So Not My Sole Mate

In the greatest book written in the last century, The Gold Coast by Nelson DeMille, the protagonist John Sutter is getting into it with a law enforcement official and closes his diatribe with, “… and at least have the decency to wear leather shoes.”

The rubber soled shoe subject will not die, but a founding father of it just passed. The Amazing Tom sent me the obituary of Bruce Katz, who founded Rockport. He was also a huge proponent of walking as exercise. I am not sure which came first, neither is the author of the obituary. I do know that Mr. Katz put his money where his mouth was and sponsored a chemical engineer named Robert Sweetgall, who walked 11,000 miles in a year in the Rockport Pro Walker. I did the math, and there is a good deal of ambiguity there too – that comes to over 30 miles a day. If you walk at 3 miles an hour, that is walking 10 hours a day every single day for a year. I am not at all sold that this is possible.

Turns out Mr. Sweetgall was also the author of a few weight loss books, and yes, if you walk 10 hours a day for a whole year you are probably going to lose some weight. But again, I am not sure he did.

I have a pair of Rockports, and they are certainly comfortable. But I can’t wear them. It feels like I am going mall walking. The design is ok until you get to the sole (I know people like that):

See what I mean? From the top they are fine, but if I put my feet up somewhere…


Rockports to me are the gateway drug to the shneaker thing we have been working on.  And now that I reflect on it, I actually appreciate the shneaker thing more. At least the shneaker owns itself. No pretending there, you are not fooling anyone into thinking you are wearing real shoes. They are authentic. Authentically horrible, but authentic, unlike the Rockport. And so we reach the conclusion that while neither is particularly Ivy, the shneaker comes in ahead of the Rockport.

The Amazing Tom also sent me an article on how the Clarks Wallabee is huge in New York Hip Hop. I too, am huge in New York Hip Hop. Actually, not. So I had to read the article, and it turns out there is a guy who did a whole documentary on Clarks Wallabees in New York Hip Hop.



I don’t know about hip-hop, but I know a little about Wallabees, which have been covered here ad nauseam. I consider them Ivy, and here’s why. They are authentic, and they have precedent.



So it goes, in order, for rubber soled Ivy shoes that are not sneakers or true boat shoes… (1) Wallabees (2) …

I am going to get off of shoes for a little, well, until next week when I show you shoes after my own 11,000 miles.  And one of my ongoing resolutions is to stop picking on Brooks.  Still, I do not get how a company that sells this:

This is a real Brooks shoe.


… also sells this:


This is also a real Brooks shoe.



28 Comments on "So Not My Sole Mate"

  1. I don’t know what a “shneaker” is, but if they’re those awful white Dad Shoes worn with drawstring gym shorts in the last post, they’re a hard pass for me.

    I also have zero hip hop bona fides, but I picked up a pair of Wallabees at an outlet recently because: i) they were on sale (prob b/c they were blue); and ii) a very Southern Trad friend had always sworn by them. They are, without a doubt, the most comfortable non-athletic shoe I’ve ever worn. Have since bought 2 more Clarks products: a chukka boot, and a flip-flop. Amazing stuff. Although, for the record, I don’t think the Wallabees’ soles are rubber: they’re crepe. (maybe that’s a type of rubber?)

  2. The Rockport appears to be a boat shoe/camp mocc hybrid, and has been around forever. I have no need for hybrids.

    BB has gone full blown Disney. Even the wingtips are cheap corrected grain at best, if not plastic, with no welt, and an embossed logo. Ew. Made in China. I have no need for BB.

  3. Barry Carter | July 7, 2022 at 10:16 am |

    I own a few pair of BB shoes. None of them were made this century.
    I have never owned anything made by Rockport. I don’t think I ever will.
    Sperrys rule.

  4. Frederick J Johnson | July 7, 2022 at 10:29 am |

    I recently received my latest pair of Rockport boat shoes, the Perth Model, not the one pictured. They are the most comfortable boat shoes I have ever worn for general wear not boat wear and stuff.

