Contemplating McNairy: Mark McNairy F/W '14 at Capsule New York
Words by Ben P.
I’ve always had a hard time with Mark McNairy. On one hand he, and his brand, represent almost everything wrong with #menswear: randomly applying camouflage to inappropriate pieces (how about camo socks and a blazer! exciting!), combining inappropriate patterns seemingly at random, and riding each and every trend until its painful and warranted death. On the other hand, I’ve always been drawn to his footwear. While at the end of the day McNairy’s shoes are just rebranded Sanders (the English shoe company that produces most of his shoes) manufactured in unique fabrics and color combinations, it’s widely released, the pricing is fair and for every awful denim/zebra print combination there’s a very classic pebble-grain loafer.
The Fall/Winter 2014 collection stays true to form, and is a series of work appropriate footwear and multi-colored monstrosities begging for a tumblr post. One thing McNairy does do well, though, is carefully tread the line between business and business casual. Take, for example, his brown pebblegrain wingtip boots. The shape of the last and the design of the shoe in general is what I’d term “medium dressy,” but the specific details – the contrasting welt, the silver eyelets – give it a more casual air. In my eyes, this is where McNairy excels: bringing a well-made, classic English country shoe to an American audience that is perfect for the office world where most of us actually work. I was also excited too see a very subtle grey suede wingtip boot, a surprisingly sleek black wholecut, and a burgundy monkstrap chukka.
But then, as always, there’s the other side of the spectrum, the camouflage patterned cotton derby with a contrasting black leather pebblegrain upper. Who would wear this, and why? Sure we can all probably imagine at least one appropriate outfit – Halloween Costume of G.I. Joe working undercover at Wells Fargo springs to mind – but how much wear are you going to get out of these shoes? Are they worth several hundred dollars? Their mere existence almost seems a waste as they’re occupying a space where a much better and more wearable shoe could have existed.
But maybe, at the end of the day, that’s McNairy’s genius. He’s succeeded in bringing the world of streetwear to classic English footwear, and his less palatable offerings can coexist side-by-side with those featuring classic styling. Most of the stores that carry the camouflage chukka don’t carry other high-end dress shoes: they’re stocking McNairy next to limited edition, tier-zero Nike lunarstrides. Perhaps McNairy is an ambassador, slowly converting sneakerheads to the idea of buying benchmade Goodywear welted footwear. The idea certainly makes his entire label seem less trendwhoreish and much more romantic.