Style Pick of the Week: GREATS Brand Royale Court

Editor’s note: Expect these posts weekly detailing one standout item coveted by yours truly. Sometimes, these fit within budgetary restrictions and other times, they’re expensive splurges worth saving for. For more Wish List items from Beau, head here, and to see other Style Picks, head here.

An updated take on the classic high-top.

An updated take on the classic high-top.

If the brand name above looks a little familiar, that’s understandable. GREATS is a brand that has been featured numerous times here on The Style Guide, and with great reason, as it were. The Brooklyn-based brand is doing things the right way, making high-quality sneakers in a variety of silhouettes at affordable prices. The fact that premium materials and construction to rival that of dress shoes are incorporated into each pair is a definite bonus, too. And the product offering seems to grow each week, as the relatively new GREATS Royale Court release can attest. It joins a lineup that includes the lux Leather Wooster Slip-on and low-profile offerings like the Wilson and the Rosen. Thankfully, there’s really no better time to rock a high-top sneaker than the fall — the cooler temperatures and crisp breezes necessitate footwear that’s functional and stylish, but not as rugged as winter boots.

The Royale Court is also available in a crisp Honey Wheat color, also ideal for fall.

The Royale Court is also available in a crisp Honey Wheat color, also ideal for fall.

And the Royale Court gets a lot of the details you should look for in a high-top sneaker. That means shying away from athletic sneakers and other kicks you might rock at the gym, and instead looking for something exactly like this GREATS pair. They’re retro without going too over the top, and the matte Graphite color (one of four shades, including a nice red Plum)) helps keep things toned down, although the Honey Wheat offering plays off one of the bigger fall color trends, camel. This pair is pricier than a pair of classic Vans or any of a number of essential sneakers you should own, but you definitely get great quality based on my past experiences with the brand. This particular pair is fully lined in veg tan calf skin and features a premium leather upper, too. In the right color, they’re a set of kicks you could rock with some streamlined dark denim and a herringbone blazer for a high-low Casual Friday — and yet, they’d work just as well with some cargo trousers and a rugged henley. And in that neutral color above and with those quality materials, they’re a pair you should feel free to try out anytime, anywhere.

Would you purchase these high-top sneakers? How would you style them?
Ernest Alexander

Ben Sherman US

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Online Shopping Picks: Stylish Men’s Dress Shoes

A shoe for every possibility. Don't worry -- the shoes on this list aren't that expensive

A shoe for every possibility. Don’t worry — the shoes on this list aren’t that expensive

Editor’s note: For more online shopping picks covering everything from great brands, gift guides and the best warm-weather blazers and shorts, head here.

As I was preparing this post, I got a question from a reader on the very topic about to be addressed below — what’s a great, versatile (second) set of shoes fit for a business casual environment and beyond? Well, that answer’s coming shortly. Meeting the needs of your everyday life while also having a sharp pair on-hand for seasonal occasions, like holidays or weddings, is part of building and maintaining a well-curated closet (although I doubt many of us have space like the above photo!). So with that in mind, I’ve pulled together some picks below that cover both specific occurrences as well as versatile three and four-season picks with a budget in mind. Let me know your thoughts and reach out with any questions via the Contact page!

The Versatile, Everyday Dress/Casual Shoe: Florsheim Jet Chukka, $135

Take your pick of black or brown, and wear 'em with jeans, chinos or a suit.

Take your pick of black or brown, and wear ’em with jeans, chinos or a suit.

If you already have an affordable dress shoe that can stand in for everyday wear (like the second option on this list), upgrading to something a bit unconventional is certainly one way to go. The Florsheim Jet Chukka has a sleek toe shape, sharp three-eye chukka boot construction and the ability to be worn both with slim chinos, dress trousers or jeans. This style can even be worn with a suit — just ask James Bond. The price is pretty agreeable for an offering from a respected brand, although on the regular dress shoe front, the Mercanti Fiorentini Wingtip Oxford would also be an exceptionally wearable upgrade for just about $15 more. Don’t sleep on something like the Aston Grey Captoe, either, and a slick Chelsea boot would be an alternative style option to look into as well.

