|Reggie's new Alden slip-ons
sitting on a horse hair covered dining chair
at Darlington House on Thanksgiving Day
Photograph by Boy Fenwick
I slipped away from the Investment Bank where I work the day before Thanksgiving for a much-needed wardrobe replenishment shopping trip on Madison Avenue. My journey started at J. Press and concluded at the Brooks Brothers flagship store. Imagine that.
|The Brooks Brothers flagship store at 346 Madison Avenue,
where Reggie bought his shoes last week
Image courtesy of Brooks Brothers
I came away with half a dozen shirts, two pairs of trousers, a sweater, a jacket, and the shoes shown in the photograph at the outset of this post. As readers of this blog may recall, the topic of shoes is one that Reggie has returned to more than once or twice. In previous posts I've written about my affection for Belgian Shoes, white bucks, and classic Gucci loafers. I've even written about a much-loved pair of shoes that I wore as a toddler and that I still own (but have long since ceased wearing). Now, Dear Reader, I turn my attention to another favored shoe in my wardrobe—Alden slip-ons.
I bought my first pair of Alden slip-ons the year I graduated from Yale, more than thirty years ago. They were brown calfskin and had tassels, and I loved them. I charged them to my father's account at the Brooks Brothers store in Washington, D.C., to wear at my first job in New York at an old line commercial bank that has long since been absorbed into what is today Bank of America. I had been accepted into the bank's corporate lending officer training program, and I wanted to be sure to dress the part correctly. My father graciously underwrote the purchase of my initial post-college work wardrobe, including the Alden slip-ons, several suits, an overcoat, and assorted shirts and ties.
|44 Wall Street,
the building where I began my career in finance
Photograph courtesy of ABS Partners
|Reggie mistakenly wore Alden brown tassel slip-ons
to his first day at the bank, all those years ago
Image courtesy of Harrison Limited
In those days, men didn't wear brown shoes on Wall Street (yes, the bank I worked in was actually located on that famous financial thoroughfare), but only black shoes. Brown shoes were considered "un-bankerly" (a withering criticism), and only appropriate for weekend wear. My father, who was a lawyer and regularly wore brown shoes to his office (where they were perfectly acceptable), thought it "poppycock" (a word he used with some frequency in my presence) that I felt uncomfortable wearing brown shoes to my office, instead of black ones. Clearly, he didn't understand the cultural and sartorial differences between a bank and a law firm.
|The Brooks Brothers store at One Liberty Plaza,
where Reggie bought his first pair of black Alden tassel slip-ons
Needless to say, once I received my first paycheck I high-tailed it over to the Brooks Brothers on Liberty Plaza and bought myself a pair of Alden slip-on tassel loafers in the desired and approved black. My brown tassel loafers got pushed to the back of my closet, and didn't get much wear thereafter, except on weekends. I held on to them for many years, though, stored in their original box. I gave them away ten or so years ago, since by then I was no longer able to wear them, as my feet had grown in my forties and the shoes no longer fit. It was a bittersweet moment when I finally decided to donate them to charity, as their significance still resonated with me.
|Reggie's own well-worn
black Alden tassel slip-ons
sitting on a chair at Darlington House
Photograph by Reggie Darling
|Wall Street today,
the old Manufacturer's Hanover Trust on the right,
US Trust beyond, and Trinity Church in the distance
Photography courtesy of Picasa
When I first started my career in finance, in 1980, those of us in the training program at the bank were handed a sheet of paper on the first day outlining what clothes we were expected to wear, and what clothes we were not to wear. I wish I still had it, Dear Reader, as I would dearly love to post it here. However, I don't, so I can't.
|A Brooks Brothers window display, ca. 1960s
Photograph courtesy of Esquire
I can summarize it, though, for you. We were expected to wear suits of a conservative cut in "somber" colors (gray or navy) every day of the week (no Casual Fridays back then). Shirts were to be either white (preferred) or light blue. Ties (mandatory) were to be a discreet foulard, club, or rep stripe. Shoes were to be black, although dark cordovan was acceptable. Should we need to come into the office on weekends (a regular occurrence, I might add), we were expected to wear a jacket and a tie, and tailored trousers such as gray flannels (winter) or khakis (summer). No blue jeans or sneakers were allowed under any circumstances. Ever.
|J. Press was (and remains) Reggie's
"go-to" source for smart sport jackets
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images
|The approved shirt as seen in a Brooks Brothers
catalogue from the 1980s. White or blue. Only.
Image courtesy of the Trad
|The same shoe Reggie bought, except in calfskin
Photograph courtesy of Harrison Limited
I like the way they look, Dear Reader, and they are one of the favored shoes of the men of my profession and background. They are flattering to a grown man's foot, they have an easy elegance to them, and they are popular with the well-dressed Ivy League-educated men I have coexisted with my entire adult life. In other words, they are one of the shoes of the Tribe. I've bought more than a dozen pairs over the years, both with and without tassels, and I think they look just as good worn sockless with khakis on a summer weekend afternoon as they do wearing Pantherellas and a suit to one's office on Park Avenue during the week, as I do. I bought last week's new pair to replace an identical pair that had become worn beyond redemption and that could no longer support yet another reconditioning.
The box my new shoes came home in . . .
Photograph by Boy Fenwick
At $650 a pair, Brooks Brothers' Alden cordovan slip-ons are not inexpensive. However, they are well worth the cost, I believe, because they are beautifully made. I like the fact that they are also made here in the United States by one of the few remaining American shoe manufacturers. When the shoes are well cared for (which, in Reggie's book, includes the use of properly fitted wood shoe trees), they last for many years, and Alden does a terrific job of reconditioning its shoes if asked (they have a handy mail-order business for doing so).
|The cover of an Alden catalogue
Image courtesy of same
Please note: Reggie has not received, nor does he expect to receive, anything in return for this post. He is posting it solely in the interest of entertaining his readers, which is why he writes this blog in the first place.