Shoes are to clothes as wheels are to cars. This is not just an analogy of function, but also an analogy in terms of aesthetic roles. Got a Ferrari Dino with some 13-inch hubbies? May as well set off a paint bomb in the back too, because you've wrecked your car already. The redeeming and defining power of a nice set of wheels is a strange but immutable law of automotive desire. Shoes are indeed the same deal. By the certain (and fair) criteria of aesthetic dignity, your shoes are the defining feature of your dressed appearance.
Nick and Chris Schaerf are brothers who've taken leave of their former pursuits in the medical and legal professions to ensure that – with vision and commitment – fine, quality shoes can again be available to any Melburnian man in a proper abundance of styles and sizes.
We are talking real shoes here. Their brand new store, Double Monk (on Smith Street, Fitzroy), has such an exquisite, sizeable, floor-to-ceiling stock of English shoes that when you walk in you feel as if the universe just had one big material upgrade. And to top things off, at the back of the store is a well stocked bar, some armchairs and some particularly welcoming company. Chris and Nick want you to enjoy yourself and they only want you to consider buying the fine things they sell because they think you’ll enjoy them. Indeed, it must be emphasised that they want everyone and anyone to know and enjoy what they have to sell. No snoots, no BS.
The key message they have is this: their offering is not market-defined seasonal fodder, designed to appeal by means of glitter and an aura of exclusivity. Rather, it is a gathering of products that are extremely well made and possessing of intrinsic gorgeousness, whether via their classic elegance or their uniqueness of style – veritable Tumblr candy.
Stocking brands like Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, George Cleverley, John Lobb and Rubinacci, prices start at $485. If it seems pricey, keep in mind that some of these shoes, Nick assures, take longer to make than a Porsche Boxster. These brands are not available for any old retailer to flog; Chris and Nick have personally lobbied on the other side of the globe to secure their supply. Beyond shoes, the shop also sells a selection of various products that Chris and Nick happen to be equally familiar with and passionate about. Among them are Rubinacci ties, Corgi socks, Marvis toothpaste, Fox umbrellas and superb Saphir shoe-care products.
When properly made and well taken care of, shoes serve in a completely different capacity to what is now common footwear. As they age, they look nicer and more evolved, and only become more comfortable. Because of the underlying quality of their manufacture and materials, care and repair becomes financially feasible and sensible. Therefore shoes, which for so many men these days sit in a category not too dissimilar to underwear, become far more permanent and valuable things. They are then closer to the category of a fine coat, a car or a piece of furniture. It is simply a matter of authenticity – objects designed and made carefully to optimally perform their function of protecting the feet, being comfortable and looking nice. When you buy them, you are meant to keep them.