Tagged: shoes

Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

This I Wear | Closet Tour: Kyle Berner, Feelgoodz

I first learned of Kyle Berner and his socially conscious flip-flop brand, Feelgoodz, through a recent GOOD article. After I got over the excitement that he was a fellow New Orleans native, I totally identified with the boldness of traveling in South Asia with a single pair of shoes (visiting a temple where you have to leave your shoes outside becomes much riskier!). But once I spoke with Kyle, I learned that having just one pair of shoes isn’t a far stretch from his at-home wardrobe. While none of this was too surprising given that Kyle’s laid-back style and personality is closely tied with the feeling of Feelgoodz, I did start to wonder if he’s onto something: what if we all owned just five t-shirts?

Of what you’re wearing today, what’s the most special piece to you?

My t-shirt. People make fun of me and say that I own a total of five t-shirts and I just rotate them out, which – while I do have more than five t-shirts – I do have 5-7 core t-shirts and they all just happen to be black. And I’m wearing one of those core ones today.

Name three favorite items from your wardrobe that mean something to you or represent your style.

I always say it’s my black American Apparel tee, my jeans, and my Feelgoodz. If you were to see me on any given day, that’s probably what I’m wearing. I literally have two pairs of jeans, but I wear them incessantly.

Once something has ended up in your closet, how long does it stay there for?

Until I just cannot wear it anymore because it’s filled with holes or ripped. I find the things I like and I just stick to it. I know what works for me; so the things that I love, I will wear to pieces. That’s probably why a lot of my friends tell me that I have a total of five t-shirts. I just wear things over and over again.

Kind of like a uniform? Like the Kyle uniform?

Kind of like the Kyle uniform.

If someone looked into your closet, what would they learn about you?

That I like to keep it easy. I’m the epitome of casual. When [someone] gets to know me but maybe has never seen me before, they will not be surprised about what I’m wearing just based upon who I am.

What influenced that?

When I was a child, I didn’t even like to wear shoes. I would go around barefoot for as long as I could. And anytime I’d get new t-shirts, I’d make my mom cut the tags out of the back because they were itchy. I’ve just always wanted to be comfortable and to wear clothes where I felt that I could breathe. I’ve always been the kind of guy that if I feel like I’m confined in any way, that Kyle Berner as a person is compromised.

Does your personal laid-back style influence the brand’s style as well?

I’ve always been a flip-flop sort of guy. It was not difficult for me at all to absolutely love Feelgoodz.

As far as adding new things to your wardrobe, how often do you shop?

I have a favorite t-shirt shop in New Orleans called Dirty Coast. I’ll go there maybe once every six months and buy half a dozen shirts. Other than that, if I’m shopping, it’s by accident. It’s usually like, “Oh my gosh, my jeans ripped and I need a new pair”. So I’ll go in, I know exactly what I’m going to get, I get it, and then I’ll leave. The thought of perusing around a mall sounds like torture.

Unless I’m in some international market, like in Thailand. Like that’s a shopping experience, but it’s so different. It’s a cultural experience more than a shopping experience.

What’s your favorite souvenir you’ve picked up in your travels?

Something that I can either wear or carry with me at all times. So it has to be something small, lightweight, and easy to fit in my pocket or backpack or wear on my wrist. My favorite thing that I ever got was a black wristband that was written in Thai that one of my former students from Thailand gave to me, and I started wearing it in 2007. I didn’t take it off until it literally fell off – like I literally did not take it off until it broke a couple of months ago.

Has your work influenced your style or shopping habits in any way?

It has always made sense to me that if I’m going to sell a product, like flip-flops for example, let me do it in the most responsible way possible and in a way that isn’t exploiting anyone. That just felt natural to me. But since starting the company, Feelgoodz is extremely looped into the conscious market. So as a result of learning about the amazing companies that exist in this space, when I go out to buy something else, I first consider a Rolodex of companies that I’ve come across first, as long as it’s within budgetary reason. But I do that now – that’s a shift. I didn’t always do that, but then I started Feelgoodz and became linked with all these other awesome companies.

Last question! How many days of the year do you wear Feelgoodz flip-flops?

Out of 365, I would say probably 325. If I’m in my apartment, I’m not wearing any shoes. But it’s the vast majority of days that I’m wearing Feelgoodz.

