For The Beach: Espadrilles
The oldest type of shoe on this block, the espadrille has been knocking around Europe since the 14th century. The term espadrille is French, but the origins come from esparto, the Greek name for a tough type of Mediterranean grass used to make rope, rugs, baskets and the plaited soles of this type of shoe. It’s a common form of footwear that can be picked up inexpensively from markets around Southern Europe, but pricier, designer versions abound too.
Sturdier and more versatile than flip flops, espadrilles are fairly comfortable for short distances and suitable for sandy shores and beyond. Which means you can wear them from beach to bar and then take in the sights of the old town. The canvas uppers are breathable and cover the front of the foot – a bonus if you forgot to tidy your nails. Espadrilles go well with linen, beach wear, shorts, chinos, light jeans and can even go with a summer suit on the right occasion – a pool side wedding for example – but never, ever with socks.
For The Gym (Or The Pub): Runners
Ever heard of Carolyn Davidson? We doubt it. So, you might be surprised to learn you could be wearing one of her designs right now. In 1971 Davidson designed the Nike Swoosh logo – for the princely sum of $35 (yeah, she got mugged off). The athletic shoe market is worth billions today – something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by high fashion brands: cue designer (overpriced) versions and endless collaborations to lure in younger customers.
In the 2000s Martin Margiela took a €10 runner off a Parisian market stall, scribbled on it with biro and sold it for €300 – and the cult fashion trainer was born. Other hits include Dior Homme’s ‘B01’, Valentino Garavani’s ‘Rockrunner’ and Balenciaga’s recent ‘Triple S’.
These days you can wear a multitude of sneaker styles with almost anything, but unless you’re confident pushing the fashion envelope, stick to denim and sportswear as foolproof options. Whether you’re a dedicated sneaker freak or just like the comfort factor, make sure you always have a decent pair for the gym – New Balance are a good shout. Proper running shoes give right support in the right places and can help protect the feet and ankles from injury. (And don’t worry about Carolyn – she received a diamond ring and 500 Nike shares some years later.)
Cold feet are a fact of winter, as reliable as dark mornings and drunken Decembers. The shoes you wear the rest of the year round – perforated trainers that let the chill in and low-rise shoes that let the rain in – don’t cut it in the worst of the weather. You need some winter boots and not just one pair, preferably two or three.
This is footwear originally designed for timber yards, hiking trails and the trenches of war; so you can be confident it will get you through a slightly frosty commute. In style, too, because the best winter boots are as good looking as they are practical.
Fashion has a thing for technical clothing of all kinds right now (hiking style and workwear are trends that won’t quit), but it’s always been happy to appropriate boots – from soldiers, mountaineers, riders and blue-collar workers. Those boots have the attributes all boots should have: durability, practicality, comfort and weatherproofing.
And despite those chunky soles and unforgiving leathers, winter boots are some of the most versatile shoes you can buy. Invest in the right pair and they’ll last decades if you look after them as much as they do you. So, best foot forward. Find the style that suits you best below, along with the go-to ways of wearing them.
What To Look For In Winter Boots
Good winter boots shouldn’t be dirt cheap if you want them to last, and you should. “The quickest way to spot quality in a boot is by the quality of the upper material,” says Tim Little, creative director and CEO of Grenson.
“A well-made boot will always be made of quality leather because no one would go to the effort of making a great boot in cheap leather. Quality leather always has soft creases and usually is hand polished so you can see the patina and dark and light patches. It isn’t always uniform.”
Alternatively, look for tanned leather, which tends to be thicker than painted leather and shouldn’t need as much weatherproofing.
A solid footing in the winter means a pair of boots that feature the famous Goodyear welting technique to stitch the sole firmly to the upper via a rib-like strip of leather or canvas.
“The stitching of the welt can be seen above the welt and the sole stitch (through the welt) underneath the sole,” says James Fox, brand director for Crockett & Jones. “Be careful though. If you cannot see the continuation of this stitch through the sole you could be looking at a pair of cheaper, cemented boots using an imitation welt.”
