A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Edward Green's Malvern for Nordstrom

Its been a while since I've posted a pair of vintage Edward Green shoes, probably because I've been trying to hold to my rule about only purchasing shoes that are in my size - there just really hasn't been much out there.

I did come across this pair of dark brown wingtips made by Edward Green for Nordstrom, probably in the early to mid 1980s. The shoes are on the classic 202 last, which never goes out of style and always works well with EG's wingtip Malvern. The "EEE" width designation is fairly rare for Edward Green shoes - I don't think that I've ever actually seen a pair wider than an "F" width.

Unfortunately for me, its just a bit too wide for my size US 10D feet so I've decided to put them up for sale in the hopes that the shoes will find a good home. I think they'll fit a size 10 foot with slightly wider than normal feet, or perhaps even a smaller 10.5D.

For those who might be interested, you can find a link to the eBay auction below. I've also got another pair of chestnut cap toes for sale as well - these shoes are pretty beat up, but they're somewhat noteworthy for the diamond broguing at the rear quarters and the ridged leather seams on the cap toe (which you usually see on a semi-brogue shoe, but I can't recall seeing it on a cap toe without the traditional broguing everywhere).


Saturday, January 25, 2014

More from the Drake's Pop-Up Factory Sale at CHCM

I managed to sneak out to drop briefly into the Drake's Pop-Up Factory Sale at CHCM. Its always a pleasure to chat with Sweetu and company, and of course there is the added benefit of coming away with some wonderful pieces by Drake's of London. I call that a win-win.

While this year's inventory didn't quite match last year's, there's still more than enough to get excited about. There are literally hundreds of amazing ties on sale for $65, or 3 for $150. Dress shirts are $95, knitwear prices ranged from $75-95, and there's also a nice variety of scarves and pocket-squares as well.

I've been looking to replace my red gingham Hilditch & Key shirt - its starting to fray at the collar. The Drake's version has a larger check the H&K pattern, but I think it will look great with a navy sportcoat this spring and summer. I picked up a size 16 shirt at last year's sale, which is a bit snug after a few wearings, so I grabbed this shirt in a 16.5 - the fit seems to be perfect, so in the future it might make sense to size up a 1/2 neck size.

Personally, I thought the best deal was on the knitwear, while it was available. There weren't many of the cashmere sweater vests, and most were bright reds, yellows, and oranges, but Sweetu pointed me in the direction of a medium-sized light brown/tan version that will fit perfectly under a sportcoat or suit jacket. While I did see the Drake's representative wearing the same vest in the same color, I didn't see that color available on the Drake's site - so it might be rare, but definitely a steal.

The Shetland wool sweaters also seemed to be a great deal for what could be a fall/winter wardrobe staple in a warm mixed grey color. Sweetu was actually wearing the same sweater (with brown suede patch pockets) in a medium, which looked pretty good on him. Since he's a 38, I took a chance on a large size, hoping it would translate to a good fit for a size 42. After trying it on, I like the fit. The sleeves and waist have a nice tapered edge and the feel of the wool is surprisingly soft - almost as soft as the cashmere vest. I'm definitely looking forward to wearing this.

Finally, the tie selection is pretty great. By the time I got to them, it was already a bit of a mess, and I just didn't feel like diving in. That being said, I'm a big fan of Drake's print designs, and it took me about 30 seconds for these to catch my eye.

All in all, a good haul in my opinion. There are definitely some great deals to be had. Many thanks to Sweetu, CHCM and, of course, Drake's of London for their time and consideration in bringing yet another great pop-up sale to New York City!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Drake's Pop-Up Factory Sale at CHCM

This was a pretty amazing sale last year, so definitely worth checking out if you're in and around NYC this weekend! Here's a brief summary of the sale from last year (here) and some pics of my personal haul (here).

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fred Astaire's Foster & Son Spectators

Foster & Son's have established more of a presence online of late, via their own website  and blog, as well as some great posts on StyleForum featuring amazing images of models from their archives. Its always interesting to hear how extensively the archives are relied upon for new models, so it was doubly cool to hear that (a) Foster & Son had taken the time to create a copy of the spectator shoes that Fred Astaire ordered at some point during the 1930s; and (b) the shoe-maker is making a RTW model on Astaire's original order . I didn't think I needed another pair of spectators in brown and white suede, but this seems like a good reason to look into another pair.

Sometimes, when you see shoes from the 1930s, there's something dated about the style, be it the last, broguing, etc. But the timeless silhouette of these shoes is really quite striking, and the shape of the toe seems quite similar to Edward Green's 888 last or Gaziano & Girling's TG73. That is to say, more modern than the age of the shoes would suggest.

