Q: Hi. I like old school Nikes (Jordans), Asics, Adidas and so on. Is it MB to be a sneakerhead? I assumed it wasn't. Am I correct? —Richard
To paraphrase Craig Finn, certain brands they get so scratched into our souls. And when we really start thinking about it — and we have been, because of your question — we realize that many of the brands that have been scratched into our souls (and, yes, soles) deepest and longest are sneaker brands.
It's possible we were introduced to McDonald's, Mars, Inc., and Coca Cola earlier than we were introduced to Puma, Adidas, Pony, and Converse. These days, however, we go years without a Big Mac, months without a Snickers bar, and sometimes even a week without a Coke. Whereas we believe that there is probably no 72-hour period over the course of our post-toddler lives where we have not worn one of the aforementioned brands for at least a couple hours.
And of course those brands have company in our overall collections — a quick assessment of our three nearest closets nets approximately 140 pairs of sneakers from roughly 30-plus brands, with heavy emphasis on Golden Goose, Tod's, Diemme, and Maison Margiela.
That said, we've never owned a pair of Air Jordans, much less cleaned them with a toothbrush. So are we sneakerheads?
As we understand the term, sneakerheads seem to focus on (a) shoes that NBA superstars and other professional athletes might credibly wear in regulation play, (b) shoes that Captain America might go jogging in, or (c) shoes that Marc Benioff might wear while delivering a keynote address at Dreamforce.
While we can embrace option (a) in limited contexts — we're not going to play tennis in our Maison Margielas — options (b) and (c) don't appeal to us under any scenario. Instead, we stick to vaguely businified sneakers — i.e., sneakers we could wear to work without, as we've said in the past about sweatpants, making our colleagues wonder if we're about to dunk on them.
In the end, we think the best way to express our thoughts on this is a Venn diagram:
Q: I need guidance on dressing for a Christmas party. Unfortunately, dress code is unknown (and my girlfriend doesn't think this is a big deal) but this is my first time meeting any of her friends from outside of our mutual friends. All I know is that it's at the friends apartment in Manhattan and that he works for Facebook (so a broad gamut of possibilities exist...).
I was thinking of just layering a white button down with a cashmere v neck sweater and a blazer with some dark jeans, but I wanted backup. My most casual blazer is a black corduroy one that fits well, but no idea if that's MB approved. I would probably just go with a dark grey cotton blazer that I have instead. I want to be a little dressy, but without going overboard and I figure with the blazer I can ditch it right away if I'm overdressed.
Ended up rambling a bit, but any advice would be greatly appreciated! —Jeremy
Our gut instinct is to pair it with a pair of camel moleskin 5-pocket pants. These were once plentiful on the web but have inexplicably moved into endangered species territory. Did PETA think they were actually made from moles?
Anyhow, Bonobos has implemented a robust moleskin protection plan and still offers their Moleskin Jean in chestnut (in a ridiculous number of fit and size combinations), and this pair of pants will offer both leg-covering and ball-warming utility long after the party is over.
For footwear, we're still strongly in sneakerization mode, and in this case would likely opt for actual sneakers, like these minimalist Certain Victorys (formerly Hydrogen-1).
Finally, you mentioned nothing about accessorization and we feel like this outfit needs it. May we suggest disrupting the dressier choice of a tie around your neck, and try tying a tie around your waist instead with our own version, the Joseph Kandell. (Check out Joe's LinkedIn profile for details on his transition from Barney's skinny tie to middle-management support of vertical apparel installations such as moleskin jeans).
Above all, have fun, but don't get so shitfaced that your ridiculous Bulleit-fueled dance moves end up on a Facebook video. Not that we would know anything about that.
Al Gore and Leo DiCaprio are going to have to take a lot more trans-oceanic plane trips before they manage to put a dent in the bone-bruising chill that greets us every morning in Minneapolis this time of year. But while there's nothing we can do to avoid the snow, sleet, and ice, we can avoid the even-worse-than-usual traffic and parking-space hunts that come with them. How? By continuing to ride our bikes to work, even in the face of sub-zero temperatures.
How do we pull this off without looking like we're about to engage in some heavy breathing with a couple of broad-shouldered Scandinavian beauties at the Winsport Olympic Luge Track? We lay out our strategy below.
2. Nannini "TT" Goggles. Made for motorcyclists but adopted by cyclists looking for a stylish way to keep your eyelids from freezing shut.
