I don't mean to toot my own horn, but if there's one item of attire I've received endless compliments on, it's the tan leather brogues I picked up at popular U.K. shoe chain Office.
You might know them as wingtips, jazz shoes or loafers (brogues just sounds cooler), but they're the latest resurgence of the perpetual androgynous trend in women's fashion. Paul Smith, BCBG, Robert Cary-Williams, Miu Miu and Luella Bartley are just a few of the many fashion houses that have sent the narrow-tipped footwear down the runway.
The androgynous thing has been around for ages. The New York Dolls, David Bowie, Boy George, Marc Bolan, Brian Eno, Alice Cooper—all that glitter/glam stuff: They did it in the '70s and '80s, with their deadly, enviable cheekbones, feathered hair and heavy eye makeup, challenging long-established norms of gender with their hair length, eyeliner, whatever. Dudes still do this today with freakishly skinny denim jeans, shoulder-brushing foppish haircuts, tight-fitted jackets and the Dior Homme-instigated trend of prepubescent boy models.
But women's fashion is where it gets fun. Point of inspiration? Still Annie Hall. In the 1977 Woody Allen film, Diane Keaton sported tailored, wide-legged trousers, loose blouses, fedoras, ties, and large sport coats and vests. Most notably, Keaton decided to keep her hair long, proving to be the most delicious of combinations—menswear, but not too much so.
English model of the moment Agyness Deyn currently serves as the modern-day muse of androgyny. You've seen her in campaigns for Burberry, House of Holland, Giorgio Armani, and even on the cover of Vogues around the world. She's been called the next Kate Moss (though I really wouldn't go there). But Deyn differs from most of the other models trampling down runways, standing out with her platinum-blond crop. It's what model-agency people call "edgy." Deyn doesn't give any hint of female traits: There's no trace of any makeup, other than some indiscreet coats of mascara; she wears distinctly "boy" clothing—flannel, stovepipe pants, leather jackets, massive layers of scarves and unfitted dresses. But the trick is in the fit of the clothes—narrow. Very, very narrow. But not tight.
Even for brogues, the trick is narrow with a stylishly pointed tip. Wear them with nylons or skinny jeans and trousers. They even make a fun kick for especially feminine dresses and outfits. Flat brogues are still a little tough to find here in the U.S.—why is it that we're always behind on things?—and believe me, I love telling people when they ask that I picked up my pair in London last fall. Places like Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie have them in dulled leather, shiny metallics and patent leathers—and at pretty reasonable prices. But none of them will look as endlessly awesome as my tan English counterparts.
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