Q: It's heartwarming to see you guys back. I've checked in daily since the start of your hiatus and your return is nothing short of a Christmas miracle.
The first snow of the season has fallen here in Boston, and on its heels is another New England winter. But I need to know what to put on my heels.
I'm on a college student's budget but I need boots to trudge through the slush and snow for the next four or five months. I know your stance on L.L. Bean, but the company is established, the products are American-made, and these leather hunting boots seem like they'd hold up. Thoughts?
A: L.L. Bean has a well-deserved reputation for durability and great customer service. But we're still reluctant to recommend those shoes you're considering. Yes, they're hunting shoes, so maybe that stacked heel and high-contrast sole are designed to strike fear in the heart of a duck. To us, they just shout "Ladies riding boot crossed with a Dutch clog!"
Since we just posted about the Swims Mobsters, we're assuming you don't want overboots. You want actual boots and they need to be waterproof, which means you're going to end up with something fairly similar to the Beans, especially if you want to stay in that same general price range.
If it were us, we'd probably go with these Sorel Kitchener Frosts, in "Grizzly Bear." While sharing the same basic form as those Beans, they strike us as being less cloggy, and without the bulk of traditional Sorel PACs required here in Minneapolis. And just to let you know we're looking out for your college student's budget, you can get them via Amazon for $157.
Q: very happy to see that you guys are back to a regular posting schedule, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me because i'm in need of some black boots and need your advice.
i'm a public defender, and i need black footwear that'll look good with a suit, but i also want something that i can wear with jeans. and i live in alaska, so i need boots to trudge through the snow. the hydrogen-1 brand you recently endorsed would've worked, but they don't have boots available in my size. i'm about to pull the trigger on these frye chukkas, but wanted your input first —Preston
An Alaskan winter will be like felony assault on those Frye boots. There is only one boot we know of that can pull the triple duty you desire — biz, cash, sludge — and it's the Prada 'New Tolbak' Chelsea boot, a dressier version of the Novo we've previously recommended.
Unless you’re on the take, though, we suspect they may be a bit pricey for your employee-of-the-state budget.
What we propose instead is to take custody of these terrific Swims 'Mobster Boot' Overshoes. They're $149, but completely vacate the elements, and feature a soft, insulating lining that buffs your shoes while you walk.
As for the shoes getting buffed, with the Mobsters in defense you can court the much larger (but still small) quantity of low-cut shoes that sit on the biz-cash knife's edge we're always looking for, like the Hydrogen-1s, and just about anything from their more expensive predecessor, Common Projects. (FWIW, the new Hydrogen-1 collection, available in a wide range of sizes, is here.)
This way, you'll have boots when there is snow to trudge through, and shoes for those rare Alaskan days when there isn't.
A: Our favorite chukka at the moment is from MB fave TST, available here. In the waning days of summer, even the casual, laid-back feel of a classic chukka boot feels too fancy for us, so we turn to the TST 2229s, which add some sneaker genes (rubber sidewall, fat cotton shoelaces) to the classic chukka's DNA. Like all TSTs, the 2229s look like they were crafted by master artisans with an awful hangover — their lines are graceful, perfectly proportioned, but undeniably shaky. We love the effect.
Even with a debt ceiling deal, at current exchange rates these are going to run you $250. Which if you ask us is actually a pretty good value for shoes you can wear at work (if you're a "creative" or a professional shoe model) and at leisure. And why would you want to be anything but a "creative" or a professional shoe model, especially in the waning days of summer?
Q: Seeking to embrace the inner bastard, I have increased the number of blazers in my wardrobe and the only writing on my t-shirts is if I am exercising or sleeping in them. One wardrobe staple of mine from the past many years does not appear to be mentioned as truly bastard-worthy and I am concerned.
What says the MB on my basic black, made in England (Anglophile approved, I should hope) Doc Martens? --Christopher
A: Christopher, you're on the right track -- the number of blazers in your closet should always exceed the total word count on your entire wardrobe. If you ever find yourself with more words than blazers, you either have to throw out some of your t-shirts or buy more blazers. (BTW, we're counting our WikiLeaks sweatshirts as one word).
Now we just need to work on your footwear; there's a reason why you haven't seen a DM recommendation here.
The Anglophilic pedigree of Dr. Martens is not nearly as strong as most people think. They were invented in 1945 by German army doctor Klaus Märtens, who hurt his foot while skiing in the Alps. While recovering from his injury, he designed a recuperative boot with soft leather and air-padded soles. So essentially Doc Martens are orthopedic Nazi shoes, and they certainly look the part!