“A well-made boots brand has detailed information about how they make boots, where they are made and what materials they use,” says Rik Van Dijk from Red Wing. “A good boot maker is proud of this information.”
“And if you are looking for a winter boot with the perfect fit and quality? Go to the store of the boot maker or a speciality store. There you get all the information and fit you need to get the perfect boots for your feet.”
Recognising that most of us only wear our boots to either the office or the pub, shoemakers have, in recent years, fitted their designs with comfortable and practical soles. Combat-style treads will make you even more sure-footed while contrast white rubber soles offer some smart-casual hybrid styling.
Likewise, shoemakers (even the likes of Dr Martens) have made efforts to offer lighter versions of their chunkiest and most iconic styles with new materials offering the same wear and practicality.
The Best Winter Boots Styles
Have you been spending your weekends training for a forthcoming trip up Kilimanjaro? If the answer’s no, then you can be forgiven for overlooking the humble hiking boot as a viable footwear option. But only just.
Regardless of your outdoorsy aspirations (or lack thereof), hardy hiking boots have established themselves as foul-weather footwear essentials over the past few years – especially among sharp men who prize a shoe’s ability to face down all manner of meteorological nasties in style.
We’re not experts in adventure sports, so we’ll leave recommending boots for seriously tough terrain to the professionals. What we can do, though, is suggest designs that are ideal for navigating city streets, heavy dog walking sessions and the occasional trip to a countryside pub.
You need a pair that offers untold levels of comfort, ankle support and other orthopaedic box-ticking features such as full-leather linings and cushioned footbeds. (Although you could sack that off and get a beautiful but hardly practical suede pair from a high-fashion designer that hasn’t seen a mountain in their lives.)
Team them with other tough-as-old-boots menswear staples like raw denim, corduroy, twill or flannel shirts and cable knit jumpers. You could also pair them with rainstoppers and fleece to lean fully into the outdoors trend. Or be bold and use them as a striking counterpoint to tailoring – just not for your next job interview.
If you’re not ready to go full Bear Grylls with a pair of hiking boots, there are other, subtler ways to infuse your winter look with some outdoorsy influences. A sartorial hybrid, the brogue boot comes with the same reassuring weight and solid construction of hiking boots, but with all the wing-tipped, country-manor smartness of brogues.
As a general rule of thumb, you can wear your brogue boots with any outfit you might normally wear with traditional brogues, so lace up a dark brown or black leather pair with heavier wool suiting, and smart trouser and shirt/cardigan combinations.
However, owing to their winter-readiness, brogue boots also play well with pieces that straddle the rugged-refined divide, such as heavy-gauge knitwear, gilets, waxed and quilted jackets, as well as heritage fabrics such as corduroy and tweed.
While sock-flashing isn’t necessarily frowned upon when wearing a pair of these, it’s not an entirely natural fit with the brogue boot’s finesse either. Stick instead with trousers with a neat break (i.e. that finish around the top set of lace eyelets), or roll more casual trousers and jeans up to the same point for a smart finish.
Look out for rubberised soles for some extra winter practicality.
Some of the best boots ever made were first designed decades ago for people to wear in factories and shipping yards. The steel toe caps may not have survived the fashion crossover, but many other features have: waterproof materials, padded ankles, high-grip soles and cosy linings. Why wouldn’t you want those things for your feet when it’s freezing outside?
The most iconic work boots – the Timberland Yellow Boot, Red Wing’s classic moc toe – have remained almost unchanged for decades, which makes it surprising that they’ve been adopted by such diverse style tribes. Hip-hop artists, lumbersexuals and workwear enthusiasts all love a work boot.
That means you can pair them with a range of casual (always casual) outfits, from joggers to jeans, trucker jackets to parkas. Look for dyed leather or waterproof nubuck and sealed seams to keep the puddles at bay.
Like most items in a man’s wardrobe, boots have a proud history of military service. From high lace-ups designed to keep out trench foot to modern tactical designs, combat boots have recorded a number of victories on the fashion front.
Right now, they’ve not just won the battles, they’ve won the warcore. The directional trend for combat trousers, holsters and all things military means there’s rarely been a better time to buy this style. Not that you have to leave the house looking like a character from Call of Duty.
