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The Converse Revolution

Converse All Stars in Olive Drab

I can never decide if Converse All Starts are fashion or anti-fashion. They’ve been through so may cycles of in and out that I can’t tell where we are any more. In fact, at this point, they seem to have transcended the usual considerations and have, like blue jeans, motorcycle boots, and Ray-Ban sunglasses, simply become American classics.

Converse, the company, started out life in 1908 as a rubber manufacturer, adding its famous shoe line in 1917, after which, thanks to the efforts of its star employee, basketball player, coach, and super salesman Chuck Taylor quickly became a household name.

You can regularly see these shoes on the feet of celebrities and they have fast become a staple part of any man’s wardrobe. There are a great range of Chuck Taylors available from Liquor Store Clothing, who specialize in on-trend men’s fashion.

Most people go for a classic color like navy or black, as these are guaranteed to never go out of fashion, but because the shoes are relatively inexpensive, I prefer to keep a number of them in my closet, including a pair in olive drab like the ones shown above. Another great thing about Converse is that the more used and worn they are, the better they look, making them a shoe that will last forever.

The newest collaboration Converse has landed is with international rap star Wiz Khalifa. Described as rebellious and fashion-forward, expect a modern reworking of the classic Chuck Taylors.
Sleek designs, bold patterns and funky printed soles define the collection which has been designed with Wiz’s own personal style in mind. These shoes are a definite must-have for any fashion-conscious man.

Having already spanned over 100 years, the popularity of Converse shoes is continually growing and is showing no signs of stopping just yet.

I’m Thinking About Buying Some Two-Toned Shoes

A fellow at church is by far the most dapper man I know. He shows up each Sunday morning in a three-piece suit of antique cut, his hair slicked-back, looking like it’s 1927 and his extensive holdings in American Trolley Car have just hit an all-time high.

Jaunty and prosperous, that’s how I would describe his look and his personality, a bit eccentric, but only because the rest of us are so drab and conformist. Did I mention he’s an artist, a very successful painter of portraits for very important people, a fact which explains much. His clothes are a bit of a pose. He dresses like one imagines an artist would have dressed back in the day, playing the role to the hilt.

This last week, he wore a black jacket (with boutonniêre in the lapel), grey vest, cream-colored trousers with a wide cuff, and a pair of black-and-white spectator shoes. Because he pays close attention to cut and fit, and because he has an excellent eye (he’s an artist, afterall) he always manages to pull off looking like a million dollars from back when a million dollars was a whole lot of money.

So, now I’m thinking about buying some two-toned shoes. Not the attention-grabbing black-and-white spectator shoes, but something a little subtler, like these…

Stanley Brown Leather Brogue from Grenson

The Stanley wingtip leather brogue from Grenson, an English shoe maker of some renown. (Via Stuarts London.)

I think it’s time for me to be a little more adventursome in the matter of footwear. I needs something cool, that going to shake things up a bit, without going too far afield.

Suits and Sneakers

Once upon a time suits and sneakers sat on opposite sides of the fence; one was the darling of the fashion world while the other seen as an outcast and relegated to casual attire. However, this Romeo and Juliet love story has got the happy ending that it wanted and the pair work together in perfect unison to create a unique and very alluring style. But it’s not a look that can be achieved by wearing a grotty old pair of Nike Airs and your favourite suit, only good, clean sneakers complete this ensemble properly and turn heads with good reason.

Converse Shoes are a great go-to brand when pulling off a suit and sneakers combo thanks to their low profile sole and assortment of colours available, but it’s the pure white Converse trainers that can really make an outfit pop. Granted, you could opt for a more vibrant shade such as orange or turquoise but it’s worth remembering that you don’t want your sneakers to clash with your suit. Converse trainers work brilliantly with slim fit suits thanks to their lace up design which hides comfortably and undetected inside the trouser leg, and with a choice of both canvas or leather fabrics you can buy Converse Shoes for your suit in different levels of smartness. The chances are that most people have a pair in their wardrobe but the likelihood of them being crisp clean is slim to none; investing in a new pair is always best and with them being so cheap they’re not going to put you massively out of pocket.