(The Anglophiliac connection? In 1959, a British company, R. Griggs Group Ltd., acquired the rights to make and sell the shoes in the U.K.)
Browse our shoes channel and you'll find lots of far less clunky, more appropriate footwear options for your new and improved look.
Q: I have been searching (and saving) for a pair of the Prada Novo Calfskin Boots you featured in your masthead a couple years ago, and thought that these zip boots from Costume National Homme could tide me over in the interim. They have one pair left in my size. Are they MB or should I hold out for the Prada boots? --Josh
A: Josh, first thanks for reading that long. Second, our barbershopmastheadserieswas shot almost three years ago, in February 2008. The New York Timespublished a piece about "barbershop renaissance" on November 25 (2010). Finally, we hope you grabbed those boots because they're sold out. Costume National footwear has been very good to us and if you like anything from F/W 2010 it's all 50% off. Based on previous years' sale timing, if you wait a couple of more weeks it will go to 70% off.
Q: The other day you recommended J Shoes' mojave boots. I noticed they have a crepe sole and was wondering how these hold up in Wisconsin winters. I am interested in a different model with crepe soles for Philadelphia winters. --Michael
A: Crepe soles were born on British soldiers fighting Rommel in the deserts of North Africa, then in 1950 Englishman Nathan Clark made them for civilians and called them "desert boots." These two facts are both strong hints about the wisdom of wearing them during Wisconsin winters, and intuitively we stow away our crepe-soled boots by Thanksgiving. But just to make sure we asked J. Shoes about it and here's what they said:
Crepe is a rubber latex material that changes with the temperature. It softens in the summer and gets hard in the winter, which means it can be slippery and dangerous on ice.
In our experience, the only footwear not dangerous on ice is a pair of skates, but while we want you in a pair of crepe-soled J. Shoes boots, leave the road slush and ice to footwear that's far more appropriate.
Q: What are the boots the model in the Betabrand Jeans ad is wearing in the majority of the pictures on their site? Or perhaps you can recommend a similar pair for a college student's budget. --Dan
A: Dan, they're J SHOES' Mojave boot in Bark. While $145 is likely a little rich for a college student's budget, they're made in England, based on the classic British WWII desert boot (both nicely satisfying the Principle of Anglophilia), and will get better with age. In other words, you can't afford not to buy.
"Love for what has been, obsession of quality 'musts,' osmosis, through an obstinate adherence to craftmanship skills and to the details the latter guarantee, amid the 'dream' and the 'sense' of the product; its implicit, discreet, invisible and yet perfectly clear meaning; a network of senses, a cultural continuity between the 'footwear' garment and its user, a genetic code shared by footwear and accessories, discrete audacity, simple imagination, laissez-faire rigour. Our work takes its inspiration from all of this: this is the quality of life in which we believe."
We believe we've never heard a bigger load of bullshit. But we also believe Antonio Maurizi is onto something with this sneaker and boot mashup. Originally $490, they're just $188 at Gilt and there are a bunch of sizes and three different colors available. (If you need an invite to Gilt, just let us know.)
Q: When (if ever) is it acceptable to wear boots during summer? I'm getting tired of sneakers and flip flops already and it's only May. By the way, I live in Atlanta so it's damn near 100 degrees already with humidity through the roof. Boots just seem like TTH in the summer...what's the ruling? --Cody
A: You've heard of desert boots, no? In the desert, it's always summer, at least when it isn't freezing. What we're saying is, sure, wear boots. Nothing higher than your ankle, and nothing an Eskimo would consider practical. Not long ago, we told our readers to stick with the classic desert boots -- Clarks. They're the boots that British officers wore in WWII while fighting tank battles with Rommel in the North African desert in June of 1942. The action was so hot there that the battle was dubbed "the Cauldron." But let's face it -- taking Panzer fire from Nazis in the dry wastelands of Libya in mid-summer is one thing, but Atlanta humidity is another thing entirely. So if you're looking for something a little lighter than suede, try these J. Crew MacAlister boots, which approximate the look of the Clarks originals but are constructed out of cotton twill.
If it's that rocker vibe you need, try the more toned-down style of Rock & Republic. They keep the skulls and other junk on the sole. An even more understated choice that still passes as rock 'n' roll is John Varvatos, and you don't have to worry about keeping your feet off of anyone's desk.
