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Essential: The Suede Captoe

Kamau Hosten

 Outside of formal occasions, there's no instance where the brown suede captoe is unwelcome. Either the more casual blucher or the dressier balmoral, the shoe lends a casual appeal to an ensemble. According to Alan Flusser, the suede lace-up owes its popularity to the Duke of Windsor. Duke of Windsor, then Prince of Wales, reportedly visited the U.S. wearing a reverse calf shoe. I imagine it began as something to go with the distinct look of English country wear: heavy tweeds in brown and camel. Either way, it caught on and has been a staple of well-dressed men since.

 Trousers and socks by Brioni, shoes by Carmina

Trousers and socks by Brioni, shoes by Carmina

It's a nice alternative to a polished calf dress shoe when paired with suits in varying weights. When the shine contrasts too greatly with subdued textures, enter the suede.

It's essential due to it's versatility; a truly year-round shoe, it can be paired with linen suits in shades of tan, varying blues and gray as well as heavier chinos in rust and deep burgundy.





The Alden Loafer

Kamau Hosten

Classics can't be ignored. Despite the rather limited offerings of truly timeless pieces in major department stores, some pieces still manage to gain, or regain, popularity. The tasseled loafer has long been an American classic. Companies like Alden and Allen Edmonds have been producing them, in the USA, for decades now. They've recently been featured in men's magazines and in runway shows, but in more design-centric versions. Nothing beats a trend like the original, though.

 Chinos by Uniqlo, Loafers by Alden

Chinos by Uniqlo, Loafers by Alden

Its critics decry the shape as dated and reduce its wearer to the 50+ demographic. Design houses may claim to update the traditional shape, yet it needs no such adjustment. In truth, a flawless, well constructed shoe, knows no age limit or requirement.

Enter the Alden Suede Moccasin. It's a classic shape; the toe is neither too pointy or too rounded. Now, it may seem bulky, especially compared against it's European counterparts, but after a few outings, I can report no difference between it and my thinner Ferragamo loafers.

Its appeal lies in its simplicity and versatility. Tassels provide the only visual detail, while the suede adds an elegantly textural appeal.

The shoe, however, lends itself to a number of wardrobe choices. This being July in Miami, a linen suit sprints to my mind. Now, the guys at Pitti Uomo can do no wrong, but no one lives on those streets the rest of the year. The cuffed and cropped trouser may not work everywhere. What will work is a slight taper of the trousers, so they sit atop the loafer just so. The flopping movement of billowy pants rarely flatters anyone. The rich chocolate brown shade translates just as well to heavier fabrics, like corduroy and tweed, but that's a post for December.

I looked at several versions before taking the plunge with Alden. Its simple design, incredible craftsmanship and history won me over. Several well-known brands offered decent looking loafers, but the quality didn't seem to be there. The Goodyear Welt, explained here is a method of construction which essentially extends the potential life of the shoe. Another crucial question to ask is, do you want a shoe from a fashion design house or a shoe from a shoemaker? The latter has perfected his craft, while the former changes it altogether every six months.

The Burgundy Shoe

Kamau Hosten

Letter from a reader:

Good day sir,

First let me start by saying I'm a huge fan of your blog and style (that's putting it mildly, as I've learned so much from you)
I recently purchased a pair of burgundy wingtips and wanted your opinion. I noticed that not many gents wear the burgundy wingtip and wanted to know if this shoe is still viewed as a staple in every gents closet, such as the double monk and cap toe dress shoe. 
I have a beautiful linen suit that was given to me, and I'm afraid unlike my other suits, I have the slightest idea of how line should be tailored. Before I visit my tailor I wanted to be sure of what I wanted in regards to the fit. Linen is a bit different for me. I've owned linen pants but never a suit. That takes things to a whole new level of questions (what shoe, types of ties etc)
Again I appreciate and value your opinion highly.

