Archives for July 2010

Welted -Vs- Blake Stitched Shoes

Nothing bites like unfulfilled desire…

Few things occupy as much debating time as the topic of Welted shoes vs Blake constructed. As an Englishman it is perhaps natural that I should find comfort in the former and look down my patrician proboscis at the latter.

To Italian readers this may seem entirely irrational, being quick to point out there are some very well made Blake constructed shoes, and some indifferent Goodyear Welted footwear out there.

Each method has its properties and it’s probably worth explaining these in detail.


The name Welted comes from the long strip of leather – called the welt – that is stitched to the upper and the insole of the shoe. The outsole (sole) is attached separately to the welt.

Because the components are stitched rather than glued together, all the natural properties of the leather are retained, giving improved thermal insulation, durability, flexibility and shape retention, as well as the best possible breathing conditions for feet. It is also possible to re-sole a pair of worn Goodyear Welted shoes or boots by stitching new soles to the existing welts, thereby increasing their life expectancy.

Blake Stitched

Often used by Italian shoemakers, this method produces a very light, thin-soled shoe. Blake-stitched shoes have an upper, an insole, and a sole but they do not have a welt. The insole and upper are attached to the last. Then the sole is glued on and a single row of machine-stitching is used to stitch through and attach the sole, the insole, and the upper.

Because it requires no stitching on the sole edges outside the shoe, it is possible to get extremely close-cut soles, far more so than with welted shoes. Second, because the shoes have fewer layers in the sole, they tend to be more flexible. However, Blake-stitched shoes are not as durable, water resistant, or as easily repaired as a welted shoe.

I mention all this because a shoe I’d been waiting to buy and long coveted finally came to market this week, forcing the rehearsal of these very arguments in my head.


Some time ago I introduced London’s up and coming shoe designer Mr. Hare, with mixed results. Regardless, few shoes have been as eagerly awaited amongst London’s sartorialists as the Genet tasselled loafer. A mix of calf leather, suede and velvet with a modern last and thoroughly contemporary feel it struck a chord with me from the moment I spied it over 12 months ago.

At £410 they’re not cheap, and bit more than I was expecting. But it isn’t the money alone that has deterred me. I just can’t justify that kind of investment on a Blake shoe, no matter how much I want them.

Each to their own of course; but in my on case without the burden of vulgar wealth, durability is the first demand. That’s not to say I have no place for Blake constructed shoes as demonstrated recently when discussing summer footwear options. But £415 is more than I can reasonably justify – despite heated argument.

The Pastel Suit


Men no longer possess the confidence to wear the pastel suit. Even in this post-metrosexual era of peacock tolerance, strutting up to a summer party in a pale blue, yellow or pink suit takes more than ballsy bravado. Wear a candy pink pocket square and those walking past you might notice and turn their head briefly; wear a full suit of that colour and the crowds will part like the Red Sea as you stride through, blushing to match your attire. You will be marked out by many, a little harshly, as a mere attention seeker; a whore for a staring pair of eyes. There will be laughter, which will echo torturously through your sweaty nightmares; you will look at the dark suited crowd and envy their invisibility, their anonymity. You will catch a reflection and rue your moment of inspiration.

The fear of ridicule is too great for most men to attempt such a feat of daring. And yet, what of fear? Fear is simply a gaoler who jangles the keys, tauntingly, between the bars. Don’t sit in the dingy corner and block out the monotonous, bell-like sound; seize the opportunity and break out into the sunshine! Know that men wiser and greater than you have succumbed to temptation and resisting temptation on fear of ridicule is a childish notion. The world belongs to the brave; the meek shall not inherit the earth.

Pastel colours are a peculiar problem for menfolk. Perhaps it is the connection with maternity? Or with the feminine environment of the Martha Stewart cupcake-makers’ kitchen – pastel melamine bowls scattered amongst the pastel icing squares? Whatever it is, conventional gentlemen seem unwilling to adopt such an expanse of watered down colours. A friend of mine believes that only dark blue, grey and black suits are acceptable; in all other colours he states that you “look like something worth ridiculing.” Another friend says that the pastel suit lacks seriousness; “It’s a bit jokey isn’t it. Clownish.” Could I ever convince them otherwise? “Never. Whenever I see one I just think: Quentin Crisp. It literally has no masculinity.”

I differ in opinion to my friends. I will admit the pastel suit is often worn unconvincingly but I see so many opportunities for its deployment in the summer months; times at which a dark blue suit, no matter how well accessorised or paired, would be so dull and predictable.

A pastel blue suit on the other hand, simply accessorised, simply sings of summer; of the cool waters on the shore and the brilliant sky. Teamed with some creamy white Oxford shoes, white shirt, a simple navy polka dot tie and a white linen square it will be the very vision of the season.

Pink, yellow and green are riskier choices, and slightly less masculine; an experienced hand is required. Importantly, all pastels must be comparatively pale – three parts water to one part colour. Robert Redford’s famous rose-coloured suit in The Great Gatsby is about as pink as it should get. Heavily saturated pastels are the domain of zoot suited cartoon villains.

A Fine Line Between Classic Style and Retro Caricature

As the current readers of my blog, A Southern Gentleman, already know, and as my new readers here on MensFlair may soon discover, I am a proponent of classic men’s style. One may trace the roots of most of the best elements of male attire to the first half of the 20th Century, sometimes referred to as “The Golden Age of Style.” I do not mean to romanticize that era or suggest that it represents some utopia of male sartorial splendor. But it is an inescapable truth that, as a general rule, our ancestors dressed more stylishly than we do today.

