Here I discuss the realities of what it means to be a menswear blogger that might exchange goods/services and/or money for publicized content. There is a fine line between being a trusted expert and a shill. I lay out my opinions on how one can trust the expert when some ideas might lead to the contrary. At the end of the day, it is all about trust and reading the signs of someone that truly cares and someone that just does it to make money without the integrity side of it.
I realize it can be hard to always know. For example, I have advertisers that I personally wouldn’t wear. But I either am a friend of the owner and therefore believe in the individual, or know the quality is there but its target market is not me. But, as I believe in the person behind the brand I will spread their shoes anyway, as there are customers out there happy to have their shoes.
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See the transcript of the post:
Hello. Hello. Hello, welcome to The Shoe Snob Podcast.
Here we are with the new episode. Today I want to talk about a subject that I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time, but I just never got around to it. Maybe because, in the written version, there are not a lot of photos I can put but rather just a bunch of text, so it’s quite boring.
So it’s probably better spoken about. And that is the menswear shoe bloggers, really, bloggers in general. You know, blogging is a relatively new thing. Maybe, let’s say in the last 15 years. I mean, I started my blog in 2010, so 13 years ago and I was really among the first, definitely first shoe blogs, but menswear blogs in general you know. There was A Suitable Wardrobe. I don’t know if you could call The Sartorialist a blogger per se. He was more just like an image content creator. Really, one of the first content creators who didn’t really write a ton. You know, of course, there was Permanent Style too. And Parisian Gentlemen too. These are ones that are still, well, besides the suitable wardrobe, still big to this day.
And, you know, as a blogger, I’ve gone through a world of ups-and-downs and chaos and changing and upgrading and losing and gaining and, you know, it’s, it’s a job in itself. It can be a lifestyle, I guess, if your blogging is your main source of income, so to speak. But it definitely comes, you know, with its positives and its negatives. So I guess what prompted this, is not so much feedback that I’ve had, but just in general, I mean, I’ve read about it about my own personal feedback from others.
But really, a lot of it stemmed from Simon Crompton, from Permanent Style and Simon getting a lot of flak from people basically saying he just gets free stuff. I mean, the reality and, and, and when somebody gets free stuff, how can you trust them? So this is the broad topic of today’s post: ‘if a blogger doesn’t pay for it, how can they be honest?’ Now, I can see that argument. I can because a lot of people, um a lot of people shill in this world. A lot of people will sell their souls for free stuff or money or whatever. And so it can be hard to trust somebody without knowing what’s behind that, you know, an exchange of goods or services for content or an exchange of money for content, obviously positive content is what the exchanging person is going to want.
But, and I guess my logic is, is more about trust. And obviously, when you become somebody in the industry, you became that somebody for a reason, you know, people obviously trusted, you looked up to, you appreciated your word. And so I don’t know, maybe it’s me because I like to think that I practice common sense on a daily basis. But I just feel like there’s so many, it’s so obvious when somebody is selling something for, you know, selling content in the sense that writing positive reviews to brands that are basically crap. And, you know, in exchange for money or free goods.
So, you know, I just, I always found it funny, not so much me because I write about shoes of all kinds of prices from $300 shoes to $3000 shoes. But, you know, people in the higher end, well, in more in menswear because suits are a lot more expensive than shoes are and so are overcoats. So I always found the comments about Simon in particular that, you know, oh, if he doesn’t get it free, well, he’s just gonna write good stuff and it’s like, I always found it funny that readers of blogs assume that bloggers can afford $10,000 garments. I mean, how much do you think we make?
You know, if bloggers were rich they wouldn’t be doing blogging. I guarantee you that most bloggers actually enjoy what they’re writing about. They care about that industry, you know, so to speak. So, yeah, it’s nice to be getting that stuff for free, in exchange for giving your opinion on it. I’d like to think that, um, especially the bloggers that have been around the block for a long time, you know, are gonna be honest in their critiquing. Not only because feedback doesn’t always have to be negative, but it can also be positive criticism because, you know, we all need it. No brand or product is, is perfect.
