A New Way of Making Shoes

Here’s something awesome. Eugenia Morpurgo and Juan Montero have come up with a new manufacturing system for shoes. Through laser cutters and 3D printers, they’re able to produce design patterns, and then have those patterns transformed into separate components, which they assemble by hand without the need for stitches or glue. Their idea is to take the process of shoe production and bring it directly to the consumer. So, instead of having your shoes made in England or China, the “factory” would be brought into your local store, where you can choose what you want and have your shoes made within an hour. 

The system at the moment is still more of a novelty than anything practical, but if it develops, it could have a lot of interesting consequences. For example, it could reduce waste and the need for overproduction, as well as the size of storage facilities necessary for producing and selling footwear. This, of course, could greatly lower our environmental impact. It could also blow open the doors for collaboration and customization, as the manufacturing process becomes more digitalized. And, perhaps if these systems become cheap enough, maybe one day you can have one in your own home, so that you can design shoes based off of templates you’ve downloaded from the web. 

You can learn more about the project at Don’t Run (the project’s name) and Domus

Q & Answer: How Do You Pick the Right Shoe Size Online?

Zack writes to us to ask: I’m interested in buying a pair of shoes online, but am having trouble figuring out if they’d fit. I emailed the manufacturer and they gave me the length and width measurements in millimeters. The problem is, I don’t know whether the longest part of my foot aligns with the longest part of the shoe. Do you have any suggestions for what measurements I should ask for, so I can make an educated guess?

I’m not a big fan of measurements for shoes. Like you, I never know what I’m supposed to do with them. 

The length of a shoe can vary depending on a few factors.

  • Size, most obviously. But you’d be surprised how little changes from size to size. The difference can be as small as an eighth of an inch.
  • Welting technique. By welting technique, I mean how the sole was attached to the uppers. The length of your shoes — as measured from the bottom of your soles — can vary depending on the welting technique, as well as within the same kind of construction. Check out the two shoes above, for example. One is from Allen Edmonds, the other from Edward Green. Both are made with Goodyear welts, but the heel on the Allen Edmonds sticks out a bit more from the heel cup, while the heel of the Edward Greens hugs the shoe. 
  • Heel design. Although not as common, some shoes will have what’s known as a canted or Cuban heel, such as these from Saint Crispin’s. Again, compare them to the straight-down heel of the Allen Edmonds shoe above, and you can see how this would affect the measurement of the shoes at the bottom of the sole. 
  • Most importantly, the last. The last is the wooden form on which the leather is pulled over so that it can take a certain shape. You can have lasts in all sorts of shapes. Some shoes can be round and stubby (like Alden); some can be very long and pointy (like Gaziano & Girling). This will affect the length of a shoe more than anything else. You can have two perfectly fitting shoes, but one might be slightly longer simply because the toes were designed to look sleeker. 

In the end, it’s not even the length of your shoes that matter, but rather the heel-to-ball measurement. Critical to your fit is where the heel and ball of your feet sit in your shoes, not whether the ends of your shoe come within a certain distance to your toes.

There’s really only one way to figure out your size online, assuming you can’t try stuff on first.

  • Figure out your Brannock size. Go to a place like Nordstrom and ask someone to measure you. It’s sometimes good to get both feet measured, as few people have the same sized feet. 
  • Ask the store or manufacturer for advice. Not all salespeople will know what they’re talking about, so take their advice with a grain of salt. That said, there are few better places to get sizing advice than from the store or manufacturer you’re buying from. They’re the ones who are likely to be most knowledgeable. Tell them your Brannock size, and if you have other high-end shoes, your size in other brands and models. I don’t mean sneakers like Nike, but rather dress shoes from companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, etc. 
  • Check this advice against the forum threads. Styleforum has the biggest archive of all clothing forums, but depending on what kind of shoes you’re buying, Superfuture and Ask Andy About Clothes can be useful as well. Iron Heart and Denimbro are also good for workwear type stuff. The key here is to search the archives before posting anything, as there’s usually a wealth of information you can mine. 

