The Product Review: Banana Republic Ryan Monk Strap Shoe

This pair of shoes is about as on-trend as it gets at the moment.
Going in-person with a recent purchase.

In men’s style right now, there’s perhaps no shoe more on-trend (and yet more ubiquitous) than the double monk strap. The trend has been building for quite some time, and it now seems these shoes are just about everywhere, especially on well-dressed guys across New York City. And rather surprisingly, it’s one men’s style trend that doesn’t seem to be disappearing — but with good reason. The great thing about a monk strap shoe is that, particularly in the summer, they’re the perfect combination of sleek, sharp looks and casual ease, especially in suede. The elongated profile and unique style (no laces, just buckles) of the monk strap makes them eye-catching enough to wear with dress trousers, and perfectly acceptable to pair with jeans. And as far as casual material goes, suede certainly hits the sweet spot in warm weather. Although more expensive pairs are on the market, it’s tough to go wrong with the Ryan Monk Strap from Banana Republic.

Banana Republic's Ryan Monk Strap in brown suede.
Banana Republic’s Ryan Monk Strap in brown suede.

For about one-fifth of the J. Crew pair as linked to above, you get a sharp, sleek shoe in suede (say that five times fast) that’ll work equally well with chinos or jeans. If you snag them on sale, the price could even dip below $100. The profile hits the sweet spot, as you can see in the photos — nice and elongated, but not a chisel toe by any means. The suede itself is a nice, warm tan color, and it works nicely compared to the sole (which doesn’t have the pop of color that these Nordstrom suede monks have). Although that lack of a standout colored sole gives it less of a ‘summertime’ vibe, it makes this pair all the more versatile.

The relatively sleek profile of this pair makes them easy to dress up or down.
The relatively sleek profile of this pair makes them easy to dress up or down.

Personally, the shoes have been quite comfortable even when going sockless. They wear well, and make it relatively easy to walk longer distances. They haven’t looked out of place underneath some slim Levi’s jeans, and they look just as sharp with a pair of navy chinos. The suede also lends itself to experimentation — if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could give them a spin with a pair of colored shorts and a polo shirt, for example. A captoe on the Ryan monk strap visually breaks up the shoe and gives it some more contrast, always a nice touch. The sole looks to be glued as opposed to welted, but there’s cream-colored contrast stitching  (for looks only) running along the sole.

The biggest key to getting the most out of these shoes is caring for them the right way. Since they’re suede, that’ll mean spraying them with a good suede protector, while also using a suede brush and eraser kit. A couple of extra minutes after wearing them for a while, and you’ll have yourself a pair of shoes that can stand up to just about anything. An early review of this shoe certainly comes out positive — given the relative quality behind the Banana Republic name, it’s tough to say no to dipping your toes into this trend at the right price.

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The Product Review: The Uniqlo x Michael Bastian Polo

Ernest Alexander

A washed cotton polo from the Uniqlo x Michael Bastian collection. Jeans by J. Crew (484 fit). Belt by Merona. Desert boots by Clarks. Sunglasses by Tom Ford.
A washed cotton polo from the Uniqlo x Michael Bastian collection. Jeans by J. Crew (484 fit). Belt by Merona. Desert boots by Clarks. Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

Editor’s note: For a review of the 2015 edition of this polo, click here. And for details on the breaking news launch of the line, check out this story

As spring gets closer to summer (on the calendar, at least), certain style items should definitely move to the front of your closet — namely, the classic polo shirt. Short-sleeve shirts, as well as polos, are style essentials for the warmer months and as long as the fit is kept trim through the body and sleeves, the right short-sleeve shirt can go many different places. What’s so great about the modern polo is the variety of unique takes on the classic style  —and that’s what the latest collaboration between Michael Bastian and Uniqlo does so well. This year’s edition of the collaboration has been out for some time now, but it’s definitely still worth looking into. Last year’s collection between the famed American designer and the fast-fashion outlet was an instant hit, selling out seemingly faster than the shelves could be stocked (at least in an online sense). In glancing through the site at various times last year, several styles were sold out completely for days at a time.

From inside the Broadway Avenue Uniqlo store.
From inside the Broadway Avenue Uniqlo store.

Some of the buzz seems to have died down a bit judging from the amount of styles and sizes left in some varieties within this year’s collection, but all the hallmarks of good design remain. There’s a wide mix of colors, including some with thick rugby stripes and open collars (reminiscent of a soccer jersey), and other polos with small prints and plaids. On a recent trip to a Uniqlo store in NYC, the shelves were positively stocked with these polos, nearly all of them marked down to under $23. For the fit and quality, that’s an outstanding price. Perhaps the most eye-catching in this collection are the polos with miniature animal print designs on them. While some are against such a trendy look, they hit the personal sweet spot in terms of a shirt with just enough personality.

The two printed polos in the personal collection have a longer four-button placket and a fairly substantial collar that stands up well on its own for most of the day. A small, button-triangle opening at each of the sleeves near the bicep is a nice added detail. And of course, the prints themselves are quite entertaining. Grey with white raccoon print? Sure. White with navy blue elephants? You bet. They bring just enough interest without being overly distracting — something that’s helped in no small part by the largely neutral colors used in each design.

One of the printed polos from the collection. Black jeans by American Apparel. Desert boots by Clarks. Watch by Stuhrling. Sunglasses by Tom Ford.
One of the printed polos from the collection. Black jeans by American Apparel. Desert boots by Clarks. Watch by Stuhrling. Sunglasses by Tom Ford.

Those neutral colors make them easy to pair with just about anything, from dark tan or brown chinos (or even black denim, as pictured) to a more colorful, complementary pair of shorts. Since the polo brings some pop with the print, it’s best to keep the shoes (and pants) minimal-looking. However, you can liven up your accessories a touch with a patterned watch strap in a complementary color without going too overboard.

Additionally, the fit of the shirts is spot-on; a medium is just trim enough without being too tight. And for being made out of pique material, the fabric is fairly breathable and stretchy — not too suffocating, like other pique-type materials (the materials listing puts it at 100% cotton). And on top of the other perks, the collection is extensive enough that if you’re in the market for a less flashy polo, there are plenty of more subdued options with just enough detailing (including this white option with two front-button pockets, as pictured at the top).

For now, the polos are on-sale through Uniqlo for at 2 for $29.90 — with a deal that great, a huge variety of options and styles, and a nice, modern fit, these polos are worth every penny.

Ben Sherman US