(Original photo credit: The Armoury)
Since more and more men are gaining interest in double monks, I decided to create a series that would serve as a buyer’s guide. My purpose was to give you a survey of over twenty-five different models, which I’ve broken up into three price tiers at the high-, mid-, and low-ranges. I even covered some discontinued lines. Now, of course, this survey wasn’t meant to be all inclusive; I’ve left out many models. For example, I’ve ignored those that I know very little about, such as Paraboot’s Vigny, Tim Little’s Still a Fool, and Mezlan’s Burris. I also didn’t discuss any that I wouldn’t either buy for myself or recommend to a friend, such as Santoni’s Jadwin. In short, I’ve tried to make this a reasonably curated list about the models I knew something about. Hopefully you’ve been left with a good sense of what options are available to you.
So of the 25+ models I’ve discussed, which would I most recommend? That’s a difficult question to answer. Much of it depends on your budget. As you’ve seen, the more money you’re willing to pay, the better shoes you’ll get. Additionally, which model will be best for you will depend on your current wardrobe. A rounder, shorter, and more natural toe will be good if most of your clothes have a strong American sensibility. Similarly, a sleeker, pointier toe will be good if most of your clothes run more European. At the end of the day, it’s about your style and your money, and you have to take a hard look at what will work for you.
Now, personally, I favor conservative European styles, as I find them to be elegant and sober. This means I like sleek shoes, but not ones that are vulgarly so. If I were to make a recommendation for each tier, based only on my own tastes, I would give the following.
On the upper tier, I would recommend Edward Green’s Westminster. The leather works well in formal situations, unlike pebble grain, and is handsome enough without being loud, unlike museum calf. Additionally, it has a sleek chiseled toe that has been built on an asymmetric last. I find that this gives the shoe a conservative, elegant feel.
In the mid-tier, I would pick Carminas on the Inca. They’re sleek but with a rounded toe. I think this gives them the same conservative, elegant, European sensibility that Edward Green’s Westminster has, perhaps even more so.
On the low-tier, I favor Howard Younts’, but partly because I have faith that the leather will darken after a few treatments with leather conditioner. I think a darker leather would make the shoe much easier to wear, and it would also hide the antiquing a bit, which I find to be too prominent as is. Still, even apart from my concerns over their color, I really like their shape.
Lastly, a word about how to wear these. The decorative buckle makes monk straps look a bit dressier, but also casual at the same time. Think of them like Jodhpur boots - a dressier version of boots, which are commonly considered a very casual shoe. However, while monk straps have a lot of versatility between formal and casual functions, they don’t play well to the extremes. For truly formal events, you should always wear cap toe oxfords. For casual settings, there is a lot of debate to be had. Since I see them as an elegant, semi-dressy shoe, I think they’re best worn with trousers or when you’re casually wearing a suit.
However, many people also wear them with jeans. To me, this doesn’t speak to the shoes’ elegance. When they’re worn with jeans, they can turn from being refined, sophisticated double monks to being goofy buckle shoes. They also call too much attention to themselves and don’t play well with the rest of the person’s ensemble. Personally, I think a person’s outfit should largely be coherent - just as seasonal clothes should be worn together (eg no sockless loafers with peacoats), extremely casual clothes should be worn together (eg no cap toe oxfords with shorts). Additionally, I think clothes are worn best when they draw attention to your charisma, not to specific parts of your body. By wearing double monks with jeans, your “fancy shoes” play too much in the foreground, thus forcing people to look at your feet instead of your eyes. When they’re worn with trousers or a casual suit, however, they make for a much more coherent, elegant outfit, and thus don’t call attention to themselves.
Still, my opinion on this is very much in the minority. Wearing double monks with jeans is very ”of the moment” right now, and you’d be very fashionable to wear them as such. I don’t mean this pejoratively, as I don’t think there is anything wrong with being fashionable. It just means that the majority of people will be giddy about your clothes, and there’s nothing terribly wrong with that. In fact, if you started a “double monks with jeans” version of 100 Days of Ties, the internet might explode.
If you want to wear them with jeans, I would suggest at least getting a pair that is more casual. Avoid buying double monks with broguing and opt for ones in a lighter shade. Additionally, try to get ones made out of materials such as suede or pebble grain leather. You should also aim for the models with shorter, more natural toes, such as Allen Edmond’s Mora or Run of the Mill’s private label, instead of sleeker models such as the Crockett & Jones’ Lowndes. In the end, if you are going to play these further out on the casual spectrum, you should try to make your shoes as casual as possible as well.
So that’s it - a survey of over 25 models, a few links to double monks I didn’t discuss, my recommendations for each tier, and a sure-to-be controversial position on how to wear them. Now go out and get a pair.