There’s something akin to bliss when I slip into a phenomenal pair of shoes. The way the foot is embraced by a snug, but not tight, grasp of enfolding Italian leather. Toes happy in the proper wiggle room of the toe box, make you dream of tap-dancing up the wall, across the ceiling and out the window into the radiant beam of a Brooklyn full moon. This is how unapologetically pleased I am, slipping into a favored pair of chukkas by designers Christian Kimber and Antonio K. Ciongoli. The designers brief but brilliant collaboration which lasted three seasons, produced some of the finest treads in the men’s sportswear and footwear department. The pair I’m very much in love with, are the hue of fresh grasshopper, softly Green suede, with a tender, furry nap, like velvet. Accented by British waxed canvas piping shoelaces and the definitely kinetic commando sole in Black.
Suede is an incredibly robust material suitable for all seasons and, I enjoy wearing it year round. Once smitten, you may never look at your conventional shiny leather footwear with the same eyes. And though it doesn’t wear or scuff easily, these you just don’t kick off into the tumble of shoes on the floor of your closet. Just a gentle brushing up of the suede nap with a baby hair brush will do the trick. And, these puppies do require a proper shoe tree. Try Christian’s own.
Every new shoe has its own special character: its true beauty will not appear to its best advantage unless it is worn with appropriate clothing and on appropriate occasions.
Suede shoes make anything worn with them appear nonchalantly stylish; once shod in these beauties, smitten by the suede’s beautiful buff to a fine nap, aficionados only reluctantly return to the usual hard shine shoe world. The suede shoe in brown shows up well in every season, contrasting warmly against lightly hued spring colors, like crocuses peering over rich brown loam. And soft and comforting, a natural refinement accompanying winter-weight wools, worsted and flannels, for the freezing zones.
The suede shoe quite possibly made its American debut at the 1924 Meadowbrook Country Club in Long Island New York. There was a Polo match, naturally international in scope, hosted there. The invitees, crème de la crème of society’s crop all gathered. The Prince of Wales, the personification of English qualities, and a great source of inspiration, made the scene decked in a pair of brown buckskin suede casual lace-ups, another one of his unique sartorial pivots, under a double-breasted chalk-striped flannel suit with long rolled lapels, no doubt woven in his namesake pattern. The Man Who Would Be King’s avant-garde sense of style caused many waggish comments. On both shores of the Atlantic, there were those aghast and caustic. Some decried his choice as “a mark of great effeminacy”, others went as far as calling the footwear “brothel creepers.” Men of the era rejecting the Reverse Calf as suede was called, in favor of the traditional high polish smooth shoe leather, thinking the effect as breaching good taste, delicate and unmanly!
Haberdashers and other retailers of the time found them an awkward thing to sell. In that the hides usually came in natural shades of brown, clothier salesmen fussed about convincing their clientele on what they should wear with seemingly informal shoes. It seems the dandy won out. The social set, the style savvy, found them a refreshing, comfortable novelty. The next decade saw the novelty wear off and suede shoes found widespread acceptance with the masses, post-depression. Now came a plethora of shoe styles to accommodate the interest; cap-toes on town lasts-a predecessor to the wingtip Oxford preferred by businessmen, captains of industry, etc; rubber-soled Bluchers for motoring to the country and puttering about once there, and the ankle-high desert boot, now called the Chukka, which was originally designed with two eyelet laced and used for spectator sportswear.
Meanwhile the buckskin shoe had become such a favorite within the upper crust English club circles, that one respectable pair was all the well-dressed man needed in his wardrobe to consider his weekend dress complete. Here in America, the club set at Meadowbrook and Piping Rock adopted the informal look of a tweed hacking-jacket with Grey flannel trousers, nudging his argyle-socked feet into a favored pair and head off to motor through the North Fork with his lady-love by his side.
Chalk up the name Christian kimber. You’ll be hearing it again and for a long time to come. Footwear designer Christian Kimber, is a man of impeccable taste and timeless sense of style. He collects vintage ties (mostly knit ones), and is inspired, partly by way of dashing Hollywood legend Cary Grant, and also Italian style icon and billionaire Gianni Agnelli.
My hombre can engage in shoe talk until the cows come home. With years of experience, and a love for accessorizing, the footwear designer has amassed a superb and highly desirable wardrobe, in the world of male sartorial splendor. To say our neighbor from across the pond loves dressing up, would be the understatement of this millennium.
I met up briefly with the charming, slightly auburn haired designer in downtown Melbourne, to talk about the launch of his new footwear and men’s accessories line. Here’s the entrepreneur, sock less and swaggered out in a pair of custom made, double monk strap kickers.