Finally, once you get your shoes, you can check to see if they fit according to this post.

Long story short: measurements are good for clothes, but bad for shoes. To find your size, you have to do some other stuff.

(Photos via Leffot, The Shoe Buff, and Bengal Stripe)

Real People: The Much Neglected Derby

The poor derby doesn’t get nearly as much attention as its slicker cousin the oxford. The difference between a derby and an oxford, as many readers know, is in the lacing system. Derbys have eyelet tabs that sit on top of the shoe, like flaps, while oxfords have theirs completely sewn in. 

The cleaner, slicker style of oxfords means that they’re a bit more formal, but dressiness isn’t always a good thing. Derbys are a much better choice if you’re in casual clothing, such as jeans and a light jacket, or a sport coat with wool trousers. Oxfords, on the other hand, often only look right with suits. 

Take Ben in Los Angeles, for example. In the above, he’s wearing the plainest of all derbys - the plain toe blucher (aka the PTB). No broguing, cap toes, or any other detailing to set them apart. But with the kind of casual clothing Ben wears on weekends, they look just right underneath those cotton trousers. 

You can, of course, play around a bit with the other details of a PTB to suit whatever style you wear. The shell cordovan of Ben’s Aldens perfectly complement his workwear clothes, while the same style in black calf would go better with the kind of minimalist tailoring Pete featured here. And if PTBs are too plain for you, try a pair with brouging or a split toe. The point really is to just dial back your shoes so that they’re in concert with whatever you’re wearing. Unless you’re in a suit, oxfords are more often than not going to look too formal. If you’re not so dressed up, consider something like a derby. 

That Time I Designed a Pair of Shoes

I designed a pair of shoes. Well, boots to be exact. Two years ago, I asked Meermin if they had any plans for shell cordovan wingtip boots, as I’ve wanted a pair for a while now. They said they didn’t, but that if I were up to the task, they’d let me design one.

Who could say no to that?

As it turns out, designing shoes is incredibly difficult. Even with a straightforward style such as this one, it can take a while to get the details right. The “wings” on a wingtip, for example, have to be executed with just the right angles and curves in order to look good, and the broguing has to be done with just the right size punches in order to suit the style of the shoes. It took Meermin and me about a year and half to design these – partly because we had to coordinate our schedules, and partly because it takes a while to get prototypes from the factory, which we would then use to make design changes.

Some things did go smoothly, however. I knew that I wanted a pair of smart casual boots – something I could wear with jeans or heavy wool trousers, and pair with anything from casual outerwear to tweed sport coats. Which meant, a lot of the details for the boot came naturally. Meermin’s Rui last, for example, was an obvious choice. It’s shapelier than what you’d find from Alden (thus, a bit “dressier”), but not so sleek that it looks out of place with jeans. The eyelets have visible, untreated brass rings, which give the boots a slightly more casual look than blind eyelets, and the soles are made from two stacked pieces of leather, so that they’d have the visual heft to support the ruggedness of shell cordovan. Being a long time boot wearer, I also knew that speed hooks and pull-tabs were necessary. Boots are worthless when they sit in the back of the closet, and that’s where they end up if they take too much time and effort to put on. 

I’ve worn these for about six months now, and couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. The shell is from Japan, rather than Chicago’s Horween, but the material seems just as good as any of the other shell cordovan shoes I own. The only difference is that it has a slight mottling in its color – sort of like the antique finishes on John Lobb’s antique calf, but much more subtle. I think it gives the leather a really beautiful look.

This past week, Meermin put the design in their general catalog. Those are made from Argentine shell cordovan, which I unfortunately have no experience with. There were early reports of the color on Meermin’s Argentine shell lightening, but some people found the issue to go away once they applied leather conditioner. In any case, the price is about $430 once you deduct for VAT (European taxes). They’re not inexpensive, but they’re much more affordable than any other shell cordovan boots on the market (about half the price, depending on where you go). Like everything else I’ve seen from Meermin, these shoes hit just the right balance between price and quality, which is why I continue to think that the company offers some of the best value in footwear right now. 

