they’re the simplest of the plimsolls, and thus are much easier to wear. 

Spring Court is another classic; they’re made in France and the most comfortable of the plimsolls I’ve worn. I would recommend them if you’re comfortable with the bumps and bumpers on the sole.

Finally, of the classics, there is also Converse, which make the iconic American plimsoll that we’re all familiar with. The two most popular models are the Chuck Taylor All Stars, which come in both low and high tops, and Jack Purcell. Chuck Taylors are great because they’ll still look good when they’re beat to hell. Jack Purcells are basically plimsolls with a smile, which we know makes everything look better. Also, in an interesting team-up, Converse recently collaborated with Mackintosh to make a Jack Purcell model out of Mackintosh’s famed rubberized cotton. It’s more of a novelty shoe for menswear geeks, but I really like it. 

There are also great models outside of the classics. Feiyue are the monk shoes of plimsolls - meaning they were first worn by Shaolin monks and other martial artists. They were originally a Chinese company but have been since bought by a French sneakerhead who has made the shoe popular among footwear fanatics. They come in both low and high tops, and are most distinguishable by the red and blue stripes on the side. There are also Tretorns, which are Swedish plimsolls, and a new collaboration piece between Billy Reid and K Swiss. The Billy Reid x K Swiss may not be a classic, but I think it’s a pretty damn nice looking shoe that would look great with any casual summer wardrobe. 

Finally, there are CVOs - canvas vulcanized oxfords. For these, you can get Vans Authentics and Converse. Sperry Topsider also released a slightly vintage looking model for their 75th anniversary. 

If you get a pair of plimsolls, I recommend white, as nothing looks better in the summer. Some may worry that white canvas shoes are hard to keep clean. Personally, I think they look best with a little dirt on them. However, if you do want to keep them a bit brighter, try spraying a 50/50 mix of water and lemon juice, gently scrubbing for a bit, and letting them sit for a full day. For more serious stains, mix a tablespoon of baking soda and touch of water, and then rub the sticky paste onto the stain. Don’t worry too much about them though. They’re casual shoes and meant to be treated as such. 

(thanks to Edwin and LAS for help with this article)