I normally don’t advocate anything from the 1970’s, but I’ll have to make an exception for these shoes. The Wallace & Barnes P204 is the right amount of outrageous that I’ve needed to inject into my wardrobe!
Everyone knows the famous Clark’s Desert Boot as the starter shoe for every aspiring stylish guy. They have a look that isn’t too dressy or casual, which is helped by the non-agressive last. If you compare them to my chukkas from Loake, you’ll note that the Clark’s one is a lot rounder and taller. The Desert Boot has been around for a long time, but it grew in popularity in the 1960’s, rocked by collegiate people.
As a show company, Clark’s made a lot of other styles, including the Wallabee. And it’s pretty weird.
I like to call the Wallabee a mixture between desert boot and moccasin for good reason (they are also similar to some models of Paraboot) The boots have a bit of an odd shape, being almost flat in the front until the rounds up on vamp to the laces, which isn’t like most shoes at all. The moccasin styling comes into play with the “swelled edge” stitching on the front of the shoe. Like the desert boots, they are most commonly seen with a crepe sole, except there is no heel; the sole is completely flat, making for an extremely chunky look.
I am not sure sure on the history of these shoes and a majority of my knowledge comes from this post on reddit. Apparently Clark’s took inspiration from the Sioux Grasshopper, called their model the Wallabee, and used Padmore & Barnes, to manufacture them. As Clark’s grew, they moved manufacturing to China and allowed P&B to become its own separate entity. In the end Clark’s and P&B made their own Wallabees, with P&B calling theirs the P204.
I think that the Padmore & Barnes models are much better made and even look nicer. The Clark’s Wallabee is a little too boxy for me and I much prefer the last of the P&B P204’s. Obviously whichever one you prefer is up to you, but I simply like the Padmore’s due to their shape and the availability of materials; the only Wallabee’s I’ve seen are the ones made from their signature beeswax and their light yellow-brown suede.
Now don’t get me wrong; these shoes aren’t nearly as versatile or as “classic” as the desert boot. They are a novelty item that serves as a bold choice for seasoned dressers. Hell, it was hard for me to find guys wearing them that weren’t in something too casual. However, it was worn with tailoring, even if it was rare. As seen in the pictures and random conversations with guys in my facebook group (and my dad), these shoes were popular in the 1970’s, as they were one of the few options for versatile footwear. Like the desert boot, young guys would wear these with their jeans and their chinos, dressing them up and and down as needed.
One of the main guys today who rocks the Wallabee’s is Wes Anderson. In general, Anderson has a 1960s-1970’s vibe (apparent in his work) and the shoe choice matches perfectly with his tweed and corduroy suits.
I’ve seen them worn by MFA-ers before, but I had never seen them worn on tailoring until I started following Matt Woodruff, the manger of Drake’s on Crosby. I barely noticed them as he doesn’t really run a fashion instagram (his account is just daily life, which I think is great since Instagram doesn’t need to be anything overt). However, they came full force into my attention when he posted a scan of Popeye Magazine, where he was streetstyled in one of their issues. Seen above, he wears a tweed jacket, navy trousers, and some suede shoes.
I made the mistake of assuming they were Wallabees until his coworker Alex Winchell messaged me, imploring me to discard any thoughts of the Clark’s immediately. Alex told me that Matt actually buys P204’s from Padmore & Barnes, which then prompted me to do some more research. As I stated earlier, the P&B shoes were much more attractive than the boxier (and weirder) Wallabees.
I talked with Matt briefly about the shoes when I was considering buying some for myself. Because they are more chunky than traditional footwear, it takes some careful attention to style them accordingly. As you can see, Matt doesn’t wear them with suits; he prefers to go with separates in order to lean into the more casual vibe of the footwear. You’ll also notice that his trousers are hemmed slightly higher than what I’m used to, so that his trousers hover above the top of the shoe. I prefer a shivering break, but when it comes to shoes like this, you really do need a clean line. Otherwise, it just reminds me of wearing chunky sneakers with a suit (the bad way).
In general, Matt recommends going with “school boy” outfits. I’m inclined to agree!