(Note, although I designed these boots, I’m not getting any commission off their sale. I did receive a discount on my purchase, however).  

How To Size Shoes
If you’re anything like me, you buy most of your clothes online. It’s easy, convenient, and a great way to comparison shop. The problem, of course, is that you can’t try things on, so you don’t know how things will fit before they arrive. Most of us just hit checkout and pray for the best. 
With shoes, things can be especially dicey. They need to fit right, but it’s not always so obvious whether they do when you try them on. You can walk around a bit to see if they’re comfortable, but comfort is subjective (especially when you really, really like the style and they were on sale). Plus, shoes often need a breaking in period to feel just-right anyway. Which is why it’s not that surprising when you hear about guys spending a pretty penny on a nice shoe collection, only to find out a year or two later that they bought everything in the wrong size. 
So, to avoid that, here’s a quick and dirty guide on how shoes should fit. From the basics to the less-known pointers. 
Figure Out Your True Size
As Jesse noted, if you’ve never been professionally measured with a Brannock device, the chances that you know your real size are slim. Most guys assume they’re whatever size they picked for sneakers in high school, but sneakers are sized differently than dress shoes, and most are very cushy. Which means, if you’re a half size off, it might not be a big deal. Dress shoes, on the other hand, are a lot less forgiving, so you need to know your true size. To find it, go somewhere like Nordstrom to get measured. 
Once you know your true size, you can use that as a baseline for getting sizing advice. If you’re buying from a store, ask a sales rep; if you’re shopping on eBay, turn to StyleForum (where there’s a wealth of advice in the archives). Remember: different shoes fit differently, so sometimes you’ll have to size up or down (although, most dress shoes do fit true-to-size). 
The Basics of Fit
As you know, shoes are sized by length and width. Let’s start with length. Except for certain slip-ons, there should always be a bit of space between the ends of your shoes and your toes, which means if your toes are butting up against the shoe, you need to size up in length. Similarly, make sure the ball of your feet match up with the ball of the shoe. 
Width, as we’ve mentioned, is more about the total circumference of the shoe, as measured around the ball, rather than just the width itself. So if your shoes feel tight at the sides or top, then size up in width. Remember: leather breaks in pretty easily, so don’t worry if they’re a touch snug. They just shouldn’t feel painful when you walk.
The Most Obvious Giveaways
Perhaps the best way to tell if your shoes fit is by seeing how the eyelets look when you lace them up. If the eyelets are really far apart, like you see above, then you’ll need to size up (most likely in width). If they come crashing together, then you’ll need to size down. 
Additionally, check to see where your shoes bend as you walk. Proper fitting shoes should flex pretty close to where your foot naturally flexes. If you see the creasing creep up too close to the toes, you’ll want to size down (this is easiest to tell on cap toe shoes, where the creases should never cross into the cap itself). If the leather is cutting into your foot as it bends, then you’ll want to size up. 
A Note About Heel Slippage 
Finally, a word about heel slippage. Don’t think that just because your heel slips a little that your shoes are too big (obviously, the term “a little” can be subjective, so use your best judgment). Some shoes have really stiff soles, and they’ll need a little breaking in before they feel right (this is mostly true for slip-ons, such as double monks and loafers). If they slip just a tiny bit, but everything else above checks in nicely, then trust that you probably have the right size. 

How To Size Shoes

If you’re anything like me, you buy most of your clothes online. It’s easy, convenient, and a great way to comparison shop. The problem, of course, is that you can’t try things on, so you don’t know how things will fit before they arrive. Most of us just hit checkout and pray for the best. 

