Q: I'll be attending a corporate holiday party with a "black and white semi-formal attire or LA cocktail attire" dress code. Can I get some suggestions? I don't want to look like a broken groom who was just left at the alter. Thanks. —Gerard
A: For all but the most exclusive occasions, party dress rules are like speed limits: No one expects you to follow the absolute letter of the law. Or in your case, even the spirit. To wit, we ran the phrase "LA cocktail attire" through Google Translate and, here, apparently is the rough approximation: "If you look like Bradley Cooper or Johnny Depp, wear whatever the fuck you want. If you like Harvey Weinstein, consider a tie and jacket. But still wear whatever the fuck you want."
But we don't recommend dollar bill or feather prints. Instead we suggest, from bottom to top:
FOOTWEAR: If you think you can pull off a pair of sandals, then do that, and make certain you schedule a pedi for the day of. Buff. A less-bold play that still requires no lacing or socks are these Prada loafers in two-tone color and fabric.
A: As you probably know, George Henry Bass created the original penny loafer, aka the Bass Weejun, in 1936. Since you haven't included the Weejun as one of your potential choices, we assume you're hoping to find a shoe that puts a twist on this menswear staple. That's a good instinct, but to our eye, your choices are still a little too Old Footwear — even the Prada with its "high-shine leather" and the stylized orifice of its penny keeper still looks fairly traditional.
So we think you should double down on your seeming desire for a twist and go for something even more different than the archetypal penny loafer. While we aren't huge penny loafer fans, there are some things about them that appeal to us. Namely, no laces and no buckles. They are, at heart, a casual shoe, and perfect for those tough mornings-after when a shoe with laces just feels too complicated to operate — you don't even need hands to put on a pair of penny loafers.
Thus, when you're looking for a twist, we encourage you to focus on the "loafing" aspect of penny loafers. The thick crepe sole on this pair of penny loafers from our friends at Oak Street Bootmakers make us want to nestle into a bean bag while our old lady refills our hash pipe. And these sneakerized penny loafers from Salvatore Ferragamo look both comfortable enough to get a heart surgeon through a 12-hour transplant and yet simultaneously sporty enough to propel us to a relatively painless six-minute mile.
At Yoox, you will find loads of stylish, Italian-made suits for as cheap as a couple hundred bucks. And here's the best part: the site's vast selection and 100-country reach means that your guy will be the only man within his zip code — or maybe even his time zone — wearing whatever suit you choose.
This is in stark contrast to what we perceive as the Ludlowization of the young, upwardly mobile professional suit market — named after J.Crew's increasingly ubiquitous invasive species. The popularity of the Ludlow eludes us. Why spend $700 on a made-in-China suit with prop buttons and anemic lapels when you can buy Prada, Piombo, or Martin Margiela for less? Pick up one of these, and you'll have more than enough left over to add a tie from our store to your shopping list.
Q: Hey MB: Headed to Miami and Key West next week and need footwear for the beach and pool. That sounds easy but I struggle with open-toe and also need arch support. I've tried OluKai, Sanuk, and I am embarrassed to say, Teva. None have worked out. Any ideas? —John
A: A Google search for "stylish orthopedic closed toe sandals" returns zero results.
But we have a couple of suggestions.
First, try to find a pair of Converse All-Star Chuck It mesh slip-ons on eBay. Arguably Converse's greatest contribution to footwear since the All-Star high-top in 1917, these are our all-time favorite beach/pool shoes. Sporty, light, submersible as a Triton 100, quick-drying, comfortable, and oddly enough, boasting better arch support than the traditional All-Stars provide. Unfortunately, Converse hasn't produced them since 2010, which is why you'll have to hunt for new old stock on eBay.
Second, since you're headed to Florida but stressing over arch support, we assume you're not going there for Spring Break — you sound like someone who is probably a little more seasoned than a college student, and presumably a little more well-heeled (and simultaneously weak-arched). So we think you probably have the means to invest in these Prada espadrille sneakers. While you won't be able to swim in them, they've got an insert, so are far more comfortable than most espadrilles that are set on a flat jute slab. And they will give you all the support your arches need no matter how heated things get on the shuffleboard court. Enjoy your vacation!
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.
Q: At what sort of events are blue blazers (the classic type with gold buttons) appropriate? I have a nice Polo blazer, but am sometimes unsure it's the right call. —Matt
A: We recommend this look only for scotch ads and sloop christenings.
Don't just stand there, get some glue!
We have been in your shoes — with exposed ankles, of course — with nice blue Polo blazers and strongly recommend jumping ship. Sure, you could replace the brass buttons with blue ones, but we suspect this garment has other problems like padded shoulders and a length hanging down below the bottom of your ball sack.
Instead, get into the modern navy blazer, which is deconstructed and shorter, like this one from Prada Sport at YOOX. It's made from resin-coated wool so it doesn't really wrinkle, and comes with a cool bag it easily folds into, so it's perfect for traveling. It's a great piece and it's on sale. Fits true to size.
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: 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: Year long reader here. Thanks for all the tips. On to my question: What is up with www.wowcool.org? Prada sneakers for $40 with free shipping? True Religion jeans for $40.00? What gives? Usually when things are too good to be true they usually are. I know that you probably don't want to give this site any exposure by posting this on your blog but maybe you could e-mail me personally? --Nick
A: Wowcool.org is a Chinese site that sells counterfeit products. If you don't mind wearing clunky $40 Praba sneakers, this is the place to find them. If a company can't even manufacture a decent logo in Photoshop, do you really want to trust them to manufacture a pair of 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.)
