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

Filtering by Tag: shoes

Nike Flyknits

Mark Kwak

Source: Kicksonfire

Source: Kicksonfire

Being from Portland, Oregon, I must give a shoutout to the one (and basically only) major successful business in my neck of the woods: good ol’ Nike.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with their flyknit collection. In case you’re not familiar with the word, let’s just say it’s Nike’s fancy branding of their proprietary mesh/fabric/cloth/awesomeness material used in some of their shoes. Complex has a super in-depth article on flyknits if you want to learn more.

I have a pair myself, the Lunar 3, and I love them. Great for running use, but also as casual street wear. Some other designs I like include the Racer, Free 4.0, and Roshe. Slightly expensive, but totally worth it in my book. Get at ‘em!

Source: Kicksonfire

Source: Kicksonfire

PS: Quick tip for you. You can use Ebates to get 8% cash back at Nike.com right now in case you’re planning on buying a pair.

Throwback classic sneakers

Mark Kwak

In the last several years, classic sneakers from Nike, Adidas, and New Balance have been hitting the shelves with high velocity. We're talking throwback sneakers from the 70s and 80s, looking a little something like this:

Cool huh? The moment these things started to show up on peoples' feet around town, I knew that I needed to get myself a pair or two. What I like about them is that they retain the comfort of a running shoe, but still remain fairly appropriate as casual street-wear. They can even be dressed up a bit, maybe worn with an oxford cloth button down, some dark denim, and a jacket. Hell, magazines these days are pairing these types of sneakers with suits (not recommended).

I got myself a couple pairs (New Balance & Nike), both in suede, and I love 'em. They're especially great for me because I recently got a new day job at an office with the slickest floors I've ever walked on. So leather-soled shoes out, fashion sneakers in.

suedeshoes1 suedeshoes2 suedeshoes3 suedeshoes4 suedeshoes5 suedeshoes6 suedeshoes7

Nike Vintage Pre-Montreal :: New Balance 565

I love the suede sneaker look, as I feel the fabric/material really classes up a shoe that we normally would not wear to most places outside of the gym. Now, you can pair these types of sneakers up with some denim, a casual shirt, and a crewneck sweater, and still be styling all fall.

Socks in the summertime

Mark Kwak

 Source: Black Lapel

I've started to bust out the sunglasses, shorts, and T-shirts once again, as the sun has begun to show its glorious face. Girls are wearing sundresses, dudes are bringing out polos, and all have begun to stop wearing boots in favor of light and breathable shoes.

For guys, I'm talking athletic sneakers, canvas sneakers (Converse, Vans, Toms), bucks, boat shoes, and driving mocs. Yes, yes, I know a lot of guys are also wearing flip flops and sandals, but for today, I'm not going to focus on them, and instead focus on those wearing actual shoes out.

One question you will likely ask when wearing summer shoes is: what type of socks should I wear? Unfortunately, I have to give you the always-dreaded answer of: it depends.

However, the silver lining here is that I'm not going to bog you down with the philosophical and complex reason as to why you should be wearing one type of sock versus another during the summer. Instead, I'm going to address each one of the types of summer shoes I mentioned earlier with a simple answer to each.

 Source: Lifestylefancy

Athletic sneakers: Ankle socks. Athletic shoes look best with an ankle sock that shows slightly above the top of the shoe, indicating you're hygienic, but also stylish. I personally like black/grey better than white.

Canvas sneakers: Canvas sneakers look best in the summer without any signs of sock. For that reason, I would suggest you go with no show socks, like these, or if you're daring, sock-less (but remember to powder up).

Bucks: Bucks are a wonderful alternative to leather wingtips or cap-toes in the summertime. They're on the line between formal and casual, so they end up being pretty versatile as a shoe overall. If you're wearing shorts with these, I would suggest going no-show socks, but if you're wearing pants, wear whatever socks you'd like (as long as they're not white athletic socks or hot wool socks).

