Proportions, Loafing And McNairy

We all know that you can play with the cut and styling of clothes to even out your proportions and compensate for mother natures shortcomings. Colours, patterns, styles of jacket, lapel types, collars,  are all the familiar tools, and in case of doubt refer to Nicholas Antongiavanni’s ‘The Suit’.

When considering proportion an item often overlooked are shoes. Whether you’re slight of build or quite hefty you’ll always do better to go for a bigger weightier shoe. For the most part that means Good Year Welted – which tends to provide a thinker and wider sole than Blake construction – and for best results go brogues or monks.

Unfortunately, I’ve always been a loafers man, and having put on a bit of timber recently they’ve tended to look a bit twee. However, this week I stumbled across the loafer I’ve been looking for, at least for casual pairings.

Mark McNairy will be pretty familiar to readers of Inventory, A Continuous Lean and those interested in the American Work Wear and Ivy League revivals that have gathered pace in the last 18 months.

For anybody unfamiliar with his name, in 2005 McNairy was hired by blue blooded, Ivy League outfitters J. Press, and was tasked with updating certain Lines.

While remaining creative director for J. Press, McNairy has undertaken a number of successful collaborations as well as launching a number of his own brands, including an English/US hybrid footwear label called Red Brick Sole. McNairy then takes US inspired designs like saddle shoes and bucks and has them made up by Sanders in Northampton, meaning you get the tradition and quality of English shoe making and of course Good Year Welting. What ties the range together is the Red Brick Sole which firmly plants them back in the Ivy League camp.


The McNairy Penny Loafers in Brown army grain leather is my choice, and the combination of robust leather and contrast sole should provide the weight I’m looking for. Not easy to find in the UK I’ll be purchasing mine through Swedish based Trés Bien – a trusted source and a useful supplier of Church’s shoes, for those based in continental Europe.


  1. Chris said:

    I tend to disagree. Not everyone needs to compensate for extra weight with a sturdy shoe. Their is nothing more aesthetically pleasing than a nice slim shoe as the foundation for a nice slim silhouette.

    Visually heavy shoes are for visually heavy people. Slender shoes are for slim people. Its about a congruency of proportion.

    January 19, 2010
  2. Jon said:

    I tend to agree with Chris. Can, perhaps, you show some examples of how this works for a person? (i.e. pictures) In the US, at least, the last 10 years have been a veritable stampede of hugely chunky, square toed boats. Looking back on it, they didn’t seem to do anybody any favors.

    January 20, 2010
  3. Jon said:

    I also think that those shoes pictured look like lifts. That’s just too much sole unless you’re actually out chopping timber, not storing it around your belly.

    That said, maybe big shoes do work for bigger guys. I suppose if the legs are stocky, you don’t want to look like you’re standing on little pegs.

    January 20, 2010
  4. Andrew said:

    This is the sort of thing I mean

    I understand your point, but I think it depends on your idea of balance. Slight, as in slim and below average height and slim shoes do you no favours. But, the point is more to suggest to people that it is something they can play with, and is an area often overlooked in most books on style.

    January 20, 2010

Comments are closed.