TORSO & LEGS
3. Smartwool Baselayer underneath a 8 Wool Turtleneck. A baselayer under a jacket is all we usually need in anything above 10°F but it was -6°F this morning so we layered with a wool turtleneck. 8 makes a stylish one, with value.
4. Love Moschino Long Down Puffer. Down blazer-style jackets and some days even down shirts work for Minneapolis winter commuting. But not this neo-Polar Vortex shit. At anything below 0°F we pull out the long down puffer. Jack Frost may nip at your nose, but first he nips at your toes, then, surprisingly, your ass. Having goose feather coverage back there helps prevent his bite.
5. Smartwool Baselayer underneath Naked and Famous Snowpant Denim. Naked and Famous is responsible for some of the most important innovations in the history of denim, like scratch and sniff raspberry scented jeans. But their all-time best effort is the discontinued Snowpant Denim, a deep indigo wash treated with a waterproof and wind-resistant coating, and lined in comfy fleece. Look for them on eBay and try to grab them before we do.
6. Wigens Bear Claw Gloves The synthetic lobster claw gloves you see most winter commuters wearing are neither a warmth nor a dexterity match for these Swedish leather and fur marvels. Unfortunately Wigens seems to have stopped making them. Set up an eBay alert.
Minnesota-based 45NRTH makes the popular Wölvhammer commuter boot, but they're nearly as heavy as a pair of Pacs, only rated to 0°F, and don't abide by our un-gear aesthetic. After several years of trial and error we've concocted a 4-step footwear solution that's fairly lightweight and can hold up to a 45 minute commute at -20°F.
Darn Tough Hunting Socks. Not all wool socks are created equal. We've tried a dozen different brands and Darn Tough are the best. Made in Vermont.
Made in the same factory in the Marche region of Italy as MB favorite Hydrogen 1, they share the same minimalist style, high-quality construction, and comfort. Originally $183. Available in sizes 8-13. Fits true to size. Highly recommended.
Have we hit peak talus yet? Not by a longshot. Until we see Marco Rubio hugging a windmill, we expect that exposed ankles will continue to exist as both fashion trend and climate change mitigation strategy. These days, the look is so widespread that even designer no-show socks exist — which, if you think about it, is even more oxymoronic than "clean coal" or "gas-sipping SUV." If people can see that you're wearing Paul Smith no-show socks, your no-show socks are broken!
We first endorsed exposed ankles back in 2008, when the Keeling Curve was still safely in the 380s. Ever since, we've been on an epic quest to find the perfect no-show socks. We've invested countless hours, spent more than a few dollars, and emitted a lot of carbon by commanding Banana Republic, J. Crew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Falke, Urban Outfitters, and Mocc Socks to bring us new specimens by ship, plane, and FedEx truck. But we've finally found a no-show sock we're ready to settle down with: the Converse Chuck Sock.
Why do we love this sock? Three reasons. One, they stay on the best. Two, they're thicker than all other no-show socks, which tend to be nearly as thin as pantyhose. (We don't want no-show pantyhose. We want no-show socks.) Three, they're the cheapest no-show socks we've found. (A few years ago, this wouldn't have mattered to us so much. But now that a significant portion of our clothing budget is devoted to producing clothes rather than buying them, we take advantage of opportunities to economize if they present themselves.)
So there you have it. Our quest for the perfect no-show sock is over. On a related note, however, our quest for the perfect white t-shirt persists. (Sorry, environment!)
POST-SCRIPT: Our contest where you can win a free pair of the spring's best luxury slip-on — the Hydrogen-1 Neptunian — is ending tomorrow (May 15)! Enter now, and make sure to have a pair of Chuck Socks on-hand to immediately celebrate your victory if you're the lucky winner.
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.
Designed in California and made in Italy, Hydrogen-1s are a little bit like a mullet in shoe form: Business on top, party on the bottom. Or at least comfortable sneaker sole on the bottom. We bought our first pair of Hydrogen-1 Magnesiums at full price a couple months ago and liked them so much we quickly bought a back-up pair.
If you work at an Internet start-up, these wingtips will help you look like a grown-up when you go to pitch VCs, yet still give you the traction you need to radically change course when your first business plan tanks.
If your office is, say, an NBA arena, try these blue brogues. Even with their sneaker soles they're not quite as tuned for professional sports competition as a pair of Air Jordans. So you may lose a step to Chris Paul or even Marc Gasol. But you'll look fantastic going up and down the court. (As long as you’re wearing some dark denim jeans, that is. We don't recommend pairing these with gym shorts.)