Thanks to Kyle Berner and Jennifer DeSimone of Feelgoodz for making this interview happen. To learn more about Feelgoodz and to make sure you’re in the loop when they launch their brand-new seasonal footwear line, visit their website or follow them on Twitter or Facebook.

(Photos courtesy of Kyle Berner)

The Monthly Mend: Invest in your shoes like a pro

Alex, Patina Shoe Parlor | This I Wear

When I first moved to Manhattan, my coworker Sara introduced me to the man who would become “my” shoe guy. When you live in NYC (or any walking city), you will destroy every pair of shoes you own, so having a shoe guy in NYC is like finding a trustworthy doctor when you move to a new city: it’s inevitable and best not to wait until you’re desperate. But even with a fantastic shoe guy, I have a long history of being embarrassed by the state of my shoes. I take pride in my appearance, but somehow my shoes can never quite keep up with the rest of me. They have been the enemy: uncomfortable and unreliable no matter how much money I increasingly spend on them. And even more embarrassing, I have to admit to throwing away some shoes in the past that have let me down one too many times. I needed help.

Alexander Bourne is a young entrepreneur who set aside his dream of becoming an orthodontist to start Patina Shoe Parlor in New Orleans in early 2012 after he accidentally purchased a shoeshine kit at a garage sale. Almost overnight, he expanded the business from just shoeshines to include repairs of shoes and leather accessories. I spent an hour with him to pick up some tips on how to take care of my ever-embarrassing shoe collection and how to know what shoes to invest in.

Here’s what I learned from Alex:

1. Before you throw out a pair of shoes, take them for a consultation at your local shoe repair shop. I was amazed at the extent of repairs that Alex can do (and I LOVE seeing the “After” shots on his Instagram). Need the whole sole replaced? He can do it. Got a scuffed shoe? He’s your man. Just a quick heel repair? He can help. So before you toss, it’s worth asking if a repair can be done. Depending on the extent of the damage, it might not be cheap, but your shoes could look like new with a little love and investment.

2. You will wear through your shoes, even if they are well-made. This was my zen moment, and I was quite glad to hear it from Alex. Shoes get more wear and tear than the rest of your wardrobe. I feel guilty because I seem to go through shoes so quickly, but in reality, it is because I love walking and I tend to rotate just a few favorite pairs of shoes rather than buying lots of pairs. If this describes you as well, you are going to need to make friends with someone in shoe repair.

3. Invest in shoes that can be repaired. An expensive shoe does not necessarily mean it is a repairable shoe. When you buy a repairable well-made shoe, simple sole and heel replacements can be done over and over as long as the rest of the shoe holds up. For men and women, turn the shoe over when you are shopping and look for leather soles and wooden heels. Avoid molded rubber soles (sorry, comfort shoes!) or anything that has been fused to the shoe’s upper rather than stitched.

4. A big price tag doesn’t mean the shoe will last. When I asked Alex if shoe price relates to shoe quality, he pointed to the example of the infamous Louboutins: “Christian said, ‘I don’t make shoes for you to be comfortable in. I make them for you to look good in.’” That makes sense. If shoes are difficult to walk in, they probably weren’t made for walking. Save them to wear on special occasions, but don’t expect them to last forever.

5. Leather lasts, but more ethical options exist too. Alex says that a surprising number of his clients are vegans, who don’t wear leather products both for ethical reasons and for the environmental impact, especially of the tanning process. Vegan alternatives can include synthetic leather substitutes, which are improving. It’s not a black-and-white choice quite yet, though. Leather is typically more expensive but easier to shine and refurbish (and therefore, save), while vegan alternatives are less costly but less likely to be repairable or as durable as leather, meaning they are more likely to end up in a landfill faster. It’s worth it to do your research.

6. A lot of people just don’t know shoe repair is an option. I asked Alex what types of people he sees investing in the repairs. He says you can’t predict clients by demographics: his clients include everyone from vintage shoppers and young students to some of the city’s wealthiest. However, he thinks the difference is in awareness, which is too personal to quantify. Alex explained, “You have individuals who may have grown up with their grandfathers, their parents getting things repaired, so they feel that is something they should do. More often, you get individuals that just aren’t aware that these services even existed.” And sometimes those new to shoe repair need some convincing: “They look to get something repaired, and they say, ‘That’s more than I initially spent for it.’ That right there…negates what they originally bought them for. You bought them because you liked them, you liked the way they feel, maybe over time, you’ve acquired an emotional attachment to them. You have people that it has nothing to do with whether or not they can pay for it, it’s strictly reasoning. These people don’t want to reuse or repurpose their goods because of essentially a number.” Moral of the story: think about the value of the shoes to you, not just the cost of the shoe. And if you’re just starting to take your shoes in for repairs, ask questions and feel free to get a second opinion on a repair cost. It can definitely be worth the investment.