If the fit and form of Converse is not for you then another good choice is a pair of Vans such as the Vans Classic or Slip On Shoes. Due to the chunky style of these shoes they do tend to work better with a looser fit trouser and as such, they do look a little more casual than their Converse counterparts. Available in neutral and wearable shades as well as their iconic chequerboard design, the Vans footwear range ticks all the boxes – durable and comfortable as well as stylish beyond any others. (Info from ExtremePie)

Years ago if you’d have walked into an event in a suit and sneakers the chances are that you’d have been ridiculed out of the door, nowadays, you’re pushing fashion forward and showing the rest how it’s done.

The Monkstrap for Men

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about monkstrap shoes, mainly because they appear to be the men’s shoes of the moment, and because they occupy a unique place on the fashion spectrum. Monkstraps are what I would call shoes of intermediate formality; more formal than loafers, but less formal than wingtips or cap-toe oxfords. And because of this, you can wear them with almost anything from all but the most formal suit, to trousers and sports coats, or even jeans if you’re bold enough.

In my mind, however, the monkstrap’s strongest associations are academic. I think of it as something worn by smartly-dressed English professors in brown tweed suits, the sort of shoe that is exactly fussy enough, and exactly stylish enough to make you want to read poetry out loud to a classroom of lovely young coeds.

MensDesignerShoe.com has a wide selection of monkstrap shoes. Here are three of my favorites:

Moreschi Bristol Calfskin Monkstrap

The Moreschi Bristol Calfskin Monkstrap in black or brown, is a simple, luxurious, traditional Italian monkstrap. I love that brown color.

Santoni Suede Double Monkstrap

Double monkstrap shoes are especially hard to pull off without seeming overly dandyish. However, the suede finish of this double monk strap from Santoni negates some of that.

Stemar Cremona Suede Monkstrap

Finally, if suede is your thing, I very much like these simple single monkstrap shoes, the Cremona from Stemar, as being something that you could wear everyday, with a huge variety of outfits.

Alas, Poor Yorick

Jeffery West death's head cufflinks

Today’s New York Times contains an disappointing article about the current widespread use of skulls in fashion. Although the paper is right to note the trend, one Izzy touched upon a while back, it fails to give any recent history of the death’s head as decoration, including its use on Nazi S.S. uniforms or its place in the iconography of heavy metal, something the British shoemaker Jeffery West tries to market. The article claims that the skull has largely lost its edge as a symbol, but Izzy thinks its connotations depend upon the sex of the wearer. It’s one thing for a woman to borrow style cues from pirates or Hell’s Angels; she is clearly playing dress-up. But when a man does the same, he is liable to come across as threatening or uncivil, far from a good thing in Izzy’s estimation. As for me, I’ll stick with more traditional cufflinks from Alfred Dunhill.)

Pastelevision

Miami Vice

In honor of the Miami Vice movie (which, in Izzy’s opinion, makes the terrible mistake of not being set in the ’80s), the New York Times’ Guy Trebay penned an interesting article about the original TV show’s influence on fashion:

When he orchestrated the look of the original show, [the director Michael] Mann was venturing into stylistic territory already staked out by Italian designers, people like Gianni Versace, Gianfranco Ferre, or Giorgio Armani, the man generally credited with introducing the world to the unconstructed suit ? that is, without padding, a lining or internal stiffening. This might be as good a time as any to amend the old canard about Mr. Armani being the inventor of the floppy suit. It was long a staple of Neapolitan haberdashery, developed by tailors sent to London by wealthy patrons to apprentice on Savile Row.

Oddly, Trebay’s otherwise detailed account of the show’s style fails to mention footwear. How can one think of Crockett except in a pair of Espadrilles, like those you’d find at Pretty Green from Red Square Clothing?

Espardilles

Shoes Worth Getting Excited About

Clarks Originals Mens Suede Desert Boots

Big Ben, Stonehenge and Buckingham Palace are usually recognised as the biggest destinations in the British tourism guidebook. But this summer, coach-loads of tourists will be descending on a little village in Somerset to marvel at another British sensation.

Clarks Village stands on the site of the old Clarks factory – the place where these legendary shoes were made for so long. And this summer, thousands of Chinese tourists will make the pilgrimage to purchase a pair of classic British style. It seems that this elegant British shoe has become an icon halfway around the world.

