I still remember very clearly the exact moment when I began to be interested in style. I was 13 years old and I had just bought my first GQ. I’m the type of person who likes to throw themselves headlong into whatever it is they are doing. So, I started my education with my eyes. I immediately began to look at what the designers were doing in terms of structures, colours, and proportions. To cut a long story short, my list of resources grew very quickly, from books to blogs and films, etc.. I just wanted to know everything there was to know about style. And I did indeed quickly become a know-it-all. I had become a rule-follower. That is, until, one day, I asked myself what I consider to be the more important question of menswear: What is my personal style? This is a new series that explores that question for me personally, but also aims to push back against the proliferation of rule-followers in menswear.
They always say that you can tell a man from his shoes. While that is, as will be discussed in this series, nonsense, it does serve as a good starting point. As soon as you begin to talk about shoes, some people will immediately chime in with some incredibly helpful adage like: ‘No brown after six.’ or ‘No brown in town.’ etc.. Ignoring the basic elitisms of these statements, they simply do not apply to the modern day at all. However, I digress.
While discussing my latest commission with Mr Leonard Kahlcke, we had a pretty complex goal. The shoe should be formal, something to be worn with lounge suits and perhaps even a dinner jacket, but also aesthetically pleasing with a pair of jeans. ‘Impossible!’, I hear you cry. If that’s the case, then why is Lalo Schifrin striking up the band right behind me?! I opted for a wholecut full-strap loafer in a black calf leather.
In my mind’s eye, I see one particularly teary-eyed reader turn to me: ‘You were the chosen one! Black shoes with jeans?’ Firstly, the prequels suck. Secondly, yes, black shoes with jeans. And I will tell you why. I had an epiphany when commissioning the aforementioned loafers. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I finally convinced myself of something that I’ve felt for a long time. ‘I don’t like brown shoes.’ Don’t get me wrong; they work for some people and I’m not going to judge anyone for wearing brown shoes. However, brown shoes just aren’t for me. My colour is black. Black suede, black peccary, black calf, black lizard, black alligator, black shark, the list is near infinite. Not only do I simply prefer the colour (whether in the city or in the countryside), but also, the fact that I can reduce my choices while commissioning shoes by one variable brings me, in the immortal words of Marie Kondo, ‘joy’!
To those of you currently putting on face paint, fur hats, and horns, readying an attack on our capitol building at Bleibtreustraße 27, I offer this: It’s all about texture. Shark leather, for example, is infinitely more matte and uneven than calf leather. I’d even go so far as to say that black shark leather is even less formal than brown suede. I implore to try it out and see how you feel. To quote one of history’s most revered doctors: What’s the worst that could happen?
In that spirit, I present to you my latest shoe project: a pair of two-eyelet plain-toe derbies (‘bluchers’ for our American friends. Yes, I know that some consider that technically inaccurate. Don’t @ me.) in a black lizard skin. They are quite simply the only true choice for an international man of mystery, whether worn with a grey double-breasted flannel Glen check suit, a combination of blue jeans with a crease and a three-button Tweed jacket, or even with Union Jack underwear. If you must recite one adage at all, make it a historically inaccurate one: ‘You can have any colour you like, just so long as it’s black.’ MM/DC/YS