Virgil Abloh, multihyphenate creative and menswear designer of Louis Vuitton, once proclaimed that one need only change 3% of an original design to create something new. In applying this rule, he has created hit after hit, from the mega-popular streetwear label Off-White™ (never forget the TM!!!) to collaborations with legendary furniture maker
IKEA Vitra. Say what you will about Abloh’s commodification of streetwear and co-opting of culture; he has shown that design doesn’t have to be overengineered if well-intellectualized.
In the venture capital world, however, people seem to profess a different approach to design completely. In the book Zero to One, its author, Peter Thiel, claims that proprietary technology has to be 10x better than the competition. Intuitively, this makes a lot of sense. A lot of the time, you’re not just facing up the products that already exist, but also consumer inertia and brand loyalty. It takes a lot more than being marginally better to really get your product into people’s hands.
Abloh’s and Thiel’s approaches seem to be completely divergent, the former advocating for a more incremental changes than the latter. On deeper inspection, though, you’ll likely find that the points these two influential thinkers make don’t necessarily cancel each out, but I’m not a smart guy writer with smart guy insight on smart guy topics. Go ask Die, Workwear! or something. What I am is a writer who enjoys providing tangentially related, smart-sounding, confusing preambles to reviews, this time to the Moonstar Alweather.
3%. Made in the same facilities as the better known Shoes Like Pottery sneakers and Nigel Cabourn Army Shoes, the Alweather is as quality as quality gets in the world of plimsoll variants. The hardy off-white canvas, vulcanized rubber outsole and hand-lasted upper, each only marginally better than the competition, together provide a compelling quality argument over, say, the Converse Chuck 70s. My pair has held up extremely well despite only seeing action in the toughest of weathers.
10x. The Alweather has a distinct, polarizing look to it that I absolutely adore. It is part L.L. Bean Duck boot, part Converse Chuck Taylor, all ugly-as-shit in a good way. It appeals to the kind of menswear nerd who’s into funky, Americana-by-way-of-Japan garms like Engineered Garments and Kapital. With its slightly raised outsole and chunky silhouette, it wears like a sneaker-boot hybrid, making it, in reality, very different from the two shoes it was likely modeled after.
Divergent? What’s confusing about the Alweathers, though, is its supposed all-weatherness. With its waxed canvas upper and CrewGuard-esque vulcanized rubber bootie, you get all the wet sock protection of the genre. Unfortunately, the herringbone-pattered gum rubber sole provides little to no traction on the kind of slippery surfaces created by a downpour. In my experience wear-testing these in harsh weather, I have found myself ass on asphalt more than I could care for. Don’t think of the Alweather as a rain shoe, but as just another very cool sneaker.
Distribution stateside has increased dramatically since I first purchased the shoe. You can now find it at Hightide (lowercase m minimalist store), Blue in Green (OG raw denim store) and Tempo Design Store (kind of a mix of the first two but still cool???). There’s also that Fendi versio. Size them like you would Converse Chuck Taylors (half size down from Brannock, or 0.5cm smaller than your JP size).