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Gentlemanly Review – Beckett Simonon – Valencia Wholecut

Once upon a time, I could not care less about footwear. However, it was a necessary component of a gentleman’s attire. Because, when faced with the choice, commuting barefoot throughout the city was definitely not an option. However, after reinventing myself sartorially; assembling a distinguished collection of shoes was a high priority on my action list. At the time, I perhaps owned 3-4 pairs of shoes. And that is being generous. Present day, that number has expanded exponentially. I have acquired a myriad of varying styles throughout the years, and now my collection is suitably prepared for any situation and season. There is one style, however, that I have been reluctant to add to my closet – the wholecut oxford.

I have always held great admiration for its clean elegance and grace, but ironically, its simplicity was slightly intimidating. How could I incorporate such a simple dress shoe into my wardrobe? I’ve overthought the prospect for many years, but something great occurred. Fortuitously, I was presented an opportunity to explore and examine the world of direct-to-consumer luxury shoe brand Beckett Simonon. Launched in 2012, Beckett Simonon is a start-up brand created by founders Andres Nino and Nicholas Hurtado. Offering a modest array of footwear (oxfords, loafers, boots, sneakers), Beckett Simonon follows a pre-order, made-to-order business model.

A gentleman can participate in a select “campaign” that offers a variety of footwear models. Once he orders his choice of footwear, there is a 8-12 week lead time for delivery. The pre-order, made-to-order model reduces superfluous inventory and keeps prices low in comparison to the quality that a gentleman receives. I was given the choice of two models: the Valencia and the Durant. The Durant is a handsome calfskin brogue that would be the perfect business or business-casual dress shoe, but my closet overfloweth with brogue dress shoes.

Now was my opportunity to experiment with a wholecut – the Valencia. And so, I relayed the choice to my contact and eagerly awaited its arrival. Fast-forward, boom, right out of the box: the Valencia wholecut, additional pair of waxed cotton shoelaces, two monogrammed felt shoe bags, two removable insoles, and a Beckett Simonon booklet. My initial thoughts were positive. It was a damn good-looking shoe. So, let’s examine Beckett Simonon’s offering and determine if it is worth a nearly 3 month wait as their business model dictates.

Leather outsole, stacked rubber heel, beautiful silhouette

Gentlemanly Observations

Favorables

  • The Argentinian full grain leather utilized for the Valencia wholecut is remarkedly soft; seriously on par with similar offerings from Allen Edmonds at nearly half the price. Retrieving the Valencia from its box, a gentleman will immediately be greeted by the fine aroma of rich, full grain leather. Full grain leather is the best quality reserved for a gentleman’s shoe. It is the top layer of an animal’s hide that has not been altered or corrected. It is durable, rich, and luxurious. Here, the Valencia’s leather is best characterized as sublimely pliable and moderately thick with a beautiful luster. It received polish well to produce a nice glossy shine.
  • The wholecut oxford itself is a unique model of gentleman’s footwear. Generally an oxford bears the mark of some ornate pattern or design. Here, the design is as simple as simple can achieve. Ironically, it is this simplicity that actually emboldens the wholecut with special distinction. Beckett Simonon achieves a streamlined silhouette with its version with a pronounced, curved slope along the vamp. The Valencia wholecut is equipped with 5 eyelets with shoelace strength and length appearing to be particularly hearty. To balance its quiet presentation, I recommend pairing with a trouser rich in fabric and design. Think tweed and Glen plaid for your choice of trouser.
  • Of all things, I must reveal that the fit and comfort exceeded all my expectations. What good is a beautiful shoe if it constricts and hurts one’s feet? Although I wear a D width, my size 12 feet are moderately wide, and I anticipated a tight squeeze when sliding into the seemingly slender Valencia. I was incorrect with my assumption. The Valencia was very comfortable – not tight by any measure. Straight out of the box, the Valencia rejects rigidity with a supple insole and pliable body. There is certainly a lot of “give” to a Beckett Simonon shoe. I wore both thin dress shoes and slightly thicker cotton socks. The fit was still excellent.
  • Over the last decade, the price of quality dress shoes have steadily increased. I have long held the belief that a quality pair of dress shoes will cost between $150.00 and $200.00. Nowadays, that range for some of my preferred brands have exceeded the $300.00 threshold, with even some approaching $400.00 and more. Beckett Simonon offers comparable quality at approximately half the price at $200.00. Absent the pre-order made-to-measure business model, Beckett Simonon would generally retail for $300.00. If you are lucky enough, you might be able to secure a 20% discount code online to further reduce the cost.
  • Expanded price range for all footwear: dress shoes ($199), boots ($219), and ($149)
  • The Valencia employs Blake-stitch construction with affords a lightweight quality, flexibility, and slenderness to its profile. In simple terms, Blake-stitch construction entails the shoe upper being attached the outsole and insole by a single stitch. The upper wraps around the insole and is sandwiched between it and outsole. The simple construction reduces the cost of the overall shoe when compared to a Goodyear welted shoe – which has the presence of a welt (an additional layer that the outsole, insole, and upper are stitched to).

