Thursday, November 4, 2010

Monk strap shoes

One of my all-time best back-to-school purchases was a pair of monk-strap shoes made by GAP. I'm not sure what inspired by mother to let me buy the shoes — we didn't have tons of money so there were usually just a few nice, new things from the mall each fall, and then the rest of my back-to-school wardrobe came from Goodwill and places like Fashion Bug or Deb's, or the vintage stores I frequented.

The monk strap shoes were chestnut brown, if memory serves, with a chunky heel. And no one else was wearing them. Must have been around 1989; not a big year for menswear-inspired womenswear. According to Men's Fashion Authority, "Kilted loafers have nothing to do with kilts and monk straps have nothing to do with monks. The name of the loafer relates to the style's characteristic feature: a side buckle which is is purely decorative. You won't have to be fiddling with straps and fastenings, these are infact loafers and the strap and buckle are not intended for function. The buckle, which can vary considerably in size and style, gives the loafer a slightly medieval feel, which is probably the origin of the name."

For me, they were a beautiful shoe, and a classic — though just different enough to not be a penny loafer (preppy) or a wing tip (menswear). I loved the clean line, the elegant simplicity, the way they made jeans a little bit dressy and dresses a little bit reigned-in.

Later, after college and getting ready for a job interview, I revisited the monk strap. It was black this time, in supple leather with silver hardware and a thick, two-inch heel. I didn't get the job, but the shoes quickly became a wear-with-everything staple in my wardrobe. To work at the front desk of a hotel, out to drinks afterwards. Bare-legged with skirts in the summer, paired with sweater tights and turtlenecks when the weather turned cold.

Now that fall is here, I'm thinking about past apparel successes and wondering if it's time to revisit this classic.