Strolling around Islington earlier last week, I was walking down Holloway Road with a planned coffee stop at one of the many small cafes that appear every five minutes or so. It was during this intentional detour en route to the nearby Malin+Goetz store for a few indulgent bathroom supplies that my mind wandered to the subject of quality. As the years roll on and I become older (and only slightly wiser), I often find myself trying to walk that fine line between quality and cost when it comes to many of my purchases. Dressed in a mix that spans several price levels between SuitSupply shirt and jacket, tailored Uniqlo wool trousers and Drake’s pocket square, it was perhaps the pair of Meermin on my feet that got me wondering.
For the repeat visitor to this site or my instagram, my preference for this Spanish shoemaker will probably not come as a surprise as I own a few pairs and they often make a shiny appearance. Meermin is frequently mentioned as one of the best value brands on the market and rightfully so, as their Goodyear welted shoes come at a very decent price point with several classic models in their selection. Put This On wrote a fair review of their shoes back in 2012 which also includes a comparison of the Linea Maestro line which is slightly more expensive. It was after having read this review by Juho from The Nordic Fit of his Meermin double monks that I eventually ordered my own, which are still going strong and looking great four years later.
So far, my Meermin shoes seem like they can look forward to the oppressive company of my feet for many years, but with this lasting kind of quality comes other consideration. Should a pair of shoes last me for 10+ years, the question then becomes whether the design and look of the shoe will still be appealing to me at that time. While Meermin’s price point at £155 (incl shipping to the UK) is below many other of same style , it’s still an investment for me and one which I consider with great care before making a decision. After considering several different pairs, I went with the enduring classic of a brown Oxford. As Ben St Georg recently wrote in The Rake on this archetypal dress shoe: “The debate about which style of shoe is the most fundamental, the most essential, the most unimpeachable, is one seemingly doomed to play out eternally, Ouroboros-like. It’s also a debate that misses the entire point – and indeed the joy – of footwear. There are many different and wonderful styles of shoe – each worthy and timeless in their own right, and each with their own time and place. However, if you forced my hand and told me to I had to pick just one for every occasion for all time, it would probably be the Oxford.”
He goes on to note that “a brown Oxford should be considered a foundational item – perfect for pairing with navy, flannel grey and charcoal, appropriate for the office and the weekend.” Inherent in this sentiment is the kind of considerations that most should take into account when building the foundations of a classic menswear wardrobe – starting with the basic, quality items that will work in most occasions, with multiple outfits and will stand the test of time.
Naturally, it’s hard to talk about quality without touching upon the economics thereof. While I would have cherished most of my current possessions as much in my twenties as I do today, there is the inescapable fact that throughout years of studying, I simply didn’t have the income to spend on a proper pair of shoes or a half decent bottle of wine.
Following the economical turmoil starting in 2008, I kept coming across a common thread in articles and websites that touched upon on a shift in many peoples’ priorities from a throw-away culture where everything was bought and discarded with little thought or hesitation to realizing the value of lasting quality. One of these instances that struck a cord with me back then was this little video from 2010 about the brothers behind Billykirk, who talk about their desire to make goods that will last and stand the test of time.
I suppose the point I’m desperately trying to arrive at before the daylight fades and my laptop heats my lap to sub-Saharan temperatures, is that certain things are worth investing in for the long haul. Profound, right?
Perhaps not a bombshell of mind-blowing proportions, yet that fine line between quality, cost and style is something worth considering in building a wardrobe. Case in point, consider the simple price-per-wear of Cleav’s (aka @ignoreatyourperil) Grenson boots which has lasted him an impressive 31 years. If that’s not going to convince you of the value of investing in and taking care of a decent pair of shoes, may the Lord have mercy on your sole.