A Question Of Taste

Advertisement

carreducker-shoes

Last week on my post about Carreducker shoes someone left a comment asking if I actually liked the half-cuts I’d pictured. One of the interesting things about writing articles for Mensflair is how it forces you to bet on your own head, by putting your own sartorial assumptions on the line. Often you’re only ever able to offer a part explanation.

With regards to the question posed, my answer was an unequivocal yes. While grounded in British shoe making tradition, Carreducker’s half-cuts have a quality I often look for, namely a touch of the individual. I am by nature a conservative ‘rules’ dresser but I seek out flashes of difference to distinguish myself and my look. This need for individuality is especially important given that I can’t afford a wardrobe full of bespoke clothing.

Of course this does raise the question, when is something stylish individuality, and when is it merely difference for the sake of difference?  My view is always what constitutes style is a matter of personal taste, and it is easy to tie yourself up in knots trying to explain it. Most books fail dismally, as do all the blogs and websites. But then in many ways you’re trying to define the indefinable.

Most start with ‘the rules’ – which we men love (that and top ten lists) – and then go on to tell you how to break them. In most cases they are merely repeating everything that’s already been written in other books and as for their ‘how to break the rules’ those are themselves tired and tested rules. The next stage is to come up with a list of men who are recognised as being stylish and then explain how they did it. Of course the thing that often gets ignored is that these people achieved their renown by outraging their piers and defying convention; Fred Astaire put button down shirts with three piece suits; Agnelli did it with monochrome shirt, tie and suiting choices, ties over the top of pullovers and a watch worn over the shirt cuff. One thing is for certain though, none of them read books on style.

So, in my view the only way to judge whether something is stylish and individual is to play the game with an open mind and having learned a rule or two go with what your gut says – after all your minds eye often perceives a thing before you see it.


Advertisement

Andrew Williams blogs at www.bespokeme.com and is based in London. For him style is a frame of mind not just a state of dress.

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    I think it’s always hard to tell if an outfit is stylish based on a polyvore-type layout of items like the one pictured because there is no way to judge fit or proportions. Unless something is just inherently ugly, how pieces are actually worn usually determines how stylish it is.

  2. Andrew says:

    Of course, I agree. The picture is merely to illustrate what I have in my mind’s eye in relation to a pair of shoe which are far from conventional. It’s not important.
    A

  3. Jake says:

    I empathise with your comment about putting your opinions on the line when writing a blog! It certainly makes you think very hard about saying ‘I think this looks nice’ or ‘I like these’ in case you’ve got it all horribly wrong.

    Which is nonsense really because, as you say ‘getting it wrong’ is pretty much indefinable in matters of style. You’re unlikely to be able to wear something that everybody likes, you might be able to wear something that nobody likes but, most likely, you’ll wear something that a certain percentage of people like. As long as these people include yourself and the people whose opinions you care about, then you’re probably doing ok.

  4. Barima says:

    Putting other factors such as colour and pattern aside, the canon of great dressers we refer to today had two characteristics that drove their quirks – subtlety and balance. One could note Astaire’s button downs or Agnelli’s taste in footwear as deviations, but they gained currency because they were a) highly regarded in other areas, b) looked to as tastemakers because the majority of their wardrobes and tastes in tailoring were almost irreproachable, c) unafraid to personalise without diverging entirely from tradition, d) good relationships with reliable haberdashers, department stores and tailors, and e) devoid of the internet and thus scores of nitpicking neurotics scrutinising their every facet of dress
    -
    Mind you, I believe that individually offbeat garments mean nothing in a wardrobe unless the dresser in question has a definable aesthetic and the instincts to meld such pieces with his other clothes. Most dressers who boast of an individual look – but think it stylish – are either slaves to olden days, turn every piece in their ensembles up to 11 or haphazardly dice up clothing archetypes and whimsical haircuts. I’ve always found it neater to tweak traditions rather than try to reinvent them entirely
    -
    B

  5. Michael says:

    Andrew, as they say: “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” There is nothing elegant about these shoes, in my opinion. The overly round toe makes them look like clown shoes. I also have to question anyone who orders these as the first bespoke order, although none of my business. Shoe no. 100, maybe, but not even then for me.

  6. gary says:

    agree with andrew

  7. We’re feeling guilty that Andrew is taking all of the heat for the Half-cuts, so in his defense (and ours) and in answer to the above comments…

    Michael – we need to re-think our photography rather than our shoes! They truly are not round-toed nor clown like in the flesh. They are in fact made on a vintage Italian last which beautifully balances a wider joint (for a more comfortable fit for the Northern European foot) with a slightly elongated egg-shaped toe. Go see them at Wolf & Badger on Ledbury Road and you will see for yourself.

    Rest assured that we will re-shoot!

    Also, these are not bespoke shoes, but made-to-order, English manufactured. Our bespoke styles are numerous and highly individual and a selection can be seen in the gallery at http://www.carreducker.com

    Whether you like them or not is entirely personal, but the whole point of bespoke is that you can have exactly what you want…and we like to stretch the rules.

    Gary – re: your cost-effective Italian cobbler, if he can make fully handsewn, bespoke shoes using box calf and oak bark tanned soles/heels for that price then he is a miracle worker! Having spent four years as apprentices and as makers for over ten years we are competitively priced as English handsewn shoemakers.

    On the subject of style, I often think that it is more about how a person carries themsleves than necessary what they are wearing. You can be kitted out in the finest charity shop finds (vintage) and look a million dollars if you have bearing, charm and good grace.

    Isn’t style that fine balance of effortless individuality, confidence and charisma? Timeless? The small details that capture your eye as you pass someone in the street or the overall impression that someone makes upon you?

    There, that’s our piece said!