Friday, September 30, 2011

loafin' about or, the saga of ballet flats without the ballet

by frédérik sisa

I quite like ballet flats as an item in women’s fashion. As the image below shows, there’s something cute, relaxed, and playful about flats – and, yes dance-like because the quality of dance is never far away for obvious reasons.

(Flats: Ni-kiyo)

Of course, whenever I see something I like in women’s fashion, the critical design region of my cerebellum gets to work. While I don’t really have an opinion on the notion of ballet flats for men –personally, I’m not sure how many men could pull it off, but I won’t rule it out on a theoretical level – the function of a ballet flat led me to think about an equivalent kind of shoe for men. And what is that function? An easy to wear shoe that can be slipped on and off with ease, socks need not apply. A flat that is as unfussy as a flip-flop, but classier and more versatile. It’s about as minimal a shoe as you can get without veering into sandal territory, open enough to be cool during the summer but with enough coverage to keep feet warm in crisper weather.

For a long brain-dead while, I wondered about what men could wear until I finally remembered what the men’s flat counterpart is: the loafer. Unfortunately, whenever I think of loafers I think of this ghastly style:
(Loafers: Cole Haan Pinch Tassel)

I can’t express how absolutely horrifying these tasseled loafers are to me, but I’ll try without reaching for the metaphorical equivalent of a barf bag. Then again, I suppose I just expressed myself sufficiently for you to get the point. To be more articulate about it, I don’t like the wishy-washy shape, the lack of structural form, and the use of ornamentation better suited to draperies.

Fortunately, these aren’t the only loafers out there. There are moccasins, but we don’t need to go there. There's also the rough-around-the-edges style that scream “potato sack” and “handmade by people who can’t sew straight.” Just like these Santa Cruz Crocs:

Rustic works well for cabins. For shoes? I like a clean, polished design. So: next!
These dressy items don’t quite qualify as “loafers”; there’s nothing lazy or too laid-back about these shoes. These fellahs don’t loaf about, but actually make the effort to style themselves up…
…but that’s also why they’re not quite the equivalent of ballet flats, whose essential form is both simple and refined without being a slip-on version of another kind of shoe. These examples are nice, but they still look like fancy dress shoes you don’t have to lace up.
(Slip-ons: Stacy Adams Jamison)

(Slip-ons: Fratelli 2320)
(Slip-ons: Aldo Dunesta)

That leaves boat shoes. Despite most people not owning a boat or regularly commuting on boats, these are a perennial style that never goes out of fashion. While there are some nice styles, like the following three, there’s something about the shape of the toe box that doesn’t quite persuade me. I’m not saying I don’t like it, but I don’t know if I like it either.

(Boat Shoes: Sperry Top Sider)

(Slip-ons: Sebago Docksides)

(Boat Shoes: Banana Blues Starboard)

As I’m discovering these days, it falls to Asian fashion to offer more adventurous options. This shoe from South Korean brand Purplow (a portmanteau of Purple and Cow) demonstrates the influence of Italian design and the refined craftsmanship of work done by hand. The price, at $235, also reflects the influence of Italian design and work done by hand.

Then there’s this handsome and vastly more affordable design from Murati/Yin, with an intriguing back closure and a leather panel on the upper.
Finally, there are these canvas slip-ons from Reeno, with eye-catching asymmetrical lacing.

But again, as awesome as these are they don’t quite achieve that simplicity of a ballet flat.

So, that’s it. If I had to pick a direction to explore, keeping in line with answering the question as to what a ballet flat looks like without the ballet instead of simply considering design quality, I suppose the boat shoes would have be the direction to go in, although those Reeno slip-ons might be the ticket provided their manufacturing pedigree is up to snuff. What do you think? What kind of footwear do you turn to for unfussy comfort AND style?

Usual Disclaimer: Images of loafers and boat shoes borrowed from Asian footwear images borrowed from All images used for illustrative purposes. If the copyright owner wants me to remove, I will do so.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Holy Hispidity, Batman

I overheard a couple of my favorite ladies discussing their hair today. It was intense. They have many opinions about the acceptability of their domes including, but not limited to: color, appropriate length, up/down utilities, and stylistic quirks.

It was quite revelatory for me, who can only be described as a philocomal derelict.

If you added up all the time I spend thinking about my appearance, pondering my chapeau would consume an estimated 2%. [See the pie chart below.]

Time Spent Thinking about My Appearance
Time Spent Thinking About my Appearance
My hair is okay. It seems to look okay. It is currently keeping my neck warm, a hearty point in its favor since this room is freezing and it was a constant bane in August. But utilitarian aspects aside, pondering the piliform is simply not something I usually do.

