Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

You can edit the text in this area, and change where the contact form on the right submits to, by entering edit mode using the modes on the bottom right. 

         

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Home

A guide to help the average man... look less average

Filtering by Tag: alden

Wishlist December 2014

Mark Kwak

Every time the Holidays roll around, my wishlist starts to extend longer than Stretch Armstrong's limbs (oh boy, remember those toys?). Alongside cool gadgets, auto equipment, alcohol, and other goodies, clothing usually sits atop of the list. Today, I share with you some of my wishes for December.

Leather / wool rifle coat

I don't know what it is about wool coats with leather sleeves, but I've become a die hard fan. A bit on the trendy side, I know, but damn the combination looks good. I particularly like this Theory one above. It's expensive, but I saw it on sale at Macy's (yeah we have a legit Macy's that carries Theory) for almost half off, and was about a millimeter away from pulling the trigger.

New Balance high tops

Oh man, I am going to lobby hard to get these shoes under my Christmas tree this year. I've always been a fan of suede New Balances and these high tops are no exception, even though I think they're a JCrew collab exclusive. The color scheme, streamlined silhouette, and material all look wonderful to me. They even look comfy to boot!

Alden scotch grain bluchers

Whoo wee! What beauties. As many of you know, Alden is one of my favorite shoe brands in the world. One of the few remaining American shoemakers making quality product through the generations.

One thing you'll notice is that these are not made of your normal calfskin leather. After looking at some Thom Browne samples the other day, I realized I really like the use of scotch grain leather on shoes, and they add a bit of pop to what would normally be a very conservative shoe design. The Unionmade ones on the link above are sold out, but I think JCrew sells something similar here.

GQ x GAP leather backpack

It looks like GQ is partnering with GAP once again to deliver some really unique pieces, designed by some of the top designers, to the general public. The collection isn't set to be out until December 15th, but GQ offered a sneak peak into some of their favorite pieces. I really like this backpack by En Noir. I felt like there was a time when leather backpacks were a bit gaudy, but that time is no more. This slim, simple, elegant design just works, and I'll definitely take a look to verify quality when the collection comes out.

Anyhow, there's my December wishlist. Even though I'm trying not to buy any clothing, I will certainly be looking out for ways to get some of these things come January. Hoping that sales roll around by then! Stay warm out there, fellas.

Shell Cordovan: The Story

Mark Kwak

cordovan1

Boots: Peal & Co (Crockett & Jones)

Excuse my French for today, but these... are my ass boots.

Yes, ass boots. Why do I call them that? To clear up any confusion, it's not because they get me a bunch of ass. It's instead because these boots are literally made of leather from the rear quarters of an animal, also called shell cordovan.

Here's the story as I've heard it.

Apparently in the early 1900s, shoemakers were tired of making shoes that did a poor job of shielding feet from harsh weather conditions. They wanted shoes that were weatherproof, durable, rock solid. Unfortunately the material they were using, calfskin, just wasn't up to the task. As some of you may know, calfskin shoes generally stains and loses its shine after a night in the rain or snow.

As a result, people started to look in every which direction to find leather that could ultimately handle the elements, while at the same time still look shined and spiffy after a downpour.

They search high and low, wide and far, but just couldn't find anything that was strong enough, until they tested the hide from a horse. At first the hide was nothing special- no better than calfskin. They almost tossed it away, but then saw that the butt region of the horsehide was actually a little different from the rest.

Yes, they realized that the butt region of a horse is actually one of the strongest leathers on earth, and thus started to build shoes out of it. It's true, you can basically make 1.5 pairs of shoes per hide! If you own a pair of cordovan shoes, you basically are wearing the entirety of a horse's rear quarters.

cordovan2

The good news is that cordovan shoes look amazing. They always look shined, and never crease (though they do suffer from what's known as "rolling," look it up). They are also expensive. Almost unjustifiably expensive. You probably can't get a pair of shell cordovan shoes for under $350 unless you find them used or defective in one way or another. However, remember that they are shoes that are meant to endure plenty of hardship before retiring. I could argue that cordovan shoes can last you an entire lifetime, if well taken care of! So, maybe that can help you justify the price a bit.

My favorite brands that carry cordovan shoes (and there aren't that many of them) are Crockett & Jones and Alden.  These two makers actually rebrand their shoes through other retailers as well. All Brooks Brothers' cordovan shoes are Alden, and Ralph Lauren cordovan shoes are C & J.

Definitely not a necessary part of anyone's wardrobe, but worth a thought if you have the money. They look glorious, and really are one of the highest points of men's shoes, period.

