The first of my trilogy of Argentine posts concerns something all readers will know is dear to the heart of The Weejun – desert boots. I’ve been wearing suede chukkas with crepe soles in various forms from the lowly to the rarified since I was about 13 years old and styles and fashions have come and gone but I’ve never been without a couple of pairs in the cupboard. In the last couple of years however, there has been a real resurgance of choice in the marketplace from Clarks’ classic colours being reintroduced to Sanders Playboys and Church’s beautiful unstructured and unlined Sahara III.
Less than 3 hours after landing in Buenos Aires Mrs Weejun had me wandering the streets of the downtown area, ostensibly for ferry tickets to Montevideo but really on the look out for the famed leather goods of Argentina. This first day out was something of a disappointment for Mrs W, expecting to find handbags of classic design and leather jackets at fractional cost. Such things can be found around the pedestrianised areas of Avenida Florida but they are generally quite tacky and Oxford St in style.
We had a list of stores and names already so I was very quick to pull to a halt when I saw a tiny store called Guido Moccasines on Av. Florida. Guido was one of the hand made shoemakers that I was loooking out for, but I was a bit surprised to find that it was so small and in that area (albeit close to the now defunct Harrods department store – opened in the 1930s by the family of a friend of mine) which is where you’ll find illegal dollar changers and clip joint hustlers alongside downtown businessmen.
Now, I knew that I had to expect a certain latin touch when it came to shoes in Argentina. Much of this is to do with the obvious Italian heritage of the makers there but I also knew from my online research that there was a undercurrent of deep conservatism and classic style that Argentina retains based on its past culture from European immigrants as well as its heyday as a world player in the playboy stakes in the USA and equestrian activity in England.
It was this narrow seam that I had planned to mine if at all possible. The models that Guido had for men and women were exquisitely made. I tried to tempt Mrs W into buying some mid heeled Gucci style two tone moccasins that looked like something you’d find in Rome in 1968 but she wasn’t impressed. Amongst the rows of handsewn loafers and moccasins though I spotted a total anomaly – an suede desert boot with an obviously hand sewn welt and lovely yellowy natural crepe sole. Still jetlagged and with my nascent Spanish still stuck in my throat I managed to converse with the silver haired manager Luis and tried on a pair of size 10. They were super soft, unlined aniline calf – the kind of leather usually used leather side up on the most expensive shoes, rarely on desert boots.
Jetlagged and swollen ankled though as I was I foolishly didn’t try on other sizes so that as soon as I got back to our hotel I realised I’d made a mistake and would have to go back and explain. This involved three trips as we soon discovered the main Guido store in Recoleta, a world apart from the tiny one on Av Florida and designed like a huge lounge in a gentleman’s club. In trying to switch sizes I also discovered that they had a sand colour too, but only in size 9.5 and the managers of both stores insisted they were the same model but just variants in the leather. I ended up though with a size 9 in the coconut husk colour (similar to Clarks’ Cola). These set me back around £95 for handsewn calf boots.
Cut lower that Clarks in a very 1960s design these boots are quite similar to the old Barkers Lazy Bs and reminded me a lot of my 1971 Trickers playboys posted here in the past.
Many of the loafer styles made by Guido were really wearable – beefroll and tassel weejun styles, but like many latin makers their website is a horrible mix of flash and styles of no interest that they no longer sell.
The city was dotted with tiny retailers of classic loafers, sometimes also the makers. The best one I found was in a side street in Montserrat called Moccasines Quintana – no website – where they had beautiful chestnut calf saxone style loafers along with chunky weejun type tassels hand made for around £45, half the price of the Guido models.
Guido Moccasines Website – (Not easy to navigate and doesn’t show the more classic models!)