With shoes, things can be especially dicey. They need to fit right, but it’s not always so obvious whether they do when you try them on. You can walk around a bit to see if they’re comfortable, but comfort is subjective (especially when you really, really like the style and they were on sale). Plus, shoes often need a breaking in period to feel just-right anyway. Which is why it’s not that surprising when you hear about guys spending a pretty penny on a nice shoe collection, only to find out a year or two later that they bought everything in the wrong size. 

So, to avoid that, here’s a quick and dirty guide on how shoes should fit. From the basics to the less-known pointers. 

Figure Out Your True Size

As Jesse noted, if you’ve never been professionally measured with a Brannock device, the chances that you know your real size are slim. Most guys assume they’re whatever size they picked for sneakers in high school, but sneakers are sized differently than dress shoes, and most are very cushy. Which means, if you’re a half size off, it might not be a big deal. Dress shoes, on the other hand, are a lot less forgiving, so you need to know your true size. To find it, go somewhere like Nordstrom to get measured. 

Once you know your true size, you can use that as a baseline for getting sizing advice. If you’re buying from a store, ask a sales rep; if you’re shopping on eBay, turn to StyleForum (where there’s a wealth of advice in the archives). Remember: different shoes fit differently, so sometimes you’ll have to size up or down (although, most dress shoes do fit true-to-size). 

The Basics of Fit

As you know, shoes are sized by length and width. Let’s start with length. Except for certain slip-ons, there should always be a bit of space between the ends of your shoes and your toes, which means if your toes are butting up against the shoe, you need to size up in length. Similarly, make sure the ball of your feet match up with the ball of the shoe. 

Width, as we’ve mentioned, is more about the total circumference of the shoe, as measured around the ball, rather than just the width itself. So if your shoes feel tight at the sides or top, then size up in width. Remember: leather breaks in pretty easily, so don’t worry if they’re a touch snug. They just shouldn’t feel painful when you walk.

The Most Obvious Giveaways

Perhaps the best way to tell if your shoes fit is by seeing how the eyelets look when you lace them up. If the eyelets are really far apart, like you see above, then you’ll need to size up (most likely in width). If they come crashing together, then you’ll need to size down. 

Additionally, check to see where your shoes bend as you walk. Proper fitting shoes should flex pretty close to where your foot naturally flexes. If you see the creasing creep up too close to the toes, you’ll want to size down (this is easiest to tell on cap toe shoes, where the creases should never cross into the cap itself). If the leather is cutting into your foot as it bends, then you’ll want to size up. 

A Note About Heel Slippage 

Finally, a word about heel slippage. Don’t think that just because your heel slips a little that your shoes are too big (obviously, the term “a little” can be subjective, so use your best judgment). Some shoes have really stiff soles, and they’ll need a little breaking in before they feel right (this is mostly true for slip-ons, such as double monks and loafers). If they slip just a tiny bit, but everything else above checks in nicely, then trust that you probably have the right size. 

Q and Answer: Can Shoes Be Stretched?
Daniel writes us to ask: Can shoes be stretched? I recently acquired a really nice pair of penny loafers, but they’re a bit tight. Can these be fixed?
The short answer is: Yes, depending on the material, shoes can be stretched, but only widthwise, not lengthwise. Which means if they’re butting up against your toes, you’ll need to size up, but if they’re a little tight on the sides or top, a good cobbler can fix them for you. 
The long answer is: You can stretch shoes out in any direction, but it’s not advisable to do it lengthwise. That’s because you can’t lengthen the insole, so when you stretch the uppers, you risk damaging the heel and toe stiffeners. Plus, crucial to the fit of your shoes is where the heel and ball of your foot sit. It’s not possible to stretch shoes lengthwise without affecting these positions, and wearing shoes that don’t fit can cause health problems. We don’t recommend it. 
So then, why can you stretch shoes widthwise? Partly because of how shoes are built. The term width is a misnomer, as it doesn’t just measure the width of your shoes at the ball of your foot; it measures the overall circumference. In fact, many manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths, which means if you take a smaller width, your shoes get shallower, not narrower. Stretching them out widthwise, then, just gives you a bit more volume — allowing your feet to feel more comfortable without affecting the important aspects of fit.
You can have your shoes stretched by a cobbler, but before taking them there, wear your shoes for a week or two. Leather easily stretches anyway, and you may find that your shoes will naturally ease with time. If they don’t, a good cobbler will have more tools than what you can buy on Amazon (which is where you can get simple shoe stretchers). Just note that materials such as suede and calf will be easy to work with, while shell cordovan will not. 