The Budget Dress/Casual Option:  JC Penney Stafford Logan Wingtip, $49.99

Fit for weddings, office wear and casual Fridays.

Fit for weddings, office wear and casual Fridays.

This particular style has made a few appearances on this blog, notably in last fall’s budget style series. It’s received surprisingly solid reviews, similar to the much-loved Stafford Wingtip Boot of old. The quality isn’t anywhere near as strong as the Mercanti Fiorientini Oxford discussed above, but in a pinch, it should provide reliable style for the price. The color, while a little bolder than a more versatile dark brown, should work with everything from lightwash jeans to chinos. It’s also available in Black for that same low, low price — and considering these shoes normally retail for almost twice the current price, it could be wise to pick up a pair now.

Nunn Bush

The Upgraded Dress/Casual Option: Jack Erwin Adam Wingtip Oxford, $195

It doesn't get much more classic than a dark brown wingtip at a more premium price.

It doesn’t get much more classic than a dark brown wingtip at a more premium price.

So let’s say you’re in a unique spot — you can’t quite afford a pair of dress shoes from Allen Edmonds (more on those below) but you want a better-quality pair than the ones listed above. Where do you go? Jack Erwin has you covered. Produced in Spain and designed in New York City, the Adam Wingtip Oxford checks every box you might be looking to fill when hunting for a versatile, affordable shoe. The not-too-dark, not-too-light chestnut brown color, a full-grain calfskin leather upper and a pleasing toe shape allow for wear with everything from a suit to denim and a T-shirt if you’re feeling a bit more bold. The same style is also available in a very continental dark brown suede.

The Casual Three-Season ‘Dress’ Shoe: J. Crew Factory Calvert Suede Oxfords, 98

Dark tan suede + a rubber sole = an Oxford that wears like a desert boot.

Dark tan suede + a rubber sole = an Oxford that wears like a desert boot.

Suede is one material that, much like fine leather, fits in just as well during spring & summer as it does during fall. In fact, other than a pair of crisp leather loafers, there might not be a dress shoe more geared toward warm weather than a suede Oxford, like the Calvert from J. Crew Factory. While this pair leans much more casual thanks to a rubber sole, that also makes it a little more versatile. This shoe should wear and feel more like a suede desert boot, making it the perfect lightweight match for a light blue cotton suit and an outdoor wedding, or a pair of lightwash jeans and a short-sleeve henley. Wait for a sale and  they could dip below $70. The Kenton Suede Bucks from J. Crew provide similar summer style for about $100 more.

The ‘Serious Investment’ Dress Shoe: Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenue Captoe Oxfords, $385

American-made. Suit-ready. Five color options available.

American-made. Suit-ready. Five color options available.

By far the dressiest and priciest of the bunch, the Fifth Avenue Captoe Oxford is legendary in the premium footwear market for its made-in-America quality and sharp looks. While the brand has something for everybody, (including equally pricey wingtips), this captoe model has been around for decades and continues to hold its own. Considering the price of this shoe, it can and should be worn in as many ways as possible. The captoe is dressier than a plain old wingtip, but with a pair of slim cuffed denim and an unconstructed blazer, it wouldn’t look too out of place. Picking  up this pair in black would be conservative on the style spectrum, but if you own one pair of black dress shoes, make it these.

When sorting through the world of men’s dress footwear, there are bound to be brands left out. Banana Republic’s Digby Brogue gets an honorable mention nod, as does the absurdly expensive (yet lovely) Brown Plain Toe Blucher from Oak Street Bootmakers. Out of the above picks however, any option should be able to transition seamlessly from day to night, and from outfit to outfit.

Which of the above pairs is on your must-buy list? Are there any brands you would add? Let me know in the comments!

Need a sharp shirt or weekender bag to go along with your new dress shoes? Take advantage of the exclusive offer below from Ernest Alexander, now through July 31. Happy shopping!