Q: Do you know of any retailers (online or otherwise) that stock the TST sneaker collection? Apart from YOOX (which only offers selected items of previous collections) and tstshoes.com (which seems to be a Spanish-based site not directly affiliated with the company) I have a hard time finding any retailer that sells those shoes.
It's nice that you recommend them but I can't seem to find them anywhere (except for small sale stock)
Editor's note: This is one of many emails regarding finding TST shoes. Good luck.
A: Jeff, finding TST shoes can be as hard as finding a stripper with real breasts, which is definitely part of the appeal that goes beyond their artfully disheveled styling. We used to see them at Fred Segal in Santa Monica, but frankly YOOX has been our supplier of late. No, they're not going to be the latest versions but YOOX has lots of options at discounted prices.
If you're looking for the 2011 F/W collection — which is terrific, BTW — we've discovered that part of it is going to be available later this week at LA retailer Qio which specializes in clothing, footwear, and accessories from Japan. They've ordered the 2039F (top), the 813L (middle), and the 3039L (bottom). They won't be available on the Qio web site so email or call Masako at 310-979-3555 to get into a pair. (They run small so add a size.)
Q: I have a summer wedding to attend and have a grey zzegna cotton suit. I am not sure what shoes to pair it with as the pants are quite narrow. Please help. —John
A: With the notable exception of the recent Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries wedding, which featured $5 million earrings and an absurd, six-foot-tall sex toy made out of wedding cake, summer weddings are casual. So your choice of a casual cotton suit is a good one.
In his highly entertaining (and highly recommended) book How to Be a ManGQ Style Guy Glenn O'Brien says:
"...the fashion-forward periodically tell us it's OK to wear sneakers with a suit. Maybe if you've been embezzling and the auditors are in the office, sneakers will give you an edge if you make a run for it, but basically sneakers with a suit is a fundamental error, no matter how much the sneakers cost or who designed them."
We disagree. Or maybe it's just that we have more expansive definition of "sneaker" than O'Brien does. In any case, we think these textured leather sneakers from Thompson would be perfectly wedded to your Z Zegna suit. Despite their Anglo-sounding name, they're actually made in Italy — like your suit — and their narrow cut will pair well with your narrow pants.
If, however, you fall more in line with the Style Guy's way of thinking, then go for these suede Gucci lace-ups. They're dressier than the Thompsons, but with their relaxed lines and non-glossy finish, you won't look like you just came from a wedding when you hit the bars after the reception ends.
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?
Late last summer we crowned TST our all-time favorite sneakers, and the intervening 9 months have done nothing to curb our enthusiasm for these hand-sketched, hand-finished shoes by designer Seishi Tanaka (pictured). We now own two pairs of the sneakers, two pairs of the boots, and are putting our Chucks on injured reserve.
These are the best Japanese export since the Walkman.
Q: Hey guys. Long-time reader, can't tell you how much I love the site. I wear scrubs (sky blue) most days of the week and am looking for dark-colored footwear that strikes a balance between professionalism, function and style. I don't want my patients doubting I know what I am talking about, but would also like something MB enough to score some points with the talented nursing staff (it would also be a plus if they were a bit blood-resistant for the operating room). Shoes are essentially the only clothing item I have any control over so I feel like I really need to nail it here. I'd appreciate any suggestions, I trust you won't steer me wrong.
Keep up the strong work,
A: Doc, you want a blood-resistant shoe that's professional, comfortable, stylish and goes with sky blue scrubs? That's a tough prescription to fill.
On the other hand, the last time we went under the knife everyone in the OR was wearing Crocs, so you do have the advantage of low expectations working in your favor. Indeed, it's hard to imagine footwear less resistant to blood than Crocs — all those holes must mean the country's surgeons possess a lot of DIY polka dot socks!
Given that scrubs are essentially sweats for medical personnel, we think you should go with something that's obviously sporty, like these navy nylon and black leather sneakers from Prada. They'll communicate professionalism to your patients and style to the talented nursing staff, while being comfortable during surgery and easy to clean in case that angioplasty patient has really high blood pressure. At $336 a pair, they're not cheap, but that's what Medicare's for, right?
Q: Hey guys: Love the website, and a couple of times it's stopped me from making a fashion mistake - I appreciate it. Anyway, I saw these on Gear Patrol and wondered what you thought. They're not crocs or thongs, and I thought the blue ones would look good with some white jeans. I will defer to your expertise though. --David
A: Obey and Generic Surplus are both brands we like, but this plimsoll-boat shoe fusion (top) has us imagining comical sunburn patterns we'd just as soon avoid. We say: Women alone should bear the risk of skin-exposing mesh (bottom).
