The Wallet I Use with Jeans

Since my post on henleys yesterday, a few readers emailed me asking for details on the leather wallet shown in my picture. That’s a mid-length, steerhide wallet made by the Japanese brand Flat Head. It’s thick and heavy, and over-the-top in terms of durability. It’s also the only wallet I’ll use with jeans, as my regular card case and money clip combination feels too insubstantial when I’m wearing a rugged jacket.

High-End Japanese Models

The Flat Head’s wallet is admittedly ridiculously expensive. Part of this is due to the materials and construction (it has a sterling silver ring, and has been handsewn with waxed cow tendon thread); part of it is the cost of labor in Japan (where it was made); and part of it is simply a result of the high-demand for Flat Head products in the hardcore denim-enthusiast community. If you’re not bothered by the price, you can find similarly nice pieces at Self Edge and Blue in Green. They have stuff made by Flat Head, as well as other high-end Japanese brands, such as Kawatako, Studio D’Artisan, and Red Moon.

More Affordable Options

There are a number of more affordable options, however, from companies based the other parts of East Asia and the United States. These include Angelos Leather, Obbi Good Label, Tenjin Works, PCKY, Voyej, Hollows Leather, and Tanner Goods. I’ve also seen some really nice models made by Don’t Mourn Organize. The man behind that operation, Scott, doesn’t list his mid-length and long-wallets on his website, but I assume they can still be made. Almost everything he sells is made-to-order. Lastly, you can search eBay for “Redmoon style wallet,” which should pull up a few models. I have no experience with those, but I did buy my braided leather chain, which you see above, from eBay a few years ago (it cost something like twenty-five bucks). There are still similar ones on eBay

Getting That Patina

If you buy one, you have the option of getting something already dyed, or something that comes in a tan “natural” color. The second will darken into that golden, honey brown you see above. All that’s really required is about a year or so of regular use. Sunlight will darken the leather, so if you want to speed up the process, you can leave the wallet out for a couple of days in direct sunlight. To get a truly nice patina, however, you’ll need to use it. Sticking it in your back pockets, for example, will give the leather a more natural, broken-in look, and transfer some of the indigo from your jeans to your wallet’s leather and threads. I also routinely treat mine with Obneauf’s Heavy Duty LP. Some say the hue of your wallet’s patina is determined by the kind of leather treatment you choose, while others say this is nonsense. I have no opinion on it either way, but you can browse threads like this one at Superfuture to see how some people’s leather products have aged. I have noticed, for what it’s worth, that some Flat Head wallets have developed a slightly reddish patina, while mine is more golden-brown.

Either way, if you purchase something of quality, and give it some good, hard, honest use, you’re sure to get something beautiful at the end. Just don’t let a chiropractor see you with one, as sitting on such a bulky thing all day is apparently bad for your health.

Flecked Sweaters for Fall

I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about knitwear, but I’ve been thinking about flecked sweaters a lot lately. Sometimes these are called speckled sweaters, sometimes Donegal sweaters, and sometimes even tweed sweaters. Not because they’re actually from Donegal (a county in Ireland), but because the irregular flecks of color on these yarns are reminiscent of the region’s hallmark tweeds.

The nice thing about flecked sweaters is that they can add a bit of visual interest where a solid knit might be too boring. I find this useful when wearing a sweater alone (over a shirt, but without a jacket). There’s just something about a very smooth, plain-colored merino, worn with wool or cotton trousers, that can sometimes feel a bit too uninspired (though, they do work well underneath tailored sport coats).

There are a number of brands with flecked sweaters this fall. At the top of the price pyramid end is Inis Meain, who makes them in a pure cashmere and wool-cashmere blend. Those are available at A Suitable Wardrobe, Barneys New York, Manufactum, and Frans Boone. Inis Meain makes some of my favorite knitwear in the world, and I find their quality to be unsurpassed, but their popularity in Japan and Europe has made them very expensive. If you’re not deterred by the price, Barney’s also has a few half zip sweaters by Fioroni worth considering.