Late last year we took a littleflak for dismissing the pants-tucked-into-boots look as TTH. Then in this month's GQ, Kenneth Cole fully validated our call. This look is officially dead. Thanks, Kenneth!
Q: I live in New York and am beginning to think about the harsh winter snow and ice set to arrive in the coming months. I don't like Tingley's or galoshes so what is an MB boot to wear during the winter months that looks decent with a suit and good with jeans? Red Wing? Bass? --Miles
A: Now that Red Wing boots have arrived at Bergdorf Goodman, we suppose that look has arrived in public as well. We're just not buying it, except, of course, to chop wood or build a barbed wire fence. Chalk one up to the marketing folks at Red Wing for a nice rebranding/repositioning, but avoid this soon-to-be short-lived trend and instead take a look at some of the new Prada options at bluefly. Sure, they are 2x or 3x as expensive as the Red Wings, but there is a high likelihood you'll still be wearing them in ten years. We've seen it happen. And they're flexible enough to work with a suit or jeans.
Q: I'm shopping for some new boots and or shoes that I can wear to work. I work in the music industry so, stylish is not only acceptable but encouraged. What do you think about the Clarks desert boot? Or Robert Wayne's "Crue." I have a strong suspicion that the "Crue" doesn't have a clue about MB status. --Sethro
A: Sethro, it depends on how loudly the music you work with is typically played. Clarks desert boots meet just about every MB principle: They have a pedigree, they're Anglophilic, they're matte, and Steve McQueen wore them (top). But can you see Spinal Tap rocking "Sex Farm" or "Swallow My Love" in 'em? Exactly. This is where the Robert Waynes come in (bottom). Yeah, they're square-toed and shiny with an ugly Fleur de Lys design and an even uglier pirate on the sole, but you need something similar if your bands' amps go past 10.
Q: Hey Magnificent Bastards -- What is the MB protocol on cowboy boots? --Evan in Maine
A: A very timely question, Evan. Last Thursday the Wall Street Journal's feature on Design Within Reach contained a picture of CEO Ray Brunner, who appeared to have grabbed whatever was within arm's reach for the photo shoot: an ill-fitting blazer and repp tie matched with cowboy boots and his age and body type looks totally ridiculous. In other words, you need the right "look" to successfully pull a pair of these off. Or on. Match yours with the five guys below to see where you fit.
Q: We're in the middle of about a week straight of nothing but rain here in the Mid Atlantic, which got me thinking: What does the MB wear to keep his feet dry when he must venture out in wet weather? Women seem to be resorting to the Wellington but so far that trend does not seem to be making inroads among men. My grandfather used to wear galoshes but I haven't seen anyone wearing those either. In my Gore-Tex hiking boots I feel like a refugee from the mid 90s, when dressing as if one were on an Everest expedition was popular even if one were only going to the grocery store. There must be at least one fashionable option? --Mark
A: Short wellies (like these from J.Crew) are MB approved, but they're really only necessary for weather systems with a name. Something with a name that makes the national news and maybe kills a few people, go ahead and upgrade to the full-height version. For anything else, like a little rain, get into something rubber-soled like these Prada Novo boots. We've suggested them before -- they were featured in a header pic from 2008 -- and stand by them in spite of the price. Some staffers have had these for over a decade, so they deliver value, and are cool as shit to boot.
What are your thoughts on these Red Wing Classic Lifestyle boots?: I know they are my style (rugged good looks, etc) but want to know if they are MB style for around town or in a relaxed office atmosphere. Thanks in advance. --Mark
A: History, tradition, and pedigree are three nouns we like, and Red Wing has those in spades ... and if you had one and needed to dig a hole, these boots would work great. While not easy, they can be successfully urbanized/office-ized, perhaps with denim and a deconstructed blazer. Warning: go too casual on top and you might end up looking like a lost lumberjack. Tim-berrrrrrr!
Q: What is your opinion on Aldo shoes, a recent discovery of mine? I'm a 21 year-old college student, and I rock some less-than-subtle ankle zip boots, and some plaid tennis shoes by them rather often, but a friend says they stand out too much and seems like TTH. Maybe it just doesn't work in Arkansas. --Ron
A: Hey Ron in Arkansas. Thanks for reading. This is the first we've heard from Arkansas. Anyhow, we're not big Aldo fans. Can't speak to the plaid tennis shoes but his boots look like a poor-man's Mark Nason. If you're going to TTH, go full throttle with Nason. Otherwise, our current favorite boot guy is John Varvatos and you can usually find them on eBay at a steep discount.
