All posts in Footwear

All About That Bass

Bass

If you are a regular reader of Oxford Cloth Button Down I am sure that you are wondering why I am talking about Bass right now. You are probably thinking, “What happened to the Allen Edmonds Cavanaughs?” after my “There’s a new loafer in town” post.Vintage Bass Ad

Sadly the Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh Penny Loafers did not work out for me. It is not that I did not like them. They are a great looking shoe and I wanted to keep them, but they just didn’t fit (too narrow in the forefoot and too wide in the heel). After trying three different sizes I called it a day. It wasn’t meant to be (, but don’t worry I am still on the hunt for a nicer loafer).

This concession of defeat left me with an immediate void to fill. My current pairs of Weejuns are now well over 4 years old and as a result they are beginning to show their age. I needed to get another pair of loafers in the mix quickly. This loafer needs to fit, be versatile, and be available now. The only shoe that I knew that could count on is the Weejun.

I remember Billax commenting on the Cavanaugh post and saying that he will always have a pair of Weejuns in his closet. I have to say that I am in the same boat even though I know that the quality of shoe leaves a lot to desired. However, the near perfect design combined with the fact that they fit me like a glove allow me easily overlook all of their shortcomings. Until I find a higher quality loafer that fits me well I am still all about that bass.

There’s a New Loafer in Town

Weejuns

I made my foray into the world of respectable penny loafers last week when I purchased a pair of Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh penny loafers. This loafer is not one of their classic models. In fact, it has only been around for a few months, but it does pay tribute to what I consider the most classic penny loafer which is the Bass Weejun. Cavanaugh Penny Loafers                                               Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh Penny Loafer (above)

I have been in need of a decent pair of penny loafers for a while now. Decent meaning something other than Bass Weejuns which are not very high quality, but they do make up for their lackluster construction with a great silhouette at a great price. Plus, they fit me like a glove (You can never overlook fit!). Weejun

There are three features that the Weejun has taught me to look for in a loafer:

  • The Pinch – I am not a fan of beef rolls, I think they look too bulky and I think that full straps look too sleek, but the pinch strap closure looks just right to me.
  • A Boxy Toe – The boxy shape is why they work so well with chinos. It is a casual loafer.
  • The Strap and the Cutout on the Strap –  The Weejun has almost a crescent moon shape cutout and bottom of the strap comes to a point in the middle. I am not that picky about the strap and cutout, but I do pay attention to it.

The Allen Edmonds Cavanaugh ($275, but currently on sale for $195) has all of these features. It also comes in burnished brown. I reach for my tan loafers more often than my burgundy ones. I think that by selecting dark brown I will get a lot of day-to-day use out of them like I do my tan loafers, but unlike my tan loafers I can pair these with grey wool trousers. This is important, because they will be my nicest loafers. My only critique is that I could do without the stitching on the toe box on either side of the cutout and yes, I wish it had the crescent moon cutout.

The Alternatives: More Pinch Penny Loafers:

Alden LHSAlden Leisure Handsewn Moccasin (LHS)  ($518) – Great shape and amazing quality. I would love to have this loafer, but it is outside of my price range. My only critique is that I wish the strap extended a touch further down the side. Patriot Penny LoafersAllen Edmonds Patriot ($385, but currently on sale for $327.25) – I almost purchased the Patriot, but that was before the Cavanaugh was released. The Patriot is a bit too sleek for me which is why I was on the fence about it for so long. It might just be the slightly elongated toe box combined with the more refined stitching, but it just looks a little off (especially with chinos). I do think that the Patriot makes an excellent loafer to pair with grey wool slacks. Cole Han Pinch PennyCole Han Pinch Penny ($198) – This shoe has a great silhouette, but the wrinkling or pulling around the toe box is a “moccasin-ish” for this type of loafer. I liked the price point, but I was concerned that they would be lacking in quality.

Rancourt ($300-$400?)- I have seen a pair of  Rancourt pinch pennies, but they don’t have a pair on their website. I am ashamed to say that I have yet to get to give them a try. It is long overdue. Price is the only reason that I selected the Cavanaughs instead of approaching Rancourt.