I wonder if the Astaire's original pair is in this pile somewhere . . .

Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Return of the Hollywood Brim @ A Suitable Wardrobe

Classic men's style continues to enjoy its resurgence, the fedora is also being seen around town with more and more frequency. Notably, the Hollywood brim style, favored by the sporty and rakish of the 1920s and 1930s, is also back and featured in an article that I wrote for A Suitable Wardrobe. Enjoy!



As far as endangered sartorial species go, various indigenous strains of gentlemen’s headwear have purportedly been on the verge of extinction for over 50 years now, going back to that cold and wintry day in January of 1961 when U.S. President-elect John F. Kennedy chose to brave the elements sans top for his swearing-in ceremony (or so the legend goes). This may sound hard to believe, but once upon a time the broad-brimmed hat, and not the baseball cap, was the headwear of choice in this country. No, really - some minor sleuthing was undertaken and it appears to be true. Indeed, hats were so ubiquitous that the sartorial statement was in how one wore his headwear.

Hollywood played upon this idea as early as 1944’s The Big Sleep. Impersonating a collector of rare book editions, Humphrey Bogart’s Philip Marlowe transforms himself by removing his tie and leaving his collar buttoned – of course, the effect is only complete when Marlowe readjusts the front brim of his hat upward.

More recently, the writers of the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire emphasized Al Capone's evolution from merry prankster and generally irresponsible ne'er-do-well to a more focused, serious vice-lord by highlighting his switch from an 8-piece pie cap - or Newsboy or Gatsby - to the more staid and refined fedora. In reality, Capone managed to retain some of the more flamboyant aspects of his personality when he took control of Johnny Torrio's South Side gang. Not content to sport his fedora in the traditional manner, Capone - ever the dandy - preferred the jaunty style favored by the stylish and the debonair in the 1920s and 1930s – wide-brimmed and tilted rakishly, with the brim turned up to one side, as opposed to the more commonplace positioning wherein only the back end of the brim is up-turned.

As with many things sartorial, it was only a matter of time before this devil-may-care, swashbuckling effect was captured on the big screen and re-packaged for the masses. By 1940, Stetson was referring in advertisements to the style that Capone had flaunted in his 1929 mugshot as the ‘Hollywood Stars” look.

Happily, the “Hollywood” brim has recently undergone something of a resurgence. While the fedora in particular, and hats in general, still have a long road to travel to return to those, ahem, heady days of yesteryear, when every man on the street covered his head with something other than a baseball cap, beanie, or skully, the fedora’s popularity is certainly on the rise. While it’s too early to tell whether this is just another bump on the fedora’s long road back to respectability, one certainly has reason to be optimistic when cinematic heavyweights start dusting off the “Hollywood” brim style once again. Most of the credit for that should probably go to Johnny Depp, a noted headwear enthusiast who has managed to incorporate his love of hats into recent films like Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and, of course, Public Enemies. Depp’s exuberance apparently is genuine and not just the result of a well-crafted marketing campaign. It was reported a few years ago that his long-time paramour, Vanessa Paradis, demanded that his collection be whittled down, as the hordes of headwear had by then appropriated two full rooms in the couple’s Paris apartment.
Faced with such a dilemma, Depp appears to have sided with the hats - one of many acts that did not go unnoticed as he was voted the 2011 “Hat Person of the Year” by the Headwear Association, a 100 year-old organization whose mission is “to promote hat wearing and the headwear industry throughout the world and foster goodwill and fellowship among those engaged in the headwear industry.” And Depp, while certainly leading the charge, is not alone - Hugh Jackman, runner-up in the favorite hat-wearing male celebrity category, has also been seen sporting the “Hollywood” style. Further proof, if any was needed, that the fedora is indeed alive and well, after all these years.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

An Interview with Riccardo Bestetti, Bespoke Shoemaker

Riccardo Bestetti, an Italian bespoke shoemaker, has been making a name for himself as a true artisan for some time now. His creations are absolutely exquisite, to say the least. He was kind enough to respond to a few questions via email for An Uptown Dandy, and his time and consideration are greatly appreciated. Here, then, are Mr. Bestetti's thoughts on his bespoke shoes, his approach to shoemaking, and the state of the Italian shoemaking industry. 

Tell our readers a little bit about your background/education as a shoemaker. When did you decide that you wanted to craft footwear based on your own unique design and vision?

It started out as a hobby. I always liked shoes, and then on a trip with my brother to America, I saw the Texas cowboy boots, and I fell in love with the craft.

I then began by playing around just to make boots for me. Then I made a pair for a friend, then another, and then many others. After 4 years of doing that, I then started making shoes, which turned out to be my true passion.