For something a bit more affordable, check out these options by Drumohr, Billy Reid, Saturdays Surf NYC, APC, and Orvis. J Crew also has something on sale through their Wallace & Barnes line, and an extra 25% can be taken off at the moment with the checkout code FALLSTYLE. Perhaps most promising are these Howlin’ by Morrison Shetlands, which come in light grey, charcoal, and red (I really dig the light grey, personally). 

There’s also a range of Irish makers, none of whom I have any direct experience with. If you’re open to giving them a try, a quick Google search will reveal a number of retailers. Maybe start with Aran Sweater Market, Aran Sweater Shop, and Magee. This seller on eBay also has a range of intriguing options starting at $70.

Most affordable of all is J Crew’s mainline. They’ve done a number of these sweaters in the past and you can still find many of them floating around on eBay. J Crew’s knits, from my experience, stretch out pretty easily, but if the price is right, they can be a good buy. This one, for example, is available for $30 (the cut looks pretty boxy though). Mr. Porter also has this blue version brand new for $90. That’ll probably make it to their end-of-season sale, where it’ll be discounted by 50-70%. 

It’s probably BS that Hemingway’s shortest story was the six-word “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” but nevertheless the clothes we sell have stories to tell. To that end, curator Emily Spivack put together "Sentimental Value," an exhibition of eBay finds that she chose not because she was jonesing for a never-to-be-worn wedding dress or a pair of ruined Air Maxes, but due to the sometimes intensely personal narratives behind the items that sellers relate in their listings. They go beyond “Didn’t fit” and “There’s lots of life left in this blood-stained cocktail dress.” Check out the New York Times piece on Spivack’s exhibit

-Pete

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.

Camp Mocs

In the last 100 years or so, Americans have invented some of the most classic slip-on shoe styles for men, but they usually start with an idea borrowed from somewhere else. G.H. Bass, for example, invented the classic American penny loafer, but they came up with the idea after having seen moccasin style shoes made and worn by farmers in Norway. Alden, similarly, came up with the tassel loafer when actor Paul Lukas asked if they could make something similar to a pair of tasseled oxfords he picked up in Europe.

Yet another example is the camp moc, which was invented by LL Bean’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, in 1936. He came up with a slip on shoe that could be worn out in the wilderness by taking some ideas from Native American moccasins. Like many of his company’s clothes in the mid-century, LL Bean’s camp mocs eventually made their way to college campuses. At that time, many students liked to repurpose outdoor clothes such as parkas, trail mocs, and camp mocs for everyday use. 

LL Bean still makes their camp moc, but I’m afraid it’s not what it used to be. It’s a decent shoe, to be sure, and probably the most affordable one out there at $79. However, the leather quality leaves a lot to be desired.

If you can afford them, you can find better camp mocs from Oak Street Bootmakers, Rancourt, and Quoddy. Rancourt’s has the advantage in being fully made-to-order, so you can customize them however you’d like. Alden also makes a model through their Cape Cod Collection. It’s typically built on a less than ideal driving sole, but Harrison seems to have it available on a leather sole with a stacked heel (less traditional, but nice looking). I also like the ones from Russell Moccasin (Sid Mashburn has better photos) and Eastland’s Made in Maine. Eastland’s Made in Maine collection is significantly better than their mainline (which also has a camp moc), but to be honest, I find them a bit overpriced for their quality. On the upside, they’ve somehow escaped internet hype, so it’s easier to find them on sale and (occasionally) eBay at heavily discounted prices. Their camp moc is a pretty good value if you can find them half off or so, but note that they’re a bit low on the instep.

Two other good makers are Arrow Moccasins and Town View Leather. They’re both small, family-owned operations that make fully handsewn moccasin style shoes. I like them a lot, especially at their modest price point. They give you the option of making your moccasins with a crepe or double leather sole. I have a pair of double leather sole moccasins from Arrow, and like them for short walks and use around the house. Jesse has also taken his for longer walks. The leathers these guys use is thick and supple, and nicely conform to your feet after a few months worth of use. 

At their core, however, camp mocs are meant to be abused and worn down to the ground. Many of the aforementioned brands make camp mocs from higher-quality leathers, which means they’ll last a bit longer and look better with age. However, even the LL Bean ones have a certain charm as they’re falling apart. Buy ones that are right for your budget and feel free to put some hard use into them.

