Chris Jackson walks the talk in how to stream-line buying dress shoes.
Shopping for shoes ranks below watching reruns of Sex And The City on the list of things most guys like to do. Which is probably why nearly 20 per cent of Australians hobble around with corns, calluses, bunions or worse. Men’s Style has been spreading the word for years that few other fashion items elevate your image faster than a high-calibre pair of dress shoes. You know that’s true but knowledge alone doesn’t make a job easier. There’s no need to turn yourself into the male equivalent of shoe-a-holic Carrie Bradshaw to develop a homing instinct for quality shoes. By following the right shopping strategy, you can show the world your appreciation of fine footwear without wasting too much time.
Quality leather is just the starting point. Craftmanship is king in footwear. Unless you are really strapped for cash — don’t buy leather shoes with a synthetic interior. A leather insole helps to flick away perspiration. The inside of the heels shouldn’t be too smooth, either, or you’ll end up with blisters because the backs don’t grip your heels.
A checklist is a must when buying shoes. Just as you assess leg room in a car, make sure you get your feet measured properly. Always shop late in the day (feet swell under the multi-tonne pressure of walking all day). Only a robot’s feet are the same size, human beings always have one foot that’s larger than the other. So always buy shoes that fit the bigger foot with one centimetre of “wiggle room” between the big toe and the end of the shoe. Never buy shoes that need “breaking in”, no matter what the salesperson says. Top quality leather does soften to fit the foot, but shoes that are painful in the shop generally stay that way.
Cost and Care
The minimum price for a decent pair of business shoes is $100, moving up to $250 for high-quality calf skin. Taking care of shoes really extends their lifespan so invest in shoe trees, leather creams and polishes and re-sole them when needed not when holes develop. How many pairs of business shoes do you need? At least two. Leather was once a living thing and it still needs to breathe. Wearing the same shoes every day not only wrecks them faster, it also makes them smell— a lot.
Giant buckles, fancy leatherwork and passing fashion trends don’t cut it in the business world. That’s a real plus because it tends to narrow shoe choices down to two colours—black and brown. You can show a bit of individualism with cap toes, split toe designs and wing tips. These are perennial details that never date.
Ask an Italian man and even today he will say that leather trumps rubber for elegance. Yet away from the Via del Corso in Rome, synthetic soles have cred. Mainly for practical reasons. If you regularly walk several city blocks during the working day, rubber has more spring, lasts longer and you won’t slip on shiny surfaces. Some shoe manufacturers are making leather soles with in-built runner technology hidden within to create the best of both worlds. If you don’t walk far or are keen to create the man-bound-for-the-boardroom look — leather soles are smarter and suggest an old money background.
You can pay a Fortune for shoes made from ostrich and crocodile leathers, but exotic leathers are best kept in the Top End. Nothing negative, it’s just fancy leathers are more at home in rural areas. In town, calfskin is often touted as the benchmark for men’s dress shoes. How far you walk on a daily basis is a key consideration. Cow leather is the best choice for “distance” men.