Sid: Hey Will... thank you for writing in. So you need a pair of shoes that can go into a lot of different rooms, is comfortable, can handle the weather, and looks good no matter what city you're in?
You are not alone – that’s basically what I’m thinking about when I travel for business. And for me, THE go-to travel shoe is the Sharkskin Tassel Loafer. If you ask the guys around the office or shop, they’d probably say it’s my go-to Atlanta shoe, too.
JB: I probably get more compliments on these shoes than any other pair of shoes I own.
Sid: I would say the exact same thing. People notice them and ask, "what is that hide?" I tell people they're dinosaur... but quickly the truth comes out that it's shark, which is kind of dinosaur-esque. We really like it because its appearance, it is one of the most roughly elegant hides out there. It's an exotic – not unlike an alligator or lizard, but not nearly as fancy. So it does give you the second look, but not like “whoa! fancy shoes!” Just more “wait, what are those?”
JB: When did you first start wearing it?
Sid: We made our first sharkskin shoe about 5 years ago. I had never worn it until we made it, but I had originally seen sharkskin in vintage stores and remember them as a kid. My dad had some… or some that were made to look like shark. In the old days, people made facsimiles of sharkskin, because you'd see different leathers with lots of grain on them. Because the grain on shark is what is really beautiful. It is very textured, which gives it this tough elegance.
And through the years when I was at J.CREW or Polo or Tommy, I basically collected sharkskin swatches from various leather shows throughout the world… and I would find myself asking "when can I use this?" We didn’t see it out there much… and thought “why aren’t we doing that? That's an under-utilized and under-thought-of hide that goes beautifully into shoes.” And the timing wasn’t quite right until we had our own company.
JB: Why did you decide to put them in a tassel loafer first?
Sid: The shark shoes from the past were mostly in lace-ups. But we wear a lot of the tassel loafers – it's definitely one of our top 3 shoes. And I think it’s probably my most versatile shoe because I can dress it up easily, but I can go without socks and it can become dressed down. So the idea of making that shoe with sharkskin leather seemed like a cool combination. In a sense, the shark took care of some of the fussiness of a tassel. Kind of the way suede does. They really occupy the same headspace as suede, but just a little fancier.
The other great thing about sharkskin shoes, is that they don't need a lot of polish. Really your polish rag wiped around it is all you need. The shoe itself handles dings and dangs really well. It doesn't require a lot of precious upkeep. It's a rough and tumble leather. And if you do get caught in the rain, while not waterproof, sharkskin shoes handle water pretty well. I mean they did live in the ocean!
JB: Do you have rules as to what do you wear the shark tassels with?
Sid: I love them with a suit. They provide a juxtaposition, because, while all tassels fit the bill, these have some roughness to them. They’re a cool way to go into a formal meeting because tassels can act a bit more formal, but the shark is just a little unexpected and brings something a bit different. In that instance, I would wear socks – charcoal, navy or browns – something that doesn't fight against it.
But the reason why I think they’re the perfect business travel shoe – is that they’ll look equally great with jeans or cords, a pair of gray wool trousers or flannel trousers. You could even wear them with shorts and a polo if you’re on vacation and that’s your thing.
JB: So this is super-applicable right now in August, as we gear up for fall. But what if Will is going to say... Chicago in February?
Sid: I would stick with the shark tassels, but I’d pack a pair of walking shoes. To us, Blundstones are one of the greatest solves to any sort of inclement weather. I've been wearing Blundstones since I lived in Wisconsin, 20+ years ago. Because they really fight the weather beautifully. And even in New York, I would wear the Blundstones on the street and carry my dress shoes in the plastic dry cleaning bag from my room. Then I'd just switch them out before heading into the meeting. That might feel like a hassle, but that's how I would do it. And I don't think twice about it.
For us, it’s shark week, every week.