  5. whiskeydent | July 7, 2022 at 10:41 am |

    Perhaps it’s time for a G&T and a seat in the shade. Too much sun is not good for you.

    • Correction: Mr. Katz co-founded Rockport.

      The company founded by Bruce Katz was Samuel Hubbard. They are a premium, Portuguese-made shoe company that offers wide shoes as well as shoes recommended by podiatrists.

  6. Nutmeg Andy | July 7, 2022 at 11:38 am |

    At this very moment I am wearing a pair of Padmore and Barnes P204 model in a dark brown suede that is now faded from years of wear. I am a bit fuzzy on the history, but apparently Padmore and Barnes manufactured Wallabees for Clarks in Ireland for many decades until Clarks took their manufacturing to Asia. The P204 is the Euro-made version (now Portugal, not Ireland). They cost about $140, while the Clarks version (made somewhere in Asia) is $130. I’ve had this pair for 8 years and can recommend them as a tremendous value. I have seen these worn around New Haven, Boston/Cambridge, NYC, etc. and have never felt that they stepped too heavily into patchouli/drum circle territory, but I’ll chalk that up to differences in taste.

  7. I love wearing my Wallabees without socks and walk miles in them. If that makes me an undesirable, so be it!

  8. Please do not stop picking on Brooks.

    At a moment when a younger generation of post-GenX/post-Millennial youth are poised (and eager) to turn attention to/toward more traditional ways of being-and-behaving (this is not political, y’all–the most culturally and temperamentally and sartorially traditional colleague I have is a Tony Benn-quoting, Fabian-is socialist), Brooks is proceeding, no doubt at the urging of zealously ‘hip’ designers, in another direction. If it wasn’t so sad it’d be pathetic. Wait — It’s both.

    So, do please keep picking on Brooks.

    The Clark Wallabee is a great shoe for walking, and, like the Adidas Samba and Rod Levers and a few other sporty/athleticy (not a word) shoes, extravasates authenticity. Since a lot of Old School Ivy (subsequently O.S.I.) is rooted in tradition circa the 50s and 60s, I’m all for ’em.

    I own this Russell Moccasin ‘Premier Walking Moccasin.’ For long walks, add a bit of orthotic and bid farewell to those heinous, space-age “running shoes.” Pricey, but worth it. And made in the good ole U.S. of A.

  9. Here’s the Russell Moccasin shoe I wear and like:

  10. I remember tweedy professors at Haverford wearing Wallabees. Great article.

  11. Scott Rye | July 7, 2022 at 1:42 pm |

    Clarks Wallabees are the real deal, and glad to know they fall into the Ivy canon. When I was in high school, Wallabees was what everyone was wearing at my all-boys school. As for sneakers, I abhor seeing anyone wearing them for anything other than athletic wear. Except Chucks. Chucks rock.

    • Yes, Chucks do rock (especially the better made ’70 series), and I agree that they’re great casual sneakers amid a sea of terrible ones.
      I had a pair of Rockport loafers some years ago. I was on a very tight budget at the time and thought they looked alright, even if I did feel like I had to keep the soles facing the ground at all times. Clark’s Wallabees are shoes I’ve never tried but have always been curious about. I’ve got enough shoes as it is, but if I buy any more, it’ll probably be Wallabees. The Desert Boots are pretty great, too, and I’m surprised they haven’t been mentioned yet among all the Wallabees accolades.

      • Hardbopper | July 7, 2022 at 5:42 pm |

        “I had a pair of Rockport loafers some years ago. I was on a very tight budget at the time and thought they looked alright…”.
        To clarify my earlier comment, I do think they look nice. Post heyday, better dressed HS and college kids wore them in the fall, with Levi’s and maybe a plaid long-sleeved shirt. It’s the two-eyelet lacing…doesn’t feel secure to me. Taking a closer look, the soles appear to be sewn on, not glued. That’s a good thing. And the reinforced mocc toe is a plus. Not secure enough for boating, and not sturdy enough for camping. The uppers look good and I would imagine that if it’s good leather, they could be maintained.
        Please for give the awkward paragraph construction.