And finally, a tip from me: don’t wear dirty boots with run-down heels to interview someone who works with shoes. He’s gonna look at your shoes, so be prepared. Alex has always had high standards for his own shoes, mentioning that “I’ve always been the one, even before I got into shoe repair, I’d be the one to go into the bathroom, and if [my shoes] ever got dirty, I would get some dishwashing liquid, take a glass, get an old toothbrush, mix it up, and I’d just scrub ‘em. I’ve always been that way. My shoestrings, I’ll take them out, throw them in with some bleach, let them soak in the sink…” Now that’s dedication.

In New Orleans and in need of a repair? It’s easy to find Alex of Patina Shoe Parlor on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or in person at 2036 Magazine Street.

In NYC? “My” shoe guy can be found at Yakub Shoe Repair (212-673-6230) at 229 Sullivan Street in Greenwich Village. He’s in the back of the shop behind the dry cleaning counter. Tell him I say “hi.”

My Closet: The best sandals ever

Naya Leather Sandals | This I Wear

It is truly a rare piece that one might call “reliable” when referring to one’s closet. Me and these sandals? We have that special bond of trust.

In New York, I had one priority when it came to shoes: comfort. But “comfort shoes” and cute often seem to be at odds (can I get an amen, Ladies?). Comfortable, cute, and environmentally responsible in one pair of shoes, therefore, literally defies all laws of nature. But one day I stumbled upon the best sandals of all time, at a DSW no less. Vegetable tanned leather, non-slip recycled rubber sole, cushioned, adorable, and not outrageously priced. Interestingly enough, they are made by the Naturalizer company, specifically their brand Naya (which I should investigate more). In two years, these sandals have never let me down.

Because of their nature-defying characteristics, I originally didn’t want to pack these shoes for India where they’d inevitably get ruined on the backpacking trail. They’ve seen a lot of adventure already – could they handle more? Though their wear shows (and in all honesty, smells), I planned to wear these shoes forever.

But I started packing and realized that I was willing to risk an early death of these sandals. Not only are they reliably comfortable, but they make me feel like myself. And as I’m already in India, I can tell you that these shoes have been a welcome and familiar source of relief in a place where everything is foreign. As of today, they can even count the Taj Mahal as one of their many adventures.

Trust in the things in your closet, in the people that create them, and in the way they consistently make you feel is not to be underrated. It is a great feeling to be able to not have to think twice before wearing something (unlike that cute shirt with the slightly off fit or the jacket whose zipper sometimes breaks, etc.). These shoes make me feel confident that I will get to the next place blister-free and that I’ll feel comfortable in every sense of the word even when I’m out of my comfort zone.

If they don’t make it through India, I may be investigating how I can get another pair. Because me and these sandals? We have something special.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share which pieces in your closet you trust the most.

P.S. This is my first post from the road. Please excuse any errors while I get used to using new resources.

Style Story: Armand + Dressing Fearlessly

Style Story: Armand | This I Wear

Armand and I go way back. Well, only like a year and a half or so, but he’s one of those people you meet and you can’t remember what life was like without them. As colleagues and during this interview, Armand kept me laughing with his fantastic sense of humor. Though he grew up in DC, his daring style destined him to end up in New York. Of my many male friends, Armand stands out as someone who can seriously bring something new and unexpected to the typical guy uniform. So when I needed to gender balance this blog, I knew Armand was my guy. Not only was this a fun interview, but Armand inspired me to get excited about those pieces in my closet that I rarely wear and give them another chance.

What is your favorite thing you are wearing today and why?

Definitely my shoes. [I’m wearing] old Kenneth Cole brown motorcycle boots that I actually picked up from a great outlet in Virginia years and years ago. I never thought they would last this long, but they have. They are not as traditional as most other motorcycle boots.

They still look brand new.

I got them repaired recently, because that’s what New York does to your shoes.

Is a professional environment really limiting for men in terms of expressing style?