If you want a navy boat shoe, there is always Sperry, of course, but we also like the Oak Street Bootmakers version, made from Horween Chromexcel and handcrafted and handstitched in the USA.
A: They are Puma Rudolf Dassler "Metropolis Low" sneakers. We recommend them, along with lots of other Dassler models, if you're OK with fact that "Ruda" (the original name of Puma) was an even more hard-core Nazi than his Adidas-founding older brother Adi. Style before National Socialist affiliation, we always say.
Ed. Note: Another Dassler shoe, the Standpunkt, also made an appearance in an MB header in early 2009. This is a highly-recommended (and far more available) model.
UPDATE: The size 13s at Bluefly quickly sold out once this entry was posted, but sizes 11 and 12 are available at Tagotti Shoes, also at a deep discount. Unlike most other Puma footwear, these fit true to size, so no need to add one.
"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.)
When we did our 10 Sneakers for S/S 2010 feature this spring, we had no idea we'd end up discovering our all-time favorite sneaker: TST. Hand-sketched by Japanese designer Seishi Tanaka, then hand-detailed in construction, these are an obscure, more stylish alternative to Chuck, Stan, Jack, and Rod. The human element -- along with the unique and super-comfortable three-piece sole construction -- gives these shoes an organic feel and degree of wabi-sabi, which is essentially Japanese for artful dishevelment.
Q: Those Faded Glory sneakers you linked to today are ugly, if you're looking for plimsolls grab a couple from Urban Outfitters. Thirty dollars for two pairs isn't bad. --Nick
A: We are aware of the UO plimsolls, which we agree are cheap at $30 for two pairs. But our initial correspondent mentioned that plimsolls are widely available in his native England at only 5 quid -- or about U.S. $7.50 -- so we took it as a challenge to see if we could find something very close to that price here in America. At first, our theory was that Brits must provide nationalized plimsoll coverage, just like they do with their healthcare, and that there was no way we'd be able to find a pair so cheap here. Then, we spotted the Faded Glorys for $8. Score one for the free market.
But just as with the Faded Glorys, there are strings attached to these shoes that go beyond shoelaces. We mean their apparently awful stench. Here are some excerpts from UO customer reviews:
"It has a faulty smell that comes with it."
"I suggest just putting them in your basement or something for a day or two, just to deal with the smell."
"Even after they stop smelling, if you leave them on top of a shirt or something the shirt will smell like the rubber."
"The smell of the shoes when you get them is something horrid. but spray them down with axe or something and it may cover it up."
"They reeked of chemicals, and for a week they stained my socks a a light black."
"Over all, looks great--but it is not worth the headache (literally, the smell gave me headaches)."
We know there are some pretty delicate flowers who shop at UO, but we find the sheer number of comments alarming. If you have to quarantine your shoes in the basement for a week, if the smell of Axe represents a solution and not a grave problem of its own, these are warning signs. In fact, we've noticed that the models in UO catalogs are looking even paler, skinnier, and more sickly than usual, and now we think we know why.
Q: I like the post on the shoes, Thanks. I was wondering, though, if you knew of a place to get super cheap plimsolls? When I lived in Britain, practically every store had white plimsolls for around 5 quid. Sure, they don't last long but for a fiver you could just get a shiny new pair. All of the plimsolls I have purchased on this side of the pond were about as durable and a lot more expensive. --Ian
A: In real life, we would never recommend spending less on your shoes than we spend on socks. We would also never recommend shopping at Walmart (unless you accessorize with a Nixon mask). But this is the Internet, so here goes. You can get a pair of Faded Glory sneakers from Walmart for $8, which, at current exchange rates is about 50p over 5 quid. Be careful. A reviewer writes: "I only wish they didn't put slippery canvas fabric on the bottom....Other than that, great shoes."
2.) Sneakers that you plan to wear with shorts are one item where we give more leeway than we usually do to bright colors, patterns, and logos. Don't go crazy though. If Turtle from Entourage would wear it, you've probably gone too far.
3.) Sticking with white or gray is your best bet for picking a shoe that can work with a wide variety of shorts. (Important note: If you're a size 12 or over, do not go with an all-white shoe unless you're trying to pick up work as a clown at children's birthday parties.)
4.) If you're dying to incorporate red velour into your wardrobe, a pair of sneakers is the only place to do it.