(Photos via Reddit)

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?
I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  
To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.
So how can you tell what’s what?
Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.
Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 
Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.
Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.
In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 
(Photo via Capnwes)

Is This an Orphaned Suit Jacket?

I recently received a couple of emails from readers asking if I thought something they were looking at on eBay was an orphaned suit jacket. An orphaned suit jacket is a jacket that used to belong to a suit, but for some reason – whether because they were worn through, badly damaged, or just plain lost – the matching trousers are no longer available. It’s not uncommon to come across these when you’re looking at second hand clothing, and you’ll want to avoid purchasing them. Wearing an orphaned jacket can make you look like you spilled something on your suit trousers and had to change out of them. It’s not a good look.  

To be sure, there are no hard and fast rules, and some suit jackets can be worn as sport coats. Those made from cotton, linen, tweed, or corduroy are usually fine. There are also some wools that can be successfully used for both business suits and casual sport coats. However, for the purposes of this post, we’ll assume the simplistic view that suit jackets should generally never be worn alone, as most of the ones you’re likely to encounter through second hand clothing are of a certain type that shouldn’t be.

So how can you tell what’s what?

Generally speaking, the rougher, fluffier, more visible the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a sport coat. Conversely, the finer and flatter the weave, the more likely you’re looking at a suit jacket. This is especially true if it feels very smooth, silky, and lightweight, and you can see diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric (like you can with denim). If the fabric has a bit of shine to it when you bend and move it, it’s almost certainly something that was designated for a suit.

Certain patterns can also be clues. Pinstripes and chalkstripes always indicate something was meant to be worn as a suit. Birdseye, nailhead, pinhead, and very fine herringbone - the kind that you only notice is herringbone when you inspect it up close, but looks solid from a foot or two away - also tend to be reserved for suits, though there are exceptions. If it’s a chunky, rough weave such as tweed, something like a birdseye would be fine. 

Similarly, pay attention to scale of patterns. Though suits can come in big, bold patterns, and sport coats in quiet and subtle ones, the more successful sport coats tend to have larger scale designs. It’s a way of announcing to the world: this isn’t something to be worn to a business meeting. Thus, if you’re in between whether or not a jacket can be worn by itself – if the pattern is very small or faint, you’re probably safer off passing.

Lastly, if a jacket has buttons made from metal or mother of pearl, or are covered in leather, you’re likely looking at a sport coat. Horn, on the other hand, can go either way, but one thing you can do is count the number of buttons on the sleeve cuff. If there are less than four, the chances of it being a sport coat go up.

In the end, however, you just have to use your own best judgment. Remember: the point is not to say whether something is definitively orphaned or not, the point is to not look like you’re accidentally wearing a suit jacket without the matching trousers. In the end, just keep that in mind and go with your gut. 

(Photo via Capnwes)

