KahnJunction: Sunday Shoes

A Shoe Guide for the Well Dressed Young Man

There comes a time in every young man’s life when he must don formal shoewear for the first time. Sure, he has worn formal shoes before, but only after they had been thrown his direction after mom has gotten him something nice to wear for his random cousin’s wedding. 

At this point in his life, he’s more than likely still comfortably sitting in fashion purgatory. However, his sense of style is beginning to mean something to him. He realizes that his shoes are an integral part of his style, especially at formal events. 

For that young man, (even if it’s you, the reader) I have written a guide that should help him begin this journey.

Oxfords,  Derbys, and  Brogues

Oxford, Derby, and Brogues as seen on Amazon.com

The bread and butter of your formal shoewear, these three shoes are approachable, laced, and formal. 

The primary distinction between the three of these are the laces: Oxford laces are “closed,” meaning that the gap between either side of the laces is quite short. Derby laces are “opened,” meaning there is a more significant gap between either side of the laces. Brogues on the other hand are not defined by their lacing, however. The calling card for the brogue lies in its stylized perforations, usually featured on the toe cap and around the seams of the fabric (though they sometimes appear elsewhere). 

Keep in mind that a brogue shoe can still be  an Oxford or a Derby, it simply depends on the positioning of the laces.   

Loafer

Loafers as seen on Amazon.com

It’s Saturday and your friend, Niles, invites you for an afternoon polo match. You arrive in your BMW (or other German vehicle that you think is the epitome of your social class). You barely win the match and return to your car to see  Niles revs his engine as he backs out of his parking spot, and zips onto the street (no turn signal, as is customary). For a brief moment you think about racing Niles, but you remember Father saying he wouldn’t bail you out again–you are on probation after all. You hang your head. 

Despondent, you look down at your feet, resting on the pedals. What kind of shoes are you wearing? Probably loafers. 

Loafers straddle the line between smart casual and semi-formal wear with grace; Loafers occupy the classier niche within the broader category of slip-on shoes. In fact, they are one of the few items on this list that makes socks completely optional, though I would at least recommend some  no-shows. While loafers may feature a buckle or some form of laces (docksiders), these are often purely cosmetic, and many will forgo them in favor of a lighter, simpler, shoe. Loafers may also feature tassels or an interesting leather fringe along the topside of the shoe. These are often referred to simply as “tassels” and “kilties,” respectively. 

Chukkas & Desert Boots

Chukka/Desert boots as seen on Amazon.com

Chukkas represent a man’s first tentative step into the transitional world between shoes and boots. 

After all, what is a chukka? Some people will tell you it is a boot, some people will tell you it is a shoe. I’m here to tell you that it really doesn’t matter–it has qualities of both. Unlike the lower cuts on the previous two items on the list, the chukka boot/shoe raises the quarter and topline to around the center of the medial malleolus. Traditionally, chukkas are made from suede, though leather chukkas are becoming more popular. Leather chukkas with a raised, rubber sole are simply referred to as desert boots. Desert boots also typically raise the topline and quarter to the midline or top of your ankle. Chukkas, like Chelsea boots and desert boots, are a mainstay in men’s rugged casual fashion. 

If you choose to get yourself a pair of suede chukkas, as with any nice shoe, make sure you research and figure out how to take care of the material–in this case suede. Not doing so could result in an expensive mistake. It is often better not to learn the hard way. 

Chelsea Boots

Chelsea boots as seen on Amazon.com

I’m just gonna say it–I think Chelsea boots are weird–and I love them. This boot rocks its way to the top of our list in terms of how high its cut is, as the topline usually ends right around the top of your ankle. The iconic feature of this boot is the elastic fiber gussets that run along either side of the quarter. This gusset allows for the boot to stretch in order for the wearer to get it on, but then allows the boot to return to its original shape. This simple design allows the boot to completely abandon the conventional need for laces and buckles. Chelsea boots nestle themselves nicely into the rugged casual niche, but their versatility can also find them as part of a streetwear or grunge ensemble; a more affordable substitute to a pair of Doc Martens.

These are the basic shoes with some basic rules. But remember, there are myriad styles within each category, and rules are made to be broken. Even though Oxfords are typically accompanied by dress socks and slacks, if you’re feeling a little experimental, why not pair them with shorts and some no-shows? If you’re tired of how your dark wash jeans look with your desert boots, why not pinroll the bottom hem for some lighter color? You should begin to view your shoes as another opportunity to accessorize and express yourself and not an obstacle that you have to get around. 

The most important thing is that, no matter what you decide to wear, you are confident in your look. Though this may not come easily at first, if you’re confident in your stylistic decisions, you’ll look sharp regardless of what you’re wearing on your feet.

Benjamin Kahn is a staff writer for the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction.

KahnJunction: Billie Eilish and Her Timeless Style

Billie Eilish attends the Oscar after party with her brother
Billie Eilish continues to amass fans and top performance charts while cultivating a unique style and persona.
Credit: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Some styles are captivating yet alien capturing an unusual spirit of, simply put, oddity. The beloved Billie Eilish possesses one of these styles. 