After some deliberation, I decided to get the Padmore & Barnes P204 in snuff suede as a Christmas gift from my parents. We had previously seen Chase in the dark brown leather version but I’ve been on a suede kick lately, as I already own chelseas and chukkas in brown suede. I purchased mine through END clothing because the site was easier to use.
I’ve been going through some issues with my footsize and wanted to get a 5.5UK (my chukkas were 6.5 and were meh fitting), but neither END nor the Padmore & Barnes site had that size I ended up going with a 6UK. After only a few days, I got my shoes!
The snuff suede is pretty darn great, boasting a reddish-brown color that adds to their interesting shape. They fit a little bit big, but it wasn’t bad; I have tiny ass feet and still have no idea what the ideal fit is supposed to be like. Overall, the shoes are very comfortable. I even think that Matt called them ergonomic! The laces are woven, which is a nice complement to the soft suede. I actually took the shoe shots after a week of wear, so the crepe sole is already pretty dirty. I prefer that, since I like my stuff to feel lived in.
With a Suit
Even though Matt cautioned me against something too dressy for the P204s, I decided to go all out on my first outfit with them on. It was still a little cold during this shoot, so I went with my wool-silk Camoshita suit, which is softly constructed with a 3-roll-2 jacket and double pleated trousers. Not only is the suit very comfy to wear, but I believe that the texture and pattern is a perfect pair for the clunky P204s. It also helps that the trousers are slimmer than what I normally get (Camoshita is naturally slim; these trousers weren’t altered), so they look great with a no-break hem. It really reminds me of the Drake’s EasyDay cord suit
Echoing what Matt said, I went with a striped shirt and a vintage club tie to emphasize that “school boy” look. The greens and browns make for a 70’s look, which goes hand-in-hand with the shoes. I know beanies are casual, but I think it just ties the entire look together, especially since it was a utilitarian choice. Personally, I think that beanies are the ultimate headwear, since they make outfits just a bit more interesting and even help dress them down. I bring one with me in bag not only when it’s cold, but for times when I’m hanging with the guys and didn’t bring a change of clothes. A guy with a suit seems fussy, but a beanie with a suit? That guy is just chillin!
This outfit is probably one of my favorites of all time. I think it gives us a good precident that you can wear the Padmores with a suit, especially if it’s textured and slouchy; a good summer variation would be cotton!
Intrigued by my first success (YMMV) with wearing my P204s with tailoring, I decided to do something a bit more preppy, with a 1940’s jacket and pleated flannels. Unlike the Camoshita trousers, these thrifted Polo RL ones are a bit wider and have just a tad longer. This pairing works together in theory, but I think the wider leg and longer length makes it look a bit more sloppy. Definitely not as clean as the lines on the Camoshita or on a typical Matt outfit.
I consider this one a failure as well, just it suffers from the same issue of the previous one: the trousers just aren’t right. These corduroy trousers are also in a “classic fit” and while they are shorter (slightly), it’s still too frumpy. If the cords were slimmer and hemmed higher, it would definitely be in the same vein as the camoshita suit. It’s a shame, because all the textures of the outfit (oxford, herringbone tweed, wide wale cord) go smashingly with the suede p204s. Maybe I just need two variations of every trouser: wide and slim-straight.
Now this is what I’m talking about. The trousers are spot on! These are Banana Republic flannel trousers that I got around two years ago when I still worked there. They’re cut pretty slim and have a mid-rise (but I wear them hiked up), so I don’t wear them too often in favor of my more straight-cut (or wide) pieces. It’s a good thing I didn’t throw them away, because I think that they were the best choice. It’s worn here with some pretty standard ivy-style stuff: green tweed jacket, vintage Brooks OCBD, and that super classic repp tie. I feel like this is right up Matt’s alley and accurately gets that “school boy” look; especially with the high hem (and cuff) of the trousers. This is the template to continue.
After figuring out how to do the look with a full ivy look, I decided that I’d try something tie-less for the next one. I’m not a huge fan of wearing shirts open without a tie anymore, since it leaves too much open space. To cover it up and make the outfit a bit more interesting, I added a navy crew neck sweater; thankfully it’s dark enough to contrast with the jacket. I think that this is much more “student style” than any of the previous outfits; the white socks definitely add to the more dressed down nature.