The T56s offer timeless style. Our great-great-great-great-great-grandkids will be wearing these in 2210. In 2010, they're the shoes we reach for when we know the evening's going to involve some furious table tennis action.
"Leave your socks at home," the Superga website enthuses, because the interior of the 2750 feature finished inseams. We like that touch but we're not going to go that far. For all summer sneaker-wearing we recommend the Banana Republic no-show socks.
Williot is a Spanish brand that made its debut in the U.S. market last summer. If you want to look sporty but not athletic -- i.e., you aren't planning to do anything more strenuous than mixing cocktails by the pool -- these are a great choice.
Why are we recommending these Chuck clones and not the real thing? Thanks to the hidden Air Nike technology hidden in the heel, they're one of the few Chuck-style shoes that you can play basketball in and not sentence your feet to a lifetime of Bill Walton-like pain. When your day involves anything more strenuous than a J. Crew photo shoot, wear these.
Designer Seishi Tanaka hand-draws the sketches for the TST line and it shows. This model leans toward the more athletic end of the athleisure shoe spectrum -- we think we could actually play some touch football in it -- but it has an organic quality not found in the hyper-engineered footwear of, say, Nike or Reebok.
If you want to add a Gallic touch to your Fourth of July barbecue, try these sneakers from Jean Paul Gaultier's shoe line, Pataugas. (You can pick up last year's slightly different model at yoox.com for only $89.)
Q: Whilst in search of a new pair of bastardly-casual sneaks, I ran across this new take on a proven classic. Although these Chucks satisfy the principle of natural materials, are they worth the $600 premium? -Nate
A: Nate, creating a handmade, deluxe version of the Chuck Taylor is sort of like going to Las Vegas and spending all your time there in church. It can be done, but why would you do it? The very appeal of the Chuck Taylor derives from its utilitarian, machine-made ... ah, fuck it. Those $600 Opening Ceremony Chuck Taylors are drop-dead gorgeous! And just as we're sure Jesse James derives more pleasure from Sandra Bullock than he does from a club's worth of bargain-bin strippers ... okay, maybe this isn't the best analogy. Still, hand-stitched Chuck Taylors by an Italian-trained designer (Ryusaku Hiruma) in limited editions of 64? Of course you're going to enjoy them more than a dozen pairs of $50 sneakers.
I am a large fan of your well placed words of wisdom, and I'd like to pick your mind momentarily and add to a question that was recently asked of you pertaining to suits with sneakers. On March 18th, John Stewart of The Daily Showwas revealed to be wearing white deck shoes with his ensemble. I thought he rocked it, but I decided to seek sounder minds. What do you think? --Colin
A: Colin, If you're going to wear white sneakers with a suit, don't grab one from Jon Stewart's closet. The suit he's wearing is too dark, too baggy, and too Men's Wearhouse Business Generic to combine with anything but black Florsheims, and white sneakers are a particularly bad choice for it. At first we thought he was wearing socks.
If you want to combine white sneakers with a suit, follow Will Arnett's lead and choose something casual, fitted, and not too dark.
UPDATE: Many readers have written in to inform us that the sneakers Jon Stewart are wearing are essentially part of a Glenn Beck costume and thus worn in the name of comedy. Our knowledge of Beck and his typical shoewear choices is limited, but if he is in the habit of pairing baggy navy suits with sneakers so white it looks like he's been standing in a vat of vanilla ice cream all morning, then our criticisms of Stewart may be applied to Beck instead.
Q: Sneakers with suit...what's the MB take? I know the Prada sport line is great as are most Sabelt, but what about Adidas Samba or similar? --Brooke
A: Great question. The closer you get to a footwear brand's "originals" the harder it is to pull off (and risk looking like you're TTH). Lots of guys can wear Puma Sport Fashion with a cool, casual suit. But are you up to combining that suit with Puma Suedes?
In the May 2009 GQ Will Arnett clearly made classic Adidas Rod Lavers work with a $100 cotton H&M suit (left). The comparatively schlubby Jason Segel did the same with Chuck Taylors on the red carpet in 2008's Forgetting Sarah Marshall (right). So what can be learned?
* Only attempt with slimmer, casual suits
* Wear flat front, and preferably un-creased pants
* Pair with a polo or artfully disheveled woven
* Occasionally do a little dancing and hand gesturing
A: Oh, don't be so coy. You got a pair of the original basketball shoe (yes, before Converse), available only in Japan and obscure trade shows, and you're asking us if they're OK or lame? Another reader who should be on staff, we reckon.