Q and Answer: Can Shoes Be Stretched?

Daniel writes us to ask: Can shoes be stretched? I recently acquired a really nice pair of penny loafers, but they’re a bit tight. Can these be fixed?

The short answer is: Yes, depending on the material, shoes can be stretched, but only widthwise, not lengthwise. Which means if they’re butting up against your toes, you’ll need to size up, but if they’re a little tight on the sides or top, a good cobbler can fix them for you. 

The long answer is: You can stretch shoes out in any direction, but it’s not advisable to do it lengthwise. That’s because you can’t lengthen the insole, so when you stretch the uppers, you risk damaging the heel and toe stiffeners. Plus, crucial to the fit of your shoes is where the heel and ball of your foot sit. It’s not possible to stretch shoes lengthwise without affecting these positions, and wearing shoes that don’t fit can cause health problems. We don’t recommend it. 

So then, why can you stretch shoes widthwise? Partly because of how shoes are built. The term width is a misnomer, as it doesn’t just measure the width of your shoes at the ball of your foot; it measures the overall circumference. In fact, many manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths, which means if you take a smaller width, your shoes get shallower, not narrower. Stretching them out widthwise, then, just gives you a bit more volume — allowing your feet to feel more comfortable without affecting the important aspects of fit.

You can have your shoes stretched by a cobbler, but before taking them there, wear your shoes for a week or two. Leather easily stretches anyway, and you may find that your shoes will naturally ease with time. If they don’t, a good cobbler will have more tools than what you can buy on Amazon (which is where you can get simple shoe stretchers). Just note that materials such as suede and calf will be easy to work with, while shell cordovan will not. 

Q and Answer: Can I Wear Loafers With A Suit?
A loyal reader asks: Can I wear loafers with a suit? I rarely see it done on blogs.
Yes you can. But should you? That’s more complicated.
The loafer, especially the American penny loafer, was created to be a casual shoe. The simple fact that it slipped on and off made it the 1935 equivalent of those socks with treads printed onto them. Over the years, though, that’s softened, at least here in the States.
Today, there are a few kinds of men wearing loafers with suits.
Men in hip, casual suits. Search loafers and suit on the web and you’ll find plenty of young men in cotton suits, fashion-y suits and the like who look fine with loafers. Not necessarily great, there’s still something a bit dissonant about it, but fine. Going out at night in a dark suit, no tie and loafers is perfectly OK with me, if it’s your preference.
All-American Businessman types, who wear penny loafers with business suits because… well… they don’t want to lace up their shoes? Or something? This has become traditional for Americans, but it isn’t very good looking, is borderline shocking to some non-Americans, and just generally makes you look like a yokel. Don’t do this.
Wall Street types. Not just folks who work on Wall Street, but folks who aspire to be the star of the movie “Wall Street.” Or perhaps “The Wolf of Wall Street.” These people are awful. Don’t be one of them.
The upshot? Most of the time, you should avoid wearing loafers with suits. Your Weejuns are much more at home with flannel trousers or corduroys anyway. If you’re headed to a Suit Occasion, wear a pair of shoes you have to lace. It’s the least you can do.
(And that goes for you too, Dave.)

Q and Answer: Can I Wear Loafers With A Suit?

A loyal reader asks: Can I wear loafers with a suit? I rarely see it done on blogs.

Yes you can. But should you? That’s more complicated.

