The current New Balance mania that’s cutting through the sneaker world like a Vibram soled tornado has all the makings of a lost Malcolm Gladwell case study. What exactly was the tipping point that launched NB’s from average schmo staple to fodder for the insatiable menswear masses? I’ll leave that one for Gladwell’s next book, but I will say that New Balance has done an exemplary job at embracing their new-found market. Sure, those old school, all grey sneaks that the Costanza’s of the world used to wear still remain their most popular models, but over the past couple years NB has revamped their classic running shoes to create some damn fine, and for that matter, flashy, designs. It seems that every week New Balance seems to drop another “banger” (that’s what sneakerheads are saying these days right?) so we decided to round up the eight best releases of the past year.
The folks at Harrison Limited down in Birmingham may be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good taste when it comes to boat shoes: case in point these handsome Rancourt mocs. It was only last summer that I was falling for the long-time-coming made in Maine Sperry Topsiders, but one can surely make room in his closet for two well-made pairs of boat shoes.
There have been mentions of it here before, but Harrison Limited is probably my favorite store I have never actually been to. That honor was help previously by Leather Soul, but I’ve now been lucky enough to have visited that shoe mecca the past two years in a row (and I might even see it again this April, depending on how things go).
On the corner of 72nd and Madison on New York’s Upper East Side, sits the Rhinelander Mansion, a palatial building that houses the flagship location of Ralph Lauren’s global empire. And yet, “The Mansion” (as it is affectionately known) is far more than a store, it is the epicenter of the RL universe. It’s a physical manifestation of Ralph’s vision, complete with imposing antiquities, more Americana than a field at Brimfield, and of course the full breadth of the brand’s collections.
And so, when the brand chooses to shift course, or launch a new idea, The Mansion is the place for Ralph where everything begins. The latest concept to be debuted at the flagship is an updated “shoe salon,” which showcases the complete Ralph Lauren footwear range, from Purple Label to Polo, as well as a freshly updated Made-to-Order Program. The room itself is grand in a manner that one would expect from an Upper East Side manor, with the deep colors that allude to RL’s higher end lines. Displayed on the multitude of mahogany shelves are an array of models that range from resort ready espadrilles to stomping leather hikers that conjure of images of Gianni Agnelli.
When R.M. Williams was sold to LVMH, the high-fashion conglomerate, early last year, my first thought was, “what would R.M. say about all this?” After all, this was a man born on the Australian bush to a lower class family who worked his way up from a swagman to a millionaire with his eponymous line of Chelsea boots. Even still, I imagine that when R.M. churned out his first pair of Chelseas back in the 1930’s, he never would’ve fathomed that his name would once be listed alongside the likes of Louis Vuitton. Hell, I doubt he even knew who Louis Vuitton was.
R.M. was born Reginald Murray Williams in 1908, and for the first quarter of his life he lived primarily as a transient, traveling across the Australian countryside doing whatever odd job he could find. After dropping out of school at thirteen, R.M. worked as a camel driver, a well digger, and a leatherworker (a skill that R.M. learned from a saddler named Dollar Mick, because that’s just how stories like this go), which ultimately paved the way for his life’s greatest work.
Twenty-eight years after he bid the professional tennis world adieu, Stan Smith has returned, not on clay, but on asphalt. While Smith’s days on the pro circuit might be long gone, he still remains one of the most well-known players of all time, thanks largely to the simple white sneaks that carry his name.
Truth be told though, those iconic adidas originally bore the name of another clay court legend – Robert Haillet. Haillet and adidas founder, Adolf “Adi” Dassler first partnered up back in the mid-sixties to create the stark shoes, but it wasn’t until Stan Smith wore them on the court in 1971 that they really took off. They were the first pair of all leather tennis shoes ever created, laying the groundwork for today’s ultra high-end sneaker market, but at the time, they were designed purely for performance.
For a town that’s oft-plagued by fleeting fads and inexplicable trends, Portland’s shoe industry is surprisingly stoic, acting as a sort of trusty backbone for Stumptown’s diverse population. At the center of this footwear foundation lies Danner Boots, one of the, if not the, oldest shoe brands in the Northwest.
Charles Danner founded his eponymous boot brand in 1932 as a way to provide footwear to the various loggers, hunters, and sportsmen that lived and worked in the area. Over the decades Danner’s business has grown, particularly during the sixties and seventies as their hiking boots became an integral part of that era’s budding outdoor movement. All the while, Danner has kept their production local, producing
all most of its boots in their Portland, Oregon factory, which continues to churn out hundreds of thousands of boots every year.
To celebrate design, craft, style and the entrepreneurial spirit, Timberland in partnership with ACL set out to highlight the guys that take matters into their own hands, to not only make great things, but to inspire and teach others the skills to do it yourself.
The first time I met Stephen Muscarella from Left to Right Furniture was on a Sunday morning in his Gowanus, Brooklyn workshop. Stephen is one of the resident carpenters in a really interesting communal studio called Makeville. When we met to talk about this project the studio was calm and the stillness allowed an opportunity to speak about Stephen’s approach and how he got started working with his hands. His formal education is in economics and while he was pursuing an advanced degree he was repeatedly drawn to do something more tactical, he wanted to work with his hands. So when the opportunity arose to work under an experienced carpenter he jumped at it.