With Christmas on the horizon, I thought it was a good time to start thinking about gifts, and as well as socks, slippers are always a good bet. I find that however stylish a person might be outside of the house, everyone LOVES a pair of slippers so much that they’re willing to leave their style mojo at the front door in order to be warm and cosy when they get inside. And they’re one of the few things that works for absolutely everyone, from your teenage niece to your elderly granddad. But whoever yore buying them for, it’s good to know that days of the frumpy slipper are over. Because now we have the clog.
There’s so much to love about clogs. They’re mules, so they’re easier to put on and off than some of the boot styles around at the moment (and as the name suggests, slippers shouldn’t be a chore to put on!). Many of them come with rubber soles, so they have a bit of grip and can withstand being worn outside for short periods. Oh, and they look really nice too.
You might remember me writing about Mahabis slippers last year; me and Mr Brogue have a pair each, as does my mum and lots of my friends. They’re really brilliant because you can remove the rubber sole when you’ve popped out with the bins and your floors won’t get all wet. But they also usually have a special offer on (it’s worth searching on Facebook for those) so you rarely have to pay full price for them. I actually have two pairs of slippers though – my Mahabis are for when it’s not freezing, and when the temperature really drops I switch to my sheepskin lined UGGs. I don’t mind spending a bit more money on a decent pair of slippers because if they’re well made, they’ll last MUCH longer, and let’s face it, these are some of the few pairs of shoes you actually wear every single day…
Anyway, enough about my own slipper collection – here are my favourites that are available to buy at the moment.
I’ve had so many requests for this post! As a flat shoe lover, so it goes that you become both a beautiful floor lover (#tileporn) and a snazzy socks lover too. I know many of you fall into this category too! So there comes a time when the 3 for 2 offers at Gap just don’t cut it anymore. You want socks that are more individual, more of a statement and, well, more snazzy. And once they become an important part of your outfit, you’re willing to spend more on them. So here, especially for you, is my ultimate snazzy socks guide; where to buy them and how to wear them.
I’ve been harping on about Stance since I discovered its amazing invisible trainer socks in the summer, but its visible socks are just as brilliant. Plenty of snazz, lots of glitter options (so great for party season) and best of all, a choice of lengths. And by that I don’t just mean knee-length or ankle-length. They have calf socks too! ASOS is the best place to get them as they have a really good selection at the moment, but Size? sells them too (it tends to stock the more sporty styles).
This first look was a revelation to me last winter when I wanted to wear culottes but couldn’t bear bare ankles in the cold (and I always think culottes look a bit weird with tights). Don’t be apologetic about your socks! I think a statement pair look great with sneakers like Puma Suedes (above), adidas Superstars or skate shoes. Ankle-length tube-style socks also work well with this look.
Me and The Sock Council found each other on Twitter, and I’m so glad we did! This is a society dedicated to the love of socks! It’s not even the only one out there, but the other sock club doesn’t stock women’s sizes, so doesn’t have my seal of approval just yet. As well as being able to join the club and buy badges, you can, of course, buy socks on their website too. This particular pair is sold out at the moment but they assure me they’ll be back in stock really soon, and there are lots of other styles to choose from in the meantime.
Here you see me rocking the super turn-up – these trousers are already cropped but I like them turned up twice for maximum sock exposure. With such a weighty sock, you need either substantial jeans or woollen trousers like these to balance the look.
Luna & Curious
I found Luna & Curious through Instagram (or I should say, they heard about my sock addiction and looked me up!). This lovely east London boutique has a brilliant selection of quirky socks by mp Denmark and Bonne Maison which are a little pricey, but are beautiful quality and have a lovely silky feel. They also wash really well. I reckon they’d make a great Christmas present (ooo, here’s a gift idea – a bundle of socks and my new book The Trainers Guide all tied up with a ribbon! Just saying…)
The Natural Shoe Store
The Natural Shoe Store really is a joy to visit (you can read more about it here) and it has a fantastic selection of socks. Like Luna & Curious it stocks Bonne Maison (the pair in this picture are based on vintage kimono prints) as well as Scott Nichol, Birkenstock (yes, they do socks) and Hirsch.