Look at Ryan Gosling’s character in Blade Runner 2049. He paired tactical boots you can buy on Amazon with a statement overcoat. Or designer Charlie Caseley-Hayford who wears his trademark high boots with classic tailoring. Streetwear fans might pair them with jeans and a bomber. Or an easy middle-ground is heritage wear: wool, twill cotton, generous fits and plenty of herringbone.
The Swiss Army Knife of your shoe rack, the Chelsea is by far the most versatile boot you can buy; the right pair looks just as good worn with a suit or tailored trousers Monday to Friday as it does a leather jacket and shredded skinny jeans for a gig at the weekend.
While suede Chelsea boots have something undeniably louche about them, it’s a delicate material that is hard to keep pristine in or just after a downpour. If you can’t be bothered with regular cleaning, brushing and applications of protector spray all winter, opt for easy-wipe leather instead. As it happens, a pair in smooth black leather is much closer to the iconic original anyway.
Details to look out for include autumn-ready rubber soles and the classic heel pull, a practical feature that many modern iterations don’t have (but should). Also, mind your toes. Pointed-toe Chelsea boots, when worn with a suit at least, look a little off, so keep your sights firmly set on round-toed styles instead.
As far as we’re concerned, there are few instances in which wearing a pair of desert or chukka boots isn’t a good idea. While their mid-weight construction marks them out as a clear choice for spring and summer, they’re actually a killer option for the winter months, too, along with other ankle tickling styles like jodhpur boots and low-rise hikers.
This in-between profile makes most ankle boots smart enough to style with a roll neck, blazer and smart wool trousers, but also not so fussy that they can’t be coupled with chinos and a crew neck sweatshirt. Perfect for navigating the winter months’ dress codes quandaries.
Leather pairs are a no-brainer for the cold and wet, offering resilience and an enduring elegance, while suede pairs can also work if you take the time to regularly treat them with a protector spray and always check the forecast before you leave the house.
Treat this style – chukka or desert boots especially – as a smarter, more hard-wearing alternative to trainers. Team them with chinos, button-down shirts and crew neck jumpers to create sharp, warm getups that will pass the pub-safe test no problem.
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The Best Sneaker Brands In The World Right Now
Changing the game one stylish step at a time
There was a time not so very long ago when attending a special event in a pair of sneakers was a surefire way to flag yourself to your shiny-shoed peers as a sartorial pariah. However, attitudes have shifted in unforeseen ways and what was once the scruffy outlier is now the footwear gold standard.
The transition from running track to runway has been a slow and gradual one, but in recent years it has reached a crescendo. A crescendo that looks set to blare on indefinitely.
This is thanks in no small part to a number of key designers and sneaker brands who have been pushing the footwear to its limits in every conceivable direction.
Some have created white leather kicks that look right at home with tailoring. Others are inventing technology that might as well have come straight out of a lab at Area 51 (or just Back to the Future). Meanwhile, there are those who have elevated the sneaker from its utilitarian roots to the absolute pinnacle of high fashion it is today.
Here we take a look at the most influential sneaker brands in the world right now and what they’re doing to help make the world’s favourite footwear.
The Undisputed Masters Of Hype
Yeah, in 2016 Nike really did go back to the future and produced Marty McFly’s self-lacing sneakers. But this is just one instance when the brand seemingly reached through a tear in spacetime and brought us something directly from the future, making it the biggest trendsetter in sneakers and a reliable barometer for what’s around the corner.
The brand has a long track record of world-beating performance footwear as well as technological innovation (Flyknit uppers and NikeID personalisation in the last decade). More than that, Nike knows how to create products that live up to their considerable hype. It has more icons in its back catalog than any other sneaker brand. Air Max, Air Force 1 and Air Jordan are all sneaker dynasties in their own right, and go back further and you’ll find even more classic retro sneakers like the Cortez and the Blazer.
Still the most recognisable. Still the most wanted. Still the ones to beat.
The Brand That Turned Sneakers Into A Science
The ongoing technological arms race between the world’s sportswear big hitters has produced some of the boldest innovations in footwear. Luckily for us, it doesn’t show any sign of letting up.