Where Do The eBay Roundups Come From?
Lately, a lot of folks have been asking me where the auctions in our eBay roundup posts come from. Every week, between two public posts and one members-only Inside Track post, we point you to hundreds of items. So how do we find them?
I use Google Reader to follow RSS feeds - it’s one of the main ways I interact with the web. If you’re not an RSS feed user, I recommend you look into it, as it’s a much more focused way to get the content you want when you want it. Basically, RSS is just a file that lists, chronologically, updates to a website. Usually that means new blog posts or news articles, but it can also mean other stuff. eBay, for example, will allow you to make an RSS feed out of any search so that when something is listed that fits your search parameters, it appears in the feed. Usually a little RSS icon will pop up at the bottom of the search, but you can also use this little trick to create an RSS feed.
I’m subscribed to about 1500 eBay searches. It’s a list I’ve built over many years. I don’t generally search for “Zegna” or “Polo,” but I do search for many, many less-well-known or defunct brands. Sometimes it’s old stuff, like Sulka, sometimes it’s new stuff, like Archival Clothing. Every day, I sift through five hundred or a thousand listings, and whenever I find something I like, I drop it into a Google Doc that I share with Derek and Kiyoshi. Generally, I’m looking for stuff that’s distinctive, wearable (or at least interesting), and with the potential to be a bargain. I also try to pick a little more stuff from the extremes of the size spectrum, so they’ll be a bit better represented.
Sometimes I find an auction for a cool item that seems like it might be coming directly out of someone’s closet. On those items, sometimes I’ll look at the seller’s other auctions - maybe they’re someone with taste. That’s usually where stuff from better-known brands comes from on the list.
Sometimes I’ll also spend some time just flipping through newly listed auctions in the vintage section. If you notice a particularly high number of vintage items some week, I probably killed a slow half hour that way sometime in the previous few days. With vintage, the brand is significant, but I’m really just looking for stuff that catches my eye. I’ve also got a few dozen vintage sellers saved in My eBay who always have good stuff, and sometimes I’ll flip through whatever they’ve got up.
Derek and Kiyoshi both toss stuff into the mix when they come across it, too. Both are eBay shoppers, and as you know, if you find a great item that doesn’t fit you, you want to find it a good home. We also sometimes get contributions from our semi-anonymous friend The RJ Cat, whose lists on StyleForum years ago were an inspiration for ours. 
It’s a huge task, but frankly, I enjoy it. It’s a nice thing to do while I’m waiting for an important, or when I want to take a break from my real job.

Where Do The eBay Roundups Come From?

Lately, a lot of folks have been asking me where the auctions in our eBay roundup posts come from. Every week, between two public posts and one members-only Inside Track post, we point you to hundreds of items. So how do we find them?

I use Google Reader to follow RSS feeds - it’s one of the main ways I interact with the web. If you’re not an RSS feed user, I recommend you look into it, as it’s a much more focused way to get the content you want when you want it. Basically, RSS is just a file that lists, chronologically, updates to a website. Usually that means new blog posts or news articles, but it can also mean other stuff. eBay, for example, will allow you to make an RSS feed out of any search so that when something is listed that fits your search parameters, it appears in the feed. Usually a little RSS icon will pop up at the bottom of the search, but you can also use this little trick to create an RSS feed.

I’m subscribed to about 1500 eBay searches. It’s a list I’ve built over many years. I don’t generally search for “Zegna” or “Polo,” but I do search for many, many less-well-known or defunct brands. Sometimes it’s old stuff, like Sulka, sometimes it’s new stuff, like Archival Clothing. Every day, I sift through five hundred or a thousand listings, and whenever I find something I like, I drop it into a Google Doc that I share with Derek and Kiyoshi. Generally, I’m looking for stuff that’s distinctive, wearable (or at least interesting), and with the potential to be a bargain. I also try to pick a little more stuff from the extremes of the size spectrum, so they’ll be a bit better represented.

Sometimes I find an auction for a cool item that seems like it might be coming directly out of someone’s closet. On those items, sometimes I’ll look at the seller’s other auctions - maybe they’re someone with taste. That’s usually where stuff from better-known brands comes from on the list.

Sometimes I’ll also spend some time just flipping through newly listed auctions in the vintage section. If you notice a particularly high number of vintage items some week, I probably killed a slow half hour that way sometime in the previous few days. With vintage, the brand is significant, but I’m really just looking for stuff that catches my eye. I’ve also got a few dozen vintage sellers saved in My eBay who always have good stuff, and sometimes I’ll flip through whatever they’ve got up.

Derek and Kiyoshi both toss stuff into the mix when they come across it, too. Both are eBay shoppers, and as you know, if you find a great item that doesn’t fit you, you want to find it a good home. We also sometimes get contributions from our semi-anonymous friend The RJ Cat, whose lists on StyleForum years ago were an inspiration for ours.

It’s a huge task, but frankly, I enjoy it. It’s a nice thing to do while I’m waiting for an important, or when I want to take a break from my real job.

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. 

