What's Happening South Of My Ankles!
This might be a gross generalization, but I think it’s safe to say that women love shoes. Often torturous and/or hazardous to walk in, women consistently fall on the sword of fashion exclaiming “the higher the heels, the closer to God,” and keep it moving while they tip-toe their calf and booty conditioning stilettos into event after event. From Loubou’s to Jimmy Choo’s, ladies have long enjoyed (and earned) a luxury footwear market saturated with designer options. Every Cinderella searching for the perfect pump sure to drive her man crazy and her girlfriends crazier with envy never has to search far and wide to find it.
But for every Cinderella out there perpetuating that stereotype there is an equally enthusiastic Cinderfella obsessed with what’s happening south of his ankles! Myth buster alert: though many won’t admit it, gay or straight, men love shoes! We go nuts over them—constantly spraying and inhaling the toxic fumes that protect and condition them—fretting over the tiniest scuffs and ready to do bodily harm to anyone who accidentally steps on a new pair. Yes, men don’t usually get called on the carpet for their shoe buying habits like women do, but according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, in 2016 men’s shoes made up 35% of the global footwear industry’s $52 billion annual revenue. I repeat—men love shoes!
Designer sneakers are nothing new, but the millennial generation’s interest in them has exploded the market—driving the demand for colorful, unconventional options that speak to the sneaker-head counter culture. It’s not all limited edition Air Jordan’s and custom Stan Smith’s that have become synonymous with street-style either. Now more than ever, the demand for comfortable luxury sneakers in classic minimalist designs with respect to style, function, and quality of materials is on the rise. Very few brands satisfy these criteria more expertly than Common Projects.
I first discovered Common Projects while on the hunt for a low-top white sneaker. I’d never owned a white shoe before but summer was around the corner and I knew I wanted something simplistic that could be dressed up or dressed down. I wanted them to be leather with matching soles not so thick I felt like I was wearing a 1970’s platform shoe. Another stipulation of mine was that they needed to be shoes I could wear with shorts or pants. Although I’ve seen it work from an objective standpoint, I personally don’t care for the high-top sneakers with shorts look. I tend to shy away from sneakers that have so much going on that the shoe looks like it’s wearing you instead of you wearing it. I love to be adventurous with fashion, however, all of my pieces somehow fit into a lexicon of classic silhouettes with a subtle twist. I pay a little more for my clothing and footwear because I select with the adjective “timeless” in mind—making sure the style and quality of the product can stand the test of time.
My search had me coming up empty until I walked into one of my favorite Los Angeles boutiques Open Ceremony. There they were—my stylish, sophisticated, white leather, Achilles Low Common Projects sneakers. Soft but durable, I felt the quality of the Italian leather immediately. I slipped them on with my Aldo Terry Insoles to make sure the tongue of the shoe wouldn’t irritate the top of my foot. To my relief the tongue gave way to the shape of my dorsal and the rest of my foot felt supported as I took a walk around the store. Hand stitched with clean lines, this “grown-up” sneaker had the ease and accessibility of Chuck Taylor’s with the style and elegance of Ferragamo wingtips. They felt elevated and unlike anything I’d seen out there at the time—the Goldilocks of premium shoes—not too fancy and not too casual—just right.
Eyeing the army green pair next to them, I was tempted to purchase both right then and there, but feeling a little stung by the price tag, I happily walked out of the store with my new white summer shoes. After falling in love with the overall look and feel of my white Common Projects and receiving loads of compliments, I went back in a matter of weeks for the green pair—recognizing that $400 a pop for a shoe of this caliber was a worthy investment. Having passed all my initial tests, two years in and my Common Projects still look brand new. I take care of them and in return the shoes have maintained their original integrity. I seem to add a pair to my collection with seasonal regularity.