 

Wingtips

Mark Kwak

alden brown I think every man should own a pair of wingtips.

For those of you who do not know what wingtips are, the picture above should give you a good idea. Basically, it's a shoe that has a wing-shaped design on it that creates a sort of "W" on the front of the shoe. Most wingtips end near the ball of the foot, but there's also a version of the wingtip known as the longwing, where the "wing" circles around the entirety of the shoe.

Anyhow, I personally think wingtips are awesome. They're classy, but not boring. They walk the line perfectly between formal and casual. Basically they are versatile shoes that can add that much-needed spice to your potentially boring solid black and brown shoe collection.

Personally, my favorite wingtips are made by American shoemakers Alden & Allen Edmonds. The Allen Edmonds McAllister is a fine choice, and can sometimes be found on sale at Nordstrom, and the Alden Long Wing Blucher is also a classic that will likely never go out of style. I know, they're expensive, but I personally splurged on a pair and have zero regrets. Perhaps you're contemplating doing the same?

Signature Style: American Schoolboy Prep (the Thom Browne look)

Mark Kwak

Source: Camodiaries

I've mentioned this before, but I think everybody has their own signature style. You can probably picture several of your friends right now, wearing what you would consider their signature pieces. The buddy who can't be seen without his blue baseball cap and Ralph Lauren polo. Or your coworker that wears such rugged boots and jackets that it looks like he's ready to go on a hunt at any point in time.

But what about you? Can you identify your own signature style? Is it something you stand by? Personally, I think it's important that we all discover the look we're most comfortable and confident in, and move in the direction of making our signature style embody that look.

To help in this endeavor, I've decided to launch a small series called Signature Style, where I showcase outfits that I believe represent certain signature styles we may encounter on the streets. Hopefully these styles will give you some ideas or inspiration for developing your own signature look.

To accomplish this task, I enlisted the help of some of my buddies, who agreed to model and demonstrate several looks that I have been wanting to put together for quite some time.

To make it clear, these are very particular styles that aren't necessarily what I deem classic or simple. However, I think that the slightly exaggerated nature of these getups can help you identify what works for you and what doesn't. Taking ideas here and there, and then ultimately putting together your own unique look is what really matters to me.

---

The first signature style I put together is that of one of my favorite designers, Thom Browne. His style is one I personally like to call:  American Schoolboy Prep.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Thom Browne, he is a very fashion-forward designer from New York, who sort of revolutionized modern menswear tailoring. Have you noticed trousers are getting shorter and shorter these days? Well, in many ways, we have Thom Browne to thank for that. Have you noticed folks wearing dress shoes without any socks? Again, Thom Browne. Red, white, and blue grosgrain trimming? Thom Browne.

Truth is, his look is not one for the insecure or conservative. He starts with seemingly classic American outfits (like a flannel grey suit), but then cuts them in ways that make you wonder if the man wearing them is wearing his son's clothing. Trousers are cut too short, sport coats end closer to the hip rather than the thigh, and knitwear is skin tight. To illustrate, I've put together this look for my buddy Grant:

Grant1

As you can see, this outfit is very similar to Thom Browne's one at the top of this post. White oxford button down, gray sport coat and trousers, gray tie, brown bluchers, and a white pocket square.

Grant2

I wanted to make sure this outfit was monochromatic, with gray acting as king.

Grant3

I also wanted to work with various wool textures and patterns. Got some herringbone and specked designs, all over cashmere and flannel fabric.

Grant4

Chunky brown wingtips, no socks, and trousers cut 2 inches too short. Pure Thom Browne.

Grant8

Also, I believe using thick, plastic rimmed glasses really finishes off the American schoolboy look.

Grant5

Though this look is trendy and on the up-rise, I honestly wouldn't advise going into the office this way.

Grant6

Glasses: Warby Parker | Shirt: Jack Spade (in blue) | Jacket: Black Fleece | Tie: Bloomingdales

Pocket Square: Jos A Bank | Cardigan: Gap | Pants: Uniqlo | Shoes: Alden

There you go, the American schoolboy prep look... a look that I'm quite intrigued by these days.

If you live in New York City, you'll probably see these types of outfits donned by avant-garde fashionistas from time to time. It's blowing up in the fashion world, and for good reason.  I think it brings something new to the table, combining a very particular form of modern tailoring with what we've always considered traditional American style.

Anyhow, hope you can take something away from this outfit, whether positive or negative. Oh, and look out for the next part in this series where I go over dandyism.

