A few years ago, Nepenthes debuted their Vans x Engineered Garments slip-ons to much fanfare. The shoes come in mismatched uppers, such that one shoe will have a calf front and sueded back, while the other will have the same combination, but reversed.
The shoes have become incredibly popular over the years, especially among guys who favor slightly more offbeat takes on Americana. Part of it is that they’re reasonably affordable at just $80 a pair. The other part is that they add a cheeky sense of humor to an outfit, while also being tremendously easy to wear. I wear mine with olive fatigues or blue jeans; Aloha style shirts or chambray button-ups; field jackets or … field jackets. They also work in the fall with casual pants and a topcoat.
When these first debuted, they were only available as an in-store purchase at Nepenthes. Then, in subsequent years, when they’ve re-released the shoes in the summer, they took phone orders a few days after their in-store exclusive. If you wear a popular size, however, it was possible to be left out in the cold, which is why sometimes you see these going for double their retail price on eBay (even when the shoes have been already worn).
This year, they’re available at select online retailers, including Need Supply, Bodega, and The Loit. Nepenthes says the fit runs true-to-size this year (in previous years, people had to size down half a size). The online releases come in navy, black, tan, and white. Get white if you want versatility; black if you want something you can wear with black jeans or trousers. Our friend Ben wears a white pair with different workwear-y outfits, which you can see on his Instagram.
The shoes are definitely odd and not for everyone, but if you like brands such as Orslow, Engineered Garments, Gitman Vintage, RRL, and Levi’s, these may be right up your alley. These have been some of my go-to sneakers in the last few years. Just be prepared to constantly answer questions about whether you’ve accidentally mismatched your sneakers.