Brogues for Broads

October 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo courtesy of F.E. Castleberry of Unabashedly Prep

As a lover of undeniably feminine clothing and accessories, I am just as much an admirer of unisex staples. I’ve yet to meet a button down I didn’t wear threadbare. The same holds true for shoes. I adore a curvaceous heel or bow-laden ballet flat, but have a sweet disposition for traditional men’s shoes: oxfords, bucks and Weejuns—a preference likely nurtured during my private school years. With the resurgence of menswear for women over the past several seasons, designers have re-imagined mens’ classics for the fairer sex in tailored, slim versions. I’ve recently stepped into this gorgeous pair of Ralph Lauren Collection Quinton Oxford, made in Italy. They will break in nicely and only get better with age while anchoring my wardrobe’s most feminine ruffles and florals. (I’m a sucker for the juxtaposition of feminine clothing and masculine details) My first pair of oxfords since prep school, and paired with them, my first set of cedar shoe trees (monogrammed, of course). A handcrafted, sartorial investment I fully intend on handing down someday. Of all the shoes I own—and you know there are numerous—only a select few cause me to truly swoon. This is one such pair.


[prov-uh-nuhns, -nahns] –noun; place or source of origin.

Date of Purchase: Fall 2010

Circumstances: There was a large gap between desire and actually owning these shoes. A multitude of brands took a stab at the oxford in one iteration or another. I scouted several different options, purchased a few, returned them (you can read that full store here). The Ralph Lauren Collection Quinton Oxford appeared in my Twitter feed, mentioned by a gent actually. One click and I was smitten. The wingtip detail was perfect, as was the burnished cognac brown. The price, however, was not. I pursued less expensive pairs, occasionally sending photos to my friend F.E. Castleberry who continually preached holding out for the best quality pair possible. I hold that same belief, but I also explore all my options. I hunted the pair down at a local Ralph Lauren and slipped them on. As predicted, one foot in and I knew there was no going back. The difference in quality was obvious. Eventually, they were ordered and on the way, as was a set of monogrammed shoe trees. Purchase the best quality you can, and then take the best care possible. I plan on handing these down one day.

Compliment Meter: 4. Lots of attention, mostly curiosity from the boys, compliments from the girls. Quote of the day (from my boss), “You’re looking very Annie Hall today.” Shoe confidence level: High.

Comfort: As is normal, the leather is a bit stiff on first wear. Over time they will wear in nicely and are still very comfortable. Overall: 9 out of 10.

Worn with: Navy and cream shirt dress, brown leather belt, pearls, Randolph Engineering aviators, vintage Coach bag.

Thoughts: “Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury.” ~Coco Chanel


Guest Post: A Bloke and his Brogues

February 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

It’s been a while since Pair Diem has been graced with a guest post and I’m more than pleased that the latest pair come from  F. E. over at Unabashedly Prep. (If you’re not a regular reader, well, you should be) Read his story and vote your thoughts on his vintage brogues. Proud of a pair of your own? Send over to and see if they make the grade.

vintage brogues



[prov-uh-nuhns, -nahns] –noun; place or source of origin.

Date of Purchase: Fall 2009

Circumstances: Double monk straps by the likes of Ralph Lauren or Sid Mashburn are on my get list. While I scrimp and save, I decided to pick up these broken-in Cole Haan brogues on eBay to tide me over—and for $20 (including shipping), there was practically no downside.

Compliment Meter: A compliment from a woman is easy to come by; however, a compliment from a fellow man is infrequent.  These brogues garner even male compliments when I lace up.  I can conquer the world in these all while not losing sleep over a scuff or two.

Comfort: Though these are sans Nike Air technology, they are still comfortable. Honestly, comfort is a bit of an afterthought when you’ve purchased used brogues to kick around in at a Vampire Weekend show and drip your Guinness on.

 Worn with: Ralph Lauren selvedge denim (no break) and no socks (ie invisible socks).

