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The great thing about personal style is that it’s always changing and developing, shifting according to your tastes, your lifestyle and current trends in the marketplace. This has been no more true than for yours truly across the past few weeks – namely, in my footwear preferences. I love a great pair of boots, and I certainly love sporty sneakers, too. But in the midst of that, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to black footwear – be it side zip or moc toe boots or, in the case of this post, black sneakers.
Perhaps it’s NYC starting to rub off on me, but there’s something quite crisp and sleek about black footwear – and it’s a trend that’s been coming back in a big way in recent years. Witness Bond himself rocking several pairs of expensive and sleek black footwear in the latest franchise installment. And in turn, this has brought me to another style crossroads –wearing and styling black chukka sneakers (not as fancy as what 007 wears, admittedly). There’s an unexpected brand that’s doing a nice, comfortable take on the sneaker, and it’s one you should consider when you fill up your shopping cart next time.
Now before a few weeks ago, I wasn’t familiar with Reef as either a surfwear brand or an apparel brand, period. But when I got the chance to check out a pair of the brand’s sneakers thanks to the brand’s great PR team, I took the opportunity to dive in headfirst. And like the brand’s apparel (particularly a new workshirt from a collaboration with Lee Jeans), I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quality, comfort and durability of these particular sneakers – the Outhaul Lux in Black, to be specific. It’s a style that’s been a remarkably hot seller from the brand’s fall line, too – Amazon does have a better range of sizes available as of post time, though.
I definitely love a great pair of sneakers, especially from a brand like Brooklyn’s own GREATS, but now there’s some competition in my closet. Reef has been known more in the past for its surf-focused offerings, but they’ve certainly done a nice job with these sneakers. I’ve worn them to work with a plaid shirt and grey crewneck sweater, and I’ve also thrown them on to do quite a bit of exploring across travels to Grand Rapids and Washington, D.C. these past two weeks. Thankfully, they’ve been up to the challenge.
Crucially for sneakers, the first noticeable thing about these guys is the comfort level – the outsole features solid traction, something tough to get in a black leather sneaker on occasion, and the injected molded insole adds another layer of cushion and durability. For being a chukka sneaker, they’re quite light – that’s another positive that’s made these a solid choice for lots of walking.
The premium full-grain leather upper makes for a pretty slick look and decent styling potential, too. As you can see from these photos, I opted to style them in two casual, rugged get-ups – notice my love of grey workshirts and henleys, namely. So they’ve been a very solid casual sneaker. Granted, they’re not as dressy or quite as versatile as a shiny black leather sneaker, but the monochrome color still makes them quite sharp. The nubuck leather is of good quality, too – it hasn’t shown that much wear and tear or creasing, a factor that’ll allow them to be worn in more high-low situations (think a navy blazer and slim khaki chinos plus these sneakers).
However, just as they’re not as dressy as a black leather sneaker, the slightly rounded toe makes them less sleek – and thus less versatile. But, they’re definitely still able to function as a business-casual sneaker, albeit in a bit more unique fashion. The chukka-style cut is a nice change of pace from lower-cut sneakers. Those types of kicks definitely have their place in spring and summer, but a chukka sneaker screams fall style to me – perhaps it’s the shifting weather or the switch back to higher-cut boots as the temps drop and leaves fall, but a chukka sneaker is a lighter way to convey a similar style. The padded ankle makes these more comfortable than boots, too (as it should be with sneakers!). Plus, the higher cut aligns well with slimmer pants that have minimal break, creating a nice silhouette. And again, that sleek black color is probably best to wear casually at first — rotate them in as you might a pair of suede chukkas, or regular low-cut sneakers, and more styling options will definitely start to open up.
The one thing some might not like about these sneakers is the diagonal detailing stitched onto the side of the sneakers. It’s an almost tribal-like pattern but as it’s done up in black stitching, it doesn’t detract from the sneaker too much for me. Elsewhere on the shoe, waxed laces that have some nice stretch are a welcome touch.
The price on these is pretty solid, too – at $95, it’s always refreshing to see a good sneaker sold for under $100. GREATS and more classic sneaker brands like Vans might have them beat price-wise, but for a company known for its surfwear offerings, this is a solid sneaker effort that’ll continue to get good wear through fall and into the early part of winter.
Have you picked up sneakers from Reef? What’s your take on the black chukka sneaker in general?