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

Filtering by Tag: loake

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.

The Black Oxford

Mark Kwak

Why is proper footwear ignored so often today? Guys think they can look good while wearing their Asics running shoes alongside their chinos and sports coat. Or better yet, wearing Jordans with their slacks and dress shirts. God bless these people, but let's get our act together gentlemen!

The reality is, shoes can literally make or break an entire outfit. Nothing saddens me more than a man who wears a flawless outfit on top, then completely ruins it with an odd, beat up pair of shoes.  Let's talk about upgrading your look from the bottom up. Let's talk dress shoes.

To keep it nice and simple, let me tell you that you need to own at least one pair of black, and one pair of brown dress shoes. I'll be focusing on black shoes in this post, as I believe it is the more important of the two.

Yes, black dress shoes are everywhere. You can go to Kmart and get a pair right now for under $20, or you can spend $1000 on a pair of Santonis. The range of choices makes shopping for black dress shoes a bit more difficult. So let me see if I can guide you a bit.

What's a good style? I'd say the first pair of dress shoes you need to get are a pair of oxfords. Forget derbys or loafers, you need to go with an outright classic. Make sure the shoe looks nice and streamlined, without a boxy toe. Square or boxed toes used to be popular at one point in history, but today, people will dismiss any sense you have in style if you're caught wearing them.

You want a rounded toe that helps elongate your foot a bit, and stick to a classic leather texture (no grains or patent leather). Also, if you like the Captoe look, go for it, since it's accepted in all formal situations as well.

If you can, I'd say go for a leather sole. Not all rubber soles are bad, but leather soles will usually last longer, as they are generally stitched onto the shoe and not glued like rubber.

How much should I pay? Personally, I think you shouldn't spend any less than $100 on a pair of nice dress shoes. Good news is that you can find sales on black dress shoes quite regularly. Whether it be Nordstrom's anniversary or half yearly sale, Macy's sales and coupons, or seasonal fall and spring sales just about anywhere, you can find a nice pair of black oxfords for much less than retail price. I personally spend about $200-$300, since I can find amazing quality shoes at those prices.

What can I wear them with? In terms of pairing, the part that matters is really the pants. Dark denim and grey, navy, or black slacks should do the trick just fine.

What is a good brand? This will largely depend on your budget. For me, the best bang for the buck shoe company is Allen Edmonds, hands down. Their shoes range from $200-$400, so they're not cheap, but they are excellent quality. In my opinion, no other brand matches them at their price point. By the way, right now they're having a huge sale! Check out their website and get a pair while you can, the promotion ends Oct 9.

Below that price-range, I would probably recommend a shoe maker called Meermin or possibly Johnston & Murphy.

Going above Allen Edmonds, my favorite brands are Crockett & Jones, Alden, and Santoni. Just a warning that the prices can get very high with these brands.

Here are some of my favorite black dress shoes: $100 - $250: Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenue, Magnanni Frederico, Allen Edmonds Kenilworth

$250 - $350: Allen Edmonds Park Avenue, Loake Dorchester

$350  and above: Alden Straight Tip, Crockett & Jones Connaught

The right pair of black dress shoes can last you a decade, and with the proper care, even longer. Many high end shoe manufacturers will also resole your shoe for you at a pretty reasonable cost, shipping the shoe back to you in almost new condition. Know that spending the extra money for a good one will be worth it in the long run.

So, feel the need to start looking classier? Get yourself a pair of nice black dress shoes! It'll make you look exquisite... I guarantee it.