$10 Off a purchase of $100 or more; Free Shipping on orders over $200 at Ernest Alexander Enter promo code: STYLEGUIDE10 at checkout. Valid 06-12-2015 through 07-31-2015

Ernest Alexander

Ben Sherman US

The Product Review: GREATS Brand Rosen Sneakers

The GREATS Rosen Runner — a perfect casual sneaker for high-low wear. Short-sleeve mini-check shirt by H&M. Khaki chinos by Frank & Oak. Silver dive watch by Invicta. Glasses by Warby Parker.

The GREATS Rosen Runner — a perfect casual sneaker for high-low wear. Short-sleeve mini-check shirt by H&M. Khaki chinos by Frank & Oak. Silver dive watch by Invicta. Glasses by Warby Parker.

In recent years, as high-low dressing has exploded and really gained more traction — think much more stylish iterations of the everday blazer-and-jeans combo, to start — sneaker options for guys have also really exploded as well. While there have always been classic options like Converse Jack Purcells, certain sneaker silhouettes have definitely swung back in style — especially the runner-style sneaker (see Exhibit A here). These types of sneakers mesh perfectly with everything from joggers (yes, joggers can work when worn casually) and a tee to chinos and a buttondown (asyou can see here). One of the more recent sneaker offerings from GREATS out of Brooklyn is cut from that same versatile cloth.

Getting out and about in Brooklyn with a versatile, casual shoe.

Getting out and about in Brooklyn with a versatile, casual shoe. Photo credit: Liz Tod.

GREATS has been featured on this site a few times already, but the quality of the last pair of sneakers I picked up was simply too good to pass up the chance at another pair. The Rosen Runner dropped in about mid-February to rather mixed reviews (if you follow Hypebeast comments, that is) but I snagged my pair in Cadet (a nice navy color) about a month back from the brand’s small Field House shop near Williamsburg in Brooklyn. The sneaker takes its styling cues from classic American runners and tips its cap to legendary track coach Al Rosen, born in Brooklyn himself. It’s also available in a nice deep Olive and a cream Nimbus color, but navy was my pick.

The combination of nylon and suede is surprisingly durable. Khaki chinos by Frank & Oak.

The combination of nylon and suede is surprisingly durable. Khaki chinos by Frank & Oak.

The sneaker brings to mind other kicks with the same silhouette, namely virtually any one of the pairs in the New Balance for J. Crew collaboration, although the shape of this shoe seems a bit trimmer.  Design inspiration aside, these shoes look great, fit extremely well and provide tons of comfort — perhaps even moreso than the previous pair of GREATS sneakers in my closet. That comfort proved necessary during a long walk through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and an evening spent exploring Park Slope on foot, too. More importantly, they’ve paired perfectly on a few different outings with the khaki chinos seen here, as well as a Rust V-neck tee (from my pals at Pistol Lake) and a denim jacket for a casual lunch.These sneakers would work just fine with longer, patterned socks, but no-show socks fit just fine.

These sneakers would work just fine with longer, patterned socks, but no-show socks fit just fine.

As far as comfort, these shoes feel springy and surprisingly durable to move around in. The Vibram outsole and EVA midsole provide a very nice amount of cushion — this definitely doesn’t wear like a normal pair of canvas sneakers.  While they could also be worn with longer patterned socks (like with this look), they were comfortable with some no-show socks, too. The bottom tread isn’t just for looks, as it’s grippy and adds to that springy feeling. And while I was initially wary of the combination of suede and nylon, the nylon stood up to a slight ice cream spill (the horror!) and cleaned up just fine, while the suede portions of the shoe have good color and a decent (not necessarily cheap) feel.

Subtle branding on the back heel.

Subtle branding on the back heel.

The minimalism of these shoes and the lack of a logo on the side (in contrast to their New Balance counterparts) is a definite benefit — I’ve found them to be highly versatile because of that. There’s only a very small “G” emblazoned on the suede top of the tongue, and a lightly stamped “GREATS” arch logo across the suede on the back heel.  While it’ll be interesting to see how the suede holds up with repeated wear, I’m not worried about the durability of the nylon or the construction of these shoes — they certainly don’t feel like a pair of sneakers you can pick up for less than $50. For the price, they’re an outstanding deal — maybe the best on the market right now.

