Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Looking Down on Shoes.

There’s a movement afoot. Most guys have always owned up to wanting to be men of action. We’re more comfortable thinking of ourselves that way. But there’s a time and place for it. The office isn’t one of them.

What am I going on about? Shoes. I saw a perfectly acceptable combination of khakis, belt, tie, white shirt absolutely, what? Ruined? I don’t really know what to say. I couldn’t stop staring in horror at the guy’s shoes. Am I a snob? Probably. But even a café shoe would look better than these clodhoppers when paired with a similar outfit.

What happened to loafers? Or stylish slip-on shoes like the Sloop that Will sells. Are we collectively in that much pain that we must clump about in sneakers, all-weather “shoes”, or flip-flops?

12 thoughts on “Looking Down on Shoes.

  1. This one is pretty easy… the modern man has been beaten into a sartorial stupor. This being the self selecting blogosphere we may forget that the mass of male humanity is taught from birth that caring about shoes is for girls or pro athletes…. maybe rappers, but thats it.
    Everyone I know thought “nice” shoes were Jordans and anything non athletic was an evil thing that hurts your feet (whethere it really hurts or not). I am the generation that has now grown into offices and boardrooms and no one but perhaps some girl at the mall has taught us anything about shoes.
    Our female companions would be happy if we tucked our shirt in once in a while but for the most part, our ladies think Ed Hardy is high style and agree that male footwear is not a hetero care.
    Save us Easy E! I told the Trad I wont wear a madras jacket, I’ll tell you I’m not an espadrill guy… but even the trad still makes fun of my shoes in every picture of me he lays his eyes upon.
    What is a guy who can’t drop $300 on a pair of shoes to do?

  2. Brohammas, If you can’t drop $300 on a pair of shoes, save up and spend $500 on two pairs. One brown and one black. Or get the black cap-toe lace-ups for work and save up for the brown wingtips later. But they are going to run you close to that $300, if not more. Because they’ll be worth it in the long run — cheaper shoes may last a year or two at most.

    The trick is, like everything, to educate yourself on better construction and watch the sales. Then pounce. A well-made pair of shoes is pricey and with care will last you a lot longer than a cheaper pair. So, with a mid-range pair like an Allen-Edmonds, stick with classic styles (the Park Avenue, the Strand, etc.), alternate wear, clean and polish. You’ll have to resole every five to ten years if you wear them everyday. That’ll run you less than $100 and you’ll get another 5-10 years out of them. Twenty years for about $700 — that’s $35 a year, the sales guy in me says.

    Shell cordovan will run you that $500+ for each pair, but they will last a lifetime. The only reason I’m not wearing a pair I purchased 30 years ago is that I cut through the top with a piece of glass and the welt that resulted from stitching them up rubbed the scar on my toe raw.

    Some older brands were well-made in the past — Johnston & Murphy and Florsheim, for example — and can be had fairly cheap via eBay or consignment stores, but you have to know what you’re buying. Aldens at $60 a throw and that sort of thing can happen, with luck and patience.

    Round out your shoe wardrobe with a classic penny loafer in oxblood — around $150, depending on the brand — and you’re set for most situations where a tennis or boat shoe isn’t acceptable.

    Finally, I said above, stick with the classics; no updated modern stuff. Slightly tapered toes, rounded toe boxes, or slightly rounded toes that taper. Leather soles. Cap-toes, punched caps, wingtips (I prefer short wings), plain toes, and moc toes only on mocs like penny straps.

    I didn’t help, did I?

  3. Thoughtful responses both, but @Brohammas cuts to the chase by noting that a generation of men have been taught by society that careful consideration of appearance (clothing and shoes) is not the measure of a man and is at best feminine/gay.

    It’s not a question of what to buy if you can’t afford Crockett and Jones, but why bother caring about shoes, sleeve length alteration or even wearing a jacket and collared shirt at all? There is no easy answer, but those of us who care can only carry the torch as lonely messengers of a standard. To me wearing appropriate dress is all about respect for yourself and the people you deal with. Sadly the lowering of the value of respect in our culture (see Reality TV as the prime example) has resulted in caring about clothing and dress as collateral damage.

  4. I couldn’t possibly agree with you more. It is bad enough that most men I work with (in the health care industry no less) don’t even bother to wear a tie, it makes matters even worse when you see them in tennis shoes.

