Which is Good

Manolo says, if you are looking for the entertaining discussion of matters fashionable, philosophic, and pop cultural, the Manolo suggests you visit the Which Is Good, the brand new blog of his internet friend Eliza Wharton.

Christian Louboutin Salsbourg Strappy Sandal For the Monday

Manolo says, it is Monday and you are back at your desk losing the forest for the trees. But such is the nature of the modern life in which the pursuit of perceived happiness frequently results in actual and active unhappiness.

In such situations it does well for one to remember that not only do we not live in the Panglossian world of housebroken puppies and strawberry gumdrops, where everything always works out for the best, but that sadness and discontent and suffering are part of the human inheritance.

It is the small comfort.

But then, things get better or they do not. You will be happy again, or you will not. Seek solace where you can, in the writings of Epictetus, or the Psalms, or P.G. Wodehouse.

January is almost over, is it not?

Look! Beautiful shoes…

Christian Louboutin Salsbourg Metallic Leather Strappy Sandal

Salsbourg Metallic Strappy Sandals from the inimitable Christian Louboutin. Such thing of beauty go the long way to making our lives more bearable.


Entertainment at the Manolo Jewelry

Manolo says, charm bracelets, necklace bargains, January birthstones and the jewelry of the Globes of Gold, all entertaining and all available at the Manolo’s Jewelry blog.


The FN Shoe Star, Episode 2

Manolo says, and now the second episode of the FN Shoe Star is available on the interwebs for your viewing pleasure.

Please go and watch this now so that you may understand what the Manolo is talking about in the subsequent paragraphs. (It is only nine minutes in the length, far too short to be the onerous task.)

(tick tock, tick tock)

And, you are back….

This episode is the continuation of the auditions of the applicants for the six finalist positions, and as before, it was the succession of brief interviews in which the aspirants presented the sketches and the finished shoe to three editors of the Footwear News, led by the broodingly handsome Michael Atmore, who will certainly be playing the role of Heathcliff in the Footwear News summer production of Wuthering Heights.

Michael Atmore

'A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though stern for grace.' ~ Emily Brönte

And now, imagine the Heathcliff constrained by having to work as the editor of the fashion-trade magazine…. the suppressed, primal rage bubbling beneath the surface as he orders the reshooting of the cover feature on the Teva Sandals… It has all the makings of the most amusing sit-com.

Be that as it may, it is nonetheless fun to watch Michael Atmore as the judge, if only to see the facial reactions.

As for what was submitted by the applicants this week, if you read the Manolo’s discussion of the previous episode you will instantly see that the same central problem persists: namely that the proficiency in cobbling is more difficult to acquire than that of the fashion sketching. (For the proof, look at the sketches versus the shoes in these examples: Alexandria, Brittany, Matthew, and so on.)

And so, as with last week, several designers displayed intriguing and attractive shoe sketches, only to be undermined by the lackluster, unoriginal, and/or poorly constructed actual shoe.

Maggies Shoe

$9.99 at Wal-Mart

This drippy and cheap-looking sandal above, produced by the Maggie, was singled out for particular scorn.

Although, not everything was junk. Christina produced the boot that was almost wearable, although she has the problem sketching!

Then there was Rachel, who not only made the good sketches, but actually delivered the tall boot that looked perfectly cromulent…

Rachels Boot

Rachels Boot

The bit over the top with the details, but not bad, although again the Manolo worries about the quality of the construction.

And this is, as the Manolo has said, the central problem: the construction of well-made and beautiful shoes is wicked hard.

Learning how to meld together disparate materials (cloth, leather, silk, wood, metal) into the single objet d’art takes years of practical training and experience.

It is the difference between being the apprentice and being the college student. Cobbling is learned by apprentices, fashion design to taught to students.

This is why the 21-year-old contestants of the FN Shoe Star are deficient in the matter of construction, because they have not accumulated enough time working with the materials before they were asked to turn their drawings into reality. Hands on experience is everything here. (This is also one reason why the young contestants on the Project Runway were so often able to make the beautiful clothing, they needed to master only cloth in its various guises, not cloth, leather, wood, and metal.)