When incorporating these elements of classic style into one’s daily wardrobe, I believe there is a fine line between dressing with style and merely becoming a caricature of an era. For example, a safari jacket, if woven properly into a summer wardrobe (a vintage Esquire illustration comes to mind), can add a classically stylish element to a man’s attire. One who instead pairs the safari jacket with a pith helmet and gurkha shorts risks being mistaken for an extra from Hatari! or a WWII military reenactor who took a wrong turn somewhere in North Africa.

A couple of years ago I picked up a handful of issues of a new magazine called Classic Style. The name of the magazine was promising, but unfortunately much of the content crossed that line into retro caricature. I recall one advertisement for a leather belt-worn cell phone holster (that’s a rant for another day). The model pictured in the advertisement was dressed in a gray double-breasted suit with high-waisted pleated trousers, a loud geometric-patterned vintage tie with a silver tie bar, a Panama hat and spectator shoes (apparently making spats unnecessary to complete the look). Individually, many of the elements of the model’s attire were quite stylish. Panama hats, spectator shoes and tie bars are all classics. But taken as a whole, the look was fatuous and outdated.

I encourage everyone to incorporate, in moderate doses, elements of classic style into their daily wardrobe, and to aspire to dress better than the t-shirt and flip-flop clad masses. But beware of looking like you just stepped out of a Wellsian time machine. It’s a fine line.

Stripes And Dots, Checks And Spots


To follow my fellow columnists, Mr. Williams and Mr. Chesterfield, I thought I would write on wearing patterns this week. Going into work on the tube, I have seen some men lately wearing some truly hideous shirt and tie combinations. A yellowy-beige shirt with a tie featuring a large graphic of a puffer-fish will flatter no man, and rather than making him look like a fun sort of guy just makes him look like the butt of his own joke. For me, whilst I love solids and textures, nothing beats a well conceived matching of patterns for slightly more adventurous dressing. White, pink, or blue shirts with a navy tie and a dark suit are great standards, but sometimes leave me feeling flat when I look in the mirror.

The key, as many great gentleman before me have stated, is mixing scale and color. If either of these gets too close, you begin to verge on the category of poorly-matched, rather than distinctly complementary. One of the best combinations to my eye is a solid, dark jacket (suit or sports coat) with a butcher striped shirt and small dotted tie. The long stripes under the solid jacket elongate the torso, and the dots create a nice contrast.

As a rabid fan of all things checked, I often have to check myself, pardon the awful pun, and make sure I don’t come out looking like a poorly conceived patchwork. Glen checks seem to me to pair best with patterns if there is one solid separating them. A checked suit, solid shirt, and striped or paisley tie, or a pair of checked trousers with solid coat and patterned shirt. For mixing checks, tweed provides the perfect canvas. It just somehow seems more acceptable for these hearty cloths to be bedecked in bold patterns without impacting what they accompany.

Subtle patterns and textures, like birdseye and herringbones, allow one to shake things up without screaming too loudly. I almost never find myself buying completely plain cloths, for better or for worse. Sure I have a hopsack blazer, where the weave is only discernible from an all-too-close distance for anyone to notice, but I usually prefer a subtle pattern or texture. Herringbone suits make great backdrops for striped shirts and ties, with the diagonal lines carrying through, albeit a bit under the radar. And birdseye and dots achieve much of the same effect.

So lastly, flourishes of pattern can inject a bit of excitement to an otherwise sober kit. Dogtooth handkerchiefs, paisley socks, and colorful neckties are all great ways to take a selection of solids and make them a bit more interesting. As long as you keep things from being too matchy-matchy or screaming too loudly, you can step outside the box a bit and keep dressing exciting.

The Suit Wallet


“Do you put that in your pocket?” the tailor said, handling my knobbly crocodile-skin folding wallet. He seemed surprised, and ever so slightly disappointed.

“No” I responded “I usually put my wallet inside my bag, or my back trouser pocket.” Shaking his head at my custom, he reached inside his own suit and slapped down his own wallet on the piles of swatches; “That’s what you want. Made for a suit, that.” I opened this rather slim, rather tall worn piece of leather and was indeed appreciative of its design that accommodated the same number of items in a small folding wallet with less of a resulting bulge.

Instead of credit cards, driving licences and store cards being packed on top of each other they are arranged so that ‘card layering’, that contributes so much bulk to the wallet, is reduced. Of course, this system means that the height of the wallet is increased to a conspicuous size; suit wallets are a great deal taller than the average wallet. The problem this creates is simple; where do you put the wretched thing when you’re not wearing a suit?

Ideally, a man should only use one wallet. In spite of the fact that on my daily jaunts, I use little more than one or two cards, I still feel it necessary to have a billfold; it just adds an element of security. To know that cash and plastic are all ‘locked up’ in one place. I once went around with a loose card and notes in my pockets and panicked at several points that I had misplaced one or the other.

Sadly, the one-wallet theory is not a happy one for the Monday to Friday suit man. A suit wallet is certainly better for his suit but switching to a suit wallet entirely would mean jumper and jean weekends would have to be altered to include, invariably, a blazer or odd jacket. And so the inconvenient truth is that he must be saddled with two wallets; the suit-friendly tall chap, which will not anger his tailor, and the convenient and back-pocket weekend billfold.

Fortunately, this apparent excessivism can be achieved at modest expense. Launer, the Queen’s handbag manufacturers, have been making fine calf leather wallets for donkeys years. A full size suit wallet is about the same price as a keyring at Louis Vuitton. Black is customary but dark brown and bridle tan are there for the taking.