Well Worn. Worn Well

The pictures and words are free. It's what they inspire you to do that's gonna end up costing you.
Cabinet Interieur de Madame Victorie Corps Central, Robert Polidori, 1989

Cabinet Interieur de Madame Victorie Corps Central, Robert Polidori, 1989

Corduroy Pullover Anorak by Beams Plus

Corduroy Pullover Anorak by Beams Plus

C.C. Filson x Nigel Cabourn

C.C. Filson x Nigel Cabourn

soups-coup asked: Was wondering if you could give me a recommendation on an everyday casual or preferably semi-casual shoe? I'm a college senior who is looking for something other than Sperry's and am unsure if a driving shoe could handle the amount of wear and walking I do everyday. Thanks

A few suggestions:

The Chukka
There are a couple of options here. If you’re looking for something truly casual you can stick with a moc-toe construction. It looks like a loafer from a distance and wears like a moc, but gives you the go-anywhere versatility of a boot. I had a pair of Eastland Made in Maine moc-toes during my junior and senior years of college that held up extremely well. You can also check out similar boots from Rancourt, Oak Street, Russell, and Quoddy.

The classic chukka design is also a nice go-to. I have a pair from Ralph Lauren (Allen Edmonds) that I am about to break out again for the fall/winter months. You can find the classic chukka from pretty much any shoemaker on the planet, with the cheapest likely being Clark’s and (one of) the most expensive being Edward Green. In between you can have a look at Loake, Meermin, Rancourt, and Crockett and Jones.

The Chelsea
A slightly more polished but equally versatile boot is the Chelsea. I like Chelseas because they give you the ease of a loafer with the versatility of a boot. Plus they pair seamlessly with jeans, chinos or wool trousers. I’ve had my finger hovering over a pair from Meermin, but haven’t pulled the trigger for any number of reasons (likely because it isn’t yet boot season). I hope to get a pair soon. You can find yours from pretty much all the same brands listed above. I’ll also add RM Williams who makes, in my opinion, the quintessential Chelsea — not too polished, not too rugged.

The Ranger Moc/Trail Oxford
If you’re looking for a casual shoe that can be worn year-round, it’s hard to beat the ranger moccasin (also called camp mocs or trail oxfords in certain circles). While many people will tell you boots can be worn with shorts, I’ve never really bought into the idea. I find my boots are either too sleek or too rugged and wintery to be worn naturally with shorts. Ranger mocs, on the other hand, can be worn exactly as you would a boat shoe, but look a bit more utilitarian and masculine to my thinking. Check out Rancourt, Oak Street, or Quoddy.

The Penny Loafer
The penny loafer is the most classic option I can suggest. For a more casual look I’d stick with a Blake construction moc-toe shoe and shoot for a more rugged-looking material like Chromexcel, waxed flesh, shell cordovan or Scotch-grain. Like chukkas, pretty much every shoemaker on Earth has a penny loafer, but I’d pay attention to details in styling as you start your search. All too often penny loafers can have a sleeker last or lighter construction, making them a bit more formal and less versatile.

God speed.

It’s never worth it… until it is.

It seems the vast majority of the questions I receive on a regular basis deal with the concept of “worth”: “Is this sport coat worth the price?” “Do these shoes make for a worthy investment?” “Your blog isn’t worth shit.” And so on, and so on.

It’s funny to me that such an abstract idea should be so ubiquitous, but it does make total sense. For many newly converted men’s clothing enthusiasts, there is a lingering sense of trepidation when it comes to purchase. This reluctance could stem from any number of circumstances:  limited cash, doubts about a product, apprehension stemming from old buying habits, etc. Whatever it is, it launches many into a tizzy about how much something costs vs. what it’s “worth.”

To combat this cognitive dissonance, the knee-jerk reaction is to view clothing purchases as “investments.” Whether it’s an investment in one’s style or a knock-down-drag-out fight about how much better one item is than another, the “investment theory” is an easy coping mechanism – I’m not just buying a shirt, I’m investing in a hallmark of my wardrobe, so it only makes sense that it should last forever.

In theory the investment tactic is sound. It solidifies more than a passing interest in clothing and lays the groundwork for a better understanding of why something is important to you. Unfortunately, the crux of the investment theory usually stems from the prices of items. And that’s where people get into trouble.

I was recently asked whether or not an Eidos sport coat I posted was “worth the $1,200 USD MSRP.” The question itself seems to infer that the asker isn’t sold on the price, and therefore doesn’t view the piece as “worth it.” However, such a pointed question is not so easily answered.

Worth is not something that can be objectively measured, which is why it shouldn’t really ever get compared to MSRP. All sorts of nebulous measures like quality, construction, design, and provenance come out of the woodwork as soon as someone seeks to measure an item’s worth in relation to its price. And for each person chiming in on why it’s worth it, there seems to be ten more saying why it’s not or, often, why something else is better.

So in an attempt to get at the root of what makes something “worth it,” you really ought to take a step back and size things up. Rather than using all of the aforementioned “nebulous measures” as selling points, try to use them as benchmarks for comparison against what it is you really want, need and can afford.

Using Anon’s example: If you’re looking for a bold yet tastefully patterned, winter-weight jacket constructed in an archetypal Florentine silhouette, made by experienced RTW tailors in Italy, and have $1,200 laying around, then yes. Yes it is worth it. The best evidence for this is that the jacket has already sold out in multiple sizes. Clearly this jacket is “worth it” for many people.

However, if you’re looking for a different type of jacket, a different fabric, a different design, don’t have the $1,200 in your bank account, etc., you quickly see that it’s not worth the price. However, it’s important to realize that this is only the case for you.

The more I think about clothing the more I realize there is little-to-no objective reasoning behind why one item is better than another – that is to say, why something is “worth more” than another. While you can always rack your brain to try and separate true cost from marketing and margins, or look to quantify ideas like quality, construction and design, it’s safe to say none of these exercises will actually net any better clarity into what something is truly worth.

I’ve found it’s easiest to admit that we are engaged in an expensive and expansive hobby. There will always be more to buy and there will always be more to spend. However, luckily, that also means there will always be more to see and more to learn. By balancing your tastes, disposable income, culture, circumstance, etc. over time, you will eventually realize what you like and what you need. From there it’s all about realizing that money is only one (arguably minor) factor into why we seek, like and buy objects. Clothes are a labor of love and not an exercise in economics.

Don’t kill yourself trying to determine if something is worth it or not. The fact that you’re even questioning it means it likely isn’t for you.

The anti-Pitti Uomo.
Caesar Attolini honored at Milano Unica. And apparently feeling blue about it.

The anti-Pitti Uomo.

Caesar Attolini honored at Milano Unica. And apparently feeling blue about it.