And now, the true question of the week. Which six of the dozen applicants will be selected as the FN Shoe Star contestants? Who will go forward?

The Manolo believes that it will be Rachel, Matthew, Hyojin, LaQuonia, Nicole, and Christina.


Manolo the Columnist: Opulence Caged Sandals by Jimmy Choo

Manolo says, here is the Manolo’s latest column for the Express of the Washington Post.

Dear Manolo,

Here in D.C., the past month has been one round of blizzard after the next, and frankly, I’m sick and tired of winter. Can you recommend something beautiful to cheer me up?


Manolo says, remember all the way back to the last winter, when we had the so-called Snowpocalypse Blizzard of 2010, which paralyzed the Mid-Atlantic region with thirty-feet of drifting snow and temperatures in the mid-to-low minus 80s?


That was just the playful little amuse-bouche for this winter, which has turned out to be the multi-course succession of blizzards, like the crazy Thanksgiving entré, the buffhogoatpeaturducken, which is the quail stuffed inside the chicken, stuffed inside the duck, stuffed inside the turkey, stuffed inside the peacock, stuffed inside the goat, stuffed inside the wild boar, stuffed inside the water buffalo which is then roasted over the roaring garbage fire, which you have started in the courtyard of your apartment building because the power has failed yet again.

And from the looks of things, Old Man Winter has decided to (Bam!) kick it up the notch by wrapping the water buffalo into the carcass of the wooly mammoth, which thanks to the New Ice Age, can now be taken by skillful hunters in Dupont Circle.

Here is the Opulence Caged Sandal from Jimmy Choo! So delicate, so beautiful, so spring like. And, look, they cost less than the tusks you have just harvested!

Jimmy Choo Opulence Caged Sandal


The Longing for Transcendence

Christian Dior, 2011 Spring Couture


Manolo says, not all fashion is impelled by our nostalgia for the mud, indeed, the best and most enduring fashion is inspired by our longings for transcendence.

Transcendence. We wish to move beyond ourselves, to leave behind the mundanity of our lives and be carried aloft to the higher plane, to the place where we are more beautiful, more charming, more alluring, and where we are dressed only and forever in Christian Dior, 2011 Spring Couture Collection.

Christian Dior, Spring Couture 2011


There is such the thing as transcendent nostalgia, the longing for the golden past, for the specific Periclean circumstances that would allow us to be more than ourselves, to be better than we are, to achieve the apotheosis of our essential humanity.

Dior Couture, Spring 2011


Beautiful clothing allows us to touch the hem of transcendence. What it gives is more than utility, more than adornment, more than fashion. Its true gift is the glimpse of perfection.

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

Whose Shoes Wednesday…The Answer!

Manolo asked, whose shoes?

Fergies Shoes

Manolo answers, it is the Fergie!

Congratulations to the Manolo’s internet friend, Jezabella, who was the first to correctly identify this week’s Fergalicious celebrity of note.

Finding the Designer Shoe Bargains

Manolo says, our friend, Miss Plumcake gives invaluable advice on how to find beautiful shoes at the great prices.

I get a lot of people who ask me how I manage to have the things I do –particularly my shoes– with the job I have. Now ignoring for a moment that it’s kind of a rude question, I do have a bit of wisdom to share as to how I managed to amass a shoe collection worth more than what I earn in a year without hooking, selling my kidneys or getting into credit card debt. While finding thousand dollar shoes for a hundred dollars is a bit on the ambitious side of things, if you follow my lead (and learn from my mistakes) you will be well on your want to your own enviable shoe salon.

But you must immediately go and read the whole thing.

Whose Shoes Wednesday!

Manolo asks, whose shoes?


The Nostalgia for the Mud

Manolo says, one of the Manolo’s internet friends has asked him the question.

Dear Sir,

I’m working on a small academic paper about fashion, for presenting at the Association of Private Enterprise in Education (APEE) meeting this coming April. Virginia Postrel, who is both your friend and mine, has told me that you’re quite nice and quite classical liberal in your inclinations, so I wondered if I might ask you if you have a brief comment or two on the perennial fashion trend of extremely costly clothing made to look like garbage.