I must not be the only one interested in the Cavanaugh. I ordered my pair the first day of the Rediscover America sale and when I went to check out online it said that they would be ready in four weeks. I called the closest store hoping that they would have them in stock, but no such luck. For now I will just impatiently await their arrival hoping that that they fit and fit well.

Singing the Thrift Store Blues

Bostonian Crown Windsor Tassels

I recently came across a shoe that on the second-hand market that I have been pining over for a long time. This shoe is none other than the cordovan tassel loafer. The only problem was one that all of my thrifters, Ebay scourers, and other experts of the second-hand/vintage clothing markets can relate. Will they fit?
Tassel LoafersCrown WindsorsThis specific pair of tassels are Crown Windsors made by Bostonian. These tassels are not from the current iteration of Bostonian, but rather from an era when their quality was on par with Allen Edmonds and Alden. This specific pair was being advertised as having not been worn outside, but after taking a close look at the sellers pics I believed them to be new old stock (NOS). The quality, condition, and price (when compared with a new a pair) made them very very attractive to me.

My first move was to do some due diligence. I contacted a man of many tassels that I know and sought his counsel. He could not provide me with any fit information in regard to vintage Bostonian tassels, but he did have other pairs of vintage Bostonians and sent me what info he had. I did some more research on the web and in the end I felt the odds were in my favor. I pulled the trigger.
Genuine Shell CordovanBostonian Crown WindsorWhen the shoes arrived they were in spectacular condition. I now fully believe that they have never been worn before at all, inside or outside. I was enamored, but the moment of truth was here. Try on time. They fit a tad big, but I was still hopeful that after a full day of breaking them in that they would work for me. I was wrong. They slipped all day and were even painful. I was and still am crushed.

This sad story is one that I know many of you have experienced. It is also why I am weary of the second-hand/vintage market. While I can certainly get my money back out of them it involves me reselling them which in my opinion is a form of torture. Moving forward I will be purchasing less and less from this market as I can afford it, but for now I will just sing you my thrift store blues.

Billax’s made up rules for TNSIL apparel – Shoe impact

Shetland Herringbone Tweed with AE loafers
This post is a reprinting of a post on a forum that is frequented by Billax. Billax is not only one of my style role models, but a friend and a man that was Trad back when it was called Ivy League.

Hypothesis/Justification for trousers – cuff/no break and tapered leg casual pants.

I’ve worn the cuff/no break (see here: Cuff, no break)look for 56 years. I’ve also worn tapered-leg-opening casual pants for the same number of years. It’s a deeply ingrained preference for me, but can one work backward to an analytic justification for that look? Maybe.

I’ve been speculating on a set of principles that might/could justify the “look” of the pants I’ve worn so long. I’m at a point where I’ve stopped grinding on it, so I am writing it up to have thoughtful guys tear apart my principles and reasoning. Here goes:

There is one practice I always follow. If you can’t buy in to it as part of this thought experiment, what follows will make little or no sense. Here’s my practice: When standing, while wearing a jacket and tie, I button my jacket, except when wearing a vest or waistcoat. This practice (right or wrong) comes from my principles (up until recently completely inchoate)

Here are my three rules:

1) In TNSIL Men’s apparel all cinches, closures, and adjusters are invisible when standing.

2) In TNSIL Men’s apparel all ornamentation is exposed when standing.

3) When rules 1 and 2 are in conflict, rule 1 takes precedence.

So, what are cinches, closures, and adjusters? Firstly, they are NOT the top layer of apparel. Here’s a partial list:

  • arm bands to adjust sleeve length
  • braces
  • belts
  • shirt buttons
  • tie bars (when used exclusively for promoting tie arch and verticality)
  • shoe laces

All the above serve to organize, adjust, and hold the relative positions of one’s garments. They are not seen by others during business, professional, or formal settings.

Now, what are ornaments?