 Thoughts: Going Brogue Not Broke  (on

Brogues Abound

February 3, 2010 § 6 Comments

I previously posted my relatively new affinity for brogues, the menswear-inspired oxfords seen practically everywhere. I originally had my heart set on a pair from Church’s, gorgeous leather, handmade in England, the whole nine. Then I found out about another British outfitter, Selve, offering custom brogues, with occasional fittings in the states. (You can see the fabulous pair style blogger Liberty London Girl bought here) I mean, really, it doesn’t get much more perfect than a custom shoe, designed by the wearer? Well it does if said custom shoe is actually affordable. Unfortunately, it is not. As my desire for brogues has not, and honestly, will not abate, I’m still moderately stalking a Ralph Lauren pair and continue to scour Yoox, finding a few tempting pairs but nothing that has prompted me to pull the trigger. I am a persistent but thoroughly patient shopper.

J.Crew's latest brogue offering


Then, I received the latest spring J. Crew catalog and a new pair hit the radar: the Camden leather brogues.  I will have to inspect them in person, naturally, as the sole, roundness of the toe and the height of the vamp are extremely important when it comes to oxfords. If the toe is too pointed, the vamp too low and the sole too dainty it becomes more of a jazz shoe. I lean more towards the rounded almond toe and construction of a true mens oxford; classic and a bit tomboyish. On the model, deftly styled with shorts and skirts, they become more tempting. Offered with wingtip details in waxed napa and nubuck in black, nutmeg and a neutral called light ginger, they’re begging for a closer look. Count on a report soon.

Thoughts: “A woman carries her clothes, but it’s a shoe that carries a woman.” ~Christian Louboutin

Joining The All Boys Club

November 10, 2009 § 4 Comments

Women have long been borrowing from the boys for fresh additions to the closet and truth be told, we often look better in their clothing anyways. On the screen in Bonnie and Clyde, Annie Hall, and on the frames of Diane Keaton, Lauren Bacall, and Kate Hepburn for example. These and other glamorous style icons have adapted mens blazers, trousers, hats and neckwear in a decidedly relaxed feminine way that reads, ‘I nonchalantly threw this on…and that’s precisely why I look so stunning.’

I am a fan of menswear-inspired oxfords and blazers. Fitted, of course. Maybe wearing nothing but button-down shirts with a blazer and plaid skirt for 10 years cemented them into my style psyche. Bottom line: everyone looks good in a blazer. Everyone. The uniform-wearing days might also explain my recently resurgent fascination with mens oxford shoes. I love the black and white saddle shoes that the local prep schools require their girls to wear and I have a severe soft spot for suede bucks; so very preppy, so very east coast. I owned not only bucks back in school, but also a pair of black monk-strap loafers, during the 90’s…a little Winona Ryder in Reality Bites with her heavy wingtip oxfords and floral feminine dresses. I never desired to go as far as looking manly, or even androgynous, but loved toughening up my naturally girlie tendencies with more structured pieces.


Church's traditional brogues

My latest shoe craving is in the form of these menswear shoes, traditional brogues: a heavy shoe of untanned leather, born in Scotland and Ireland, usually possessing perforations and wing tips. The best known and best made brogues hail from the British Isles, arguably from Church’s. Each Church’s pair is hand made and has been since 1873, and brogues are their specialty. They’re on my desires list. See also Cole, Rood & Haan’s brilliant offerings.

Oxfords graced last year’s runways and the menswear trend is bearing heavily on fall/winter this year as well. For gents these are an easy, classic, can do no wrong shoe in my book, particularly with dark, clean denim. For the ladies, I think they’re the perfect complement to skinny jeans and loose knits, tights and sweater dresses, bare legs and shorts. There are many iterations: two tone, heeled, flat, smooth, wingtip. I’m craving a light tan, wingtip cognac pair. Not as severe as black, the lighter brown blends into the skin, elongates the leg, and it looks great with navy, my favorite color. (Am I too grown up to have a favorite color?)


Images via Gant, Anthropologie, J. Crew, the Sartorialist, Net-a-Porter

Go get a pair. Tell me how you’ve worn them. Maybe take a picture or two.

For a few more pairs, visit here:

Steve Madden ‘Melin’, Steve Madden ‘Tuxxedo’, J.Crew ‘Elsbeth Oxford’, Cole, Rood & Haan (multiple styles)

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