Saturday, April 25, 2009

Paraboot is the shoe du jour

If you're looking for a shoe with a rubber sole that wears like iron, I'd normally advise that you consider shoes from the UK. Doc Martens, Crockett & Jones and Tricker's, are a few of the highly durable options from England.

However, for those who find English lasts too wide for their feet, try Paraboot of France. This shoemaker combines classic English designs with a tough rubber sole. Some models, like the Azay, have side stitching for additional flair.

Like their English counterparts, Paraboots are priced at a pretty penny (about $350 and up) but are worth every last one if you value comfort. I bought a pair on a recent trip to Paris and put them to the test for a week walking the city's streets and visiting museums. These are indeed the most comfortable pair I've ever worn.

Where can you find Paraboot in the U.S.? There are at least two establishments in the Boston area that I know of off the bat. Drinkwater's Cambridge and Mr. Sid of Newton Centre, Mass., definitely have them. I'm sure there are other U.S. retailers who carry Paraboot, so do a Google search or go to, where its online community supplies a wealth of answers.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Buckshot brogue hits the mark

The pursuit of the perfect look is not unlike what musicians do in playing the perfect composition -- an elusive and sometimes frustrating endeavor, and gratifying only for a moment when the goal is achieved.

That's how I feel when shopping for clothes. How much am I willing to pay? How well do they fit? Do the colors coordinate?

On a recent day trip to London, I sought the Adler Buckshot Brogue from Gieves & Hawkes at No. 1 Savile Row, which I had my eye on for the past year. (Click here for the image.) The message of the shoe was quite clear: This is what shooting yourself in the foot might look like.

The concept for the shoe came from a former employee, Joseph David, and the shoe was released in August 2006, according to John Blanco, Gieves & Hawkes' general manager. Mr. Blanco, an impeccably dressed 34-year veteran of the company, the last 15 as GM, was the one who had me try on the pair that I would purchase.

At 245 British pounds (about $400 give or take the exchange rate), it's a sound investment.

This shoe is equal parts comfortable and versatile. You can wear them with denim, khakis or, if you have sufficient confidence, suits.

I don't sing very well, but the praise is evident. The buckshot brogue is definitely a significant piece in the pursuit of the perfect look.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Style Points for youngsters

Over the course of generations among Christians around the world, Easter Sunday is a momentous occasion on the calendar. Part of the celebration, at least for many churchgoers here in the U.S., is to put on the Sunday best of outfits they can muster.

There's plenty of fuss to go around: Women gear up to look their best; so do men. Not least, parents want their children to be shining examples without breaking the bank.

Dressing children can be tricky. Some kids may resist having to wear clothes that are more formal than what they're used to. Others embrace looking stylish in following the example set by adults.

Motivation aside, where can parents go to give their children a next-level look?

After attending service in downtown Houston on Sunday afternoon, I ran into fellow Harvard grad Shannon Buggs, business columnist for the Houston Chronicle. She and her husband have a young son and daughter. All of them were impeccably dressed, and the family was preparing to eat dinner promptly afterward.

So I asked her where she got the cool vines for the family.

True to her beat, Shannon means business when it comes to finding clothes for her kids. "Marshall's and TJ Maxx," she said. They are excellent places for getting children quality clothes at reasonable prices, especially when they inevitably grow and will need different sizes for a number of years to come. For adults, one can find designer items at low prices as well.

I have heard some parents fret about their children refusing to wear clothes from discount retailers, that they run the risk of being teased for wearing cheap stuff. There should be no reason to not shop these places, especially during a recession. Any smart shopper knows that bargains are your friend, not something to be ashamed of.

That said, I have seen firsthand, as a part-time salesperson at the Brooks Brothers outlet store outside Houston, the last-minute weekend wave of shopping before Easter. Parents have no problem spending money on quality kids' stuff that sells for less than the ticketed retail price they might see on the clothier's Web site or the Brooks store in the Galleria Mall.

Bottom line: Dress clothes for children can be done in a cost-effective manner and for maximum Style Points.

To be sure, church is not a fashion show. But a multitude of well-dressed congregants in a house of worship is hardly something to ignore. Even I must admit that I do my part in joining the collective in the art of sartorial show-out. I never know who might be watching me, including the young turks.

But where possible, get it on sale. Sound familiar? Click here for a refresher.