I am thinking, for example, of the Vivienne Westwood Fall 2010 Menswear collection:

Vivienne Westwood Menswear Fall 2010 Collection

Vivienne Westwood presents Derelicte!

The destroyed cotton Balmain t-shirt that you blogged on Ayyyy!

Balmain Destroyed Cotton T-Shirt

Balmain Destroyed Cotton T-Shirt; yours for only $1624!

And the Louis Vuitton trashbag purse:

Louis Vuitton Trash Bag

Louis Vuitton Trash-bag-tastic! $1960

There’s something very interesting going on here with ideas of wealth, price, value, appearance…

At any rate, if you have time to think about it a little, I’d love to know what thoughts you have.

All the best,


Briefly laying aside the matters economic, what is going on here is what the French writer Émile Augier called La nostalgie de la boue, or the “longing for the mud”.

It is the commonplace notion that the primitive, the well-worn and tattered, even the debased are superior in essence to the refined and civilized.

This idea and emotion, as far as the Manolo knows, has been present in all societies and all places, undoubtedly since the humans first left the trees, and then longed to build the treehouse in which they could retreat on the weekends to express their inner australopithecus.

In the other words, “Keepin it real, yo.”

Nostalgie de la boue in its various guises has figured prominently in the philosophies and writings of Rousseau, Sigmund Freud, Jean Braudillard, and Tupac Shakur, among many others.

And, as fashion is the art form reflective of society and its traumas, and as it is also the business, it is only natural that the fashion houses would eagerly seek to reflect upon and profit from this universal human desire.

Of the course, the fashionistas, with the few notable exceptions, are not the deep thinkers, and so you will not find complex thoughts expressed about this idea in regards to society, history and authenticity, only variations of the phrase “I think it looks cool”.

And now, let us mock them…


And, lest you think such mockery unwarranted…the Manolo gives you the Brother Sharp.

Brother Sharp

Brother Sharp, Chinese Fashion Icon

But Mr Cheng’s life changed dramatically after an amateur photographer posted pictures of him walking the streets onto the Chinese internet.

His prominent cheekbones and bohemian clothes quickly won him a legion of fans who called him “China’s Sexiest Tramp” and, most often, “Brother Sharp”.


Meanwhile, offers have poured in for him to appear in advertisements and he even did a stint as a catwalk model in the southern city of Foshan.

And now that we have established that we universally long for the mud, especially when the people who are wallowing in it are photogenic, how can we make the money from it?

This is where the Manolo must take you back to Ur, by making the reference to the work of Thorstein Veblen, and his notions of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste.

Throughout the entire evolution of conspicuous expenditure, whether of goods or of services or human life, runs the obvious implication that in order to effectually mend the consumer’s good fame it must be an expenditure of superfluities. In order to be reputable it must be wasteful.

Thus, if one feels the desire to wallow, and yet must maintain or build one’s reputation for being the right sort of fashionable person, one must be prepared to spend serious cash on something whose price cannot be justified by utility alone.

The fashion houses and designers know this and profit from it.

The example of the Louis Vuitton trash bag that costs $1960 for what is essentially the wan joke is prima facie evidence. It is not attractive, nor does it appear to be well made, and yet the person who has purchased it makes the undeniable statement about her status, economic resources, and knowledgeable hipness.

And now, the Manolo asks you to consider one more item

Louis Vuitton Urban Satchel

Louis Vuitton Urban Satchel, Real or Clever Joke?

If it were real, would you carry it?

What the Manolo is…

Manolo says, it is Tuesday, time to see what the Manolo is…



Listening to…

The Manolo has twice rewatched FN Shoe Star first episode, and it is really very good. Perhaps you should join him in following this new webseries.


Mr. Henry on the Tiger Mother

Manolo says, our friend, Mr. Henry jumps out of the frying pan

When the Tiger Mother starts chewing her cubs, the larger question is why doesn’t the father of the house step in to restore sanity? What sort of father today cedes all child-rearing authority to his wife?