I mean, there are subjective opinions on the latter but on the contrary, excuse me, but we always have something to learn and to work on and to be better at it’s just human nature. So, you know, like I’ve received criticism in my life and, and you look at it, if you look at it objectively, if you step outside of your own ego and you look at it, it can help you grow as a brand. So, you know, when I shared my criticism of Bridlen shoes, you know, I then spoke with the owner and he wanted to try to correct those things that I saw, and I think because of that openness, he’s going to be successful. If you just close yourself off to criticism and you think that you can’t do better, then you simply can’t be better. You’re not going to succeed because you’re just stuck on an ego trip that’s eventually going to trip you up.
And so, you know, I don’t really see stuff as negative, so to speak. Granted, I also personally won’t take something (a product to review) that I know I won’t like. And I’m quite sure other big bloggers do that too. If they know they’re not gonna like it. It’s a waste of time to write about it. We don’t care about a free product. We don’t get paid to ruin our reputation in a video or a post. So I find it so funny when people are criticizing the people that get free bespoke suits. Oh, if you can’t buy them, if he’s not buying them, I can’t trust what he says again. On what planet do you, do you live on? Where do you think bloggers buy $10,000 bespoke suits? Do you know who pays for $10,000 bespoke suits? Multimillionaires! You know, not even a guy who earns 500,000 a year probably is buying bespoke Huntsman suits or bespoke suits in general. People that can afford these are in the upper echelons of society financially speaking.
So, yeah, I mean, truth be told, I don’t pay for any of the shoes that you see or that I talk about. Why would I? I have my own shoe brand. I mean, I know that’s how you can trust me. You know, I can’t make an argument for everybody else. I can just do logic. I can use common sense. You know, people send me stuff because they want exposure and I’m happy to have content and also share things with you guys. You know, because I find it interesting. I love shoes. Now, I’m not so egotistical to think that my shoe brand is the end-all-be-all for the entire world. No, people have different tastes, different ideas. I love my shoes and of course, I’m gonna be biased about my shoes over the whole entire industry. But I’m not so egotistical to think that everybody else is going to love my shoes or that I love my shoes only, right?
I’ll have my followers and I’ll have the people who don’t like it and that’s normal. So, for people who don’t like my brand, I’m happy to share all the other brands of the world because, at the end of the day, I just want to see men wearing better shoes. So I know that most of you who followed me get that and you, you can trust me because of that because it’s wild to think that a guy who owns a shoe brand talks about what other people will perceive as his direct competition. But then the other bloggers of the world who don’t have their own companies and who just talk about other brands.
Another thing I probably forget to mention is, you know, I use Simon because I know Simon gets a lot of flak. I’ve read his comments, I’ve read feedback and I think it’s a good indication, you know, there’s the Kirby Allison, the Hugo Jacomet, Simon Crompton. These are mainly the kind of bigger menswear ones. I know there are bloggers from other worlds that I’m not so familiar with, that ultimately probably get mostly free stuff. I think Simon, because of this whole subject, has been more critical because I think he’s received so much flak, like almost on purpose to make his reviews critical, which I think I have too because at the end of the day when you do unboxing videos and everything is good, people just think, oh, you just always say something good.
Yeah, that’s because I try not to take brands I know are going to be garbage. Why would I want to present sent to you garbage? You know, that doesn’t make logical sense. I’m here to promote the finest shoes in the industry. So you don’t know how many brands write me asking me to show their stuff and how many I say no to because it’s just not, it doesn’t interest me, it doesn’t interest me for you. But so what I was gonna say is at a certain point, like I probably have 250 pairs of shoes. At a certain point, you don’t even care about getting those products. So you’re not writing about it because it was free and you’re gonna only write good because it was free because, in reality, you don’t even need it.