Boat shoes: No socks here. Wait, I take that back a little. If you want to mix it up and add some really colorful socks into the mix, I've found that to be acceptable and kind of fun.

Driving moccasins: I'd say the same rules that apply to boat shoes apply here.

So clearly, I'm suggesting you to go "no-show" quite often here. You may ask why? Well there's two simple reasons.

1. It just looks better. Ankles look good, and from an unofficial poll I recently took, women agree.

2. The less fabric on you, the cooler (in temperature) you will remain. If it's hot, then it's a no brainer.

Stay cool, look cool, and follow the above guidelines. Cheers fellas.

Suit & shoes color coordination

Mark Kwak

A couple days ago, I ran across an infographic regarding suit/shoe color combinations that I was quite impressed with. It was made by a guy named rootb33r on reddit, who wanted to inform others on the versatility of certain suit/shoe combinations, and also what occasions they were most appropriate in. I don't think the suggestions on here are necessarily hard-fast rules, but it's a good starting point, and I agree with most of it. I'm a little skeptical about his thoughts on the charcoal suit (I personally think charcoal suits are extremely versatile), but otherwise, it's pretty solid. Check it out below:

42f81e1242580accaa1c51fc80bc4ee6

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.

Shoe care - what it takes

Mark Kwak

shoe maintenance One of the first items of clothing I purchased after landing a job out of college was a nice pair of leather dress shoes. Why? Because I needed a new pair, but more importantly, I knew it would be an incredibly important aspect of my professional dress. After doing a bunch of research, I became convinced that it was indeed worth it to spend a little more and invest in a nice pair of shoes, as opposed to getting any Kenneth Cole or Steve Madden dress shoe out on the market. Thus, I treated myself to a pair of Allen Edmond Strands (pictured above), and it has since become one of my favorite items of clothing.

However, I didn't really know how to properly take care of my shoes. I just figured- Hey! I spent so much on these shoes, they should last forever... Oh how I'm an idiot. The truth is, once you invest in a nice pair of leather shoes, it becomes imperative to take proper care of them; your care could allow them to last a decade or even more!

As you can see above, there are some products that I personally use to maintain all my dress shoes. Let me go over what's in the picture exactly, so you know what to get.

1. Shoe tree : This is probably one of the most important things you can get for your shoes. Shoe trees will help your shoes maintain the shape they are meant to take on. After a long day of walking around in your shoes, you'll start to get creases and folds in places you don't want. Shoe trees help alleviate those stress points, and they also have the added benefit of sucking up moisture (from your sweat) and helping your shoes smell fresh.

2. Shoe polish : Interestingly enough, five of the items in the above picture are a form of shoe polish. A good shoe polish serves as the item that keeps your shoes shining like a dime. Not only does polish repair the damage of daily wear and tear, but it also nourishes and moisturizes the leather, keeping it healthy. I recommend getting polishes that match the color of your shoes. If they don't, you run the risk of discoloring your shoes, and that's no good. There's also a quick and easy solution to giving your shoes a shine, and that's the sponge with polish already on it. If you need to shine your shoes quickly, then that's a great alternative option, though I would always recommend the traditional way.

3. Leather conditioner : Conditioner/Cleaner can be used to remove surface area residue and to keep leather soft and pliable. I recommend using it only once in a while though.

4. Shoe horn : You basically stick one of these into the back of your shoe while you insert your foot, and it helps your foot slide right into the shoe without any trouble. Ultimately, it prevents any smashing or creasing on the back of your shoe, and trust me, it's pretty necessary. They can be found for real cheap, and they'll help your shoes last a lot longer.

5. Shoe/Shine brush : You need to brush the dirt off the shoe before starting your polishing, and also brush the polish over the shoe as well. That's where the shoe brush comes in. Definitely a must. You can use it to clean, apply polish, and also shine the shoe.

6. Polishing cloth : You can take the shoe shine brush route, or the polishing cloth route. It can serve a similar purpose (cleaning, applying, and shining).

