5 Days of Style with Alden Hawkins of Duende

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Alden Hawkins of Duende footwear describes his style as “eccentrically classic.” He incorporates vintage pieces, like this Hudson’s Bay blanket coat, with go-to basics, like these Orvis wide-wale cords, which he calls “the warmest pants ever.” The hat is Pendleton and the shoes are his own Duende loafers; the scarf is by Raf Simons.

Alden Hawkins knows good shoes. But it’s not because he has a background in fashion. “I tend to abuse clothes and everything else I own,” says the six-foot-five-inch founder of Duende footwear. “I was a toy tester as a kid. As my mom says, I was perfect for it. If a toy was going to break, I’d break it.”

When the stylish entrepreneur – who has a background in art, furniture, and antiques – couldn’t find sturdy tuxedo loafers that would stand up to his demanding lifestyle (and frame), he began designing and manufacturing his own. In his ruthless personal trials of prototypes, he’d wear the shoes several times per week, regardless of weather, until he was satisfied with their durability.

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Duende loafers – in velvet, suede, wool, and linen – lined up and ready for their marching orders.

Today, the year-old line, which is manufactured in Spain, features bespoke men’s and women’s tuxedo loafers in virtually limitless options, including linen, velvet, suede, needlepoint, and wool tartan. Highly customized trim and monograms or logos add the finishing polish. (Look for ready-to-wear items coming this spring.)

The word “duende” is Spanish in origin, and is commonly associated with Flamenco dancing, where it means to have soul. It also refers to a mythological, puckish elf. In English it describes a person with powerful magnetism and charm. No surprise then, that Alden’s personal style tangles a sense fun and whimsy around überclassic staples. Count us among the smitten.

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One of Alden’s favorite pieces is this Mountain Research horse blanket wrap from Japan – he stopped a stranger on the street in New York City to find out what he was wearing then promptly bought his own. Alden accessorizes it with his own kilt own pin in lieu of the standard issue. The shirt is an L.L. Bean oxford (monogrammed, of course) and the jeans are Levi’s Made & Crafted. Ray-Ban copper-mirrored shades add some shine.

Here, Alden shows off his charismatic wardrobe choices in our newest feature, “5 Days of Style,” a series where we’ll highlight a work-week’s worth of outfits from our fashionable compatriots. Rooted in tradition and updated with plenty of playful details, Alden shows us what to wear right now.

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Classic doesn’t have to mean stuffy – even preppies need to have a sense of humor when it comes to their clothes. The Beloved Shirts shark attack sweatshirt gets the job done. Alden coordinates it with Bonobos chinos, his favorite L.L. Bean shirt, a vintage bag found at his grandmother’s house (similar here), and Duende linen Belgian-style tassel loafers.

How would you describe your personal style?
Eccentrically classic.

What’s your go-to piece for dressing for a party?
My mind immediately had me in a blazer and dress slacks, so I’d say the details matter – a cool belt buckle, or a pun-ny necktie perhaps. And there’s always shoes that polish up any old party duds. That being said, conversation pieces are always perfect for parties.

When did you start Duende and why?
I launched Duende in January 2015, but had been working on it for about a year developing the shoe itself. I started the company to be able to offer the shoes I wasn’t finding for myself. While there are similar styles out there, the cost was always high for pretty mediocre quality, and the “custom” options weren’t particularly custom. Most of the monogramming options were minimal, too. While for many people a monogram in itself is custom enough, I like going the extra step to create an interesting emblem.

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For work-at-home days and trips to the gym, Alden dons knitwear pants like these ones from Vans (similar here) and tosses necessities into this Duende camouflage needlepoint duffel (still in prototype mode, sorry!). Duende velvet tuxedo loafers dress up the look while keeping the vibe casual.

What’s your best advice for breaking out of a style rut?
I usually force myself to make plans with some who would call me out if I showed up looking frumpy or tired (and I don’t mean from lack of sleep).

Do you typically design outfits around your shoes? Or add shoes to finish the look?
I usually pick something and work backwards, whether that be a shirt, sweater, jacket, or – as often the case is for me – shoes. Sometimes I know I want to wear a specific pair of shoes and then I’ll pick a lot of complimentary things. Other times I’ll try to keep everything conservative and let the shoes stand out. But I also could insert sweater, jacket, shirt, or pants for shoes in that equation. That philosophy always works for me.

Your house is on fire and you only have time to grab five things from your closet – what do you need to survive?
I’m 6-foot-5, so I could definitely grab more than five items pretty easily. I’d probably grab as many stacks of sweaters as I could carry and make a run for it. If my house were on fire, some cashmere knitwear would definitely make it better.

What fashion trends do you always avoid?
I don’t understand a lot of trends, so if I can’t get my head wrapped around it then I usually avoid it. I’m all up for experimentation, though. Give things a shot – as long as you’re having fun with it, who cares! (Says the guy with a giant attack shark printed on his sweatshirt.)

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For dressing up, Alden likes to add some vintage flair to timeless pieces, like the blonde mink collar he pinned on to his two-button camel hair blazer by Brooks Brothers. An outfit only needs one big risk – understated Billy Reid chinos, a go-to button-down, and loafers complete the look.

Photos by Nikole Wohlmacher. Click any image below to launch the gallery.

Meaghan O'Neill is a writer, editor, blogger wrangler, and the founder of Puddingstone Post. She was formerly editor-in-chief of TreeHugger, Discovery Channel online, and TLC's Parentables. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online publications, and her book, Ready, Set, Green: 8 Weeks to Modern Eco-Living (Villard/Random House) was published in 2008. She lives in Newport, RI with her family.

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