Apart from the quality of the shoes I also love the colors in the Common Projects line. From cherry red to powder blue there’s always an interesting color variation on the traditional Achilles style. With the same giddy elation I’d imagine SJP has when she spies a new sparkly pair of Manolo Blahnik’s, I fixated on these blush pink Common Projects and decided yep, I’m man enough to rock those. I can’t tell you how many people have raved over them—by far my favorite pair I own.
According to an interview the founders Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami had with Jian Deleon from BusinessofFashion.com, the two started their company in the early 2000s with the first Achilles Low collection hitting the market in 2004. Coincidentally, one of the first carriers of Common Projects was Open Ceremony. Poopat and Girolami both possessed a great passion for sneakers citing Air Jordan’s, Adidas and Converses as inspiration for their own line. Determined to create a more urbane sneaker that satisfied the necessity for comfort but also reflected a refined level of taste, the two employed a local Italian manufacture in the Marche region known for creating high quality dress shoes.
Craftsmanship so precise and details so subdued Common Projects imply effortlessness—allowing the shoes to quietly, yet confidently speak for themselves. With only 10 gold metallic numbers printed on the outer heel of each shoe representing the style number, European size and color to set them apart branding wise, Common Projects continues to trek its way into the mainstream. “A spokesperson for the privately owned company revealed that Common Projects has built a network of 150 stockists around the world and generates ‘roughly $10 million’ in annual revenue,” (BofF.com)—proving the only thing “common” about Common Projects is their mass appeal.
Honorable Mention: Armando Cabral
Comparable in construction and aesthetic quality, Portuguese designer Armando Cabral is nipping at the heels of Common Projects sneakers while offering an array of other shoe essentials like loafers, lace-ups and boots. Aside from the sumptuous Italian leather, I really appreciate the level of comfort I feel when wearing the shoes. “Ultra-flexible insoles, supple lining that molds to your foot, durable outsoles and supportive design ensures unparalleled performance and a custom fit,” (Armando-Cabral.com). The more I wear them the more confident I feel in my decision to financially invest in them—a cost equivalent to buying a pair of Common Projects.
Having launched his line in 2008, Cabral may have been heavily influenced by his leading competitor like they were by the brands that came before them. What’s wonderful and challenging about the market is discovering how to put your own unique stamp on a universal commodity. In the case of both Armando Cabral and Common Projects, they’ve managed to take the concept of a luxury sneaker and perfect it in similar but independently valuable ways. I think it’s why I’m drawn to both brands, and possibly you will be too.
All photos were taken by Gerardo Guillen @gerardoguillen
It’s always a good idea to treat your leather shoes before wearing them. The first thing I do is waterproof my shoes followed by a natural beeswax leather polish to condition them. I try to use shoe bags and cedar shoe-forms too. The shoe bags keep the shoes from getting accidentally scuffed and are great for traveling. The cedar shoe-forms help maintain the shoes original shape while also absorbing moisture left behind that can contribute to distressing and cracking the leather.
I also use Aldo’s Terry Insoles in all of my shoes during warm weather. I find low-cut socks start off great when they actually stay hidden inside the shoe, but by the end of the day they’re stretched out and bunching up—defeating their intended purpose. With the insoles you can go sockless and maintain dryness because the terry cloth absorbs sweat. The latex on the backside of the insole is treated to help eliminate odors and they are hand washable. They’re $8.99 a pair and perfect for hot summer days.
I have come to rely on Aldo’s Leather Protector Spray. It works on all colors of leather and protects against rain, snow, salt damage, and stops water from setting in to the leather. Really you can use any leather protector, this is just the one that I’ve used and I know works. Although, I would make sure to get one that is specifically designed for treating leather shoes—ones designed for boots may be too strong for softer leathers.
Here are the directions for treating your shoes with this product.
- Shake well before use.
- Use in a well-ventilated area.
- Surface must be clean and dry.
- Hold can upright 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) away and spray entire surface in a circular motion.
- Allow to dry and repeat.
- Do not forget to test on small area to test for color fastness.