Thank you for your time,


Gerald, I like the idea of the burgundy wingtips. While true cordovan is much more difficult to come by, shoes in oxblood and burgundy have the same effect and are much easier on the wallet. For men of style, yes, it's certainly a staple. I love the richness of the dark reddish tones beneath a navy or medium grey suit.

 Trousers by Suit Supply, Socks by Brioni, Shoes by Sergio Rossi

Trousers by Suit Supply, Socks by Brioni, Shoes by Sergio Rossi

It's a pleasant alternative to the black and dark brown shoes that most men likely stick to. While it should be a staple, it's best for it to be purchased after the basics, as it's less versatile.

For linen suits, I've had them tailored similarly to worsteds. Though not as tapered. I like the lack of structure and the summery feel of linen. It shouldn't feel too snug, much like any suit. I prefer the trouser slightly tapered with a cuff and linen tends to sway when I walk, and it just bothers the hell out of me. Though when your tailor sees you in it, he has the most trained eye and can give you the best suggestion.

As far as shoes, I like suede loafers; with or without tassels.

Additionally, lighter calf split toe lace ups or derbies continue the casual nature of a linen suit. What's also crucial about linen is to embrace the wrinkles. I've heard the argument against linen too many times: "It's gonna wrinkle too much." That's fine, let nature take its course. It looks better; more lived in.

Blue Suede Monk Strap

Kamau Hosten

Brown and black shoes are the accepted choices for the foundation of a man's footwear selection. With good reason; both will pair nicely with a range of suits and odd trousers. Black with charcoal, navy and black and brown with just about every other option. Following a substantial collection of said basics, a rakish option is next. The blue suede monk is remarkable choice. With a relatively classic styling, the texture and color announces the wearer's confidence and, lack of convention. Chances are strong you'll be the only person in your circle wearing them, unless you're positioned outside the shows of the upcoming Pitti Uomo.

Shoes by Brioni

The monk strap is already a jaunty choice for those bored with oxfords and derbies. Though it's technically a notch down on the formality level for some, it's certainly welcome in a room full of laces. In black or brown calf, the monk has emerged as  smart alternative. For more substantial fabrics like donegal tweed or flannel, the suede monk, in chocolate or snuff  suede, compliments the more rugged texture of the trousers or suit. Add to that another element of, "And, what?" with the blue suede and you've about rendered the onlookers speechless.

With a shoe that's so attention-grabbing, the rest of the fit should be relatively restrained. I mean, you're wearing blue suede monks, so you kind of want them to be seen. Pale grey suits and trousers work best, to my mind. Such options offer a subdued contrast to the vibrant texture and color. The shoe may fade into navy trousers too much, though jeans are a decent option. Beige or light brown flannel would also highlight the shoe.

It's not for those wanting to blend it. To be clear, this is a shoe that will turn some heads.

Exotic Skins

Kamau Hosten

Upon acquiring the basic #menswear shoes; the brown cap-toe, the tassel loafer, a man is afforded the opportunity to incorporate the non-workhorse shoes in his rotation. Those just mentioned essentials make up the bulk of a well dressed man's wardrobe. In plain calf or suede, shoes in a fairly conservative cut are appropriate for most business and evening occasions. Following a good selection of versatile shoes, a man can throw an unexpected twist into the mix. A shoe that turns a few heads is in order. Like this crocodile cap-toe oxford.

Enter the shoe made of exotic skin: alligator, crocodile, or lizard among many others. When found, or made to order, on a fairly classic last, this shoe can add a subtle sheen to an otherwise understated suit or pair of trousers. In muted colors like black, brown and burgundy, the exotic shoe also adds just enough textural appeal without being too showy. It also suggests the wearers affinity for all things finely crafted, as exotic skins don't come cheap.

Now, it's not for the faint-minded man. Should you wish to remain anonymous, a shoe made of an exotic skin isn't for you. The shoe, be it a cap-toe, monk strap of loafer, will garner attention. But, that's probably the point.

Photo by Bevin Elias