I really like dark indigo jeans with smart shoes and patterned socks. It’s also nice to pick out a colour that appears on your shoes in the socks; so here the yellow matches my Grenson saddle shoes and the dark stripe matches the blue jeans. It might be a bit match-matchy for some people, but I love it.
OK, so with Happy Socks you are likely to get someone saying “ooo, I have those EXACT socks” but I still really like them because there’s such good choice and the prices are reasonable, plus they’re good quality and last ages. Another great option for gifts.
This is my favourite pair of Happy Socks – I love the paisley design as it goes really well with brogues and smart trousers, which I find one of the hardest things to wear socks with and still look chic without looking totally bonkers. I think the key is to stick to a tonal colour palette, so here it’s all browns and oranges. Red and white stripy socks might have been a step too far…
I had literally never thought of buying socks from Uniqlo until this week when, I admit, they sent me a couple of pairs to try out (I’m very lucky to do the job that I do). And I love them! They’re no ordinary socks though – these are from the HeatTech range, which I have been a fan of for ages (I wear the heat regulating vests all year round). As well as keeping you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot, they have anti-bacterial and anti-odour qualities. Who could ask for more than that in a sock? Oh, and they’re cheap too.
Here you see me employing the old monochrome trick – you can totally get away with lots of different prints if everything is in black and white. Just make sure you keep the rest of your outfit simple. I was wearing a plain grey sweater with my blue jeans.
Finally, long overdue on my to-do list is a visit to Pam Pam in east London (what with working full time, writing a blog and a book and getting a puppy, I’ve been a bit strapped for time just lately!) but I will get there next week I hope. Pam Pam is a women’s lifestyle store that specialises in selling trainers (yay!) but it also sells socks. My favourites are these seasonal beauties. Chups aren’t cheap, but they look amazing with trainers.
I love the juxtaposition of a geeky chunky sock with the sleek line of a pair of trainers. For more inspiration, have a look at that other sock club I mentioned – Sock Club London – I’m hoping that by giving them a mention they might start stocking socks to fit my tiny feet (size 4 guys, if you were wondering…).
I’d love to see how you’re wearing your snazzy socks – tweet me or tag me on Instagram!
Now and again, it’s important to stop and re-evaluate the British high street. And as far as Marks and Spencer is concerned, that time is now. Its Best of British range is really great; as the name suggests everything is made in the UK, which always gets my seal of approval. But this season they’ve also introduced trainers from one of my all time favourite brands: Walsh (have you seen my Walsh competition where you can win a pair and a copy of my new book by the way? Details about that here – there’s still time to enter!).
If you don’t already know about Walsh – which you probably don’t because it’s a pretty niche label and you won’t find them in Offspring or Foot Locker – it’s a really interesting brand. I won’t tell you the whole story because I’ve done that in my new book – The Trainers Guide (out now!) and I’d quite like for some of you to go out and buy it, so you can read about it in there! I know, I’m selfish. But in a nutshell, it’s a heritage brand (which just means it’s been around for ages and it’s a company we as a nation should be proud of) and it makes really, REALLY nice trainers. I already have a couple of pairs (you can see the full range on their website here) but M&S has its own designs that aren’t available anywhere else. Nice one, Marks and Sparks!
Other things to love about these trainers? They’re really lightweight, so are an absolute pleasure to wear. They need precisely NO wearing in and are comfortable from day one. And they have a lovely, old school feel to them, particularly in the colours that Marks and Spencer has chosen to stock.
You should check out the rest of the Best of British range too. Items I’d like to pair with my Walsh trainers include these wool trousers (always a winner with trainers), this checked shirt dress (very House of Holland) and this jumpsuit (though I suspect I’m too short to really pull it off). So the next time you’re passing Marks and Spencer, drop in and take a look! You might be pleasantly surprised.
I told you last week I was spoiling you with competitions and I wasn’t lying because here’s another one! You could bag yourself a pair of trainers from one of my favourite brands: Walsh. AND you’ll get a signed copy of my new book – En Brogue: The Trainers Guide – to boot. Good, eh?
If you’re not familiar with Walsh, it’s a British brand that has a great heritage dating back to 1961. I won’t go into too much detail because I do that in the book and I don’t want to ruin that page for you if you win it or are getting it for Christmas, so all you need to know at this point is that that designs are really cool (I regular get asked by strangers where mine are from when I wear them) and they’re very comfortable, too.