Searching for Ralph Lauren Shoes on eBay
Ian from the blog From Squalor to Baller has been writing a pretty good series on how to build a basic business casual wardrobe. His latest entry on footwear reminded me of something: Ralph Lauren shoes on eBay are one of the best ways a man can buy decent-quality, classic shoes for not too much money. 
To be sure, Ralph Lauren makes a lot of crap (sorry, Ralph). His company basically sells things at every price point on the spectrum, and the lower end stuff isn’t terribly worth buying.
But that’s also maybe why Ralph Lauren shoes don’t go for much money on eBay. Most people don’t want to sift through the chaff. If you’re willing to, however, you can find some great deals. For example, see the following auctions that just ended:
Basic brown bluchers for $90
Suede chukkas for $125
Suede chukkas again for $100
Quarter brogues for $125
Pebble grained boots for $125
Suede semi brogues for $100
Penny loafers for $62
Burnished loafers for $113
If you look hard enough, and are patient, you can score some decent shoes for $125 and under. The problem is obviously trying to figure out what’s worth buying. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern the true quality of things from just a photo on eBay (sometimes a bad photo at that). There are some things you can do, however. 
First, use a more refined search link. Ralph Lauren generally makes terrible sneakers and tennis shoes, so you can exclude those from your search by keying in “-tennis, -sneakers, -sneaker” to your query (minus the quotation marks). These will take out the words “tennis,” “sneakers,” and “sneaker” from your search. You probably also want to take out anything from the Chaps line, and exclude RLX shoes (as those won’t be in the classic styles you’re presumably interested in). So add “-Chaps, -RLX” to the end as well. Here is a link to the search with all these conditions, which you can use to find shoes in your size. Feel free to amend the query with even more parameters as you see fit. 
Second, while I hate to encourage people to think about a garment’s quality in terms of its country of origin (which is often not a very reliable way to determine quality, by the way), it’s generally true in this case that RL’s shoes made in England and Italy will be of higher quality than those made in Asian countries. So, if you can, look for a photo that shows a label declaring where the shoes have been produced. If you don’t see one, ask the seller. Or, better yet, you can do an advanced search and add “(England, Italy)” to your query (again, without the quotation marks). Then tick the box for “Search Titles and Descriptions.” This will pull up any auctions that have the words England or Italy in them. (Note, this will also pull up any auctions that have used the words Ralph Lauren, but are not actual Ralph Lauren shoes, so be careful). 
Third, while it’s not always true that more expensive things will be better made than less expensive things, it’s generally true here. If you see a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $350+ or so, it’s not a bad bet that the shoes have been decently made. 
Fourth, avoid shoes with overt branding. That is, shoes with pony logos, the word “Polo,” or the name “Ralph Lauren.” It’s fine if these are on the bottom of the sole or the inside of the shoes, but anything on the uppers is generally a mark that it comes from a lower-quality line.
Finally, as a general rule, try to go for shoes with hard bottom leather soles. Shoes with rubber soles or even half rubber soles (like this) are more likely to be of poor quality. There are exceptions, of course. Suede bucks and boat shoes will almost always come with rubber soles, so this won’t be an indicator of anything. Use smart judgement. 
Again, there are a lot of ugly and poorly made Ralph Lauren shoes on eBay, but with some smart searching and a lot of patience, you can find decent shoes on eBay for less than what you’d pay for if you were hunting for Crockett & Jones or Allen Edmonds. Many of those companies are the ones producing for Ralph Lauren anyway; you’re just getting a different logo on the inside of the shoes. 

Searching for Ralph Lauren Shoes on eBay

Ian from the blog From Squalor to Baller has been writing a pretty good series on how to build a basic business casual wardrobe. His latest entry on footwear reminded me of something: Ralph Lauren shoes on eBay are one of the best ways a man can buy decent-quality, classic shoes for not too much money. 

To be sure, Ralph Lauren makes a lot of crap (sorry, Ralph). His company basically sells things at every price point on the spectrum, and the lower end stuff isn’t terribly worth buying.

But that’s also maybe why Ralph Lauren shoes don’t go for much money on eBay. Most people don’t want to sift through the chaff. If you’re willing to, however, you can find some great deals. For example, see the following auctions that just ended:

If you look hard enough, and are patient, you can score some decent shoes for $125 and under. The problem is obviously trying to figure out what’s worth buying. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to discern the true quality of things from just a photo on eBay (sometimes a bad photo at that). There are some things you can do, however. 