Hi. Saw your latest "Ask the MB" post on shoes and thought you might like something new from Allen Edmonds: The Bucktown for $199 and The Boulder for $175. Thanks for all you do. --Joel
A: Joel, please keep reading this site! The Prada loafers strike the perfect office/sport balance that is the MB dress shoe aesthetic. They will shine with a suit, all manner of dress pants, and even indigo denim. The Bucktown (Crosstown Collection, top) is going to feel most at home with a traditionally cut wool suit. And you shouldn't be wearing those anymore.
Meanwhile, The Boulder (Weekend Collection, bottom) looks like a marriage that's headed for divorce: hiking shoe soles grafted onto a loafer that looks like it should never travel outside a suburban Boomer's well-manicured yard.
Ed. note: We are hearing you. $460 is not a realistic shoe price for a lot of readers -- even with free shipping -- which is why we suggested the Camper Dni as a more affordable alternative that's very close. They're discontinued, are available here, and have word from someone who understands German that Herren Ausstattler does ship to the U.S.
Q: Looks like Kenneth Cole finally checked out your shoe pointiness chart. What do you think of these and what would you recommend in a basic black everyday dress shoe? --Matt
A: Kenneth Cole has definitely taken a roundover bit to a lot of his footwear, but he's still missing the MB mark by a mile. These are too shiny and too clunky for you to wear, Matt. One of our favorite pair of black everyday dress shoes is the discontined Camper Dni, now available only at a German web site Herren Ausstattler for €145. Our freshman German is a little rusty, so we're not even sure if they ship to the U.S. If they don't we recommend these Prada leather loafers. Yeah, they're $460, but trust us that you'll love them, and for an everyday shoe you love, and look this good, $460 is a value. And Saks will throw in free shipping with code SHIPFREE2!
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
Since Prada is advertising this look for Spring 2010 there is a chance -- albeit unlikely -- of it metastasizing to other menswear designers in upcoming seasons. Don't partake. This look is and always will be Major Toolbag.
Thank you for answering my MB polo shirt buttoning policy question! Here's a follow up: With Christmas around the corner family has been asking what I want. I've decided I'm ready to ditch the Clarks and get a legit pair of new business casual shoes for work (black and brown). To accomplish this I'm going to request gift cards but they'll have to be to the same store in order to stack them all together. But which store is the best for MB shoe shopping? Was thinking Nordstrom but haven't been that impressed with their selection. I'd also prefer an actual store versus online but will defer to your expert opinion. Where do you get your shoes? --Jay
A: We get our shoes all over the place. Any of the retailers linked on our home page, if they sell shoes we've probably bought a pair. Our biggest wins, however, have come from bluefly and we recommend it for you in spite of its online-ness. Great options for your immediate bizcash need and depending on your adventurousness and line of work, they've always got interesting sport/fashion from Prada, Puma, Tod's, and Adidas, which is the direction we're going these days.
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.
I know you guys are fans of Yoox. I just thought you'd like to know they are having a great sale rignt now, and I was able to find a coupon (green@yoox) for an extra 5% off. Got these Prada loafers for $185! Thanks for making me aware of the site. --Matthew
You're welcome. That sale is pretty damn good (though everything is final sale). All hail the recession!
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.
Q: I will soon be moving to Seattle after having lived all my life in sunny Florida. I am not well equipped for the weather, and was hoping you could recommend appropriate overcoat and footwear options (I cringe at the thought of exposing leather shoes to that much moisture). Would you consider a raincoat too plebian? --Alex
A: Hey Alex, kind of a good-news/bad-news scenario, eh? You just reduced your melanoma risk by 100%, but elevated your risk of SAD by at least that much. For the latter, up here in northern Wisconsin we've discovered heavy doses of alcohol usually does the trick. And it sure beats chemotherapy. Anyhow, we digress...
Footwear: Rubber-soled leather shoes will hold up well. Camper is an affordable all-time MB favorite. Depending on your relocation package, also consider Prada (a bunch of new options now at Saks). Just stay away from suede, or keep a suede brush in your laptop bag at all times. Also consider just strapping on some Swims over your existing footwear, and put all your money towards:
Outerwear: Two words: Mackintosh Coat. Your move has provided you with an opportunity to wear this iconic outerwear a lot. Yeah, they're expensive, but a Mackintosh coat is one of those rare pieces that you can wear for a lifetime because it will never go out of style. Go for the original (left, $813.00), or the slightly updated J. Crew version (right, $800.00).
Most importantly, follow Dan Rather and Humphrey Bogart's lead and be sure to turn up the collar.
Q: I've been a reader for a while now, but haven't seen you tackle the portable communication conundrum. (Or maybe I just missed it.) With iPhone, Blackberry, Helio Ocean, et al. as communication options, each with more features than a Swiss Army Knife, which one(s) is MB approved? And don't worry, no belt clips here...middle management life is not for me. --Gregory
A: While we can't get into all the specific models available, our new Portable Communication Guide chart will hopefully make clear where we stand on this matter.
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.
Q: My husband would like to know where he can keep his cell phone, if the belt clip is for toolbags. (In his own words, "What do I do with my cell phone, stick it up my ass?")
A: If he does decide to stick it up there, make sure he finishes all his calling first, and we'd also suggest setting vibrate to "off."
It might require your husband upgrading his, uh, device, but have him keep his phone in his front pocket, like we do. This is very doable with updated models like the Nokia N95, Pradaphone (pictured), and (sigh) the iphone. When seated, pull it out, set it on the table, and it becomes a conversation piece, acting essentially like a $600 coffee table book.
If he requires more of a "work phone," try the HTC Dash or the Blackberry Curve; they both slide nicely into the front pocket of even low-rise dress pants.
Whatever you do, steer away from the Treo. That antenna pokes around down there, in a bad way.
(Apologies if we haven't gotten to your question yet. There are a lot more questions than there's time to answer. We're doing the best we can.)
Pour 2 fingers into an empty tumbler, 3 if you're not alone.