  • cufflinks & studs
  • Tie Bars that express one’s interests or have a ornamental design element
  • Tassels, horse bit, or penny straps on loafers
  • Lapel pins

 All the above are designed to attract the eye

Issues that come up with my hypothesis:

  1. Shirt buttons are not covered by a bow tie. While I am not a bow tie wearer, I am a Bow tie fan.
  2. Monogrammed and otherwise fancy belt buckles are ornamentation on belts. When standing, while wearing a jacket and tie, a buttoned jacket with TNSIL rise trousers won’t show the ornamented buckle. (Rule 3)

Now, getting to trouser length and leg opening taper, here are side views of a classic dress shoe and a classic loafer. It is not necessary to like or dislike these shoes in order to make my point.
Dress Shoe 1Tassel Loafer 1

I’ll add a black rectangular overlay to represent trousers as they touch the dress shoe and the loafer.

First, a very dressy captoe – Allen Edmond’s Park avenue. To meet Rule 1, the leg opening must cover all the shoe laces on this 6 eyelet shoe. This shoe widens the required leg opening, and because of the high quarters on dress shoes, exposes no sock.
Blocked Dress ShoeSecond, an ornamented loafer – Allen Edmond’s Manchester. To meet Rule 2, the trouser leg must be both more narrow and sit a bit higher on the shoe. In addition, the low quarters on loafers will expose a little sock at the requisite height for ornamentation to show.. Whether the ornamentation on the loafer is a penny strap, a horse bit Gucci, or a tassel, the same result occurs – trou are narrower and sit higher on the shoe when wearing the more casual shoe.
Blocked LoaferException 1: Monk Straps and double Monk straps require trousers to drape lower on the shoe than any other footwear, so as to not violate Rule 1, which states that all cinches and closures must be covered when standing. No getting around it, monk straps are problematic for the TNSIL guy. Maybe that’s why I have never owned a pair.

Exception 2: Venetian loafers have no ornamentation and no closures, thereby having no min/max point for trouser height or width. Fifty-two years ago I bought my first (and only) pair of Venetians. I could not make them look “correct” with trousers of any height or width. That was the first time I ever thought to myself that, “There should always be some natural suggestion as to the relationship between apparel elements.” Still think that.

So, loafers with their ornamentation and lower quarters look best with a slightly narrower leg opening and sit slightly higher on the shoe. Laced dress shoes require trousers with a slightly wider leg opening sitting a little lower on the vamp. Socks will show with ornamented loafers, given their lower quarters. Socks will not show on dress shoes. THIS IS A DESIGN FEATURE, NOT A DEFECT. Any way, that’s my story and I’m sticking’ to it!

 Thoughts?

PSA: Allend Edmonds Shoe Bank Website

The once mythical Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank where deals were rumored to be unparalleled has now transcended trad lore and manifested itself as a website (Shoebank.com). I first became aware of the Shoe Bank from an employee at the Allen Edmonds factor outlet not too far from my home. I was looking for a discontinued style and the employee said they would look at the Shoe Bank for it. While they didn’t Allen Edmonds Shoe Bankhave the shoe the employee had the Shoe Bank send me a list of everything that they had in my size. My eyes where opened.

The original Shoe Bank was a retail store located in Wisconsin where factory seconds, discontinued, and closeout styles were sold. This is where the legend originated. Visiting the physical store in Wisconsin was not the only to get access to this stock. Prior to the new website emailing the Shoe Bank was how us trads accessed the stock from afar.

The new Shoe Bank site also functions as online factory outlet.  I have always felt lucky to have Allen Edmonds factory store near me. They primarily sell seconds with the occasional closeouts and discontinued styles mixed in. 99% of the time I have not been able to identify why the shoes are labeled seconds which speaks to the standards that Allen Edmonds has in place.
My Allen Edmonds Shoes                                                                    A pair of my Allen Edmonds seconds

At first I was a bit unconcerned that this new website would lead to a depletion of stock. However, the fact the new site is not an e-commerce site made me feel a little better. This means that there is still some leg work that is required customers which may deter a few would-be customers. If you see something in your size that you want I would encourage to act quickly before someone else does.