Shoes that last a lifetime

Clarks are probably the biggest name in footwear in the UK and are also a major player around the world. Popular in the USA, Australia and across the globe, these are shoes made with the hallmark of quality. Shoes you could wear with blue jeans, good pants, or even fashionable shorts.

Clarks shoes – as you’ll know if you’ve ever owned a pair – are made to last. They aren’t the kind of shoes that start disintegrating after a few months, but, given the right care and attention, will last a lifetime. And when you think about the strain that your shoes endure on a daily basis, that’s a remarkable feat of design and manufacture. It’s what makes them such good value for money.

This is almost certainly why the Chinese love them so much, although the trademark Clarks style has definitely got something to do with it too. Some brands don’t need to follow trends. With simple and classic designs, Clarks shoes stand apart from fashion – timeless and reliable. Buy a pair of Clarks men’s shoes and they’ll be just as stylish in ten years time. After all, this is the company that designed the Desert Boot – a shoe which is often imitated but never bettered.

So, as the thousands of tourists make their pilgrimage this summer, think about how lucky you are that you can simply go online and buy a pair of Clarks shoes. It might be an unusual destination for tourists, but when you think about it, it does make sense.

The Casual Booting

Timberland Earthkeeper Boots

Manolo says, it is no secret that the Manolo loves the casual boots, indeed, owns and very much enjoys wearing the Timberland Earthkeeper boot shown above and which he purchased in Argentina several years ago at the outrageous retail markup price.

However, there is the other casual boot that the Manolo considers absolutely essential for the wardrobe of the man, the desert boot. Here, from the Manolo’s friends at the Scotts, is the Nicholas Deakins Fenrir desert boot.

This is the sort of quality, chukka-style boot that every man looks good wearing with either the jeans or the khakis; casual, but not so casual that you would feel as if you were dressed like the teenager.

Old School Kicks for The Men

Manolo says, the Manolo makes no secret of the fact that he likes his tennis shoes old style, indeed, he believes that where the kicks are concerned the tried-and-true is still the best. Here are three classic tennis shoes of which the Manolo approves.

Converse Ox Leather

What could be better than the classic Converse Star Player Ox in white leather.

Puma Clyde

Perhaps the Puma Clyde, in the classic black.

Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66

But, wait, here is the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 in blue for when the Manolo feels the uncontrollable urge to rock it Japanese style.

These and other such handsomely classic shoes are available from Size Mens Clothes.

Socks with shorts

Each summer morning before deciding on his day’s choice of footwear Mr. Henry scans the weather report, looking in particular at the temperature. The question he poses himself is not whether he will wear shorts and a polo shirt, his default hot weather costume, but whether the temperature will climb so high that his poor feet will boil in closed shoes and as a consequence he must wear sandals.

If sandals are the day’s choice, a more ticklish problem arises, namely, whether to wear socks. If the temperature will reach 90 and above, the decision is clear. Sockless sandals are the only choice. But what if rain is predicted? What if he plans to spend time in gelid air-conditioned interiors? What if he plans to be outdoors among bloodthirsty mommy mosquitoes? Aren’t socks necessary, even with sandals?

Mr. Henry wears socks proudly. With the confidence of a Scandinavian giant gamely navigating the avenues of midtown, Mr. Henry remains blasé if hipsters with tattoos and slouched trousers should cast derisory glances at his stockings.

In defense of socks:

  • When hiking Manhattan’s valleys, you need expedition footwear. To protect against chafing on long walks, socks are a must.
  • Sandals that expose bare footflesh cannot protect against scrapes and scratches, vectors for the introduction of exotic, antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Save yourself, man!
  • The mosquito is the most dangerous animal in the wilderness, and she adores your ankles.
  • Chilled air sinks to the floor. Half an hour of such temperatures and your arthritic toes – old soccer injuries – start barking, not to mention your plantar fasciitis.
  • Who admires your knobbly, hairless, vein-riddled ankles, anyway?

Tying the right knot

Left over right. Right over left. Any sailor or boy scout can tell you that’s the way to tie a square knot. But is that the way you tie your shoes? I’ll bet not.

At two years of age I learned to tie my shoes. My big sister, four, had not yet tied her own. After suffering parental mockery and humiliation she delivered me a prompt beating, one that became an invaluable, lifelong lesson in Realpolitik.

But despite my cleverness my shoelaces always came undone unless I tied them double.