Ask any sneakerhead on the street who’s in pole position, and they’ll tell you it’s Nike. However, with featherlight materials and mind-bending sole technology, it could be easily argued that good old three-stripes is maneuvering for an overtake.
Yes, there are beloved classics — the Superstar, Stan Smith and Gazelle all come to mind — and they’re not going away, but in recent years the brand’s R&D lab has become the sneaker world’s Q branch. Forget the Yeezy collab, it was the Ultra Boost that changed the game, and most recently, the German sports giant has been experimenting with 3D printing as a production method for groundbreaking webbed sole units. Don’t take your eyes off them for a second.
The 100-Year-Old Design Icon
It’s incredible (and slightly terrifying) to think about how much the world has evolved in the last 100 years. Commercial flight, television, mobile phones and the internet are just a few of the inventions that have revolutionised the way we live.
With that in mind, it’s a real triumph of design when something introduced a century ago is still being used globally today.
Converse’s famous high-top, the Chuck Taylor All Star, is one such item. Born in 1917, the iconic basketball shoe has remained 99.9 percent unchanged and is now the best selling shoe in the US, UK and far beyond. Yes, the brand has other excellent shoes, but this is arguably the most iconic sneaker ever made. And what’s more, it’s for everyone.
The Luxe Trendsetter That Made Minimalism Cool
When luxury New York sneaker brand Common Projects first introduced its Achilles Low model in 2004, the menswear world went mad for it. But why? Was it innovative? No. Was next-level comfortable? Hardly. Did it come in at bargain prices? Quite the opposite.
This shoe was nothing more than a plain, leather sneaker. However, the thing that had the fash pack fawning over this minimalist trainer was that every little detail was meticulously executed to the nth degree. This was a sneaker created like an Oxford shoe handcrafted in Northamptonshire.
Buttery Italian leather, exquisite streamlined shapeliness and a timeless wearability that made each pair the perfect accompaniment to anything from a suit to shorts. It arguably started today’s thriving luxury sneaker market, and all of this, in a world now dominated by Balenciaga beetle-crushers, is not to be taken for granted.
Making Ugly Trainers Must-Have
Balenciaga’s output under the guidance of Georgian fashion maverick Demna Gvasalia may be the sartorial equivalent of Marmite or Björk, but whatever you think of his work, there’s no denying he’s changing the face of fashion, one broken ankle at a time.
The sleek, minimalist speed sock was the label’s first standout sneaker with Gvasalia at the helm, but it was the now-inescapable Triple S that really took things in a new direction.
This beast of a shoe single-handedly remodelled the fashion footwear landscape and made big, chunky silhouettes the new gold standard. Minimalism is giving way to maximalism, and this Spanish fashion house is at the centre of it all.
Still The Purist’s Choice
As time marches on, there are fewer and fewer brands willing to take a financial bullet in the name of quality craftsmanship and have products manufactured on home turf. When talking about sneaker companies, the numbers are lower still.
That’s what makes New Balance one of the best in the game. Not only is the Bostonian firm responsible for some of the comfiest and most iconic running shoes ever made, but it also produces its premium range half in the US and half in the UK’s Lake District, in factories staffed with highly trained craftspeople.
It’s because of this approach to manufacturing that New Balance has a glowing reputation among athletes, sneakerheads and just everyday folks, thus earning itself a spot in the FashionBeans hall of fame.
The Veteran Quietly Breaking New Ground
It may not make as much noise as some of its contemporaries, but while they’re all battling it out trying to come up with the next big thing, Puma is quietly working away in the background, perfecting the classics. And inventing a few new ones, too.
A prime example of this is the brand’s take on the chunky sneaker trend. Puma has taken the look, put its own stamp on it and made it accessible to those whose wallets might not be able to stand up to the strain posed by a pair of Balenciagas that cost as much as a month’s rent.
Turn to the Thunder Electric model for a bulky-but-athletic shape and bold nineties-esque color pops, or the covetable Tsugi line for a more striped-back melding of mesh and neoprene atop a thick cushioned midsole.