The loafer, especially the American penny loafer, was created to be a casual shoe. The simple fact that it slipped on and off made it the 1935 equivalent of those socks with treads printed onto them. Over the years, though, that’s softened, at least here in the States.

Today, there are a few kinds of men wearing loafers with suits.

  • Men in hip, casual suits. Search loafers and suit on the web and you’ll find plenty of young men in cotton suits, fashion-y suits and the like who look fine with loafers. Not necessarily great, there’s still something a bit dissonant about it, but fine. Going out at night in a dark suit, no tie and loafers is perfectly OK with me, if it’s your preference.
  • All-American Businessman types, who wear penny loafers with business suits because… well… they don’t want to lace up their shoes? Or something? This has become traditional for Americans, but it isn’t very good looking, is borderline shocking to some non-Americans, and just generally makes you look like a yokel. Don’t do this.
  • Wall Street types. Not just folks who work on Wall Street, but folks who aspire to be the star of the movie “Wall Street.” Or perhaps “The Wolf of Wall Street.” These people are awful. Don’t be one of them.

The upshot? Most of the time, you should avoid wearing loafers with suits. Your Weejuns are much more at home with flannel trousers or corduroys anyway. If you’re headed to a Suit Occasion, wear a pair of shoes you have to lace. It’s the least you can do.

(And that goes for you too, Dave.)

WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage
If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.
Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 
(Photo via LeatherSoul)

WSJ on the Shell Cordovan Shortage

If you’ve been in the market for shell cordovan shoes, you may have noticed there’s been a shortage lately. Retailers have been slow at getting them in, largely because manufacturers can’t get the material from Horween, who is the most popular supplier for the leather. When they do get some in, it’s usually in darker colors (such as the Horween’s “color 8” and black), as lighter colors show imperfections in the leather too easily. Which means if you’ve been wanting a pair of cigar shell cordovan boots from Alden, like those shown above, you’ve had to sit on a waitlist that stretches back almost a year (I’m on such a list, and am still waiting for a phone call). 

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about what might be going on:

In the clubby world of men’s high fashion, there are rumors and theories. Some blame hide speculators who snapped up skins as the price of leather was about to rise. Others point to Chinese shoe manufacturers, saying they bought up entire horsehides—which include both the coveted small rear shell pieces and the cheaper and larger front pieces—in lieu of more expensive steer hide when prices for the latter spiked to historic highs in 2012. However, there is little proof of either.

Matthew Abbott, technical sales director at tannery Joseph Clayton & Sons Ltd., based in Chesterfield, England, said the supply of hides was also hurt by a horse-meat scandal last year in the U.K. “There was nothing wrong with the meat, just that it was misidentified,” he said. “But I suppose people didn’t want anything to do with horse for a while.”

On the upside? Things might be rebounding. 

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for those seeking a pair of loafers or oxfords. Mr. Horween reported that the hide supply began to return to pre-drought levels at the end of the last year, which means cordovan supplies for shoemakers may soon be back to normal. His advice to covetous shoppers: Sit tight. More is coming soon. That doesn’t quite mean that cordovan shoes will be plentiful, however. “It’s still not as much as the market wants,” said Mr. Horween.

Here’s to hoping. 

(Photo via LeatherSoul)

“I prefer the food there.” — Marc Hare on why he chooses to make Mr. Hare shoes in Italy rather than in his native England.

(Source: styleforum.net)


coppingandscheming asked:


Hi, I’m a big fan of the Clark desert boot. However i think it’s time to upgrade. I would like to find an option that is one step up in terms of quality and price. Do you have any suggestions?