  • First, use a more refined search link. Ralph Lauren generally makes terrible sneakers and tennis shoes, so you can exclude those from your search by keying in “-tennis, -sneakers, -sneaker” to your query (minus the quotation marks). These will take out the words “tennis,” “sneakers,” and “sneaker” from your search. You probably also want to take out anything from the Chaps line, and exclude RLX shoes (as those won’t be in the classic styles you’re presumably interested in). So add “-Chaps, -RLX” to the end as well. Here is a link to the search with all these conditions, which you can use to find shoes in your size. Feel free to amend the query with even more parameters as you see fit. 
  • Second, while I hate to encourage people to think about a garment’s quality in terms of its country of origin (which is often not a very reliable way to determine quality, by the way), it’s generally true in this case that RL’s shoes made in England and Italy will be of higher quality than those made in Asian countries. So, if you can, look for a photo that shows a label declaring where the shoes have been produced. If you don’t see one, ask the seller. Or, better yet, you can do an advanced search and add “(England, Italy)” to your query (again, without the quotation marks). Then tick the box for “Search Titles and Descriptions.” This will pull up any auctions that have the words England or Italy in them. (Note, this will also pull up any auctions that have used the words Ralph Lauren, but are not actual Ralph Lauren shoes, so be careful). 
  • Third, while it’s not always true that more expensive things will be better made than less expensive things, it’s generally true here. If you see a manufacturer suggested retail price (MSRP) of $350+ or so, it’s not a bad bet that the shoes have been decently made. 
  • Fourth, avoid shoes with overt branding. That is, shoes with pony logos, the word “Polo,” or the name “Ralph Lauren.” It’s fine if these are on the bottom of the sole or the inside of the shoes, but anything on the uppers is generally a mark that it comes from a lower-quality line.
  • Finally, as a general rule, try to go for shoes with hard bottom leather soles. Shoes with rubber soles or even half rubber soles (like this) are more likely to be of poor quality. There are exceptions, of course. Suede bucks and boat shoes will almost always come with rubber soles, so this won’t be an indicator of anything. Use smart judgement. 

Again, there are a lot of ugly and poorly made Ralph Lauren shoes on eBay, but with some smart searching and a lot of patience, you can find decent shoes on eBay for less than what you’d pay for if you were hunting for Crockett & Jones or Allen Edmonds. Many of those companies are the ones producing for Ralph Lauren anyway; you’re just getting a different logo on the inside of the shoes. 

Loden Coats
I wrote a post last month about a Loden coat I picked up from Aspesi, and since then, have received more emails about that it than anything else I’ve ever written. Some people want to know more about the Aspesi coat; others ask where else they can buy one. So, in an effort to put everything in one place, I thought I’d list some options here.
The term Loden refers to a soft, exceptionally durable cloth (usually green) that has a slightly hairy look. For its thickness and density, it’s great at keeping out the cold, and because of the natural oils inside the wool, it’s fairly water resistant. Most of all, however, it’s very beautiful. A Loden coat, then, is simply a garment that’s been made from this cloth. The classic model is a single-breasted garment that ends just below the knee. The back is made with a very deep center vent that swings out from the shoulder blades, and the front has a fly opening. It’s a peasant’s coat, originally worn by Bavarian farmers and hunters sometime in the 11th century. A 1956 article in Sports Illustrated had this great line about it: “Loden is to the Bavarian what tweed is to the Scot – a fabric so long indigenous to its land, of such peasant origins that it has become almost a folk cloth.”
Those origins helped make it immensely popular with European preps in the 1980s, but since then, it seems to have been forgotten (though, The Sartorialist had a great shot of a man in Milan wearing one earlier this year). It’s still a wonderful, classic coat however. You can wear it with jeans or corduroys; checked shirts or sweaters; and wingtips or boots. Everything that made it appealing thirty years ago, in my opinion, still holds – the cloth, the drape, and of course the color.   
The one I have is from Aspesi, an Italian company most known for their outerwear. The product shot on their website suggests that it’s shorter than it is. Mine comes just above the knee, and I’m of average height. I admit I wish it were longer, but on the upside, it’s slim enough to fit my unusually skinny frame, and the back comes without the center vent (something I thought might be too conspicuous for my lifestyle). Aspesi also makes two other jackets from the fabric, which you can see here and here, though they’re not in the styles I’m focusing on in this post.
For the original design, you can turn to Cordings and Schneiders of Salzburg. I haven’t handled their particular Loden coats, but everything else I’ve seen from them has been of very high quality, albeit a bit fuller in fit. Loden coats really should be worn a bit looser anyway, as you can see in their photos. There’s also Loden Haus, Born for Loden, and Lodenfrey, the last of which used to be the most popular supplier, though they don’t seem to make them for men anymore (they do for women).  In the US, you can enquire at San Francisco Clothing and Princeton’s Landau, both of whom sell quality products.
As usual, men’s coats tend to cost a lot brand new. If you can find something vintage, you’ll likely pay a fraction of the cost. On the upside, the designs of classic men’s coats have largely remained the same since they were codified. On the downside, it can take a bit more work to find something in your size (especially if you’re skinny). Easier if you’re looking for the ubiquitous pea coat or trench, but harder if you’re looking for something niche like a Loden. To start, however, you can try eBay. 