I mean, ask yourself how many gray suits does Simon Crompton have? Probably 20. You probably don’t need more than 10. Maybe even 5. You know. And so there’s also that aspect, it’s like, at the end of the day, you don’t need what they’re giving you for free. You do it because you appreciate it. You need it for content. You like to spread the word. You want to show new makers, you do it for your blog. It’s not to get free stuff. Nobody does this to get free stuff. I’m sure there are people who do but they don’t last because it’s obvious they do it to get paid.
Of course, the bigger you are as a blogger, you have to get paid. Websites cost money, developers cost money, hosting costs money, content costs money, good cameras, good microphones, good video sets, good everything in order to make this content. None of it’s free. There’s no free anymore. The world has ensured that. I built the blog for free, just taking crappy photos from my cell phone slowly but surely upgrading to better cameras. But in the beginning, it was just free. It was just my time and my thoughts now I need to buy microphones. I need the latest phone to have the best video. I need the best camera to take the best photo, I need hosting, developing this, that, the other, every plug-in costs money, everything costs money these days. Nothing is free.
So at the same time, we have to monetize, you know, you, you do that with your sponsors. Um and chances are the sponsors that you have are people. Oh, excuse me, what could be people, brands that you feel uh aligned with in the sense that you believe their product is worthy of living on your site, so to speak. Um or being more frequently represented because you think that brand brings value to the industry and these are all normal things. It’s the same thing like any other industry. So I just find it funny when people love to critique menswear bloggers like, oh they just get free stuff. They just write about this and that because it’s free. No. Yeah, there are some people out there but not the, not the ones that have stood the test of time, the ones that are here after five or 10 years. You know how many bloggers have started blogs and quit after a year because it’s not easy. It’s really not easy. It’s demanding, very demanding. I don’t even want to imagine how many emails the Kirby Allison as signing and the Hugo Jaco may get a day thousands at one point because my blog was really among the first shoe blogs in the world of that caliber stating, writing about what I was writing about and then everybody in the world started writing about shoe care. I got so many emails a day that were almost novel like that. I had to turn my email off. I got trolls because I didn’t respond to emails. I’m sure these stories, if you know the Simon and the Kirby and the hugos listen to this video, they’re gonna know exactly the same thing because I’m sure they’ve experienced, I’m sure these people who say negative things about Simon are his trolls because maybe he didn’t respond to an email of theirs. It’s a sad world we live in, but everybody’s offended for everything. So I know my followers are great. You guys always build me up, say positive things. Gone are the days that I have trolls mainly when I lived in England. I don’t know why, but there seems to be a lot of trolls in England. At least that’s what I experience. I used to have trolls on style form and those were the American ones who lived in California. I think uh I don’t really have many trolls anymore, which is great. But uh the reality is the mens wear bloggers that have been around for a long time. They’re not shills. Uh It may seem like it’s sometimes granted at the same time, you could build a great relationship with somebody and then their product can be OK but not great. And it’s not like you want to go on and, and rip them to shreds publicly, you want to help them get better, you know, so you try to educate through positive criticism. Um If you’re just going on places to watch bloggers rip apart people, I, I don’t know, I mean, that’s pointless. Uh And again, we’re all different. So we all have our subjective experiences while I can find an experience with the shoe brand. Great, while somebody else has a horrible experience. So you may go on there expecting somebody to off another company because you had a bad experience. But that doesn’t mean somebody else had a bad experience. You know, sometimes they just get lucky or unlucky. So the point really is that the men’s wear bloggers of the world um that’s not to be confused with the influencers of the world. A word that I can’t stand. Um you know, I come from a before Instagram generation and I find the whole Instagram generation quite sad. To be honest. It’s, it’s, it’s great in one aspect, it’s great how people can build brands off Instagram. But I do feel like a lot of genuine content was lost in