Except that now, I can't help but notice the emotion attached to the length of one's tendrils. I refer back to the previously-mentioned overheard conversation. This beautiful buddy of mine confessed that she became annoyed with her long locks when she realized that she always kept it pulled back. So she decided to cut seven inches off. "And then, I was freaking out and crying and like, 'I WANT MY HAIR BACK!' So now I'm growing it back."

The extent of her fringe had nothing to do with how she looked, it was all about how she saw herself. It had less to do with what's on her head than what's in her head.

And I know that a lady's hair is a cultural indicator that broadcasts certain stereotypes, as translated through the filter of our paradigm. But I'm not writing a cultural critique here. This is a fashion blog, after all.

So, in the grand tradition of blogging, allow me to talk about myself some more.

I cut my hair (unreasonably) short in high school.

2001 Homecoming
How's about a homecoming dance, circa 2001? You are so lucky this picture is blurry.

I didn't like it. It was annoying to decorate and left my neck unwarmed for weeks. So I grew a sweet little flapper bob that I donned for years.

2011-09-27 14.34.56
Photographic documentation from the pre-digital age, probably 2004.

I loved it. I thought it was cute. But after absolutely no contemplation, I decided to grow my hair long.

A hirsute update from 2005.

And the compliments started pouring in...

How's it hanging, 2007.

"You look so much prettier now."

Poodles approve, 2008

"That short haircut was dumb."

You can refer to the pie chart on this one... 2009

"I love your long hair."

Mannequins need long hair, right? 2010

"Don't ever cut your hair!"

Reenacting the Civil War with some luscious locks, 2011.

Now, if I even mention wanting to return to my flapper bob days, I get a chorus of loved ones recommending length. No, not recommending. Demanding.

Is it because I just look better with longer hair? Is it because a monstrous mane is more feminine? Is it because my curls cover up more of my face? I don't know.

And since I don't have to ply my mop with tools or too much goo, I leave it alone. I'm sure it's okay and anyway, I have other topics to ponder. Like: I wonder where she got those shoes...

Tell me: Do any of you feel the pressure to maintain lengthy locks?

Friday, September 23, 2011

poncho-drunk love

by frédérik sisa

I was going to call this post the “Ponchos of Doom” post just for the heck of it. Then I figured there wasn’t anything especially apocalyptic about ponchos. And then the pictures I took of one of my two ponchos didn’t come up, and suddenly my potential blog post title was depluralized into singularity. But all hope is not lost. There’s always a pun, hence the actual title for this post.

In any case, ponchos doesn’t really need much of an introduction. This quintessential South American garment, which dates to Native Andean in pre-Hispanic times, is a classic piece of outerwear whose simple tailoring is often dressed up by patterns and visually interesting textiles. Did I say classic? How about iconic? I can still picture Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name raising his poncho in preparation for a gunfight in any of those great spaghetti westerns. My first poncho, which I hoped to show you, was a nice and warm piece knitted with motherly love. But there came a point when I hoped to get something a bit edgier and more contemporary. That’s when I discovered and, in particular, NanNom, described by YesStyle as follows:

Established in 2009, NanNom is the stylish casual brand of choice for men in their 20s to 30s. Derived from the words "Nan" and "Nom", meaning "distinguished" and "gentlemen", the South Korean brand balances value and quality with their collection reflecting the Asian street fashion trend.

Their hooded military cape – a fancy way of saying poncho with ornaments inspired by military uniforms - is simple from a tailoring standpoint. It’s a rectangle with a hole to put your head through and a hood. But the detailing gives it an edge, with my only quibble being that it’s a little fussy to put on in terms of getting the shoulder ornaments properly lined up. Other than that, it’s a nifty item and an example of some of the fun things Asian fashion designers are working up on the other side of the ocean. Although I’m not overly crazy about NanNom overall – I have my eye on designers like deepstyle, which I hope to feature in a future post - I admire the brand’s energy and occasional surprises like the “cape.” You can check out all of NanNom's offerings at YesStyle right here.

The cape’s regular price is $40, but is on sale for 40% off at

And now, bring on the dancing girls!

Okay, no dancing girls. Sorry. A picture of me instead, looking down at one of my cats who likes to go belly up and beg for attention with big yellow eyes. Also: an inexplicably blurry picture of said cape with deployed hood. Best of all: professional pics of the cape.

Unfortunately, despite this blog post’s title, there was no intoxication involved in wearing the cape. Also unfortunate is despite calling the military poncho a “cape,” no superpowers were involved either. Style has to be enough. And it is.

Note: Images borrowed from NanNom for illustrative purposes only. As always, I'll take them down if the copyright owner requests it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Soporific Styling

I'm just going to come out and ask: And what do you wear to bed?