The style I have myself is from the Casual Heritage range and is called Ensign, as are the pair in my illustration. I wear them a lot because I love that they really make your outfit something special, whether you’re just wearing them with jeans or have teamed them with something smarter like some tailored trousers or a skirt. They just seem to go with everything in spite of being the opposite of plain!
Anyway, back to that competition. To enter, you just need to take a picture of your feet surviving the British autumn (you can be wearing any shoes you like) and upload it to Twitter or Instagram with the tags @normanwalshuk @enbrogue @saltyardbooks #thetrainersguide. The competition doesn’t open until Monday 16th November and is open until Monday 30th November, so make sure you enter within those times. You can read the full terms and conditions of the competition here. I’ll be judging the winner and you guys know the sort of pictures I like! Good luck, and I can’t wait to see your pictures.
A few weeks ago, Nike invited me to try out some of their new season tech gear – so that’s clothing and sneakerboots that are designed for winter weather. I’m not going to lie, it was a bit weird first thing on a Monday morning to be asked to pop on a pair of trainers and a jacket and stand in a wind tunnel and walk through puddles, but it certainly did the job of proving the point that the technology works!
Now, you know me, for the most part I’m a fan of classic styles, often with a retro twist, and when it comes to trainers I’m rarely swayed by the promise of modern technology because actually, when the weather’s bad I’ll probably just wear a pair of sturdy leather boots. But since I’ve been wearing my Clarks Originals Trigenics with their contemporary split sole, I’ve been more open to the idea (not that I’d risk those woollen beauties in the rain!). Not only that, having worn trainers solidly for the month of October to publicise my new book, it’s proving pretty hard to NOT wear trainers on any given day. And now that I have a pair of these Flyknit chukkas on my feet, I have to admit to being a bit smitten.
So what’s the technology bit? Well, they have reflective bits on them which makes you more visible when you’re walking around on a dark winter afternoon. And although it’s a soft woven fabric, the Flyknit is treated so that it’s water resistant so you’ll stay dry (and warm) in the rain and snow. Cool, eh? Plus they are incredibly lightweight and, obviously, very VERY comfortable.
They’re available in four different colours, but it’s only the orange (that I’m wearing, top) and the black that go down to really small sizes.
This week I paid a long overdue visit to The Natural Shoe Store on Neal Street in Covent Garden. I’d met the store’s buyer Kuni Awai about a year ago at an event, but had been rubbish at actually finding the time to go in and see her. And now I feel quite the fool because frankly, it’s AMAZING in there.
The Natural Shoe Store has been around for over 30 years, and as one of the original UK stockists of Birkenstock, we have a lot to thank it for! But you might have a misconception of what the store is all about (I know I did). While it does have a range of vegan shoes, the “natural” bit doesn’t mean you can’t find stylish leather designs in there too. The focus is on craftsmanship and comfort (yay!) and many of the labels stocked there are family businesses, so there’s an emphasis on the production side of things too. What Kuni has brought in since she started buying shoes for them though, is a massive injection of cool. And you might be surprised at some of the brands available – you’ll see a lot of your very favourites, and also a whole bunch of niche ones you’ve never heard of (but will be really glad you’ve discovered).
There are so many great things to talk about that I thought it would be useful to list them all out. You can find most of this stuff on the website but I do really recommend going into the store as it’s such a nice experience in there.
Here’s a brand I didn’t know about, and these beauts above (the style is called Anna) are made especially for The Natural Shoe store. They’re incredibly lightweight and come in cool colours. I liked the white but went for the orange as you don’t often see orange shoes. Mine aren’t available online at the moment but they are in store. They’re similar to Clarks Originals in size in that they come up a little small, so you might need to go up a size (another excuse to go in store and try them on!)
Yep, The Natural Shoe Store stocks one of my very favourite brands, Grenson. It’s a relatively small edit, but so nice to have them under the same roof as so many other brilliant brands. Most shoe concessions in department stores are owned by Kurt Geiger – there’s nothing wrong with Kurt Geiger! – but it’s really nice to see a an independent edit instead of the usual.
3. Shepherd slippers
With Christmas on the horizon, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about slippers in the last week or so, and TNSS has a brilliant range (I’ll cover some other brands later in the list). These ones from Shepherd just make me want to snuggle up in front of an open fire.
