The Permanent Style Awards 2021: Charity, e-commerce, and best shoes

Monday, January 11th 2021
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It’s hard to use terms for this past year that haven’t already been overused, and lost most of their meaning along the way.

But there are certainly several issues and trends that have naturally emerged from it, and which I wanted to reflect in this year’s PS awards. 

Hopefully, the awards can be a focus point for discussion and consideration of these trends. PS posts are always best when they manage this, and there is something particularly pointed about stamping an award on a topic. 

Please vote in the first four categories below, by commenting at the bottom of this post. You can vote for as many as you want, in as many categories as you want. 

If you feel you are able, do leave your thoughts and opinions as well as your vote. I find it interesting, I know brands do too, and of course fellow readers enjoy the discussion and views the most. 

This year I would like to know which brand you think has been the most charitable, which has developed its e-commerce the best, which is best for ‘stay-at-home’ wear, and which you consider the best shoe brand - at a time when shoe companies are under particular pressure.

1 Best charitable action

Which brand has impressed you this year with its charitable work? 

There have been many deserving causes, most obviously those providing help to people hit badly by Covid-19, and those that have suffered from racism. But I want to open this up to anyone that has done something significant. 

It might be just giving money, it might be giving time and expertise, or making PPE. It might be setting up a programme to support different types of suppliers or designers - whatever it is, let’s shine a spotlight on that generosity.

2 Best e-commerce

A lot of brands have ramped up their e-commerce in 2020, or started doing it for the first time, through necessity. Some small traditional stores, unfortunately, have been left behind. 

Who do you think has done this best? And bear in mind all the things that make up good e-commerce: product information, measurements and advice, user experience, quick responses to inquiries. 

Perhaps most neglected of all: informed responses to inquiries.

There’s a huge difference between an automated chat box, and talking to Emily or Conor from Anderson & Sheppard on the phone. The latter is half the role of a physical shop, and it’s rare an online-only store has such knowledgeable people at the end of the line. 

3 Best stay-at-home wear

Which clothes have you appreciated most, being stuck at home for weeks on end? 

I’m really hoping it’s not sweatpants, but it might be great pyjamas, polos, slippers, chunky cardigans. Things that are not only comfortable, but which give you some pleasure in the wearing - pleasure not too dissimilar to that from wearing beautiful tailoring outside, out and about. 

This could also include - if it has been the thing you’ve enjoyed most - sportswear, for those daily exercise routines outside, back when it seemed like the only escape. 

4 Best shoe brand

Why best shoes?

Because I think this category of menswear will be particularly interesting in the next few years. Smart oxfords will be worn a lot less - but there’s still a great market for boots and loafers, if you can do it well. And comfort is ever more important - but can you provide that, without sacrificing the elegance that made you popular?

Let me know which shoe brand you think is adapting best to these changing times, on the following criteria: design, quality, value and service. 

Quality and value are often necessarily opposed: more expensive shoes will nearly always be higher quality, but they nearly always provide less per pound. Still, some brands do better or worse on both. 

Design is about staying relevant - probably, no winkle-pickers or dragon patinas - both in terms of the range on offer and the leathers and lasts. And service should need no explanation. 

5 Best artisan

As ever, this is an award for me. I list it here only so that you’re not surprised when a winner is announced. 

In the four years these awards have been running, I have always used one award as an excuse to recognise an artisan that I love. That has produced the most exquisite clothing for me, and which has been a pleasure to work with. 

This is too subjective to be subject to a reader vote. But it’s a nice thing for me to pick out - apart from the usual treadmill of reviews. It’s a moment to reflect. 

The previous winners have been Musella Dembech, Gaziano & Girling, and Sartoria Ciardi. You can read why I selected them each year, at those links. 

Have fun with the voting. I can’t wait to see what you pick.