  12. “Greatest book” made me laugh. Then I had to search for it online. Now I’m not sure if it’s a joke or not.

  13. whiskeydent | July 7, 2022 at 2:54 pm |

    Petey, only a rube from the North would post a sweeping and negative generalization such as “rubes from the South.”

  14. John Burton | July 7, 2022 at 2:55 pm |

    1. Rubes from the south? Nah. 2. If you buy crap from BB outlets, that DOES make you preppy. 🙂

  15. Sartresky | July 7, 2022 at 3:43 pm |

    You noticed, I assume, that the wingtips in the first photo have a golden fleece logo embossed on them? That’s abhorrent too.

    • John Burton | July 7, 2022 at 3:58 pm |

      I did not notice that. Yikes.

    • W.A. Cameron | July 7, 2022 at 6:24 pm |

      I handled a couple pairs of these when I helped a friend go shoe shopping. They were shockingly poorly constructed, especially considering the price.

      One would hope that if BB was going to slap the logo they claim to be a guarantor of quality on something, it would feel less like a set of clearance sale low line Cole Haans and more like the English made shoes they used to slap the Peal & Co label on. I own factory second Loakes, purchased for half the price, that look like they were handcrafted by the finest artisans in the world compared to those Brooks wingtips.

      While I believe dress shoes shouldn’t have logos, in my mind it’s somehow worse to proudly identify a poor quality product as being made by your company to every single passerby.

      And as a quick aside: while BB has declined, you Americans have no idea how lucky you are relative to those of us in Canada. We have access to MAYBE a third of the products that you do, and the ones they do give us are overwhelmingly the hideous, new, experimental designs. Everything good is relegated to small sections of stores; online selection is better but the good stuff is perpetually sold out.

  16. I actually like brick red rubber soles, and rubber camp soles, and rubber-adjacent crepe soles. And yet, that Rockport image above makes me feel revulsion. Not sure what the difference maybe.

  17. I wear Astorflex desert boots. Great shoes. Great quality. A step up from Clarks. Haven’t heard the brand mentioned here. They make wallabbees, too.

  18. John Brewer | July 8, 2022 at 3:23 pm |

    I have a pair of traditional styled Rockport Wingtips and a pair of Penny Loafers. I just rotated the wingtips out after 12 years replacing them with a pair of Becket and Simonon’s. The loafers continue to carry on. I have found them comfortable and with regular shoe tree use, cleaning and polishing long lasting. Having said that, I bought a pair of brown loafers a few years after these and they do not seem nearly as well constructed and have developed an irritating squeak in he right pair.

  19. elder prep | July 11, 2022 at 9:48 pm |

    The photo with the guy in the center wearing the Wallabees and the girl in jeans looks familiar. Arent they the brother and sister in the photo of her in her UM gym shorts and him in a white OCBD leaning against a brown Porsche?

  20. Henry Contestwinner | July 13, 2022 at 7:44 pm |

    I’m late to the party as usual, but…

    I have never cared for Wallabies. Perhaps it’s the negative association I have with them from the 1970s (hippies), but I don’t find them attractive.

    I do like chukka boots, so I tried a pair of Clark’s Desert Boots. As mentioned above, with only two pairs of eyelets, they feel as though they’re not quite going to stay on (though I have never had them come off my feet without intending to take them off). The crepe sole, while comfortable, is not quite thick enough for me. YMMV.

    Even though I would like some comfy, dressy walking shoes, I can’t bring myself to wear Rockports. I have a pair of Allen-Edmonds with a rubber sole that work well enough, but they don’t make the regular rotation.

    I will admit to one pair of white sidewall non-sneakers; they’re made by Mephisto, and are comfortable and breezy (perforated upper). They’re great for casual clothes in hot weather, but are lacking in style points.

  21. Edward Aisthorpe | August 1, 2022 at 10:02 am |

    I’m a big fan of Wallebees and anything by Clarkes in general. My go to currently is a pair of Loake boat shoes.

Comments are closed.