An Uptown Dandy and European correspondent Jessie Butler at John Lobb in London.
Well, hard to believe its been a year of An Uptown Dandy!
I hope everyone has enjoyed the blog so far.
Many thanks to our followers, readers, fans, etc.
who have taken the time to comment and send emails.
Its incredible to think that just last year I began my nocturnal ramblings. In the twelve months since, some of my blog posts have been re-blogged on sites like Put This On and Men's Flair; and several pieces on sartorial icons such as Leslie Howard, George Raft, and Mayor Jimmy Walker appeared in The Rake.
If you haven't become a follower yet, it's never too late to sign up (hint, hint) :-)
As I mentioned in some of my earlier Barcelona posts, I had a chance to pick up a pair of Carmina shell cordovan shoes while I was traveling. There's definitely a benefit to dropping into one of the shops, as you can try on a variety of models in different lasts and leather colors. After hearing so much about the company's work with shell cordovan, I was looking forward to seeing some models in the flesh, so to speak.
I wasn't disappointed. While the Barcelona shop had a somewhat limited stock, there were definitely enough offerings to choose from. I ultimately selected Model 957 in the Burdios or Bordeaux color, on the Forest last. I believe this is Carmina's burgundy color, but its really more of a rich, dark brown to my eye. The Forest last was very sleek and elegant, much more so (again, in my opinion) than any lasts I've seen for shell cordovan shoes from Alden, Crockett & Jones, or Vass.
The leather stitching appears to be very well-done, and the sole work is equally impressive. There is the requisite channeled sole, and the slightly bevelled waist is both subtle and refined. It might not as impressive as what you'll see on a sole from John Lobb's Prestige line, but Carmina's offering is also close to 1/3 of the price.
All in all, Carmina offers well-made shoes at a very competitive price. [Above photos by Jessica Butler]
There's recently been an interesting discussion on Style Forum regarding the history of Edward Green's various lasts. One member rummaged through the archives and found an old post from Tony Gaziano, a well-regarded shoe maker in his own right (as one half of the team of Gaziano & Girling), who previously worked at Edward Green and designed the equally well-regarded 82 and 888 lasts.
Gaziano briefly described the evolution of the Edward Green lasts, beginning with the 32 and working all the way up to the 888. As one rarely sees the entire range of lasts together, I thought it would be useful to present the various lasts side-by-side (in so much as it is possible - I myself don't have models for each last Gaziano referred to) which certainly helps to visualize the natural progression from the round-toe of the 32 last to the more chiseled 888.
Here is what I was able to come up with:
Below is a close-up dividing the full display into smaller groups. As Gaziano pointed out, the 32 and 33 were the parents of the 202 and the 606. The 32 has a rounder toe, and the 33 was a square-toed version of that last. The 202 evolved from the 32, and the 606 was a square-toed version of that 202. Unfortunately, I don't own any Edward Green shoes on the 606 last, but the relationship between the 32, 33, and 202 is easy to see here. I've also included the Malvern made for Brooks Brothers on a special 346 last because, as you can see, that shoe has a rounded toe that is quite similar in design to the 202 last.
From left to right:
Captoe Longwing for Wildsmith, 32 last.
Cadogan for Cole Haan, 33 last.
Malvern III, 202 last.
Malvern for Brooks Brothers, 346 last.
Unfortunately, this is where the gap in my collection appears. Gaziano referenced the square-toed version of the 202 last, the 606, which I have never actually seen in person. In addition, the very popular 88 last (often referred to as "The Great 88") was added to the expanding list of lasts, with its square-toed derivative being known as the 808.
Here is where our photographic exhibit picks up again. That 808 last apparently didn't work very well, according to Gaziano, and was subsequently refined and produced for Ralph Lauren as the 89 last. And here is where Gaziano's talented hand comes into play with the development of the 888 last, which was derived from the 202 last but with a more elongated, narrower toe box. From the 888, Gaziano then developed the 82 last - a round-toed version of the 888. You can see these lasts in the image below. I've also included the 201 last at the far right, because (to my eye anyway) that last appears to be quite similar in style to the 82.
From left to right, in more detail:
Ralph Lauren's Purple Label Hutton, 89 last.
Ralph Lauren's Purple Label Brooksville, 888 last.
Falkirk, 82 last.
Windsor for Nordstrom, 201 last.
Obviously, shoe enthusiasts will have a different perspective and personal preference regarding round versus squared, or elongated versus short. However, with the ability to choose from such a wide variety of elegant lasts (while some of these lasts are obsolete/defunct/ no longer in circulation, my understanding is that the lasts are available through Edward Green's Made To Order program), there is certainly something here for everyone.
Once in Barcelona, it took me a few days to make my way to Carmina's shop on Passeig de Gracia. I had already decided that I wanted to sample the company's shell cordovan models. Carmina is already very well-known for its wonderfully crafted shell cordovan leather shoes, and after seeing the shoes in person, I have to say that the reputation is well deserved.
I eventually came away with a lovely pair of split-toe loafers in burdeos, or bordeaux, shell cordovan leather, and I promise to post pictures of those shoes in the next few days.
In the meantime, here are a few images from inside the Carmina store, courtesy of An Uptown Dandy's European correspondent Jessie Butler.
A few of the shell cordovan offerings in saddle and cognac.
A wingtip model in burdios, or bordeaux, shell cordovan.