The Old Reliable Of Footwear
From riding empty pools in suburban LA to jumping around on stage at the Warped Tour. Over the years, Vans has earned itself a deserved reputation as the shoe brand of choice for alternative lifestyles.
Its appeal is due in no small part to the simple styling, timeless appearance, modest pricing and, of course, plentiful colour options offered by its designs. The Old Skool, Classic and Authentic are all instantly recognisable designs that haven’t changed in decades, mainly because they don’t need to.
What has changed is how people wear them. Once a shoe for kids and skaters only, it’s now equally comfortable on rock stars and hip-hop icons, with jeans or casual suiting. From the mid-1960s right up to now, Vans has always offered people a way to add a dash of colour and charisma to an outfit without breaking the bank. Something, which has seen its products remain relevant throughout the years, regardless of passing sneaker trends.
The Strongest Collab Game In The Business
Can you confidently call yourself a sneakerhead if your wardrobe isn’t filled with Jordans? Perhaps not.
Technically, a Nike creation but also a brand in its own right, the story is one of the most successful examples of sports marketing in history. After designing the first Air Jordans exclusively for the basketball legend himself, it wasn’t long before Nike opened up production and brought its new creation to the masses in 1984. People went crazy for it, leading to a wave of crime in the US whereby people were being robbed of their sneakers.
One of the main draws to the shoes for some is the collectable element, with many special releases and collabs being issued in seriously limited runs. Some recent partnerships have included Supreme, Off-White, Levi’s and Kaws to name only a handful, making this one instance in which you definitely should believe the hype.
Bringing Retro Back
Okay, so it’s not exactly shaping the future with its footwear offerings, but when you do the classics (and the Classics) this well, why would you need to?
The British-born company, now a subsidiary of Adidas, is one of the oldest UK sneaker brands. Something which is evident when you look at its retro silhouettes.
Its best sneakers, like the Club, the Classic and the Workout are nothing short of iconic and all ooze plenty of that throwback charm we all love so much. They may not be made of knitted mesh and be 3D printed, but they look great, are undeniably comfortable, and are never going to go out of style.
Setting The Luxury Sneaker Benchmark
Gucci’s sneaker game has come on leaps and bounds in the past few years, thanks in no small part to a bit of TLC from creative director Alessandro Michele.
In fact, it could be argued that the Italian house’s offerings have set a new standard for luxury sneakers, with the clean lines and eye-catching embroidery of the Ace making it the new favourite white sneaker of the fashion elite.
And it’s not just classic styles that Gucci has been turning its hand to. The brand has also combined two of the moment’s most significant trends with its chunky Rhyton trainer, featuring oversized Gucci branding to the side.
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Government ‘ignores’ UK textiles firms desperate to make PPE
The government has been too slow to enlist British textile firms to make protective gear for the NHS, according to industry figures, who say they have been desperate to contribute to the “war effort”.
Faced with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), the Cabinet Office has only recently begun scrambling to source it from UK suppliers and has now outsourced the process to consultants from accountancy group Deloitte.
Industry figures said too much emphasis had been placed on high-profile names such as Burberry, the luxury fashion house that Matt Hancock said on 3 April was producing medical gowns.
Kate Hills, the founder of Make It British, which promotes brands that manufacture in the UK, said the government was ignoring less well-known textile specialists in favour of household names that play well with the public. “They’re just picking out brand names,” she said.
“The people who can make this PPE are not well-known names, they are contract manufacturers behind the scenes. They’ve filled in the government’s request forms and heard nothing back.”
Italy’s designers urge Rome to relax fashion sector restrictions
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- Italy’s designers urge Rome to relax fashion sector restrictions
Italy’s fashion leaders called on the government on Thursday to loosen restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus crisis to allow them to resume some production, warning that a prolonged lockdown risked irreparably damaging the sector.
“Fashion is a seasonal industry, and certain dates are not compressible. Not reopening shortly would mean giving up almost a year’s turnover,” said Carlo Capasa, the chairman of Italy’s National Chamber for Italian Fashion (CNMI), in an online interview on the website of daily Corriere della Sera.