Ah, the desert boot. The shoe that launched a thousand menswear blogs. One step up from Clarks unassailably basic desert boot (best in sand suede) is sort of a no man’s land of footwear. Clarks boots retail at $120 (although currently on sale <$100 at Need Supply). As you shop up the price ladder, styles vary a little, but quality doesn’t too much, until you get into the welted footwear makers; of course, their prices are triple the price of a pair of Clarks, or more. Some options:
A choice so obvious it risks being taken for granted is J. Crew’s Macalister boot. Macalisters are a little sharper and shapelier than Clarks and made in Italy of decent if not superlative soft suede. In the range between Clarks and $200, I’d pick the Macalisters. Plus they’re on sale for about $100 through May 24 with code PACKME.
Loake makes a desert boot that runs about $150. Loake is a Northampton-based shoe brand but their desert boots are made outside the UK in the EU. A little more interesting than the Clarks, but in my opinion, part of Clark’s appeal is their knockaround, anonymous quality. I’m borderline allergic to Loake’s darker color versions with contrast stitching.
If you’re willing and able to spend more or wait for sales, two upgraded desert boots worth buying are Church’s Sahara (pictured above) or the Alden unlined chukka, which is more often sold with a leather sole rather than traditional desert boot crepe.
The Church’s version drains any vintage milsurp vibe from the desert boot—Sahara are more narrowly lasted with Goodyear welting with much finer stitching that the Clarks boots. If you’re into desert boots for their mod connotations, I think the Church’s shoes fit the narrow-trousered aesthetic better than current Clarks. Note that if you have large feet, the slightly longer last and higher lacing may exaggerate that effect.
The Aldens are considered by many the perfect casual shoe. Neither too sharp nor too clunky, they’re quite comfortable and go as perfectly with denim as a good leather jacket and a plain tshirt. They’re also distinctive looking, with a double line of stitching on the  quarters, which are much less sharply angled than most chukkas/desert boots. The only drawback for me is the cost—about $500 and rarely discounted.  Ebay or other secondary markets are better bets for off price Aldens.
-Pete

Hi, I’m a big fan of the Clark desert boot. However i think it’s time to upgrade. I would like to find an option that is one step up in terms of quality and price. Do you have any suggestions?

Ah, the desert boot. The shoe that launched a thousand menswear blogs. One step up from Clarks unassailably basic desert boot (best in sand suede) is sort of a no man’s land of footwear. Clarks boots retail at $120 (although currently on sale <$100 at Need Supply). As you shop up the price ladder, styles vary a little, but quality doesn’t too much, until you get into the welted footwear makers; of course, their prices are triple the price of a pair of Clarks, or more. Some options:

  • A choice so obvious it risks being taken for granted is J. Crew’s Macalister boot. Macalisters are a little sharper and shapelier than Clarks and made in Italy of decent if not superlative soft suede. In the range between Clarks and $200, I’d pick the Macalisters. Plus they’re on sale for about $100 through May 24 with code PACKME.
  • Loake makes a desert boot that runs about $150. Loake is a Northampton-based shoe brand but their desert boots are made outside the UK in the EU. A little more interesting than the Clarks, but in my opinion, part of Clark’s appeal is their knockaround, anonymous quality. I’m borderline allergic to Loake’s darker color versions with contrast stitching.

If you’re willing and able to spend more or wait for sales, two upgraded desert boots worth buying are Church’s Sahara (pictured above) or the Alden unlined chukka, which is more often sold with a leather sole rather than traditional desert boot crepe.

  • The Church’s version drains any vintage milsurp vibe from the desert boot—Sahara are more narrowly lasted with Goodyear welting with much finer stitching that the Clarks boots. If you’re into desert boots for their mod connotations, I think the Church’s shoes fit the narrow-trousered aesthetic better than current Clarks. Note that if you have large feet, the slightly longer last and higher lacing may exaggerate that effect.
  • The Aldens are considered by many the perfect casual shoe. Neither too sharp nor too clunky, they’re quite comfortable and go as perfectly with denim as a good leather jacket and a plain tshirt. They’re also distinctive looking, with a double line of stitching on the  quarters, which are much less sharply angled than most chukkas/desert boots. The only drawback for me is the cost—about $500 and rarely discounted.  Ebay or other secondary markets are better bets for off price Aldens.

-Pete