 At 18, Eilish has rested comfortably at the top of most charts since her first release in 2016, an achievement known to few performers, even those who are more seasoned.  

At the most recent Grammy Awards, she took home five awards:  Best Album, Best Song, Best New Artist, Best Record, and Best Pop Vocal Album. Not only is Eilish talented, but she is stunningly original in almost everything that she does: her performances, fashion, and persona. This newfound success makes a deep dive into her fashion more timely than ever. 

Eilish’s fashion could be described simply as avant-garde athleisure. This athleisure spans from  tracksuits and beanies to plus-size button-ups making her look a subtle nod to the most notable of her inspirations:  90s East Coast Hip-Hop However, Eilish dresses with a purpose explaining to Seventeen, 

Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘she’s slim-thick,’ ‘she’s not slim-thick,’ ‘she’s got a flat ass,’ ‘she’s got a fat ass.’ No one can say any of that because they don’t know.

Much of what Eilish wears is not what can be described as conventionally flattering. As she said in her interview with Seventeen, what she wears is often designed to conceal rather than accentuate her figure; what draws looks is not her figure, but the simple fact that her style is different than what almost anyone else in the public eye is wearing.

Often, attempts by an artist to breach their barriers in favor of more experimentation is received with scoff from fans and foes alike leading many to believe that they are “trying too hard”. At the 2020 GRAMMY awards, Billie Eilish could have walked out wearing just about anything, and we would have all just nodded our heads, and gone, “Yea, looks about right.” When she rolled up in a Gucci, layered black and neon green ensemble featuring a Gucci facemask, nobody familiar with Eilish’s unique style batted an eye. Her attempts at going against fashion norms are expected and generally well received. 

Billie Eilish, however, is uninterested in her look being exclusive, prompting her to launch “Blohsh” (Blōhsh), her latest clothing line (geared towards children and young adults). Items from t Blohsh’s catalog mirrors the Eilish look: baggy, bright, and bold. Her merchandise falls comfortably into t “edgy”, a category for the sacrificial lambs at the cruel altar of Spencer’s or Hot Topic. Nonetheless, it is  a cut above the typical carnage of teenage wastelands. 

What will set Eilish apart from the rest? Her genuine spirit and charisma colors her work and, often, her attire. This, aided by her strong sense of individualism, she will continue to navigate the razor thin line between edge and cringe. 

But, her merch is not for everyone though. Her merch is weird. Everything in her collection is like something out of a low-grade-fever-dream, in that something in the design, right up to the brand’s logo, is always just slightly off. You may not even recognize it at first, but there is always something odd about the various pieces in her collection. Whether it is a design that looks like it was sketched by a child dabbling in hallucinogens, or the neon color that will jump out at people from across the street, the merch appears to be designed to be somewhat uncanny. This unsettling quality permeates through Eilish’s music, videos, album art, performances, and now, her brand. 

As we approach a time when music feels less diverse than ever, an artist breaking against the grain is refreshing. For her critics who claim she has fallen victim to the   “not like other girls” trope, I hope and believe that she proves them wrong and stands the test of time. An entire industry and fans would be eternally grateful. 

Benjamin Kahn is a staff writer for the UB Post. He writes a weekly column, KahnJunction. 

My Fashion Makeover and Why Other Men Need One Too

Let’s be frank. Too many men lack a strong fashion sense and suffer floating through, “fashion purgatory”, a place where style rests between slightly wrinkled graphic tees and “okay”-smelling jeans. For years, this was home for me.Not much thought was given to my appearance and it showed. Like many men, I had come to believe that an interest in fashion was not for “real” men—that a sense of style somehow diminished my masculinity.

In high school, my buddy, Joe, piqued my interest in fashion. Early in high school, Joe began his departure from “fashion purgatory.” As our friendship blossomed, I followed suit and led my own exodus from purgatory and into thoughtful dressing.    

The preppy look became my go-to style. I began to experiment with different colors and patterns making an elaborate, highly personalized style.  I wanted to try it all from wingtips, chinos, Oxford shirts, pin rolled jeans, and sweaters (yes, even Cardigans)! Soon, this investment began yielding strong returns: I was more confident in myself and ability to interact with others.  

Others, however, didn’t understand who the better dressed version of myself. The newfound style placed a target upon me. 

For example, one day, I decided to show up to school wearing a pair of slacks, pink Oxford shirt, and a pressed gray Cardigan complimented by a selection from my color-assorted set of bow ties. Someone commenting on my attire referred to my Cardigan as a “grandpa sweater”. He had a point, but I promptly corrected him, “This is a cardigan.” Armed with a sense of fashion, I was not going to let some random high schooler belittle my style.

Left: Ben Kahn during his junior year at Severna Park High School (Photo Credit: Ben Kahn – UB Post)
Right: Ben Kahn at the UB Post office (Photo Credit: Leonard Robinson – UB Post)

Years later, both high school and bow ties (for the most part) are behind me and I continue to grow in terms of fashion and confidence. This is possible and necessary for everyone. 

Through my writings in the UB Post, I hope to share the importance of looking good (on a budget) to students further aiding them in achieving their goals while looking and feeling great. 

Ben Kahn is a contributing writer for the UB Post covering fashion.


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