Bow Ties Sydney, Australia - Le Noeud Papillon - Specialists In Self Tying Bow Ties


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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Christopher Schaerf From Double Monk Answers A Few Questions On Shoes

When Andrew Doyle from Timeless Man came to see our Studio and discuss silks and bow ties  I made the remark that I apologised for my fit-out as we were a Studio and not a retail store. I explained to him that I was more about creating new content for the blog in this space than I was about having a chesterfield sofa for my customers. Then I added, 'besides, most of us with a strong internet presence are more smokes screens and mirrors than the genuine retailers'. Andrew then said 'I agree with you about the tailors in general but if there is one business that's ethos and philosophy is backed up by a retail presence to boot, then the only one in Australia that I have met in my travels is Double Monk. They run a great blog and then when  you go to the store, you are even more impressed.' I thought this was the very highest compliment, so I embarked on an interview with one of the co-owners of Double Monk. Here are some interesting tid bits on shoes from Christopher Schaerf of Double Monk in Fitzroy.

The global footwear market is expected to reach $195 billlion dollars by 2015 – why do you think human beings are so consumed by what they put on their feet? What aspects of footwear are you most passionate about?

I would say that the amount of money involved in the footwear market is proportional to the global fashion market in general. If anything I would suggest that men especially are not concerned enough about what they are putting on their feet. Too many guys are happy to invest in their suits, coats and other clothes, but when it comes to their shoes they are more comfortable in the $200-300 bracket. Anyone investing $2000 dollars on a suit ought to be spending at least $1000 on their shoes. The most essential aspect of a good shoe is quality materials and construction (aesthetics are a given). When this is done properly a pair of shoes will reward their owner with decades of comfort. A poor, ill-fitting suit is not necessarily uncomfortable, but a poorly made or ill-fitting shoe causes continual discomfort and pain for its unfortunate owner. At Double Monk we like to say that you should spend as much as you can afford on your shoes and your bed, because if you’re not in one you are in the other.



Most connoisseurs of men’s footwear know the difference between a driving shoe, a loafer, a slipper, an evening pump, a brogue, a monk, a spectator, an Oxford, a Chelsea, a riding boot, a military boot and so on but the layman, and I consider myself a layman, usually can sight the difference but not describe it in words. Can you give us a brief description of the top 10 different shoes you sell at Double Monk and how you like to categorise shoes?

The most common dress shoe is the oxford. This is a shoe with what is called ‘closed’ lacing, which means that the throat of the shoe (where the laces are) completely closes over the tongue of the shoe. A derby, by comparison, has an open lacing where the laces are threaded between two separate pieces of leather. A monk shoe is a slip-on variety that fastens with a buckle; a single monk has one buckle while the double monk (obviously a favourite of ours) has two buckles. Loafers are slip-on shoes that come in two main styles: the penny loafer has a strap across the instep with a slit in it where guys used to store a penny for the phone box; the tassled loafer has tassels where the strap would be on a penny loafer. A chukka boot is an ankle-high derby boot often referred to as a desert boot when made with suede. A chelsea boot is simply an elastic-sided ankle boot. The term brogue refers to shoes where the seams have punched detailing. A quarter brogue only has punching along the toe-cap seam. A half brogue features punching along all or most of the seams as well as (usually) a medallion (or punched design) on the toe-cap itself. A full brogue, also known as a wingtip brogue, is similar to the half brogue, the only difference being that instead of a straight toe-cap it features a distinctive wingtip shaped toe-cap.

There are various different parts of a shoe from the quarters, the vamp, the sole, the heel, the welt, the wing tip, the toe cap and the facing – can you describe each to us and tell us what sort of shoe is defined by each of these aspects? For example, does an Oxford look more becoming with a certain style of vamp?