It is in some ways. It depends on your style and how much you dislike monotony. There are ways to avoid the monotonous office uniform, which is normally a collared shirt and some form of pants…

Hopefully some pants. [laughs]

Skorts! Capris! It is difficult for men, but you can’t really do anything about it, so that’s where accessories really come in, like socks. One of my colleagues at work has really fun socks all the time. We might be dressed a little bit more conservatively but with the socks, it can bring some fun to your ankles.

When you’re shopping, what are you looking for?

I like black, grey, basically all neutral colors. Mainly black. So it can be from anywhere from H&M to a random cowboy Western store or [laughs] this place called Gothic Renaissance here in New York…

That sounds scandalous.

I know, right? But I gravitate towards those colors, and then deciding if it’s a statement piece or something I can wear everyday. Because black can be very basic, if it’s something a little unusual, I gravitate towards it.

How often do you shop?

I have to look at my [credit card] statement [laughs]. It’s hard in New York, especially when you pass by stores everyday, especially where my office is located. I typically go to a few stores once a week that I know always have deals or changing inventory. That way I know what’s out there and I can snap up something that I really want.

Do you have a shopping philosophy?

My friends always laugh when they are with me shopping. I’m more of a hunter and if it catches my eye, I’m like “mmm, I shouldn’t really be spending money,” and I am trying to force myself out of the store. But I’ll keep looking back at it like it’s a puppy dog and I’m feeling bad. I’ll walk all the way out of the exit of the store, and I’ll turn back and say “Actually I want to look at it once again.” If I want to go back to it two or three times, then I know definitely that I need it, and I want it, and I shouldn’t give it up. It beckons me like a siren. I’m like “I need it.” [laughs]

Is that impulsive?

It’s not impulsive at all. I don’t really leave stores with bags and bags – I normally only have one or two pieces. That’s kind of why I go every week almost, because things change and I don’t want everything. I don’t get the adrenaline like some shoppers get from carrying bags and having something that you’ve bought. It’s more so that I’m really excited to wear this.

What is your favorite thing in your closet right now?

Hands down, it is this black leather motorcycle jacket that my sister brought me from Argentina. She came back with a garment bag, and I was like “oh god.” I looked at the jacket and thought that nothing this amazing is going to fit me. And actually when I put it on, I was really hoping it would fit perfectly, and it did. She really did a good job. She said she got ten people – any guy on the street who looked kind of like my build – to put it on, literally.

Once something is in your closet, how long does it stay there?

I pride myself on this. I wear everything that I buy, and I have a little rotation depending on events. It will stay in my closet for a very long time. I’m feeling this early 90s look with old school Tommy Hilfiger t-shirts – grey with the big logo in the middle – and early 90s rounded sunglasses. I’m really feeling that look with a backwards cap and plaid tied around your waist. I’m really mad that I threw out some of that stuff when I was moving back in DC between apartments or moving up here to New York. I normally keep things for a very long time. I’m now sticking to that philosophy more as I’m finding that there are things that I really love and that I had but don’t have in my possession anymore. Things come back around in terms of style.

So you usually keep things around?

Isn’t that what all vintage stores are? Basically, your old closet that you threw away that you’re trying to reclaim?

Do you have any closet confessions?

I went to a discount chain store randomly in Illinois. I found this great pair [of pants] – it was when I was doing this 80s look at night – and it turned out to be way too Miami Vice. It was these bright neon highlighter yellow dress pants, but they were a little bit more baggy. I thought I could put a look together with them, but I realized that no shirt every goes with that neon of pants and there’s no place I could ever go to [wearing] it. So I actually ended up wearing it for Halloween. I couldn’t bear for it to be in my closet anymore. It had to come out to play. So I turned it into a pimp old school look with a fur coat. [laughs] It was a whole look with a fedora. So that was my one questionable purchase, though I didn’t spend a lot of money on it.

Was that the only time you’ve worn them?

I think so. I tried to wear them to the beach once rolled up, with white converse but…

You blinded everyone?

Yes, and even with a t-shirt over it was not a good look. Never again.

Thanks to Armand for giving up his coffee break to talk to me. I’m curious to know how often you shop: comment below or tweet @ThisIWear to share how frequently you hit the stores or browse online. A little lagniappe since New York City will indeed destroy every pair of shoes you own (because you just walk that much): If you’re in Greenwich Village, see Yakub Shoe Repair on Sullivan St. He will work miracles.

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