I also wanted to experiment with how the shoes look with denim. I was pretty confident that dark wash selvedge would’ve been fine, so I wanted to try something unexpected: high rise light wash denim. It’s a bit more 1970s-80s, which I think contributes more to the already “odd” vibes of the shoes. It’s worn here in a very 70s-80s ivy way with a cotton patch pocket jacket, checked shirt, and a block repp stripe tie. Overall, I think it works.
I’m pretty proud of this one. I wore this outfit to Free Museum Day when my friends and I went to the Annenberg Photography Space and MOCA for free (the former is always free smh). Because it was a casual day and I honestly don’t like wearing ties everyday, I opted for something that was casual, interesting, but nothing too hipster. I kept the light wash denim and paired it with the navy sweater (it’s cotton, so it’s like a tee shirt) and a grey chore coat. If you guys follow me closely, you’ll know that my casual style is very 70s-90s with a few 30s-40s elements; it’s still very slouchy. I felt that loafers were too formal for the outfit (and sneakers too basic), so I went with the P204s to keep the “interesting vibes” going. I think it worked well, because like I said before, the P204s are like a cross between a moccasin slipper and a desert boot!
If you’re wondering if I still wear these, here’s the proof! I did take a break from them for a little bit as I focused on wearing my dream loafers. After the tassel and penny overkill, I found myself wanting to wear lace-ups. Not oxfords mind you, but something funner. In the end, I “rediscovered” my wallabees (I mean they were just sitting on my shoe rack)! Their chunky nature and light color was the perfect spice I needed, and I’m always a fan of finding new ways to wear what you already own, instead of constantly buying and experimenting with new things.
And this time, I wasn’t going to be scared of wearing them with wide leg pants. Like a chore coat to a blazer, these are just another pair of shoes, ready to be worn with anything else in my wardrobe. There isn’t a rhyme or reason for my choices. Some range from ivy to…whatever I feel like. Here’s a few outfits I’ve worn with the wallabees:
There’s something so charming about fun footwear. In a world where guys argue about whether loafers, derbies, or oxfords are appropriate, I like that there are dressers who like to subvert these “rules” and go for something completely different. Honestly, I think those people have a bit more fun with menswear and as a result, have genuine style. Now I’m not a huge fan of sneakers and suits, but these Padmore & Barnes P204s give me enough casual, dressed down flair for me to make things interesting.
Wearing these shoes with tailoring isn’t something new, but a lot of people didn’t like them when I received the shoes. These wallabees are clunky and aren’t streamlined like most classic footwear, but that’s what makes them appeal to me. It forces me to either do a different spin on what I’d normally wear or to simply make something new. Jeans was a no brainer, but tailoring makes it interesting. Like I said before, it’s like a more interesting desert boot.
Paying attention on how to pull these off is super important. As we saw, the P204s need a shorter hem (not too cropped if that’s not your style) and a slightly slim leg. I have tiny feet, so having a wider leg opening makes my feet disappear inside the trouser. I would suggest the same to you guys, if this shoe style appeals to you! Seriously, after seeing it on Matt’s instagram, I knew that I had to get some for myself. It gives you some oddball 1970’s vibes, when ivy just had that slumpy vibe all over it. It’s weird, but it a great way.
Above all, remember that menswear is inherently personal and deserves some fun! Why not subvert expectations? Not everyone needs to be in a loafer or an oxford, and you definitely don’t need to look perfect. If I had the choice to look proper or to look slouchy, I’d pick slouchy every time. And these P204s absolutely fit the bill.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by Ethan’s tripod
This is very interesting, over here in South Africa (especially Cape Town) this is the staple shoe for boys attending school. We wore school uniforms consisting of white shirt, tie, blazer and grey trousers – usually with black leather shoes. The shoe you’re wearing is also synonymous with gangsters, much like Chuck Taylor’s is to West Coast gangsters in the States (this is based on my knowledge according to music videos – smirk)
But back to the shoe. Over here it’s called a Grasshopper by Watson – there slogan is most comfortable shoe in the world.
Great articles and keep it up
Do you know if th soles are replaceable? I really like these (or Clark’s Wallabees), but I don’t like crepe soles.
Is 6 a good fit for the P204? I take 6.5 in Clarks desert boots and wallabees. But as you say there no half sizes in the P204.