This is the same model that I picked up. Although the sales associate stated that this pair was also bordeaux, it appears to be more similar to the cognac color.
There were quite a few exotic leathers and two-tone shoes on display in the women's section.
All in all, while the Barcelona shop may not be as large as the Paris outpost (in terms of actual retail space as well as available stock), the store has a wonderful atmosphere and is well worth the visit.
As I mentioned the other day, I did have some time to drop into a few shops as I was walking around Barcelona. There were just enough stores to keep a dandy interested - here are just a few that I passed while wandering around downtown.
Somewhere in the old city, down one of the typically narrow but elegant Barcelona streets, I came across this little Sombreria. It was just down the street from a church that was hundreds of years old, which in Spain is like saying it was next to a fire hydrant or a street lamp in New York City.
The shop had a nice looking stock of Stetsons and Borsalinos - and its always good to know where one can find suitable headwear, wherever you may be.
Unfortunately, I don't remember the name of the street, but it was near this little cafe, which stuck out because of the vintage gramophone on display in the window.
Of course, I did get around to Carmina to sample the shell cordovan (more pics from the shop to come - still waiting on the photos). I have to say, it certainly lived up to its billing. I've actually been comparing the split toe loafers that I picked up to a similar style shell cordovan made by C&J for Ralph Lauren and have to say that the Carmina shoes more than hold their own with the English shoemaker. But more on that later as well.
Towards the end of the week, we took a day trip south to Sitges, a quiet little beach town on the Mediterranean, about 25 minutes south of Barcelona.
Walking towards the beach, I came across a small shop featuring, among other things, Brunello Cucinelli's always-impressive cashmere.
It must be true that the rain in Spain falls mainly in the Plains, because it has been all blue skies and wonderful weather since we landed here on Friday.
I was hoping to see Lionel Messi and the talented Barcelona football team in action, but unfortunately the team is away for the rest of the week. I had to settle for a trip to the local bar to watch the Sunday evening match against Real Racing - it seems like most of the neighborhood dropped in to see the match. It was a lot of fun and an experience in and of itself.
Sartorially speaking, there is quite a bit to see here. The Passeig de Gracia has a quite a few wonderful shops. Two that stood out were the Carmina store and Bel Y Cia. Carmina has a wonderful little shop here at the end of the Passeig, a quiet little refuge from the hustle and bustle on the street.
I have heard so much about the company's shell cordovan offerings that I thought this would be too good of an opportunity to pass up. I eventually left with a lovely split toe loafer on the Forest last. The shell cordovan is a rich dark brown with just a trace of burgundy called Burdios or Bordeaux. I'll post some pics once I'm back home.
Bel Y Cia is also a lovely shop at the other end of the Passeig, at No. 20. There were two store fronts with one shop for men and one for women. In keeping with a plaque on the street commemorating the shop's 150 years of service to residents of Barcelona, the store has an old world charm befitting its status.
When I passed by, the doors were closed and the curtains were drawn - I thought perhaps it was closed for siesta. But when I tried to open the door, a buzzer rang and let me in. I'm glad it did because, among other things, the store's collection of Edward Green shoes were impressive to behold. B&C had a unique stock of F width shoes, which was impressive by itself, but the models were lovely and included leather, rubber, and something I'd never seen before called a "rain" sole - a thin vibram-like sole made by Edward Green on a few select models, presumably at B&C's request.
I also came across a lovely Sombreria, although at this point I could not even tell you where it was - somewhere in the old city. An impressive collection of Stetson's and Borsalinos were on display there. I'll share some pictures next week.
I have been hearing about Optimo Hats in Chicago for years from acquaintances that I would describe as hard-core head-wear aficionados. Founded by Graham Thompson, who was trained by legendary Chicago hatter Johnny Tyus, Optimo produced arguably the finest headwear still made in the United States, if not the world. Not surprisingly, such wonderfully crafted pieces are not inexpensive. While the company's website doesn't actually list any prices for the various models on display, my understanding is that the fedoras start somewhere around $595.
So imagine my surprise when I dropped into one of my regular haunts and came across this beautiful dark brown felt fedora, made by Optimo for Wilkes Bashford out in San Francisco.
I have no idea how a brand new with tags fedora ended up way out here on the East Coast being sold in a little out-of-the-way hole-in-the-wall, but I was awestruck at first glance and decided it was too beautiful to just leave sitting there. As you can see below, there is just a bit of a smudge of dust towards the end of the crown, but aside from that, the fedora appears to be in pristine condition.
This hat looks very similar to the "Mitchum," a model on Optimo's website described as a "classic film noir" hat and presumably named for Hollywood icon Robert Mitchum, who starred in such classic noir fare as Out Of The Past. Described as having a wider brim (2 5/8 inches with a wide-bound edge) and higher crown, it is apparently ideal for the "solidly built man," which certainly describes Mitchum in his 1940s prime to a tee.
Unfortunately for me, at 7 3/8 inches, this hat is a bit too big for me. However, I will enjoy ogling this wonderful example of skilled American craftsmanship, before putting it up for sale on eBay so someone with a bigger head than mine can enjoy the experience of wearing an Optimo. If you're interested, you can view the auction here.
After all, the company isn't exaggerating when it says "Life better in a great hat."
P.S. Check out this short video on Graham Thompson and Optimo at