Pictured: The Beverly Hills Men’s Shoe Floor.
Adrian Todd Zuniga is the host, creator, and CCO of Literary Death Match (a literary event now featured in 57 cities), and his fiction has been featured in Readux and Stymie, and online at Lost Magazine and McSweeney’s. He was named a “LA Times Face to Watch,” and is the host of the all-new Playboy Radio show “Crazy Sexy Love.” He lives between Los Angeles and guest rooms all over Europe. Check out LiteraryDeathMatch.com to see when the show will be coming to your city.
As the host and creator of Literary Death Match, I’ve made it a point to be a man of many suits. My playing dress-up at Literary Death Match serves a very important purpose: It announces to the audience, from second one, that this show isn’t a reading, but it’s literary spectacle.
Now, the right half of my closet is a display of literary, film, and TV inspiration. There’s an all-white Tom Wolfe. There are a pair of loud, Nucky Thompson and Chalky White options, culled from Boardwalk Empire. A skinny black Mr. Pink from Reservoir Dogs. A pair of Don Drapers from Mad Men (I was recently told the cornflower blue was actually “more of a Pete Campbell”—ouch!).
I should say my suit collection didn’t start off so bold. The beginnings were a mix of safe grays, blues, and black. Fashion, at its best, is a steady evolution: Take a chance; get comfortable. Take a bolder chance; get comfortable. Repeat. Pocket squares go from solid to polka-dotted. Shirt cuffs go from barrel to French. Vests with lapels. Angled ticket pockets. It’s exciting to take these risks, and rewarding when a personal style starts to announce itself over time.For all the fashion capital you build up, without the right shoes, it comes tumbling down. When I made the move to suits, my shoe choices were, let’s say, questionable. Then I found the perfect baseline: Church’s cap-toe Balmorals. The shoes that helped me make the distinction between boring and classic.
So, when I walked into Barneys brilliant new men’s shoe floor—a shoe fetishist’s dream!—I was on the hunt for a replacement for my beloved Church’s. I suspected I’d exit with a pair of Ferragamos, Pradas or John Lobbs, but after an airy walk past dozens of top-tier options on sumptuous display, it was a brand I’d never heard of that insisted on my attention, and lured me to take a chance: Harris. The Italian shoemaker with a British name!There is a thing that can happen when you read a book (in my case, Pastoralia by George Saunders), or see a film (You, The Living directed by Roy Andersson) or see a TV show (Six Feet Under by Alan Ball) wherein you can become convinced this thing was created especially for you. Maybe your breath catches, or the world goes slow-mo, and you experience the calm of feeling known. That blink of giddiness sparked in my chest when I saw Harris’ grey-blue wingtip bluchers—with burgundy highlights over the dot perforations. That’s right: grey. Blue. Burgundy. All in the same shoe! I felt one step away from F. Scott Fitzgerald downing champagne at Dingo Bar in Paris in 1925. Then, I fell hard for the brand’s dark brown, asymmetric-trim Balmorals—which flung me back to a young Truman Capote sipping screwdrivers at the Caribbean Room in the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans in 1946. Then, I fixated on the pick-stitch cap-toes. No literary figure leapt immediately to mind. So, I took the chance and they became my latest evolution. Now I wear them while drinking Ocean Waters at La Poubelle in Los Angeles right here in 2014.
THE BALMORALS THAT BECKONED