Birkenstocks, Blazers, & a Torn Achilles – The Mailbag

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Some questions are better answered publicly since others might be asking the same thing, or, one of you has the perfect answer. If you’ve got a style tip, question, or anything else you’d like to pass along, you can send those in here. If you’d rather your question not be featured in a future mailbag, just go ahead and say so in your email. Feel free to hit the comments with other options for answers to this most recent batch of questions. Top Photo Credit:  Tracy O.


Q: How to dress down black dress shoes

Dressing down black shoes - answered in The Mailbag on

I’ve attached a pic of this pair of black dress shoes that I like a lot… but I rarely wear them. I want to use them more often by wearing them in a more casual way. I was thinking about something like wearing grey jeans or grey chinos and a black polo shirt and the dress shoes sockless to “downplay” them because I think they might be too dressy for the outfit. Is this a good idea? – Federico

Absolutely. Those are a derby/blucher style… meaning: they have “open” lacing. Meaning: The two flaps that the laces run through aren’t stitched over and held down like a more dressy “oxford”. More here in case I’m being confusing. Derbys are much easier to dress down than oxfords and most look just fine with dark denim. But the idea of wearing these with grey chinos or grey jeans is also plenty fine. It should look real sharp. Mean even. Something that Daniel Craig’s James Bond might wear. Just make sure the pants are one saturated color (not faded/whiskered/etc…) and the polo is a nice, smooth fabric (such as Banana Republic’s Luxe Touch). And no need to shy from socks if you don’t want to. A pair of medium or lighter grey socks that match the pants will help elongate your legs.


Q. What about Birkenstocks?

The return of Birkenstocks - part of The Mailbag on

I’m just curious what you think about Birkenstocks. Are they still just for free-spirited, tree-loving hippies or are they more acceptable in mainstream mens fashion these days? – Scott.

Guys & sandals, ANY kind of sandal (flip flop, Teva, or otherwise) elicit some pretty strong responses from the menswear community. Mostly in a negative sense. The thing about us guys is… we don’t take care of our feet (or hands) as well as the ladies do. So if you’re going to be showing toes, your feet better be in tip top shape. No busted, overgrown/jagged, or flat out missing toenails. But as far as the Birkenstocks themselves go, they’re pretty well made. And pretty darn expensive. You could get many a pair of canvas sneakers for that. And you wouldn’t have to worry about sunscreening your feet & toes (ever gotten a sunburn on your feet so bad it blistered? Try taking showers with that. Done it. Not fun). That, and sneakers are a hell of a lot easier to run in if you ever had to use the ol’ Nike Defense.


Q: The Perfect Navy Blazer?

Perfect traditional blazers

Where would you recommend to look for the perfect navy blazer? You know, the timeless classy, never-go-out-of-style, wear anytime one? So many are seasonal, or overly trendy, (narrow or ridiculously wide lapels, chopped, etc.) it’s hard to find the “perfect” one. Thoughts? – Levi G.

Yikes. Well, “perfect” is a relative term. Many (but not all) have defined their own personal “perfect” navy blazer as the Ludlow J. Crew discontinued last season… but I’m guessing Levi wouldn’t favor those lapels. Here’s a few other options that may or may not make the cut:


Q: Jeans for guys with larger, but not enormous upper legs.

Jeans for guys with built thighs - The Mailbag on

I’m an avid trail runner, and last July I partially tore my Achilles and was unable to run until last month. My doctor told me to focus my workouts on my legs to gain strength, and thus, take pressure off of my achilles tendon. Now I can’t fit into my go-to Levi’s 514s anymore. They’re fine in the waist, but the upper leg area is basically painted on. I’m 5’ 10” and depending on what time of year it is due to my running / training schedule I can fluctuate anywhere from 185-195 lbs. I’m a 32 waist / 31 inseam / 42 chest. I tried to go up to a 33″ in the waist, but those are just too big

Can you recommend a jean that’s not a loose fit, but has more room in the upper legs? – Chad

I recently went through a similar situation… minus the devastating injury part. I hired a good pal who’s a trainer because I wanted to add more strength/explosion in my legs. She got me hooked on Vega’s Chocolate Sport Protein (pricey, but great stuff. Mix w/ almond milk instead of H2O), helped tweak my diet and lower body workouts, and now I can’t fit in my old go-to jeans anymore like Chad. Those jeans were ALSO 514. Chad, try 505. They’re like 501s but with a zipper fly, and cheaper. Usually under $40, and they fit my larger-than-they-used-to-be yet not NFL lineman thunder thighs just fine. If you need more suggestions, head over here to threads.


Q: Affordable Leather Key Cases… without branding

Leather Key Holder - Part of The Mailbag on

Do you know of any (preferably affordable) leather key cases? I’d like to avoid some of the metal, card-style key carriers, and go with a more traditional one. Also, I hate logos. – Johnny

How’s $26 for a handmade in Vermont, vintage-design inspired key case sound? They also happen to be made by Dappered Threads forum user MattFace. Check out how these things came to be over here, as well as see pics of Matt at work on these cases via flickr. Sold through his etsy shop. Shipping is $3.


Q: Why do dress shirts come with all those pins & other crap in them?

Dress shirt crap

This has always bugged me. Why do most dress shirts come with a dozen pins, seven pieces of plastic, cardboard, and tissue paper stuck to them? – Christopher

Maybe it’s to get the less-confident shoppers to feel guilty about dissecting some stupid dress shirt in a department store dressing room, while their Wife/Mom/Girlfriend/All three (SOMEBODY CALL MAURY) stand waiting for the poor dude to come out and “SHOW US HOW IT LOOKS I WANNA SEE”… so, to end the torture, they just duck out of there, shirt in tow, so they can end this hell on earth that is shopping at the mall on a perfectly good Saturday afternoon without ever really ever trying the damn thing on. Either that, or it’s for on-the-shelf presentation. Who knows.

Got a question or a style tip? Send them to Additional answers to the above questions can go in the comments.