The upper is the main section of the shoe that covers the foot (apart from the sole). The quarter of the shoe is the rear section of the upper that stretches from the heel to the throat of the shoe; it is reinforced with in extra piece of leather called the counter, which gives the shoe better structural integrity. The vamp is the area between the bottom of the lacing and the toe-cap of the shoe. The toe-cap is the front section of the shoe; it is reinforced with an extra piece of material called the toe puff. The sole is the bottom of the shoe, which can be made of either leather or rubber. The heel of the shoe is at the rear of the sole and can be made of leather, rubber, or a combination of the two. The welt of a shoe is a feature of the Goodyear welting method that we strongly advocate. It is a strip of leather that is sewn to the upper of the shoe. The sole is then sewn onto the welt, rather than being directly sewn to the upper. This method of construction allows the shoe to be resoled again and again, a fact that means Goodyear welted shoes can last for decades.

(Double Monk says that reading our previous post on shoe parts is helpful but not entirely accurate in their opinion - proceed with caution before using it as a reference at your next dinner party .... click here to see that post. )



The subject of whole cuts and single cuts are becoming more and more interesting for those looking at undertaking a bespoke shoe – can you tell us why whole cuts are more expensive and more highly sought after?

The wholecut shoe is a beautiful and minimalist style of oxford that is perfect for formal attire. It requires a great amount of skill to stretch a single piece of leather across a last (the sculpted piece of wood upon which a shoe is shaped and constructed). Having said that, choosing a shoe style is a purely subjective decision and I would certainly not say that a wholecut is a ‘better’ style than a brogue for instance. For anyone considering a bespoke order my only advice would be to go with the style that appeals intuitively to you, rather than what you think is fashionable or sought after. A bespoke shoe should reflect the personal style of its owner.

Whole cut shoes with brogue detail on the toe box


When measuring a foot for a shoe, what aspects of the human foot are the most important to take into account? Can you recommend to our readers a way in which they might best measure themselves at home?

No pair of feet is the same and every style or make of shoe will fit slightly differently. When measuring someone up for a new pair of shoes there are three main areas I take into account. Firstly the length of the foot is key to establishing the general size of shoe required. Secondly, the width of the foot must be taken into account; for a particularly wide or narrow foot we may have to size up or down accordingly. The third aspect to take into account is the instep, which is covered by the tongue and throat of the shoe. Some people have particularly shallow instep, which may require an extra insole, or a high instep that requires a larger size. As you can see there is a great deal to take into account and it is still essential to try on a particular shoe in order to establish one’s ideal fit. This is why we strongly recommend trying on a pair of shoes before you buy them.

Double Monk is famous for it's comprehensive made to order (MTO) and bespoke programme with English shoe makers

The lasts of the rich and famous adorn the English shoe makers walls - from John Lobb to Edward Green and GJ Cleverley, these shoe makers have made for some of the biggest names in business and entertainment. 
So far in your history of trading what is the most unique and perhaps the most desirable shoe you have seen come through the store?

The wealth of options makes that a very difficult one to answer. What I would say is that the most extraordinary shoes that I have seen in the store have come as a result of the Made-to-Order service that we offer. We offer this service with Edward Green, John Lobb, GJ Cleverley and Carmina Shoemaker. The customer has a range of choices that includes leather, colour, style and sole: the combinations are practically infinite. The surcharge varies between $275-$300 for a pair of Made-to-Order shoes, however we consider it a small price to pay for the absolutely stunning results that frequently come through the store.

Are you planning on making any shoes for yourself soon and if so can you tell us about what you might be working on?

The master shoemakers from G.J. Cleverley have visited Double Monk twice thus far. Both Nick and I have commissioned a pair of beautiful double monk shoes in antique burgundy calf. The double monk is obviously a style that is close to our hearts and we eagerly await their completion.

How does someone get familiar with the types of shoes that you guys offer since you don't have a website?

Follow our blog where you can see our work in progress as custom pairs of shoes come in each week ( http://doublemonk.tumblr.com/ ) or follow us on Instagram using our handle @dblmnk .

A beautiful store to boot - the young and dynamic team of Double Monk delivers on all fronts both digitally and in a traditional retail space. 

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