    I personally make it a rule to only wear leather soled shoes to work (assuming that I’m not in the OR that day). Many times I extend the leather sole rule to casual dress as well.

    My choice for today were these: http://www.jpeterman.com/Italian-Spectator-Shoes Even those are borderline too casual for me to wear to the hospital.

  5. Still haven’t worked out the whole psycho/socio/anthropological ramifications , but it seems to me that men’s clothing today is supposed to convey the impression that the wearer is ready to bike, run or shoot baskets at a moment’s notice, it being somehow taken for granted that they’re way too cool to have to do a “suit” job, or to care about it if they have one. Add to that what Brohammas said about the aforementioned jocko having learned nothing about good, well made well fitting shoes

  6. It is my feeling that it is the disappearance of traditional department stores and specialty mens & women’s clothing stores, which employed qualified staff to advise and guide the customer, that has caused the current rampant ignorance on everyone’s part about what to wear and where to wear it, including shoes. Children grow up shopping at Target or similar ‘help-yourself’ stores. The sales help (when there is any) has no idea what they are selling or how anything should fit much less appropriateness of wear, occasion, etc. I miss shopping with my Mom in the ’50’s and ’60’s, and early ’70’s. All those wonderful women and men who helped her, and pinched our toes to see if our shoes even fit. In looking at old photos, I spotted one of me and my 3 siblings setting out to walk to our first day of (grade) school: it was a rainy day and we all had on proper rain coats, anklets, hard leather shoes, dresses, my brother in slacks, a collar shirt peeking out from his raincoat, leather tie shoes. (And somehow she managed to send us all out the door with well packed lunch boxes! She was a saint and she taught us well.) We were not wealthy, but we dressed appropriately. 🙂

  7. ” the modern man has been beaten into a sartorial stupor”…That’s sublime. I’d simply offer that modern man has allowed the beating to occur. That shoe alone demands an intervention. I’m not big on excessive Federal laws but there should be one prohibiting that type of shoe. With jail time resultant for even first offenders. Three strikes? You get your feets cut off. Bofe. At once.

    LFG and I visited Alan Flusser yesterday. It was as always, a visual feast. But the best visual feast was five pairs of Alan’s thirty year old bespoke shoes sitting on the floor of his office. We speculated that at today’s prices (one pair was alligator monk strap in butterscotch) the five pair would be about 25k. Standing there looking at them wasn’t quite like being in church. But close.


  8. In defense of my son (you know how protective a Mother can be) and his size 13.5 shoe size, he does not have the luxury of easily being shod. I wish I could find him a respectable loafer. Seriously, he has built in flippers.
    Just finding something to fit his foot can be a challenge…let alone one that has style.

  9. Alas, the lefties have won in this category as well. Now we are all dressing alike, rich and poor, in lousy clothes and shoes that are appalling.

    I have probably thirty pairs of shoes many of which were bought in the 1970s when I started in business. Most are English made and all are still in rotation. Not one pair has fallen apart. In the same time frame I have acquired and worn out maybe 100 pairs of running and tennis shoes.

    I am clearly a shoe snob and look carefully at the shoes of all I meet. They reveal much about the wearer. Beware the man with blunt toe shoes.

  10. And to think just yesterday I was feeling sorry for myself for getting older. I didn’t occur to me that this shoe problem is such a generational thing.

    You see, I started working in 1980 in a white collar job. And back then, shoes mattered. The had to be dress shoes, and they had to be polished. The better your shoes looked, the more respect you got. If you wore shoes like those pictured, you got sent home!

  11. Even worse are those dress shoes which flair out at the toe – resembling a hammer head shark in design. Although vogue for a brief period, some men still wear them.

    I believe in calling as little attention as possible to my feet. Shoes should be discreet.

  12. Most men today are lazy slobs when it comes to dressing. At 53 I remember when men used to dress appropriately and take pride in their appearance. They actually put some effort in to it, worked at it, today most men dress like thirteen year olds, the tail should not wag the dog. The excuse is they want to be comfortable, the reality is they are too lazy to make the effort. How many times do we have to see the crappy shoes, the sweat pants, the hats on backwards and still on their heads indoors, I mean really, how sad is it that men who dress decently are in the minority and that like minded individuals have to meet on the internet like some underground revolutionary movement just to have someone to discuss proper attire with, in closing thank you Chris for your part in helping to unite us, Viva La Revolution!

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