the world because of Instagram and because how they push us to just be tiktok curs and short videos that you can’t really say anything in and show anything in and it’s really just for visual mind numbing content. But uh so yeah, the actual mens were bloggers who are maybe they consider themselves editors now or journalist, I, I, I don’t know people, I don’t think like the word blogger. I don’t care. You call me a blogger makes no difference to me. I’m not an editor. I don’t have a background in journalism or writing frankly, I’m barely good at it. But uh trust that a lot of what we do, we do because we wanna grow the industry. You don’t grow the industry by chilling by just saying good things, you hurt the industry and in the long run by promoting bad stuff uh by lying by just saying, oh, it’s great. It’s great. It’s great because it was free. It was free, it was free. No, it’s not the way it goes. Yes, things are free. You can’t expect a guy like Simon to afford a 10 grand suit and in reality, you can’t expect a guy like me to buy $3000 bespoke shoe. I wouldn’t, I don’t have that kind of money. Not to mention I have my own shoe brand. So when I write about it, it’s not because I’m so enthusiastic that I got a free pair. No, it’s because I’m trying to give honest feedback about ABC maker to give all of you guys the thoughts on whether to not or to buy from them. So, you know, it’s not that, oh, you can’t trust us because it was free. It has to be free if you really want the content because none of us are multimillionaires as far as I know. I mean, I’ve met all these people, I’m talking about. Sure. Maybe some of them live comfortable lives, but definitely know millionaires. I can guarantee that one. Uh, so, yeah, you know, men’s wear bloggers, good ones, real ones. What’s the word blogger? I, what’s a better word? I don’t even know. There’s so many words these days. Um, but, you know, I think the only one that I know that actually pays for the shoes is yes, because yes, actually likes the very finer things in life and those Japanese bespoke makers don’t just give out free shoes. So you can. Yes. Or at least his putting his blood sweat and tears into those pairs because he’s forking out a couple of grand. But, uh, yeah, so the point is, you know, unless you’re a terrible judge of character, I feel like it’s really easy to see who’s chilling and who’s being honest and who’s telling things uh with, you know, truth behind it. And again, at the end of the day when you get so big and you have so many brands bombarding you to put their product on your site. It’s not easy in itself, you know, I think, and I’m not, you know, here trying to say poor us, poor me, poor, poor uh bloggers, you know, they got it hard, but it’s, it’s also not easy when you’re big. It’s a lot of responsibility. It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of potentially insulting people by denying them. Um, so you don’t know actually what we go through in the backgrounds of saying no to countless brands that want us to write about them or showcase their stuff. Um, so yeah, stop expecting us to be able to afford the products we write about. It’s like waiters who think they’re living the life of the people who eat in their fancy restaurants. It just, it’s not, doesn’t make, doesn’t correlate. We don’t, we are multimillionaires. We do this because we enjoy it. We like it. You know, my blog is just a side project as I build my brand in reality as my day job. And uh I do this because even if somebody’s not wanting to wear a pair of my shoes, I’m at least hoping they’re wearing, you know, another brand that I respect, not the garbage of the industry that sells you a name and an idea, uh you know, a brand that actually sells you value for your money. So the moral of the story, not all men wear bloggers or shells just because we get free stuff doesn’t mean we’re saying only positive things. A lot of times if we, we’re very picky with who we choose to speak about, that means we’re only speaking about quality brands, which means a lot of times there won’t be so many negatives to talk about. It’s only the crappy stuff that has negatives good brands that sell good products that have good people behind them and give good value for money. It’s hard to cut them down because they’re doing well. So try to understand that. Uh I don’t know, I wanted to talk about this topic for a while. Um Not that I need to be the defender of all bloggers, but I just feel like sometimes some bloggers get a lot of unnecessarily unnecessary flack. I don’t anymore. So I thank all of you for treating me well and giving me support. I know there’s some of you that don’t like me and hey, that’s ok. This comes with the territory doesn’t bother me. So anyways wishing everybody a great day. Thank you as always for tuning in and do stay tuned for more. Take care. Bye bye.