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.
I was a latecomer to David Bowie (I know, what an idiot) but now, as well as loving his music, I’ve realised that he’s a brilliant source of flat shoe inspiration. For starters, there’s this awesome picture of him wearing Stan Smiths with white tailoring and looking completely amazing from, presumably, sometime in his Let’s Dance phase. It’s maybe the coolest anyone’s ever looked. That’s basically all my lifetime outfit goals right there, summed up in one outfit.
But now, one of my favourite new footwear brands – Rogues – has taken the iconic cover of Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane – you’ll know it even if you’ve never heard it – and run with it on a pair of desert boots. With their lightening bolt shot down the back of the heel, these ‘Ziggy Stardust’ boots (yep, that’s what they’re called!) are available as a capsule collection in three colours from October 22nd.
Rogues is a lovely brand (you can read more about it and its founder, Katie, here) with a focus on shoes that have the fun of trainers, but the structure of a formal shoe you can wear to work. This is the first time it’s done boots, and I like that these are still really simple, as a desert boot should be. There’s just that flash of colour on the back and the laces. And I’m a BIG fan of brightly coloured laces (you can buy laces at Rogues in a pick n mix bag, just like the sweets).
Although they’re not available until Thursday October 22nd, I thought I would give you a heads up as being a limited collection, they might sell out fast. And also, that happens to be the same date that my second book comes out, so I might be a bit preoccupied talking about that! As always, I’d love to know what you think about these shoes, so leave comments below.
Earlier this year, I saw a girl at Wallpaper (a neighbouring magazine to InStyle in my office building) wearing a pair of amazing white leather trainers with a really interesting three-way split sole. ‘Those are AMAZING’, I said. ‘They’re from Clarks’, she replied. I’m not going to lie, I felt like quite the fool for not already knowing this. I love Clarks Originals, but somehow I had managed to miss these when I’d looked at the new season a couple of months earlier. So off a went to get a pair for myself but alas, they had sold out EVERYWHERE. I even roped the Clarks press office in to help me but they couldn’t get hold of any either…so they promised me that as soon as the new season styles were available, they’d get some on my feet.
I was absolutely certain I would fall head over heels in love with these trainers, so I included them in my new book – En Brogue: The Trainers Guide – despite the fact that I still hadn’t been able to get hold of a pair (see below). But it was a risk that paid off because when my grey wool pair of Trigenics arrived a few months ago, I was totally smitten. I love the woolly grey fabric even more than the white leather on the ones I had been lusting after all those months ago. And, unsurprisingly for Clarks Originals, they are REALLY comfortable. I’d go as far as to say I think they are THE most comfortable pair of shoes I own. I know, that’s quite a statement, right?
I’ve held off on doing this blog post because I was waiting for Clarks to get them in stock in lots of sizes, but the grey ones are only available for men at the moment. You can get a pair of grey spotty ones though, if a slightly more feminine look is for you. The good news, though, is that the Natural Shoe Store has my grey Trigenics in stock in ladies’ sizes right now, though they are low on stock so don’t mess about if you want a pair for yourself. I really can’t recommend them enough! They come up a little small – for me I wear my regular size 4 but if you go up 1/2 a size in Clarks Originals desert boots I would suggest doing the same with these.