How has the design/aesthetic of your shoes been influenced over the years? Are there other shoemakers that you have looked to for inspiration? When one looks at the Bestetti shoe, there is certainly a unique silhouette, which combined with the lovely burnishing of the uppers, makes a striking statement.

Many artisans have an inspiration, and I did as well with my shoes. As I saw it, I envisioned something sinewy, but with classic proportion. As seen through my eyes, that is the Bestetti shoe.

I have heard it said that Bestetti shoes feel like they have been broken in 5 minutes after the first wearing. Can you speak to what makes the Bestetti shoe so comfortable?

Comfort comes from the materials - how they are utilized and how the form of the shoe is constructed.

At the moment, what types of offerings are available to the Bestetti client? My understanding is that, until recently, the company was an entirely bespoke/semi-bespoke operation but that ready-to-wear offerings are now available as well?

Recently, I extended the lines, so now the following are available: base construction Blake RTW; RTW in hand-sewn construction; Blake MTO; MTO sewn by hand; the Novecento (the most prestigious, considered to be semi-bespoke as it allows the client to choose everything) and, at the very high-end, Bespoke.

The semi-bespoke line seems to provide bespoke-level shoes made on ready-made lasts - is that an accurate description?

Yes, the Novecento line is a very high-end range - the client chooses the leather, the color, the pattern, the shape, and the fit. You can even make small changes to the shape and choose the Bespoke finish.

Do the RTW shoes fill a niche just below the semi-bespoke line, in terms of quality? What kind of features should one expect to see on the Bestetti RTW shoe?

The RTW line is still a line of high quality. The finishing touches are just fine and the shoes are made by hand.

Assuming the bespoke shoes are hand-welted, can you tell us if there's a difference in the welting of the semi-bespoke and ready-to-wear shoes (good-year welted, norvogese, etc.)?

The difference is there, and it is visible: the nails of wood, the polishing, the finishing, the soles, the models; but the basic shoe is still made at a very high level. The Bespoke shoe is completely made by hand; the RTW Blake line, however, is constructed with the help of old machinery.

Bestetti clients have several options to choose from when deciding upon the toe shape - personally, I was intrigued by the classic English round toe that is offered. Would you say that there's currently a movement away from the more squared or chiseled toes, or is there more of a balance in the type of lasts that the Bestetti client in interested in?

Honestly, I really love the chisel toe. By my clients, for the most part, love the Almond toe - to be more specific, the form of the model Maverick. I think that is because it is a good blend of classic shapes that are timeless - like the Adelaide model - but with curves to the form that are provocative and compelling.

I've made it a habit to ask the English shoemakers about the state of their industry, so I would like to put a similar question to you. How do you feel about the current state of Italian shoemaking - do you see the necessary skills being passed on to the next generation? Or is there a lack of eager apprentices, as there seems to have been in England at one time?

Unfortunately, in Italy, there is no desire by young people to learn this trade. It represented a big problem for the industry. As a result, Italian shoes have dropped in quality. There are more competent people elsewhere.

Where do you see the Italian shoemaking industry, and Riccardo Bestetti shoes, in 3-5 years?

If I could see where Bestetti shoes are in 3-5 years, I would be a magician! But I would hope that it would be a brand known worldwide for its high quality. Everything is a result of that. Today, I am 47 years old, with a beautiful wife and wonderful son, they are my strength. I love my work, I want it to do well, and in the end I feel the client will give me what I deserve.

There seems to be a renewed interest in classic menswear and, specifically, elegant well-made shoes, in the last few years - at least here in the US (one could probably argue that Italian men never really stopped dressing well). Where do you see the most interest in your shoes coming from geographically? The Japanese seem to have taken their love of shoes to new heights, but do you find similar interest from the US, Europe, or from within Italy?

I'm sorry to say but I must admit that my sales in Italy are basically zero. I only have three Bespoke customers here. My clients are from all over the world, with many in the United States, but also Europe and Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore. In my country, my shoes are not understood.

At the moment, what is the best way to purchase Bestetti shoes? Are the ready-to-wear shoes available online or through brick-and-mortar retailers in Europe, Asia, and the US?

Currently, I sell the shoes directly. However, by February or March, I hope to have shoes available via Olana, Sweden. I also hope to make them available via other stores in the world, but always in small series. At some point, there will be a list on the site, with an explanation of the new lines.

Are there any plans for a trunk show in the US in the near future?

There is interest in a trunk in the US in the future. We're just in the process of conforming the details.

Best regards and happy new year!

Riccardo Bestetti

Photos from Justin Fitzpatrick's The Shoe Snob Blog.