Potential Unfavorables

  • Unless you are a discerning gentleman that actively procures handsome selections of footwear – absent urgent necessity – you perhaps fall into the category of gentleman that only purchases shoes when you need them. That being said, a gentleman with an immediate need for a pair of elegant oxfords will be hard-pressed to wait 8-12 weeks for delivery. And still, even if an immediate purchase is not required, an average gentleman may be stubborn to part with the necessary funds to secure a product he won’t enjoy for nearly 3 months. Beckett Simonon is definitely suited for the dapper gentleman with patience and sufficient disposable income to acquire their product.
  • For all intents and purposes, Beckett Simonon is still a young brand, and with its made-to-measure business model, uncertainty may provide pause for the cautious gentleman. Unlike purchasing footwear first-hand inside a store, or even ordering online from a proven brand in business for several decades, the consumer is trusting that this young company will fulfill and deliver all made-to-order shoes to the consumer. Seven years and counting in the business, they appear to be on the right track for longevity.
  • Currently, Beckett Simonon only offers a medium width (D) for their footwear, so some of the slimmer models may present discomfort for wider feet. Comfort level will vary gentleman to gentleman.
  • In the past, the opportunity to procure a wholecut oxford has presented itself multiple times over. However, I have been hesitant due to the potential high-risk of noticeable creasing. Now, creasing is a natural result of leather bending and flexing as shoes are worn. Its visibility can be mitigated based upon the decorative nature of the shoe. A wholecut oxford, however, is free of decoration. It is this naked simplicity that may lead to prominence of creasing that may be undesirable. Of course, this will depend upon a gentleman’s gait. I did notice that as I stepped, the Valencia did not flex around the vamp area. Neverthless, shoe trees are definitely recommended.
  • The Blake-stitch construction doesn’t offer much resistance to wetness or temperature, as there is no barrier (a welt) between the insole and outsole. So a gentleman will need to factor weather into his sartorial plans for the day.

A Final Word – The Valencia

  • Hand-made one at a time
  • Blake construction that can be resoled at a reputable cobbler
  • Full grain calf leather uppers
  • Full grain leather lining for extra breathability
  • Sturdy leather soles
  • Extra durable leather heel stacks
  • Rubber heel caps for better traction
  • Waxed cotton laces
  • Dust bags included
  • 1 year warranty
  • Free shipping, free returns, and free exchanges

Overall, I was very pleased with the Valencia from Beckett Simonon. The shape is beautiful, and it is very comfortable right out the box without a breaking-in period. This shoe is a perfect companion for the professional gentleman in and out of the office. For the quality you receive, the price-point is very affordable. Of course, a gentleman will have to exhibit the patience to wait on his order, but it should be well worth it. Beckett Simonon’s next campaign commences October 1st, 2019.

Please visit their website HERE for more information.

Gentlemen’s Standard Approved – Sponsored Post

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Gentlemen’s Review – Prada – Luna Rossa Carbon

Prada Luna Rossa Carbon - clear flask with a black bottom, metallic top, and red Prada stripe down the middle

Today, I will be sharing my thoughts on a fragrance that was introduced to the market in 2017. The latest in the Luna Rossa (Red Moon) collection, Carbon is billed as a seductive and masculine fragrance, inspired by the collision of nature and technology. It is a steam-distilled botanical mix with modern materials in a distinctive blend. Until this point, I was not familiar with the Prada brand outside of their clothing line. However, I was provided a sample and was pleasantly surprised by the fragrance. Now, some insight that I have read online compares it to Christian Dior Sauvage. Granted, my experience with Sauvage was only relegated to a brief smell test at a local mall, but Carbon presented itself as milder and lighter – something that could be worn both inside and outside the workplace, casually and professionally. Let’s dive into more details below.