I've recently had a pajama-related epiphany and I'm preaching the good word of the old-timey nightie.

I know it's not cool to don the classic nightgown. I honestly can't recall any celebrity, when pressed for a confession on what they wear at night, copping to a flannel muumuu.

"What do I wear in bed?" Marilyn Monroe bats her eyes. "Why, Chanel No. 5, of course."

For the longest time, the idea of slumbering nude seemed glamorous to me. Grown-up, sensual, exciting and at the same time, insouciant. Plus, who wants to waste money buying clothes for the only eight hours of the day that I won't be showing off my duds? If I had to wear something between the sheets, I slipped into a borrowed button-up or that union suit I wore on Halloween.

10/31 costume detail
Who ordered the House of 1000 Corpses movie extra?

Or maybe a humongous flannel I bought as a joke...
What my alarm clock sees:
This is what my unfortunate alarm clock saw for many years.

And then, on a whim, I bought something that looks a lot like this:
Victorian Frilly Eyelet Lace Nightgown

Oh yeah. Full-length. Long sleeves. Fluffy soft cotton from the Victorian age, bought for $8 at an antique mall somewhere in Ohio.

I will confess that I first purchased this bad boy with the full intent of wearing it as a dress. And I still might. But after taking it off the clothesline (what? I'm a hippy, leave me alone) I couldn't resist climbing into it and then, climbing into bed.

And thus was heralded a new obsession.

Check out that sweet chest ruffle.

Dressing for sleep, especially when choosing the most old-fashioned, grandma-tastic gown, is infinitely rewarding. No, not many will have the (assuredly) fantastic pleasure of taking in my evening visage but that it precisely why it is awesome. It is the purest form of dressing for myself, wearing what makes me happy when traveling to torpidity.

Now my thrift store trips take me to the sleepwear section where I stock up on bedgowns that Bea Arthur would envy.

And sure, there are practical aspects of owning full-fledged PJs: You don't sully clothes that you want to wear the next day, your sheets stay cleaner longer, etc.


But who cares? The point is that if you're a stylish person - and if you're reading this blog, you most definitely are - then you care about aesthetics even when no one else is looking.

Friday, September 16, 2011

some mo' mohop, fashion that goes snicker-snack...and justin bieber?

by frédérik sisa

A bit of potpourri this week staring with, incredible as it may seem, Justin Bieber. He apparently likes to wear women’s clothes. Jeans, to be precise. If you were to read the comments in response to Yahoo! Music piece on the subject, you’d no doubt fee

l your faith in humanity being sucked into some despairing abyss, as mine has. It is so incredibly frustrating, even angering, to see the word gay bandied about like an epithet. Yet that’s been the trend among responders: that’s so gay, they all chant.

The article itself is actually not hostile, pointing out that Justin simply wears women’s jeans because they’re comfortable and that other stars, from Kanye West to Steven Tyler, have also worn “women’s” clothing for the sake of comfort, not cross-dressing. But even if they cross-dressed, so what? Once again, society’s conformist tendencies through fashion reveal themselves, with a dose of homophobia for bad measure.

Here’s the picture of Justin in question:

(Copyright: Jason Meritt/Getty Images.)

Moving on to a happier topic, the merchandise for American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns, sequel to American McGee’s Alice, presents an interesting dilemma for fashionistas. By way of background, American McGee is a visionary game designer. His Alice presented a deliciously dark and sinister take on Alice in Wonderland, one in which young Alice survives a fire that kills her family and finds herself confronting her frayed sanity through a journey in a corrupted Wonderland. The sequel is even more stunning, displaying phenomenal artistry in terms of character design and settings – they even had a gallery exhibit of art inspired by the game here in Los Angeles prior to the game’s release. It’s not often that I’m gobsmacked to the point of a minor obsession, but what can I say? The visuals and story concept are uniquely astonishing.

So while I don’t tend to feel a compulsion to wear clothes that are branded or feature characters from my favourites movies and TV series, I’m sorely tempted by the deliciously lush and gothic art of Alice: Madness Returns to seriously consider the available merchandise. But here’s the rub: the only options are t-shirts, and t-shirts are, in my opinion, lazy forms of apparel. Good to relax in, but not much for style. They’re little more than a billboard.

But is that such a bad thing? I admit I’d much rather see bowling shirts, or dress shirts, or maybe even Western shirts that feature the artwork…but if a t-shirt is less about the clothes than the graphic, well…what do you think?

