March 23, 2009

Soleful Shopping: Negotiating Men's Footwear

Editor's note: Chris is a fantastic dresser and smart bargain hunter. When he offered to guest blog about a recent purchase he made, inspired by my early entry about the Yoox sample sale, I was happy to oblige him because I just love his style. Although I've discussed his recent purchases, like the Fiorentini + Baker boots shown here:
I am excited to give him a forum to discuss the nuances of men's footwear. xo, Jesspgh
---
I've had a number of conversations with friends about what makes a great formal men's shoe. Lace-up, leather sole, and a heel are a few of the basics to consider. While the debate over derby blucher vs. balmoral oxford has arisen - I'm not an Oxford man, as it turns out (at least not balmoral oxfords) - long-term investment issues matter more than the finer details of facing and tongue. When weighing how long a pair of men's formal or dress shoes should last, especially given the cost, durability and shape matter most. Buying shoes is like a negotiation, the big stuff matters first and then you arrive at the details.

Derby Blucher on the left, Balmoral Oxford on the right

A quality pair of men's shoes should always have a leather sole. Leather should also be featured through most of construction of the heel. The best places for a shoe to have rubber is along the back edge of the heel where your foot lands first during your step. Both the leather sole and the rubber bit can be easy to replace by a cobbler when either the sole gets worn out or excessive wear leads to an angled heel. While I respect their attempts at making dress shoes comfortable, Geox and Ecco shoes seem too comfort-oriented to be formal enough to be a wise long term investment. They're just not for me.

No shape has lasted longer than the standard round toe. And because of this, no shape will last longer into the future than a quality pair of round toe shoes. They're always in style. Great shoes are supposed to last forever and pointy and square-tip shoes will remind others five years from now the date during which you did your shopping...now or worse, the late 1990s. So for these reasons, I avoid such highly-stylized brands such as Schmoove, Tsubi and Paul Smith. Don't get me wrong. I have made mistakes and bought shoes that already look horribly dated. Too many fussy time-specific details make the shoes feel inappropriate in fancy social situations. For these reasons, pairs of black square toe Via Spiga and square wingtip Kenneth Cole shoes sit in my closet, collecting dust: too nice to get rid of, too dated to be worn.

The details make the shoe. Lack of fussiness matters. It's important to be selective enough to end up with simple-looking shoes. Recently, designers Rachel Comey and Heutchy have left their successful labels (Theory and Marc by Marc Jacobs, respectively) and both are creating fantastic men's shoes. Their minimalist looks reflect an attention to detail through selective application of what looks great (not to mention, timeless) on a man's foot: cap toes, simple lines and perfect leather.
The facing serves as the detail on these Heutchy shoes.

The cap toe rules on these Comey shoes.
Both of these shoes sold out on Revolve Clothing in my size before I could swing a purchase.

Recently, though, I had my day. I decided to take advantage of the Yoox sample sale, Jess posted about, and buy a pair of Maison Martin Margiela 22 bluchers last week.
The design house has been acclaimed for its avant-garde aesthetics and here the deconstructed details of the sewn-on facing and cap toe fulfill my requirements for those shoe components that consume me. They were cheap, given what they were supposed to cost both on Yoox, initially, and at retail. Now I've got a pair of shoes with great design details that are simple and classic enough to last as long as I want. And I expect for them to last me forever.

11 comments:

Judd said...

cool kicks man

chris said...

thanks! thanks for reading!

mang said...

This is like, everything I have ever said or posted about Kenneth Coles and square toes. These are pretty much exactly the same priorities I have when looking at dress shoes, and it's stellar advice. Way to drop science!

Jesspgh said...

I totally agree with the square toe issue, Man! Thank you for reading, Judd and Mang!

totallymisslikey said...

i will forward this to all of my male friends

lisa said...

That's a timeless pair of shoes in the last picture! Great find.

chris said...

Thanks, lisa! I'm delighted that they're as comfortable as they are nice.

totallymisslikey - thanks for forwarding the link. hopefully they'll read and comment too!

Couture Carrie said...

Fab guest spot! I think men underestimate the importance of a good pair of bucks!

xoxox,
CC

Jesspgh said...

I totally agree, Couture Carrie!

Thank you for reading, Lisa and thank you for forwarding this post on, totallymisslikey!

Air Force 1 said...

The shoe fashion has been changing very quickly and I think its important to keep yourself updated with what's in trend and hottest in 2009. I just read about this new addition in Nike sports shoes which is Nike Auto Force 180 and this holiday edition 2009 is really cool. It has got a vulcanized sole which gives it a cool casual look. Its a good buy and you can check this out when its available.

Kate said...

I will definitely have to show this to all my guy friends looking to buy men's shoes!

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