Observations

Top Notes: Bergamot, Pepper

Middle Notes: Lavender, Soil Tincture, Coal, Metallic & Watery Notes

Base Notes: Patchouli, Ambroxan

  • Prada Luna Rossa Carbon introduces itself in a very discreet manner; very calm and inviting. There is a bright burst of citrusy bergamot, but it is weighted down by elements of pepper. The beginning is very short-lived before it settles nicely into the middle and base notes.
  • The transition toward the middle and base notes is fluid and steady. Between the middle and base notes, the fragrance is consistent throughout – not particularly high, nor low. It projects well, but it doesn’t scream its presence to the surrounding area.
  • The presentation of the flask is handsome; arriving in a slightly opaque, rectangular body with an all-black bottom. The brand name is positioned in the middle, atop a red stripe flowing down from a metallic crown. The design is allegedly inspired by modern sailboats, but I find it difficult making that connection. Nevertheless, it is still a nice-looking bottle.
  • Moderately heavy, this fragrance can be worn both casually or professionally, during the daytime or evening. I strongly recommend 3-5 applications around the neck/shoulder area and abdomen.  However, the soft introduction belies its intensity if overused. Unfortunately, I committed the error of spraying perhaps 6-8 times in the morning, and the scent desperately clung to my skin well into the early evening. The projection was still going strong and I felt a little self-conscious wearing it.
  • Prada Luna Rossa Carbon is intended for the gentleman that prefers a warm, earthy fragrance that seamlessly transitions from each individual note to the other. And while it is definitely a masculine scent, it is not overly aggressive or offensive. This fragrance can be worn year-round, however, I like Prada Luna Rossa Carbon best during autumn and winter. The warmness of the scent presents a beautiful contrast to the colder temperatures of both seasons.
  • Prada Luna Rossa Carbon can be purchased in the following sizes: 1.7 ounces at $70.00 or 3.4 ounces at $90.00 – Available at Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sephora, and other fine men’s department stores
Gentlemen’s Standard Approved
Disclosure: TGS was not financially compensated for this post. Item was purchased for personal use. The opinions expressed are completely my own based on my experience.

Gentlemen’s Review – Kiehl’s – Ultimate Man Body Scrub Bar

Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap - this is bar soap

Seriously, selecting bar soap should be a straightforward decision, one devoid of complication and confusion. However, we are in an age of choices. And by choices, I truly mean a lot of choices. There is something on the market for nearly every gentleman for every lifestyle. Trust, generally my preferred bar soap is a simple pack of Lever 2000. It’s my workhorse bar soap that performs its duties well and is readily available nearby at a local Target, CVS, Walgreens, etc. Nevertheless, I am always open to trial new products within reason – given the promise of more benefits and attributes beyond the standard array of similar items in the aforementioned stores. Now, I really enjoyed using the Turbo Body Bar from perennial favorite Jack Black, so I was curious if its grooming doppelganger from Kiehl’s would meet or exceed that level of quality. No doubt, the Kiehl’s offering is a quality piece of bar soap. I have been enjoying its services thus far. I seriously would have to compare both bar soaps head to head in another post. However, for now, let’s dive into my observations and analysis below.

Observations

  • Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap is a solid, hefty piece of bar soap. Arriving in a clear sealed, plastic packaging; this rectangular shower companion weighs in at a robust 7 ounces. It is approximately 4 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and 1.25 inches thick. It has a light tan hue with small flecks of brown dotted across the surface and throughout. Instructions regarding usage and ingredients are displayed on its label.
  • Kiehl’s Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap produces an amazingly rich, foamy lather. Much like my experience with the Turbo Body Bar from Jack Black, I was quite surprised with how much lather it generated after a few rotations in my washcloth. Aided by a minimal amount of water, 5-6 full rotations in a gentleman’s washcloth is enough to supply sufficient lather to the entire body without replenishment. It washes away smoothly with no residue.
  • While not odorless, the Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap may boast “ultimate man” in its title, but the scent is actually very mild. Some products go overboard as far as fragrance is concerned when marketing to men. My assumption is the stronger the smell, the more the product represents a man. However, if a gentleman also wears cologne, the two competing scents may conflict with one another, and the results may be aromatically unpleasant. Kiehl’s offering does have a slight minty aroma, but it washes clean without a residual scent afterwards.
  • The Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap does have a granular texture due to the combination of bran, oatmeal, and pumice. Do not use this on your face. The texture isn’t especially harsh, but this product is not meant to exfoliate your face; it is formulated only for the body. Addressing areas of the body where dead skin may accumulate or where skin may be prone to roughness, the exfoliating properties is gentle and didn’t irritate my skin. The sensation of the granular feel against the skin while scrubbing is very satisfying. You don’t have to go overboard, a good once over for targeted areas will suffice.
  • Now, if I identify one drawback to the Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap, it did strip away moisture and render my skin a little dry. Therefore, it would wise to utilize a nice, thick body lotion to replenish your skin with the nutrients it requires. Personally, I like Lubriderm Advanced Therapy Lotion.
  • As previously stated, this bar soap does not take long to form a thick lather. So less time being bombarded with hot water means this soap won’t dissolve at a quickened rate. After nearly a week’s usage, my body bar appears just as it has when I freed it from its package – minus the Kiehl’s since 1851 etched into the soap. If I were to calculate daily usage, I would estimate that a gentleman could retain 1 month or more of dedicated grooming service.
  • Now, I fully understand that the price here will be a big deterrent, as $15.00 per bar soap may appear as absurd. Hell, for slightly less than half that price, I can secure a 12-count of 4 ounce bars of Lever 2000. So, the question becomes: Why spend $15.00 on a single bar of soap. Because, depending upon where a gentleman is stationed in his life, he should want to experience something more than just regular. I use regular bar soap all the time, and this time I wanted to feel the difference of something beyond typical. I believe it is worth it. Kiehl’s does offer an auto replenishment option for the Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap: every 1 month through every 6 months at a 5% discount. So, a gentleman can control the frequency that he receives it.

Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap - this is bar soap

Product Specifications

Slough off dead skin with our highly efficient exfoliating bar soap for men. Infused with an invigorating aroma, our bar soap with Oatmeal and Bran thoroughly cleanses skin and helps alleviate roughness. Scrub away fatigue with our energizing body scrub soap.

Key Ingredients

  • Oat Bran – extracted from the outer casing of the Oat Grain. Within their special formula, it helps soothe and condition skin.
  • Oat Kernel Meal – derived by grinding kernels of Oats. Within our formula, it acts as a natural exfoliant.
  • Pumice – a rock of volcanic origin and commonly used as an abrasive and a bulking agent. Within our formulas, it works as a natural exfoliant, helping to remove dead and rough skin for smoother results.

For more information about product from Kiehl’s, please visit their website HERE for more details.

Gentlemen’s Standard Approved

Kiehl's Ultimate Man Body Scrub Soap - this is bar soap

Don’t Push Me, Cause I’m Close to the Edge – Maintaining Sanity in a World of Insane Stress

I cannot accurately recite how many times she beckoned for my attention, but the urgency of her tone revealed that it had been more than a few times over. As my mother-in-law called my name, I sat blankly staring out of a window, quietly lost in a turmoil of thought – muted to my surroundings. Suddenly, I was fully present again. I cannot accurately identify the specific catalyst that triggered my temporary, unresponsive state. However, if I dedicate enough thought to the matter, it most likely was a perfect culmination of stress related to marriage, fatherhood, health, and work. Responsibility. Obligation. Accountability. In other words, the daily strain of life.

And absent personal time for proper reflection and meditation, the mind sporadically pivots from one stressor to next, until you slowly begin to detach from your immediate environment – thus perhaps explaining my stupor at the time. My focus was scattered. A multitude of issues converging within my mind simultaneously. The stress would also manifest itself in other aspects of life. Sometimes, I could not derive happiness from events that would normally bring joy. My interpersonal skills would sometimes suffer with people close to me, as I would disconnect and shut individuals out. My drive and energy were nonexistent. While I am certainly not a therapist, I have formulated some thoughts and strategies to combat my stress. I detail a few points below. Nothing is a perfect solution, but it makes stress more manageable.

Stress Relief for the Gentleman

  • Recognize, perhaps, there is an issue. I’m just stating if you are feeling out of sorts and stress is becoming overwhelming, it is time to enact measures to address the current adversities burdening your spirit. Don’t ignore what is troubling your mind and spirit.
  • Recruit wise counsel, because sometimes having a good sounding board is the perfect tool to help deflect negative energy and guide you in a positive direction. A trusted friend, companion, or trained professionals are excellent options.
  • Ground yourself in a positive space. Existing in a constant flux of irritation, anxiety, anger, and sadness is corrosive to your mental, physical, and emotional health. Your frame of mind should align with the well-known Serenity Prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
  • Perform an activity that is therapeutic. Personally, writing this entry is that therapy for me, as finding fellowship with other gentlemen experiencing the same struggle is calming and reassuring to me. For other individuals, it could an athletic activity. It could be immersing yourself in your favorite arts & crafts, music, photography, gardening, etc. The selected exercise(s) that can soothe and ease your spirit – do it!
  • Laugh. No really – laugh. Laughter stimulates the release of endorphins – hormones released within the body that grants a sense of euphoria. There’s nothing like a classic episode of Sanford & Son or Martin to get those endorphins flowing.
  • Beware of vices that only serve to satiate your carnal spirit. Embarking down this rabbit hole of excess can be self-destructive, and while temporarily pleasing, it is ineffective addressing the underlying source of your stress and the management thereof.
  • Get adequate sleep. Don’t deprive yourself of much-needed rest.
  • A gentleman can employ some small, simple tools that bring a touch of happiness or calm. There isn’t a morning or night that I fail to look at pictures of my children on my cell phone. Sometimes I just sit in darkness and listen to the sound of thunderstorms on my Google mini (it reminds me of sitting on the porch with my late grandmother during rainstorms). I like pops of color and pleasant scents, therefore, I revamped my whole workspace (pictured above) with flowers, colored notepads, and potpourri. Where do you extract small measures of joy?
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