You know how much of a fan I am of Clarks, but you do have to wade through a lot of shoes you’d never wear in order to find the good stuff sometimes. Thankfully, Kuni has put them all in one place for your convenience. As well as my beloved Trigenics trainers (they have more stock of these than Clarks does), there are some really smart Wallabees and the new England range which, although a little more pricy, are beautifully made and look much more chic than your average pair of Clarks brogues. And as the name suggests, are made in England!
Don’t be fooled by the name! This is another Danish brand and super-cute it is too (they started out making badminton racquets). You can never go wrong with a retro plimsoll, particularly when the price is this good – bargain!
The Natural Shore Store sells its own MEGA shoe protector called Liquiproof. It’s £10 per bottle and you’ll need half the bottle per shoe (so yes, that’s a whole bottle for one pair #maths) but you’ll never need to spray them again and it’s pretty amazing, so well worth it to protect your favourite shoes. There’s a film showing in store demonstrating water, ketchup and other horrible liquids you’d never want anywhere near your shoes just falling off suede like they’re not even wet. Oh, and some of the shoes in there are already sprayed so if you’re lucky, you’ll get a pair that’s already protected.
7. Bonne Maison socks
Socks are becoming more and more a priority in my life, and I’m always excited to find a new brand. I used to settle for Gap socks on special offer – 3 pairs for £8! – but now I’m willing to fork out a bit more for something more individual and of better quality. Apparently these are inspired by the prints on old kimonos (I’m also wearing a different pair in the first image).
8. The service
The staff in store are lovely and very knowledgable. The gentleman who served me told me that he had the same socks on as the ones I was buying and that they wash really nicely. I love that kind of attention to detail!
You might not have heard of one of The Natural Shoe Store’s best selling brands, Arche, but you’ll be glad you did. This French label has some designs I wouldn’t wear because the heels are a wee bit too high, but I like the designs and colour combinations.
10. Bass Wejuns
I only got my first pair of Wejuns recently but they’re one of the original and best for loafers. In fact, they were the first to feature the penny ‘slot’ on the front of the shoe, which was originally meant to symbolise the designer’s wife kissing him on the cheek as he left for work each day. Cute, eh?
11. Scratch cards
At the moment, when you buy anything in store you’re given a scratch card which could win you anything from 10% off your next purchase to a free pair of shoes! It’s valid until Christmas Eve so don’t leave it too long before you go…
12. Haflinger slippers
More slippers! I love these, and some come with the added bonus of being able to remove the cork inner sole so that you can wash the felt.
13. Scott Nichol socks
Another snazzy socks label to swoon over, these don’t come in as many smaller sizes but I’m eyeing them up for Mr Brogue’s Christmas presents! They’re nice and thick and I love the fair isle designs.
My friend Holly has had a pair of Sorel boots for years and I’m always envious of them when we’re walking on the beach on the Isle of Wight in the winter. If we go snowboarding again any time soon, I think it’s time to invest!
Last but not least, the brand that The Natural Shoe Store is best known for. Although there is a Birkenstock shop on the same street, it’s still a great place to come in and browse these old favourites (and might not be as busy!). Kuni pointed out the new soft sole versions, which are great if you fins Birkenstocks hard to wear in.
I’m really spoiling you with competitions at the moment guys, and I’m very excited about this one! I’ve teamed up with Gola, makers of brilliantly old school sneakers, for a great giveaway. Not only could you win a signed copy of my new book – En Brogue: The Trainers Guide – (which is, if I say so myself, and excellent prize) but you could win a pair of Gola Harriers too. Yay!
The Harrier is a classic style from Gola that’s been around since 1968. You can’t argue with a shoe that’s been selling steadily for nearly five decades! The Britpop girl in me loves these trainers for their retro feel, with a suede finish, unusual colour combos and – the best bit – a gum sole. They just make me want to dig out the towelling T-shirt I bought from Don’s Sport Shop in 1994 for £2…
That’s not to say they’re not totally relevant to a modern wardrobe too. Trainers, as you know because I’ve been harping on about it so much, are MASSIVE news in the fashion world at the moment and have been popping up on the catwalk all over the place. For a more contemporary feel, I’d pair them with tailored trousers and a cashmere sweater.