Finally, I wanted to end with an update on the marvelous goings-on at Mohop. They’ve just released a new version of their innovative footwear – a flat with a sole made of screenprinted vegan leather and loops to allow for unlimited ribbon configurations. And the price? An irresistible $77. Here are some images. To indulge, visit Mohop’s Etsy shop.

And there you have it.

As usual, all images are used merely for illustrative purposes and belong to their respective owners. They'll be removed if I'm requested to do so.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Polish Politics

Hello, I'm Becky. I'm pleased to meet you. I'll be doing a few guest posts in the coming weeks. I'm no style expert but I speak in a self-important fashion and that seems to count for a lot.

I vividly remember the day in the early 1990s when my mother told me to man up and paint my own nails. It was May. There was some kind of horse-related sports show on the television. A subtle breeze carried the brain-killing scent of solvents.

I was doing the whole whiny "But Mom, I'm right-handed! I can't coerce this useless southpaw into painting the tips of my right hand!" She told me to deal. And I did.

And now, sadly, the only ambidextrous skill I posses (besides pounding out prattle on this here keyboard at a disturbing rate) is being able to maneuver nail polish onto my right hand. Thanks, Mom.

Forward all compliments to Ms. Jo Haltermon.

I heart a good home mani. So much so that even at the darkest time in my fashion travails (JNCO Jeans, anyone?) I always kept a neat nail.

Perfectly punk with that pristine red manicure, there.

And while plying paint onto my tips was always more about investing in a small amount of self-care and narcissistic meditation than mimicking a hand model, I'll be damned if people don't notice this nonsense.

Lafayette, sleepy poultry revolutionary
They also notice when you hold adorable baby chickens.

Outside observers (high school classmates, conscientious objectors to fashionability, random dudes) have confirmed that a thoughtful paint job, even on these monster metacarpi, is appreciated.

A few of my favorite things

And while a little recognition for all this beautification is certainly rewarding, my favorite part of the whole home mani ordeal is curling up on the couch with Heidi Klum or Tyra Banks and taking an hour for total self-indulgent digit lovins.

So what are your thoughts on a well-painted paw? Does it make a difference at all? Do you prefer a salon experience?

If you're interested, you can read my (ridiculously thorough) guidelines for good-looking grapplers on my personal blog, Pump Up the Frump.

Friday, September 9, 2011

spot 'n hunt: grecian sandals

by frédérik sisa

In an effort to add bit of diversity to the blog posts around here, I thought I’d test out a new feature not-so-imaginatively called Spot ‘n Hunt. It starts with a scenario that most of us experience at one time or another: we see someone wearing something cool and wonder where to get it. Of course, for some reason, we never seem able to outright ask the hep cat where THEY got that cool piece of clothes, or spiffy shoes, or dazzling bit of jewelry.

Enter the Fashionoclast, who will happily do a search to help you track down that certain sumthin’-sumthin’ you saw and coveted, starting with the rationale for this whole effort.
The inspiration for the Spot ‘n Hunt feature came from an afternoon’s bacchanal at Malibu Wines gorgeous outdoor tasting room. While enjoying good wine and good company, with the introduction of new friends. As it happened, one of the ladies in our merry band of revelers happened to be wearing something I thought looked very nice indeed. From that came they idea of Spot ‘n Hunt, a name I promise I’ll change as soon as I can come up with something wittier.

But enough of that. Without further delay, let me introduce you to Debbie C.’s feet or, to be precise, to the lovely Grecian lace-up gladiator sandals upon those feet:

Where could you find a similar pair for your own tootsies? The thought that immediately come to mind was: Etsy. There are quite a few sandal artisans who craft leather shoes by hand, with styles in line with Debbie’s sandals. Here are a few good candidates from both the US and Europe:

Black Leather Gladiator Sandals by Sandali (Lindy-Lu Victor). Tel-Aviv, Israel. $60

Roman-Greek Leather Sandals by Ananias, who have a large selection of styles. Greece. $29.95

Greek Leather Sandals by Telena. Athens, Greece. $65

Lace-Up Deerskin Sandals by Bella Caribe. Florida. $80

Handmade Leather “Glory” Sandals by Calpas, with intriguing and pretty detailing. Split, Croatia. $70

If you have $300 to spare, you can always opt for this bad-ass pair of knee-high gladiators from Debbie Leather in Arizona:

So there you have it. Grecian(ish) sandals. Many thanks to Debbie for offering her sandals for this week's post and inspiring this new feature.

What have you seen out there that you liked but didn’t know where to find? Drop me a line at and I'll feature your fashion quest in a future Spot ‘n Hunt post!

Usual disclaimer: Images belong to their respective Etsy shop owners and are borrowed for illustrative purposes only. If the copyright owner wants me to take them down I will, of course, comply.