The process of shining or cleaning your shoes is actually really relaxing and rewarding, as nerdy as it sounds. Sometimes, I have a cup of tea, play some jazz, and polish my shoes after a hard day's work. Makes me sound like an old man, but hey... whatever's clever.

Anyway, point is, you should invest in a nice pair of dress shoes. You'll need them, and they'll be a pleasure to own. Once you have 'em, wear 'em and give them the kind of character they deserve. But every now and then, make sure you give them some love as well. Get yourself some of the items above, and maintain your shoes. They'll thank you by lasting for a long, long time.

Cheers.

One day: outfit for the office

Mark Kwak

You've woken up, taken a shower, and opened your closet. Gentlemen, it is time to get dressed. Let's talk about your first outfit- your outfit for the office.

Going to the office can differ from person to person. Those who work in the tech industry, like myself, have much more freedom to wear casual clothing day-to-day. Jeans, T shirt, even flip flops are all fair game. Clearly a stark contrast from the days when I used to work in financial services. Back then, it was business casual on a daily basis, with the occasional suit for important client meetings.

Since occupation really matters when it comes to proper attire, please take my words with a grain of salt. Some people have to wear uniforms, some work from home in their sweatpants, and some work at places where the job requires constant physical activity. In all these situations, outfits will obviously differ from what I propose, so let's just say my recommendations will cover more of a generic office setting.

1. In an office setting, no matter how casual, I think it's still important to look as good as you can, so my first preference is to ditch the T shirts, polos, and short-sleeve dress shirts, and stick with a long sleeve button up shirt. The more casual the workplace, the more casual the button-up can be. Here are some things that distinguish a more casual button up from a more formal one.

Casual:
Can have a button-down collar
Doesn't have to be tucked in
Material drapes easier (flannels, linens, oxfords)
More patterns
 
Formal:
Usually spread, point, or semi spread collars
Needs to be tucked in
Needs to have a "pressed" look
Less patterns

I say stay away from being too formal. Leave most accessories attached to the shirt at home (tie, tie bar, cufflinks), and roll up your sleeves if it gets too hot or you'd like to be even more casual.

2. Now for pants, it again depends on the environment you're in, but I think your best bet is a pair of solid-colored slacks (grey or navy). If you'd like to be a bit more casual, I'd try a solid pair of dark-wash jeans or slim chinos/cords. Shorts are a no-no, patterns like camo and designs on back pockets (apart from simple lines) are also a no-no. This is not an area that you want to attract attention to. Keep it conservative, but of course well-fitted.

3. Shoes need to be a form of leather. Unless it's casual Friday and you have leeway to wear whatever, I would make sure to stick with some sort of leather shoe, whether it be dress shoes, suede boots, or whatever. This is critically important in my mind, because shoes actually make a far larger impression on other people than you might initially think. I've said it before, and I'll say it again... leather shoes distinguish a boy from a man more than any other piece of clothing in your outfit (in my opinion, that is). For more formal situations, go with cleaner designs (like staying away from wingtips or any type of brogues), and stick with black or brown only. Oxfords and derbys will be your best bet more formally, loafers can be good once you get more casual.

4. As for accessories, I would say a watch and belt is about all that you really need. Stick with leather or steel band watches (of normal size... as watches larger than 47mm are kind of gaudy at the office) and belts that roughly match the color of your shoes.

5. Now, to top it all off, you should enter the office with some sort of outerwear. Whether you keep it on during the workday is up to you, but having a sports coat / jacket / overcoat / sweater is a good way to mix things up a bit between being at the office and being outside of it. 

There you go! Maybe you knew everything here, maybe you didn't. Either way, I think your office-wear is going to be what you have on for the longest part of the day, so it's important that things FIT well, and are matched well in colors / patterns / etc. When in doubt, keep it simple, and remember, this is not a setting where you want to stick out like a sore thumb.