Anyway, I’ve gone off topic. ‘HOW DO I ENTER?!’ I hear you cry. Well, you just need to upload a picture of you wearing your most colourful trainers (they don’t have to be Gola) to Twitter or Instagram with the tags @golaclassics @enbrogue @saltyardbooks #thetrainersguide. I’ll be picking the winner myself so get creative! You can read the full terms and conditions of the competition here. The closing date for entries is Friday November 13th, so don’t hang around! I can’t wait to see your pictures!
I’m not just saying this because I’ve recently had a book published on the subject (honest!), but there really has never been a better time to be a woman and a fan of trainers than right now. Because as well as all the exciting stuff that’s happening with sports brands at the moment (more on that later this week), pretty much all fashion brands are producing their own take on sporty footwear too. So there are absolutely loads of options to choose from if comfy footwear is your bag…and some of them are really, REALLY nice.
Today I’m looking at a brand that I’ve been a fan of for years now – Mint Velvet. As well as being a great place to pick up clothes (I have a black leather skirt that I literally don’t know what I would do without), it had a really good offering of sneakers for the new season. My favourites are the tennis shoe-style plimsolls called ‘Bonny’, which come in the grey suede I’m wearing here and black (below). They have a classic, simple shape, which is always something to look for when going for fashion rather than sports trainers, and I love the animal print on the heel. They’re classy and subtle, but still have a hint of fun.
As you can see, I’ve tried them out for myself and can confirm that they’re really comfortable. As it’s Sunday, I’m currently rocking them with my favourite Sunday attire – my beloved Zara dropped crotch onesie!! – because I’m chilling out indoors, but they’re one of those shoes that’s super versatile when it comes to styling them up. I’ll be paring them with black tailored trousers for work but they look lovely with jeans, too. And you could probably get away with wearing the black ones with tights when it gets colder – something that’s hard to find in a pair of trainers. Oh, and at £89, they’re very reasonably priced for a top quality pair of kicks.
This week has been so exciting with the release of my second book – En Brogue: The Trainers Guide – and I’ve got some cool competitions coming up over the next couple of months that you can get involved in too. The first is one for anyone who feels creative, because it involves colouring.
Gone are the days when colouring was just for kids – colouring books are huge news at the moment with the mindfulness movement, which reckons that colouring is really good for your state of mind. As an illustrator, I totally agree with this! Nothing clears my mind and makes me feel relaxed like a bit of painting (I’m just waiting for some watercolours to dry as I write this, in fact).
So if you fancy winning a signed copy of my book, just get out your pencils, paints or crayons and have a go at designing your own pair of Nike Blazers, as seen on the cover of the book. I’ve got three copies to give away, and I’ll be picking the winners myself – they’ll be my favourites, not picked at random, so make sure you make an effort!
To enter, just download the template here and post your finished picture on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #trainersguidecomp, tagging in @enbrogue. You’ve got until the end of October to enter, and you can read all the terms and conditions here. Oh, and you’ll feel great at the end of it too! Happy colouring!
So, my new book – En Brogue: The Trainers Guide – is published by Saltyard today! Obviously I am REALLY excited about it, and I can’t wait to hear what you all think of it. I honestly could have written at least twice as much as I did, because trainers are an incredibly interesting subject and there are so many different pairs with such fascinating stories that it was pretty hard to edit it down to the ones I included. But here they are – some of my favourite trainers of all time and sneakers with histories I just had to tell you about – all wrapped up neatly in a hard back book.
The book follows pretty much the same format as my first one – En Brogue: Love Fashion. Love Shoes. Hate Heels – which came out last year. All the illustrations are by me, and I can tell you, trainers really are a joy to paint! There are more styling tips than before, because you told me you wanted them, and in place of the iconic styles dotted throughout the first book, I’ve included some of the designer styles we’ve seen on the catwalk in recent years. Although if I’d waited a few more months to finish the book I’d have included some different ones because trainers were everywhere at fashion week! Good news for my little book that trainers are well and truly having a moment….
Anyway, do put it on your Christmas list, buy it for friends or even for yourself! It’s priced at £10 and is available from Waterstones, Amazon and all good book shops. I hope you like it! Do let me know by leaving comments below.