Q: I generally agree that they are a terrible curse on humanity but these are quite MB in my opinion. They first caught my eye in a recent ad in GQ. --Matt
A: Egads man. These ain't MB. They look like the result of a company with a history of making soft, cheap, sheepskin boots that decides to make something "badass." If you're wanting that buckle look in the same price range, try something from Frye, the oldest continuously operated shoe company in America (1863).
Q: My wife just surprised me with a pair of men's Uggs (dark brown short boots) for my birthday. What should I do? I love my wife (she is sitting next to me). --Stephen
A: Remember that wedding vow stuff? "For better or for worse"? Surely there was never any mention about Ugg boots for men, so read on.
These have been outgoing on women for well over a year and are a style trainwreck for men. It's great that you love your wife, Stephen. Sounds like you have a healthy, strong marriage, and even sit closely while emailing. Ask her for the receipt, give her a peck on the cheek, and then make your way to the mall for a return.
A: We don't believe in following the latest fad to emerge from some blog photographing some guy on a street in NYC. Anyhow, $100 says this look is actually unaffected and the result of his jeans being too skinny to go over his goddamn boots. Christ. Yet another unsightly byproduct of the skinny trend.
Joe Wurzelbacher, also known as "Joe the Plumber," has hired a publicist and may run for Congress, but he's already got a full-time job as the anti-MB. Yesterday in Defiance, OH: inarticulateness, shirt-sleeve legibility, and tapered jeans with cowboy boots.
Q: As a young MB-in-training, I am always on the lookout for wardrobe staples that any MB cannot do without. The fall and winter seasons are approaching rapidly, and I am in dire need of the essential boot that cannot only withstand the harshest of weather, but also provide my feet with a look of class mixed with ruggedness. Finding such a pair is certainly a tough feat, and for that I graciously ask for your suggestions. Do note that I am but a mere collegian, so please forgo any exorbitant recommendations. --Max
A: You low cash-flowin', high-falutin' word-usin' college boys are making it tough. We've previously discussed black leather boots as a wardrobe staple, and tried explaining why a $600 pair of Prada Linea Rossas was actually a wise investment. We prefer rubber soles these days, but if you're going for ruggedness then leather is the better choice. Assuming you have $600, put $300 towards beer and drugs and CliffsNotes; put the the other $300 towards these John Varvatos Mercer boots. (Also recommended: a more casual pebbled version from bluefly.)
Now before our inbox gets filled with mail saying, "What the fuck are you doing endorsing a $600 pair of boots? I don't have that kind of bread, man!," understand the following MB principle that's at work: Black leather boots are an MB wardrobe staple, and no price is too high for an MB wardrobe staple you love.
Barney's has decided to put a shitload of stuff on sale and we suggest diggin' in. Don't miss the chance to get into a pair of John Varvatos boots for less than $300. Black boots are an MB closet staple, and this side-zip model is an excellent choice.
Q: Is it okay for an MB to wear cowboy boots even though one is not a cowboy? I'm not talking hitting the streets in full western get-up (big belt buckle, bigger hat, hoe-down shirt, etc.), just a simple pair of Dan Post black, elk hide shit kickers with brown suede tips. Today I've paired them up with a pair of Levi's Silver Tab boot cut jeans (boots inside the jeans, not out) and a snug black t-shirt from gap. I'm 35, trim and in good shape. Am I really just trying to live out some western-type fantasy, or can I consider myself an MB? By the way, great web site!
A: Yeeeehawwwww! We reckon' you've arrived, compadre. Even if it is some sort of western-type fantasy (and that's OK) it sounds like you've successfully pulled this off, and we rate the degree of difficulty an 8.1 on the MB 10-point scale. Well done, you elk hide-wearin' Magnificent Bastard.
Every other potential shit-kickin' MB out there take note: This is risky business with potentially very low reward, and there ain't many Phils out there. One of our core shopping principles comes from GQ's creative director Jim Moore: "Never buy cowboy boots in Texas." The MB corollary to that rule is the removal of the "in Texas" part.
Mezcal Rob Roy
1 oz mezcal (Del Maguey Chichicapa)
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1/2 oz sweet vermouth
1/4 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.