Tuesday, March 24, 2009

simple shoes - too simple when it comes to men's sandals?

by Frédérik Sisa

This is undoubtedly a familiar rule of thumb in fashion design: thin for women, thick for men. Hence, strappy sandals and wispy thin jewelry chains for the ladies, chunky fishermen’s sandals and boxy links for the gents.

With that in mind, here I am wearing a pair of good-looking sandals:

Two things to notice. First, this isn’t a style men will really find anywhere, although, looking hard enough, some roughly comparable styles can be found. Second, the toe loop and crossing upper strap – the sandal in general – is robust enough to achieve a style that is unisex and suitably stylish for men.

This would be a rather strange way to talk about a pair of shoes, except for the fact that this particular pair, called Tanline comes from Simple Shoes’ women’s line from days gone by. Beyond illustrating how women’s styles today are granted, through our cultural biases, a flexibility not found in men’s style – women can wear men’s clothes and still look feminine while the vice-versa isn’t the case – it reflects a curious kind of decision-making process behind what products to offer and how to market these products in light of cultural fashion expectations. In other words, if you have a unisex style, why limit yourself to one sex?

Looking at Simple Shoes’ current offerings in the sandals department – their sneakers actually are pretty snappy all around, for women AND men – we find, well, disappointment. Here’s the men’s line, and here’s the women’s line. Flip flops for men – boring! – and a few styles beyond the flip-flop for women, including the gladiator-style TeeToe and this one, called Glider:

For comparison’s sake, take a look at these shoes from Birkenstock. The one on the left is Gizeh, Birkenstock’s thong sandal for women. Although not available in the US, for whatever reason, the sandal on the right is Birkenstock’s masculine counterpart, Ramses. The major difference lies in thickness of the straps and the way in which the thong strap connects to the upper; it’s far more pinched in Gizeh then it is in Ramses.

Question: why can Birkenstock offer essentially the same style to both men and women, but not Simple Shoes? Like Tanline, there is nothing about Glider that is specifically feminine. Glider is also more appealing in terms of its contemporary styling and materials, although I admit I’m not exactly a fan of Birkenstocks in the first place. In a case of shooting itself in the foot – ha, ha – it seems to me that Simple Shoes is shutting out potential customers.

During the holidays, when I saw that Simple Shoes added TeeToe to their women’s line (before adding Glider), I eMailed Customer Service to express my desire for a bit more variety. They can’t satisfy their clients if they don’t know what their clients want, right? This is the answer I received:
Thank you for your email. I understand your disdain at our Men’s choices in shoes. However, Simple is always working on new styles for men. If you could please keep checking www.simpleshoes.com for updates on Men’s choices, that would be wonderful.
Disdain really is too strong a word, especially since I really want to be able to support a company that embodies values I hold and I didn't send out an angry missy. And they do have cool products that reflect that hip planet-saving philosophy – I bought a messenger bag from them and I love it. But I just can’t bring myself to buy a pair of flip-flops. I wish Simple Shoes weren't always so simple in their sandal styling - although, in all fairness, their line of ecosneaks is looking pretty good.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Fashionoclast Fantastic! Seal of Fashion

File under...Fabulous! The Fashionoclast Fantastic! Seal of Fashion, in the form of a snazzy little graphic for display on websites and a link on the Fashionoclast homepage, is awarded to individuals, businesses, and/or products that have been personally tried, tested, approved and judged to fully embody the Fashionoclast spirit of fashionable fun, individuality, and outside-the-shoe-box thinking.

To receive a seal, a product or service must:
…consist of apparel, footwear, jewelry, accessories, or health/beauty/style products and services.
…be unique in some way, or provide an unconventional spin on familiar fashion items.
…be in a price range accessible to most people and not just those who only breathe imported Fiji air.
...be something classic, timeless. In other words, with enough stylistic stamina to be more than a passing trend.
To receive an exclusive GOLD seal, a product or service must also:
…be available to both men and women because, dagnabit, that’s the way we do things here at the Fashionoclast. Inclusivity is good.
We’re always on the lookout for exciting products to review and, potentially, receive a Fantastic! Seal of Fashion. We seek out products by exploring both the internet and the real world. Of course, it’s a big world out there, and we can’t possibly keep track of it all. So if you feel your unique fashion piece deserves a closer look, we’d love to see it. Please get more information on how to submit by reaching out to Frédérik at:


or Aqua at:


(Obviously, replace the at with an “@” and the dot with a “.”.)

If, for whatever reason, we don’t offer a Fashionoclast Fantastic! Seal of Fashion, fret not. We will always post snark-free reviews with a friendly attitude for all products we receive - because the world is a nicer place if we try to help each other rather than tear each other down.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Welcome to The Fashionoclast!

Welcome to The Fashionoclast, a project by the LA-based e-newspaper The Front Page Online. In keeping with the tradition of launching new blogs, this shiny new inaugural post will set out the vision for a blog that aims for a different kind of fashion commentary.

The Fashionoclast, as it says in that little box in the upper left corner, is all about bringing an iconoclastic outlook to fashion, which is just a fancy way of saying: forget trends, forget conventions, celebrate diversity and individuality. We’ll go out into the world of fashion, whether mainstream or off the proverbial beaten path, to find unique products and style ideas. Fashion design and trends will be upended and maybe even deconstructed. In the end, they say the clothes make the man or woman. We say: the man or woman makes the clothes, and if there isn’t a whole lotta fun in the making, then it’s probably not worth it.

What you will see: a positive attitude, product reviews, commentary on issues ranging from eco-wear to design for real body types, (and, yes, what's walking down the runways), profiles of independent and innovative fashion folk, and plenty of opportunities to share your own thoughts, opinions, and ideas.

What you won’t find: bitter remarks and judgments.

Well, okay, some judgment. The respectful kind. If you want snark for snark’s sake, there’s always tabloid TV. And we’re not going to ask questions like, should men wear nail polish or should women wear Ugg boots with mini-skirts. Oh no, instead, we’ll ask questions like, how can women wear Ugg boots with mini-skirts and pull it off? Well, okay, maybe Ugg boots and mini-skirts are never a good idea. But you get the picture. We’re not here to tell you what to wear, we’re here to find the options that will help you figure out your own style.

In the end, the goal is to appreciate and explore how we express ourselves through fashion. But we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously that we get a brain aneurysm out of it. Fashion should be fun and style should be in everybody’s reach.

So again, welcome to The Fashionoclast. There’s only one rule: Be your own trend.