Tassel loafers. Favored on Wall Street and in the more contrarian corners of #menswear alike.
But where the heck did they even come from? Perhaps they were originally designed to combat some outmoded need for shooing away pests on the ground while hunting? Or a rococo creation of a dandy royal hundreds of years ago?
Well, it turns out they’re a purely American invention that only dates back to around 1950.
Sure, there might still be snow on the ground now, but by next week it will be March—and just slightly warmer.
And the week after that... just slightly warmer, even.
And the week after that... still March. But from here on out, it can only get more spring-like with each new day.
With spring footwear on our minds, we’re liking this update on the typical preppy saddle shoe—which is usually a highly contrasting white-and-black or navy affair—because this pair from Leffot and the venerable New England shoemakers at Alden finds the contrast in material instead.
You’ve got an impossibly sheen, cognac-esque shell cordovan #8 against a similarly brown pebble grain—which makes for a more understated version of the old prepster standby (also removing the worry of whether you can wear them after Labor Day). The collaboration with Leffot is on preorder right now, so you’ll have to exercise some patience once you’ve made your 20% down payment.
Memorial Day means many things to many people. To all Americans, it’s a day to celebrate those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect this great land. And to most sartorial traditionalists, it marks the first day we are officially allowed to wear white shoes.
It’s a tricky move, especially when you’re trying to incorporate them into a more formal look. (Otherwise, grab a pair of white canvas sneakers and beat the hell out of ’em.) Herewith, your answer: these white suede loafers from Alden. They’re so pristine, you might shudder at just the thought of them touching city pavement, but with great risk comes great reward.
This will be the summer you learn to stop worrying and love the white suede.
It’s a safe bet you’ll be kicking through some leaves in the near future, and you’re going to want to be dressed for it.
So we thought we’d break down the vagaries of rugged footwear into three distinct categories. Each one has its own brands and its own rules—from the rugged Red Wing to the gentlemanly cordovan equivalent—and we’ve got a favorite in each category.
Balloon Animals: Takashi Murakami hits the big time, getting “Kaikai” and “Kiki” balloons into the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. Expect it to be the most frightening parade yet. [Josh Spear]
The Bearded Man: Journalism at its finest: Julia Felsenthal tracks down a bearded gentleman from the J.Crew catalog. It turns out he does IT consulting and has feelings just like anyone else. [Browbeat]
The Rebirth of the Shoe: A pair of beaten-up loafers gets a new lease on life, thanks to Alden’s in-house restoration team. [Red Clay Soul]
You Can’t Be Right All the Time: A tech guru revisits his first take on “twttr” circa 2006. Not surprisingly, he didn’t think it would catch on. [TechCrunch]
Alden has turned out quite a lot of boutique collaborations in the past year, but this might be our favorite—and the first shoe we’ve considered dropping more than $400 on in quite some time.
It’s called the Greenwich Boot, and it’s the result of some spectacular taste on the part of the West Village cobbler Leffot. It combines just about all of our favorite dress-casual moves: ornate wingtipping, a navy wash, and waterproofed nubuc in place of the usual impenetrable cordovan. And, of course, it’s got the Barrie welting that means, with regular resoleing and the occasional boost to the waterproofing, it’ll last just about forever.
And with only 20 pairs kicking around, we'd call it an extremely limited edition.
A Swiss army knife does not really need a holster.
But shell cordovan is a terrible thing to waste, so the leftovers from Alden’s factory floor have become these handsome (if unnecessary) trinkets, sold with a Swiss Army pocket knife tucked inside. Luckily, it’s always nice to have a bit of leather in your pocket as a lucky charm, especially when it’s as perfectly tanned as this.
And if you happen to run across a few Phillips head screws…
The folk at J. Crew have been on quite a hitting streak lately, and it look like they have every intent of keeping it going.
We got our hands on their latest fall catalog, and once again, we’re impressed. There are the usual assortment of old school ties and cardigans that J. Crew made their name on, but this time there’s a more rustic edge too, with a few of the usual easy-iron button-ups traded for chambray workshirts.
As usual, the real gems are in the collaborations. They keep up old collabs with Mackintosh Coats and Alden Shoes, but our favorite is the boots from W. C. Russell Moccasin Company out of Berlin, Wisconson of all places. It would be a pretty good find for a boutique, but for a national brand it's practically a statement of principles.
Bringing heritage brands onto a larger stage is what the workwear movement is all about…and bringing a bit more chambray into the world isn’t so bad either.
The sneaker/oxford divide isn’t what it used to be. Take Generic Man, for example. They’re one of the best sources for streetwear-ready spaceman sneakers, which carry a decent price tag but run a little low on prestige. But that doesn’t mean they can't take on something a little more upscale.
These cap-toes aren’t exactly Alden material—there’s still no substitute for a real cobbler—but as far as avant-garde formalwear goes, it’s hard to do much better. It may be patent leather on the toes, but that just adds to the synthetic vibe created by the clever double-front and strangely clinical powder blue.
There’s also a denim-colored version, but we’re guessing you’ll want to keep things neutral.
Oregon’s really on a roll lately. Winn Perry—previously known as the northwestern source for Sovereign Beck ties—just reminded us that they’re also the northwestern source for Alden shoes, one of the best cobblers still producing shoes in America.
Naturally, the best work comes from the custom shop, but anyone passing through Oregon should stop by if they want to see what modern American leatherworking looks like. Of course, if you’re closer to New York, we know a place there too.