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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 3, 2006

Hot kicks for men

 •  In Hawai'i, 'easy chic' is cool

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Alan V., a stylist at CHOP Salon, owns 70 pairs of sneakers. He wears a special edition Nike called "Undefeated" with Antik jeans he bought in Los Angeles.

Photos by DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Puma sneakers, Macy's Ala Moana, $90

  • "... into soccer, martial arts or capoeira. Dolph Lundgren or David Beckham?"
  • "Genuine soccer player or wannabe, either way, it speaks Euro god."
  • "A dancer, a friend of Dorothy or someone too stylish for Hawai'i."

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    Just a half-dozen pairs of Alan V.'s shoes, including Evisu, Nike and Adidas special editions. Athletic-shoe designers are bringing out stylish shoes that can be worn to the office and still provide all-day comfort.

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    Ann Demeulemeester red high-cut sneaker, Aloha Rag, $275

  • "Punk, rockabilly, fun, creative ... or old and eccentric."
  • "Hippie clown."
  • "Ranges from a teen to an emo guy to a 50-year-old dude who's trying too hard."

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    "Santa Barbara" black calf with Nike Air technology, Cole Haan Ala Moana, $155

  • "Neutral, simple, a safe choice."
  • "Typical black, not bad, not amazing."
  • "Either a fashionista or an East Coast export to the Hawai'i corporate scene, but not too stuffy."

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    "Air Carsen Venetian" milkshake suede with Nike Air sole, Cole Haan, $165

  • "High-maintenance, metrosexual, Euro-style, into jazz and wine."
  • "Suede is just uncool."
  • "Euro-style, into Milanese fashion."
  • "Bland sand."

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    Brown/Sienna "Hugo" by Diesel, Macy’s Ala Moana $89 • "Emo, sensitive, new-age guy." • "Spunky, sporty and stylish." • "Hip-hop, urban chic guy." • "I would say ‘yes’ to a date with him."

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    Gone are the days when men could follow a formula: a wing tip, a lace-up and a high loafer, preferably in black, brown and cordovan. In spring 2006, there are no easy answers.

    Today, men's shoes are all about collaborations between high-fashion houses and high-tech athletic shoemakers. Marc Jacobs is designing Vans slip-on sneakers. Yohji Yamamoto has reinvented Adidas. Gordon Thompson (see box) is combining Cole Haan style with Nike technology. Labels such as Prada, Hugo Boss, Tod's, Gucci and Bally now make shoes with rubber soles that can be worn with suits.

    The lines are blurred between dress, work and casual shoes. It's hard to tell a shoe from a boot or a sandal from a slipper. But does it really matter? Nah, as long as what's on your feet is up to date.

    Many of the most fashion-conscious men in Honolulu are into kicks, aka sneakers. Alan V., a stylist at CHOP Salon in Restaurant Row, is one. He owns around 70 pairs of sneakers, all limited-edition styles.

    Many sneakers by brands such as Nike, Evisu and Adidas are special editions, and they can become collectors items. V. said a pair of Nikes he bought for $170 was trading on eBay for more than $400.

    Funky is hip. However, as George Weisse of Aloha Rag explained it: "Funky formerly meant thrift store or bargain at Ross shoes. Now a hip pair of shoes can be upscale and cost hundreds of dollars."

    And for this crowd, "matching is over," Weisse said emphatically. "I can wear a pair of red shoes with a brown belt and pinstriped pants. It's about being innovative. As long as your shoes fit the vibe you're going after, you're OK."

    Joey Caldarone of Waikiki, who operates between Honolulu's business and art worlds, observed that men's shoes are getting more casual. "But casual is upscale now — and high end," he said. "Like the special edition Nike sneakers that are funky but cost hundreds of dollars, and are only released in certain cities and sold at places like Kicks and In4mation. And Gucci and Louis Vuitton are selling $300 to $500 sneakers now."

    Caldarone's closet is full of jeans, a strong style trend this year, and to match up, his shoe wardrobe is emphasizing shades of brown. "I'm into snakeskin and textured leathers," he said. He loves pointed toes and slip-ons that have a boot-like look but are cut off at the ankles.

    Earthy browns and ethnic influences are hot. Cole Haan's spring theme is "Moroccan Escapade," and combines Nike technology with stitching that make the shoes look handmade.

    Even the classic, conservative family-owned Italian shoe company Salvatore Ferragamo has changed its image, according to Shane Matsuda of the Waikiki store. "Driving and walking shoes are more popular now, and we're using softer and more supple leathers, as well as rubber soles. Driving moccasins in colors like jade green and crimson are coming on strong, and three-toned loafers are big."


    A quick tour of downtown's business district will prove that many men in Honolulu have not yet updated their personal style.

    This rankles David Wilson, president of McNeil Wilson Communications, who works on Bishop Street and cringes every time he sees someone wearing "those wretched moccasins that everybody used to wear. It's granddads who wear them now and think they're hip." Here Wilson let out a big sigh, adding, "But men are loathe to change."

    Wilson took a good hard look at his shoe wardrobe several years ago: "I threw away nine pairs of shoes that I realized I had been wearing since 1980 — I just said to myself, 'It's time I caught up.' "

    What did he replace them with? Mainly Skechers. "They're almost industrial. I like the look." For more casual business days, he wears "softer bowling-style shoes" and for ease when traveling he likes "black slip-on Skechers with a round toe and clog-like appearance."

    Another Bishop Street guy, Morgan Stanley broker Peter Ehrman, loves his Ecco lace-ups and has them in both black and brown. They have square toes and are comfortable and cushioned. "The look is fine. I don't look at them and say 'Wow, these are great-looking shoes, but hey ... " For Ehrman, it's all about comfort.

    We caught up with Brian Kawakami, a representative for Keen Shoes, at Uyeda Shoe Store in University Square. He said the Ecco and Skechers brands are hot in Honolulu right now. "There are no hard, firm soles now. It's not a traditional dress look."

    Clogs are also becoming increasingly popular here, especially for those who travel a lot and need to slip in and out of shoes efficiently. In this case, boomers are helping drive the shoe market. They are more health conscious, Kawakami said, and are willing to trade off the look of the shoe for comfort.

    Comfort is critical for John Rampage, artistic director for Diamond Head Theatre, who is on his feet all day and teaches dance classes at night. His shoe of choice: "Diesel sneakers with elastic criss-cross straps in front. I've been wearing them for three years now and I have them in four colors: brown, beige, white and red." For evening he loves his Prada lace-ups that look like a bowling shoe.

    Business consultant Chris Akin of Kaimuki wears a lot of driving shoes. "Tod's-like moccasins — I can't afford Tod's," he said. "I like the comfort and I like that I can wear them with jeans or with slacks at a business meeting." Shoe wardrobes have changed considerably, he noted: "There are eight million different brands of fancy sneakers. Put on a pair of Pumas or loafers and you can go to any meeting."

    Matthew Luttrell of Makiki, who works at Old Republic Exchange on Bishop Street, favors the Hugo Boss square-toed black leather slip-ons he buys at Macy's. "I try to wear something a little stylish but not overtly flashy. No horrible big soles. They're too clunky for a (downtown) work environment," he said.

    Finding the right shoes can be a balancing act, Luttrell said. "I don't want to look like a kid wearing Doc Martens when I'm meeting with a client. Shoes are everything. You can be wearing the coolest shirt and pants, but if you're wearing bad shoes, you're in trouble. Everyone remembers crappy shoes."

    Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.