What’s your experience been like with GREATS? How would you style this particular pair?

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Style Suggestion: Suede Chelsea Boots

While there’s nothing wrong with a great pair of lace-up boots, there’s something inherently sleek and stylish about the Chelsea boot. It’s a silhouette that’s garnered a lot of attention across the past year or so in the men’s style arena, and it’s also unique in the fact that it’s a classic style, too. First pioneered in the mainstream style arena by, among others, The Beatles and now worn by current British rockers, they’re an on-trend, continental style with staying power.

Suede Chelsea boots on display in SoHo. Overcoat: Kenneth Cole. Scarf: J. Crew Factory. Gloves: Target Merona. Jeans: Bonobos. Boots: ASOS. Photo credit: Liz Todd

Suede Chelsea boots on display in SoHo. Overcoat: Kenneth Cole. Scarf: J. Crew Factory. Gloves: Target Merona. Jeans: Bonobos. Boots: ASOS. Photo credit: Liz Todd

While Chelsea boots can be incorporated into all kinds of outfits across the seasons (including suggestion #3 in this outfit post), perhaps the best time to wear them is the fall and winter, when temperatures dip. Take a page out of David Beckham’s book and rock them in all different kinds of situations — even at a fashion collaboration launch party. The boot’s higher cut pairs well with sturdier, thicker pants fabrics — think slim flannel, corduroy or garment-dyed jeans. That’s not to say they wouldn’t also look right with a simple pair of dark denim (see the photos here). This particular pair of Chelsea boots was a Christmas gift from Santa, and a great one at that — especially given that sizes are now nearly cleared out through ASOS. However, the same site offers plenty of alternative options in both leather and suede, and H&M makes a particularly noteworthy Chelsea boot, as does Frank & Oak.

For the ultimate in dressy appeal, Frank & Oak's black leather version is sleek.

For the ultimate in dressy appeal, Frank & Oak’s black leather version is sleek.

These ASOS boots check all the boxes of an excellent pair — they have a higher cut, making them ideal for fall and winter treks, and they tie in another cold-weather element, too: the use of suede. The rich tan suede color is extremely versatile, as it contrasts nicely with everything from dark blue denim to navy or olive chinos or charcoal trousers (note that any of those pants would be a terrific purchase even without a pair of Chelsea boots in your closet). And the dark tan color fits in with the equally dark colors of fall and winter (in colder regions of the country, at least), while also standing out in the right way — as you can (hopefully!) see in some of these photos. It’s also worth noting that dark tan suede pairs just as easily with brown or black accessories in terms of your belt color or watch strap — that’s two for the price of one!

Noting the time on an Invicta Pro Diver watch. Not pictured in this casual outfit — Navy crewneck sweater (J. Crew), Pocket T-shirt (American Apparel).

Noting the time on an Invicta Pro Diver watch. Not pictured in this casual outfit — Navy crewneck sweater (J. Crew), Pocket T-shirt (American Apparel).

In this instance, I kept the outfit relatively simple — slim blue denim, a charcoal overcoat (now out of stock but a tremendous value on-sale) and a navy crewneck sweater over a charcoal pocket T-shirt. Of course, winter accessories were also key to have on-hand (while that scarf is out of stock, a similar option can be found here, while those Target gloves were a steal on-sale). And the great thing is that although this is a casual outfit, these Chelsea boots would look just as sharp with some heavier, winter-weight suiting or even the charcoal trousers as linked above, along with a V-neck sweater and chambray shirt.

Have you considered picking up a pair of Chelsea boots? What brand would you recommend? Let me know! 

Online Shopping Picks: New Footwear from Frank & Oak

The Canadian menswear brand expands its offerings.

The Canadian menswear brand expands its offerings.

Editor’s note: Normally, brand or site round-ups haven’t been covered here on the site. However, sometimes seasonally appropriate or standout items just jump off the page. These choices don’t reflect sales picks at the moment, but simply offer a snapshot of great products from a (hopefully) affordable brand.