What am I wearing 2.13.12

Mark Kwak

A couple months ago, I wrote a post about wearing sport coats casually, and I wanted to put everything I said in there into practice today. This brown, all-cotton herringbone jacket by RRL does the trick perfectly, its design and fabric giving off a very casual vibe. Kept my shoes, belt, and bag in the same color family as the jacket for consistency, and combined those elements with a very versatile white shirt and dark blue selvedge jean.

 rrljacket1

By the way, if you have the opportunity to get a Filson bag, I highly recommend it. Durable, rugged, stylish, and carries a lifetime warranty. You can see mine gets used quite a bit, as my raw denim has rubbed off on the side of the bag.

rrljacket3

I'm a fan of this jacket because of its herringbone design, which is usually found on wools, but in this case, on cotton.

rrljacket4

Some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. These suede chukka boots weren't cheap, but I think they were worth the extra money.

Jacket: RRL | Sunglasses: Ray-Ban | Shirt: Thomas Mason for J.Crew | Watch: Omega

Bag: Filson | Jeans: J.Crew | Socks: Merona | Shoes: Alden

Product Review: Alden Long Wing Bluchers

Mark Kwak

Once in a while, I'd like to review a product for you guys on this blog. Sometimes, it might be my initial reactions towards a product I just purchased, and other times I'll go over something that has been part of my outfit rotation for some time. Today, I'll start with a fairly new purchase: a pair of shoes by the famous American shoemaker Alden. Alden is one of the few remaining true American shoemakers. They manufacture in Middleborough, Massachusetts, and have been at it since 1884. The pair I got is one of their most classic designs, known commonly as the long wing blucher (LWB). The design is fairly similar to that of a normal wingtip, the only difference being that the wing design extends from the front of the shoe all the way to the back. Here are some pictures below:

alden lwb4

Alden Made in the U.S.A.

alden lwb1

See how the wingtip design extends all the way throughout the shoe?

alden lwb2

You can tell the stitching on the welt ends at a point near the heel.

alden lwb3

Black leather sole with rubber at the edge of the heel.

alden lwb5

Wearing the shoes around the house.

alden lwb7

You can get these in many shades of brown as well.

alden lwb8

Pretty handsome shoe in my opinion.

alden lwb6

Outfit I'm wearing with the shoes.

Shirt: Brooks Brothers | Sweater: Old Navy | Watch: Omega

Bracelet: Unbranded | Jeans: Tellason | Shoes: Alden

Okay, so let me go into the review.

Construction: These shoes are solidly constructed. First off, all Alden shoes are Goodyear welted, meaning that the upper portion of the shoes are sewn onto a welt that also attaches to the sole. This is definitely one of the highest forms of shoe construction you can find, and Alden's been doing it brilliantly for generations. The other great thing about Goodyear welting is that it allows you to easily resole the shoes when your soles start to fall apart. Alden has a great policy where you can send in your old shoes to them, and for around $100, they can refinish the entire shoe, get you a new sole, and have them back to you looking altogether brand new.

Another thing to add is that the attention to detail is top notch, probably because these shoes are hand-made domestically. I can't find any flaws in stitching, lining, broguing, or just about any other construction element of the shoes. Suffice it to say, I'm happy with the overall quality.

Comfort: Comfort is surprisingly good. When comparing these to my Allen Edmonds, the Aldens are actually more comfortable even out of the box. I do believe they still require some breaking in of the sole, as the sole is a bit stiff from the get-go, but for the most part I think comfort isn't going to be a problem. Might also have to do with the fact that the last (the shape/mold of the shoe) is a bit roomier than my other pairs of shoes.

Design: Truth is, I don't think these shoes are very sleek or sexy. The last that these shoes are on, called the Barrie last, is slightly chunky, and the longwing design takes a bit of getting used to at first. For that reason, some might consider the design to be too old or boring. However, I don't think these shoes are trying to be some sort of modern chic cocktail-hour shoe (like many English or Italian shoes might be).

They're designed to be a daily workhorse of sorts, with a signature American look & feel to them. The chunkier sole helps support your foot better, the rock solid leather defends your foot from the elements, and the long wingtip design is a classic design that's been loved and worn for ages. I personally love the look, hence me purchasing, but can see why others might feel like the shoes aren't handsome enough to buy.

Material: The materials used are very high in quality. I can already tell that the sole and uppers feel hefty by touch, and will stand up to daily wear and tear with ease. Good news is that leather is still soft, despite being so durable, making the shoes a pleasure to wear.

Price: The price of most Alden shoes will be between $400 and $600 (when made with calf-skin). Clearly, they're expensive, and not something to be taken lightly. To add, Aldens don't go on sale. I was lucky enough to find a loophole and get some on sale via some menswear forums, but I likely won't have an opportunity like that again. So the question begs, are they worth the asking price?