Now thanks to Verlyn Klinkenborg, editorial page sage of The New York Times, I tie my shoelaces in square knots that do not come unraveled as I walk.

From Verlyn I learned why it has been that for decades when in a crowded locker room or busy Zen temple for precious minutes I struggle to untangle knots.

Verlyn transformed my life. Overcome with gratitude, I floated the idea of naming the family hound “Verlyn Klinkenborg.”

In single voice my wife and child rose up in anger. “Dad, that’s stupid.” explained Little Henry.

Registering her standard and customary observation, Mrs. Henry added, “You just don’t have practical good sense.”

Perhaps they have a point after all. It is true that Klinkenborg’s three Teutonic syllables do not trip off the tongue melodiously like Lolita or Postlewaite or any number of more appropriate dog names.

In my town’s junior high school a boy named Klinkenborg would not have had an easy time. Might it be the same for a dog?

Worse, with Verlyn for a first name his prospects for health and happiness would have been compromised substantially further, unless, of course, he were a strapping giant with an earnest interest in fist-fighting, in which case he would have been called “Bud,” or “Buzz,” or possibly “Bubba.”

Perhaps I’m simply envious of V. Klinkenborg’s cynosure on The New York Times editorial page, an employ obliging him on occasion to write feelingly about grasses, fences, and seasons. Hoarfrost circling his wizened temples, he chronicles our stately course from bright innocence to dusky death. He is the poet of barns and hay, an unexpected contributor to the Times editorial page, to be sure.

Do newshounds, skeptics and smart-alec journalists really accept Verlyn in all his many parts? I wonder.

I wonder, as well, what sort of shoes V.K. wears. Are they crusty, yellowed old stompers with hard rubber soles, the kind you get at the hardware store? When he shows up at the Times’ 41st Street tower, if indeed he shows up at all, does he sport a sensible pair of academic-issue, English working-class, no-longer-trendy Doc Martins?

Choice of footwear must pose difficulties in the morning. “Let me see. Today, shall I be poet, sage, farmer, professor or New York Times editorial grandee?”

I’ll bet he phones it in.

And then, of course, each and every day Verlyn Klinkenborg must bear the burden of his august name. To achieve manhood despite this permanent handicap cannot have been an easy journey.

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Test-inside – http://www.test-inside.com/E10-001.htm
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Selftestengine – http://www.selftestengine.com/70-680.html

The Life Antarctic with Ran Fiennes

Ranulph Fiennes with snowRanulph Fiennes book cover

One of the great joys of facial hair is observing snow sticking to it, thus proving the beard’s insulating powers.  Best of all is when giant carbuncles of ice form, as on Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the British globetrotter thought by many to be the world’s greatest living explorer.  Whether or not that is hyperbole, he certainly competes with Ewan Mcgregor for world’s greatest hair, adventurer category.  (While there appears to have been some photoshoppery involved in the bookcover photo (his jacket appears to have been taken from the photo on the left), Izzy includes it since it show Fiennes’ weather-beaten mane at its most spectacular.)

Even when relaxing in the comfort of his home study, as seen below, the adventurer maintains his devil-may-care approach, with ancient (torn?) desert boots and khakis with frayed hems.  Alas, his plentiful testosterone has exposed his scalp to the elements.

Ranulph Fiennes at home

In the interview accompanying the photo, Fiennes explains:

Everything in my wardrobe is old. I haven’t bought a suit in 10 years, that’s for sure. My dinner jacket must be at least 20 years old. My shoes, which I had in the Army, must be over 30 years old. I don’t like buying clothing.

Asked about his grooming routine, he continues:

For 25 years I have worn Clarins day and night creams. When I was in Antarctica I got seborrhoeic dermatitis, which affected the areas between my eyebrows and next to my nose. I ran out of cortisone cream and discovered that Clarins day and night creams for women do the same job without the side-effects. I’ve continued to use them ever since.

When a man has circumnavigated the earth from pole to pole via land, he may casually admit to wearing women’s cosmetics.

Perhaps Fiennes should have started moisturizing at a younger age.  He was once considered to play the part of James Bond in the movies (Roger Moore was selected instead), but the producer rejected him for having “hands too big and a face like a farmer.”  This, presumably, was before Fiennes cut off the tips of his frostbitten fingers with a Black & Decker power tool.

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