If you follow men’s style regularly, you’re at least a little bit familiar with Canadian menswear brand Frank & Oak. The brand has blown up in recent years for its stellar mix of affordable, e-commerce-based menswear that manages to mix both vintage and of-the-moment elements. They recently opened a flagship store in Toronto, have curated a neat community space in Montreal, and they continue to make some serious headway outfitting men from head to toe with some newly-launched shoe styles in addition to their slick sneaker collection.  They’ve ventured into footwear in the past, but this seems to be the most comprehensive launch yet. Their monthly releases are always a personal favorite, and they’re now making it quite hard to shop anywhere else. Check out top picks from some of their footwear offerings below — always handy to get some gift ideas in mind as the holidays approach, either for yourself or someone else stylish on your list!

#1. Rubbed Soled Italian Leather Lace-Up Boots in Cognac — $225

Style that mimics the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot at a much more affordable price.

Style that mimics the Wolverine 1000 Mile boot at a much more affordable price.

With all of the attention workwear and the resulting Americana craze has gotten in recent years, these boots build off the rugged style that so many seem to crave nowadays. They look to be a more affordable, slightly sleeker alternative to something from the Wolverine 1000 Mile collection, and that combination of looks and low pricing really can’t be beat. These would pair excellently with some trim chinos (perhaps in a fall-appropriate shade?) and a thick cardigan, and they’d also stand out underneath a classic pair of dark denim or slim corduroys.  Be warned: sizes are already going fast.

#2. Italian Leather Chukka Boots in Brown — $185

One of the more versatile pieces of footwear a guy can own.

One of the more versatile pieces of footwear a guy can own.

A solid pair of brown chukka boots is an incredibly versatile and stylish piece of footwear that can be worn plenty of different ways. This pair looks to be much the same as other chukka boots in terms of versatility, yet leans slightly more casual given the crepe sole. It’s got just enough sheen to dress up a bit. And the casual crepe sole doesn’t automatically mean these shoes would look out of place underneath a pair of patterned trousers or with a fall-weight suit. In fact, these boots would probably look all the better with either combo after getting beaten up a bit. The price is a bit much compared to other chukka boots, but the quality should hopefully be up to scratch. If shades of brown aren’t necessarily your thing (and let’s be honest, everyone needs a pair of black dress shoes), these should do the trick.

#3. Polished Leather Chelsea Boots in Black 

A sharp, fall-ready piece of footwear.

A sharp, fall-ready piece of footwear.

Although these slick boots are part of the brand’s Holiday Collection launched last week, they’re still worth mentioning in this round-up. Namely, they’re a more refined, less rugged and slightly trendier take on the boots pictured above — these are more suit-ready than the other footwear picks listed here, without a doubt. Chelsea boots are continuing to have a moment as far as footwear goes, and for good reason — they’re a great callback to ’60s-era style and fit perfectly under slim suits. The construction also fits well with fall and winter. This pair, like the rest of the brand’s footwear offerings, is far more affordably priced than other alternatives as well.

#4. Park Leather Low-Top Sneakers in White 

Common Projects style for a much smaller price tag.

Common Projects style for a much smaller price tag.

These aren’t part of their newest footwear release, but the importance of a clean, crisp pair of white sneakers can’t be emphasized enough — especially in the spring and summer, they can pair with everything from olive chinos to dark jeans and colorful shorts. They provide the footwear equivalent of a neutral base, just like a pair of navy or khaki chinos. While this might not necessarily be the season for them, given the right temperature and climate, white sneakers can do a lot fashion-wise, from pairing with jeans and a blue blazer to dressing down some suit separates. For more calendar-appropriate leather sneakers, these navy-and-blue hightops look stellar, too. As far as the white sneaker goes, Common Projects first pioneered the style, but this F&O pair provides the same look for far, far less.

Anybody have any experience with F&O footwear? Any thoughts? Leave it below and thanks for reading! 

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.