Well, it depends. To some, the price increase from a pair of Allen Edmonds might not be worth it. They're constructed similarly and might even source their leather from the same place. I do know they use the same cordovan leather. However, I do think that the attention to detail on these shoes is much higher than any of my Allen Edmonds. The shoes feels sturdier, and thus, looks like they'll last longer. They're also more comfortable. So to me, the increase in quality is evident, and sometimes I'm willing to shell out some more dough as a result.

Just be aware that the law of diminishing returns is certainly playing a factor at this point. Let's say these were almost two times as expensive as my Allen Edmonds. Are they two times as good? No. Are they, in my opinion, maybe 10-20% better? Probably. So the question really becomes, are you willing to pay double the price for a slight increase in construction and quality (and design for those who like it)?

Conclusion: Overall, the shoes are constructed with the highest quality materials, feel rather comfortable even from the get-go, and are clearly strong enough to be in the game for the long haul. The look of these shoes can take a little getting used to (as I had to), but they are a classic Alden design- something that will likely never go out of style. The asking price is steep, but could be worth it for some of you. For those who need to save some money, stick with Loake, Charles Tyrwhitt, or Allen Edmonds. If you like any of their designs and have the money though, I highly recommend a pair of Aldens. You're guaranteed excellent quality and construction.

Here are some links if you'd like a pair for yourself:

Unionmade

Alden of Carmel

J.Crew

Dress Shoe Makers

Mark Kwak

First off, Merry Christmas Eve my friends. Hope you're enjoying a nice day off.

Beautiful John Lobb captoes. (Photo credit: dieworkwear)

A couple people have been asking me about what dress shoe brands I like. Well, here's a quick list I put together for you all. It's certainly not exhaustive, but hopefully it helps you guys familiarize yourself with some premier shoe brands. Just FYI, most of these shoes are quite high-quality, so they'll probably be much more expensive than shoes at your average Kenneth Cole / Calvin Klein level.

Dress Shoes

Edward Green $$$$ : Stunningly amazing shoes, but will easily cross the $1k mark. Not for the light-hearted... or light-walleted.

John Lobb $$$$: Also extremely amazing shoes, and a direct competitor to Edward Green. Will cross the $1k mark easily just as well. The finish on these bad boys is second to none.

Gaziano & Girling $$$$: Okay okay, I'll stop with the $1k+ shoes here. G&G is also one of the premier makers of ready-to-wear dress shoes, just like John Lobb and Edward Green.

Crockett & Jones $$$: A solid shoemaker from England that makes some of my favorite shoes in the world. Great design, high quality construction.

Santoni $$$: Pure Italian designs using extremely supple, high quality leather. Comfort and design in one.

Tricker's $$$: Pretty innovative company getting press for doing some cool collaborations recently, but ultimately they are pros at their craft in their own right.

Alfred Sargent $$$: Quality English shoemaker that gets a lot less attention than they deserve.

Peal & Co. $$$: High-end Brooks Brothers brand name, but they're actually Crockett & Jones or Alfred Sargent shoes, depending on which one you get.

Ralph Lauren $$$: I'm talking about their "Made in England" shoes, as they'll be constructed by Crockett & Jones. This applies to POLO Ralph Lauren shoes as well.

Church $$$: Solid company, with a solid reputation. Amazing quality and attention to detail, highly recommended.

Alden $$$: One of the last standing classic American shoemakers. Quality of their stuff is absolutely rock solid, but a bit more bulky in design than, say, an Italian shoe.

Tod's $$: Never really tried these on, but have heard rave reviews about them consistently. Might want to find them on sale though, as value isn't the best.

Allen Edmonds $$: Best bang for the buck high quality shoes. Made in the U.S. and is probably the standard in American-made shoes.

Loake $$: Another nice shoe maker that I respect quite a bit. A very good alternative to Allen Edmonds.

Meermin $$: Simple shoes, made with very nice attention to detail. Harder to get, since I believe they're in Europe, but worth a try.

Florsheim by Duckie Brown $$: Duckie Brown makes some interesting designs, but I've been a fan of his partnership with Florsheim. Pretty good quality stuff and you can find it on sale often.

Charles Tyrwhitt $: Follows very classic designs, and provides pretty high quality shoes. Good news is they often go on sale as well, thus giving them one $ sign (still will cost you over $100 though).

Johnston & Murphy $: Solid entry level brand for shoes just as well. Don't expect these to compete with most of the above brands though.

There you go! Get yourself a pair of dress shoes. They are investment pieces, so I'll say this again... they're worth the extra buck or two.