If you're tapped in, as they say, you've noticed a shift of focus for fashion influencers, both those who proclaim themselves so as a profession and those stylish few publications and podcasts can't stop talking about. People are growing tired of gaudy sneakers and their sky-high prices. The $300 you'd spend for a pair of sneakers, plenty are realizing, can be better spent on better shoes. But it's not just this realization driving consumers to another footwear category altogether. There's a brand making loafers many are eager to trade their sneakers in for, pulling consumers into their universe as much as the tiresome sneaker industry is pushing them there.
Meet Chris Echevarria's Blackstock & Weber, a quasi-streetwear brand founded in 2017 that's reinventing loafers' public perception. The once tired style is seeing new light, and reentering wardrobes with renewed energy. Rather than polished hide or flat suede, Echevarria favors pebble or grain leather, embossed croc, raw denim, pony hair, nappy suede, double stacked leather soles, and chunkier construction. Instead of styling loafers with slacks or khakis, he pairs them with sweatpants or shorts.
His designs aren't blindfolded throws at the dartboard. Schooled in menswear at FIT, an alumna of J. Crew's Mickey Drexler era, part of the cast that brought Stone Island stateside and much more, his resumé signals a savvy veteran, and the designs stem from an unshakeable sense of confidence.
"I've always been involved in, not just from an educational perspective but from a creative job perspective, seeing how this stuff sort of runs, and how the sauce is made," Echevarria says. But launching Blackstock & Weber wasn't about replicating others' recipes.
"It was very intentional from my part to create something that is different within the space. Our loafer doesn't look like anybody else's loafer," he says. "You won't confuse it. You'll know it when you see it. It doesn't have any logos on it, but you fucking know what it is when you see it. It's like seeing a spaceship drive down Fifth Avenue."
The statements Echevarria makes with his styles aren't the same over-the-top attempts at garnering attention designers behind some of the buzziest sneakers employ. Sure, there's his new Canary yellow grain leather loafers with double-stacked leather heels, but they're refined in a way the newest sneaker collaboration isn't. For roughly the same price, the Blackstock & Weber loafers are a better buy, and an investment in a brand setting its sights on eternity. Nowadays you may even see sneakers and loafers occupying the same shelf space at stores like Kith. Blackstock & Weber dropped The Mason Horse Bit Loafer in Walnut and Onyx Croc there first to a crowd that wound around the block.
"I think that we have created something that people will remember, and I'm blessed to even have a moment like this," Echevarria says. "Every brand or designer has a moment, right?" He explains he's happy to be a part of the loafer's sudden ascension, but stops short of assuming responsibility for its newfound popularity. But, I'll say it for him: Blackstock & Weber has undoubtedly played a major role in re-popularizing loafers.
For Echevarria, the classic footwear style has been, and remains, proof of practice. Each release isn't the result of minor adjustments to earlier models. New pairs may be built atop the same soles, but they couldn't look more different, all while retaining touches signature to the brand's founder. He's grown his collection from just two or three loafers at launch to dozens of them in less than four years — with plenty more, including other pillar categories, coming soon.
"I like that people like us and like what we stand for. The loafer has been my way of saying, 'I can take anything and make it into something and change the perception,'" he explains.
Beyond the loafer's lines and angles, which he says are inspired by AMGs and Porsches, there are other interests of Echevarria's that manifest in the brand's finer details. The Clásico Tassel Loafer references Echevarria's favorite soccer team, FC Barcelona and their annual matchup with Real Madrid; The Mason Horse Bit Loafer was named after his younger cousin, Mason; his first look book was shot outside Scarr's Pizza and Ground Support Coffee, two of his NYC staples; the spring look book references growing up going to the Jersey Shore every summer and the aftermath of parties he and friends hosted; plus, the looks within reflect his personal style: Arc'teryx and Barbour jackets, faded jeans, Mets hats and fresh white socks. There's authenticity around every turn, and Echevarria knows consumers can sense that.
"I think that people are starting to be a bit more intentional about who they want to be for the rest of their life as opposed to trying to be in the moment. And there are some aspects of men's fashion and style that are very of the moment. I don't think that people want that as much anymore," Echevarria says. They want something considered, something different from the rest. It's not just a trend driving sales, but rather the craftsmanship embedded in every pair. "You're going to feel like you underpaid for these," he says. "You're going to feel like you stole this shit by the time you get it from us."