Loden Coats

I wrote a post last month about a Loden coat I picked up from Aspesi, and since then, have received more emails about that it than anything else I’ve ever written. Some people want to know more about the Aspesi coat; others ask where else they can buy one. So, in an effort to put everything in one place, I thought I’d list some options here.

The term Loden refers to a soft, exceptionally durable cloth (usually green) that has a slightly hairy look. For its thickness and density, it’s great at keeping out the cold, and because of the natural oils inside the wool, it’s fairly water resistant. Most of all, however, it’s very beautiful. A Loden coat, then, is simply a garment that’s been made from this cloth. The classic model is a single-breasted garment that ends just below the knee. The back is made with a very deep center vent that swings out from the shoulder blades, and the front has a fly opening. It’s a peasant’s coat, originally worn by Bavarian farmers and hunters sometime in the 11th century. A 1956 article in Sports Illustrated had this great line about it: “Loden is to the Bavarian what tweed is to the Scot – a fabric so long indigenous to its land, of such peasant origins that it has become almost a folk cloth.”

Those origins helped make it immensely popular with European preps in the 1980s, but since then, it seems to have been forgotten (though, The Sartorialist had a great shot of a man in Milan wearing one earlier this year). It’s still a wonderful, classic coat however. You can wear it with jeans or corduroys; checked shirts or sweaters; and wingtips or boots. Everything that made it appealing thirty years ago, in my opinion, still holds – the cloth, the drape, and of course the color.   

The one I have is from Aspesi, an Italian company most known for their outerwear. The product shot on their website suggests that it’s shorter than it is. Mine comes just above the knee, and I’m of average height. I admit I wish it were longer, but on the upside, it’s slim enough to fit my unusually skinny frame, and the back comes without the center vent (something I thought might be too conspicuous for my lifestyle). Aspesi also makes two other jackets from the fabric, which you can see here and here, though they’re not in the styles I’m focusing on in this post.

For the original design, you can turn to Cordings and Schneiders of Salzburg. I haven’t handled their particular Loden coats, but everything else I’ve seen from them has been of very high quality, albeit a bit fuller in fit. Loden coats really should be worn a bit looser anyway, as you can see in their photos. There’s also Loden Haus, Born for Loden, and Lodenfrey, the last of which used to be the most popular supplier, though they don’t seem to make them for men anymore (they do for women).  In the US, you can enquire at San Francisco Clothing and Princeton’s Landau, both of whom sell quality products.

As usual, men’s coats tend to cost a lot brand new. If you can find something vintage, you’ll likely pay a fraction of the cost. On the upside, the designs of classic men’s coats have largely remained the same since they were codified. On the downside, it can take a bit more work to find something in your size (especially if you’re skinny). Easier if you’re looking for the ubiquitous pea coat or trench, but harder if you’re looking for something niche like a Loden. To start, however, you can try eBay