For many men, shoes are almost an afterthought when it comes to their appearance. They get dressed, then delve into the wardrobe to choose one of the three pair of shoes they own.
It is not like anyone is going to really notice them is it? Well, the reality is that shoes do get noticed and may well be the deciding factor on whether you give off a good or bad first impression.
It has often been said that your footwear is one of the first things Women notice upon meeting you. The truth however, is that your footwear can really say a lot about you as a person, regardless on who you are meeting.
The world of Men's shoes can be intimidating, confusing and expensive. I hope to give you a better understanding of why shoes matter, the different types, a few tips to maintain them and how to choose what to wear.
What your shoes say about you
Before you have even opened your mouth, people have all ready formed opinions about you. Your appearance plays a big part in this.
To be honest, if you had an appointment with a financial advisor in their office, and they were wearing thongs (Flip-flops), it would be only natural to feel uncomfortable about investing with them.
Certain shoes are more appropriate to certain scenarios. However it is not just your choice of shoe that will see people judge you, both consciously and subconsciously.
The condition of your shoes is vital as well, regardless of whether you are wearing sneakers or dress shoes. Tatty, dirty and unkempt shoes will always give the impression that you do not care about yourself or others.
Whereas, well maintained shoes will suggest an eye for detail, a sense of respect for both yourself and others, confidence and trustworthiness.
So lets now have a look at the bewildering array of men's shoes commonly seen today, starting with some of the more causal styles.
Sneakers are very on trend at the moment and come in a rather broad variety of styles. However, most of the trendy styles are best left to the 20 somethings to be worn with loud graphic Tees and Snapback Caps.
The big name sneaker companies are continually releasing limited edition sneakers, often made in collaboration with celebrities. Upon the release of these collectable sneakers, people will often queue for days to be first in line.
A style often favoured by men in their 40's and 50's are white sport shoes worn with blue jeans. Personally I find this looks like you have given up trying to look smart and see them as a simple and comfortable compromise.
Yes! I do own a pair of white sport shoes, however I wear them when riding my bike or playing sport and not with jeans. A better alternative is leather Dress Sneakers, a sneaker style that is designed to be worn with jeans
Running shoes are exactly as the name suggests, shoes designed for running in. With greater support and cushioning these shoes tend to have a snug fit. When buying shoes for running, it is advised to get fitted at specialist stores, thereby buying a shoe that suits your foot and running style.
Slip on shoes include a variety of styles, including boat shoes, driving shoes, loafers and some espadrilles. (Espadrilles can come in a lace up form as well.)
Boat or Deck shoes were originally designed in the 1930's for use on the decks of boats and had a non slip and non marking sole. Today, they are a popular casual shoe made of either leather or canvas.
Another defining aspect is the lace is threaded through the shoe going around the heel. Rarely if ever worn with socks, they pair perfectly with chino shorts and a Polo shirt for a Preppy look.
Driving shoes were invented in Italy in the 1960's for wealthy sports car owners to drive in. Generally made of very soft leather with rubber nipples on the sole, for grip on the pedals, driving shoes are less bulky than regular shoes and provide better foot to pedal feel.
Today driving shoes are usually made from brightly coloured leather and frequently made from suede leather. The bright colours make them not for the faint of heart and are typically worn without socks and with shorts.
Espadrilles are a type of lightweight, flat soled shoe, originally with a rope like sole and a canvas like upper. They can have laces or be of a slip on type.
Typically worn with shorts they can also be worn with Chinos. It is worth noting that they are a very casual shoe, so shouldn't be worn with anything more formal than Chinos.
The term loafer generally refers to the more dressier and formal of slip on shoes. Often referred to as Penny Loafers there are a few variations including Gusset loafers, Gucci loafers and tassel loafers.
Loafers are considered a very versatile shoe as they can be worn casually with jeans, dressed up with chinos and a sports coat or worn at work with your business suit. Just remember that unlike other types of slip on shoes, most loafers should be worn with socks.
Sandals are a shoe type that has the biggest range of styles and are always only ever worn in casual settings. Sandals are basically any shoe type that leaves all or most of the foot exposed, often by using straps.
They can be constructed from anything from leather, plastic, rubber to canvas. They may be of a slip on nature or include buckles, ties or even velcro straps.
They are without question the most informal of all men's shoes and should only ever be worn with shorts or swimwear and only in very casual and informal settings and never with socks.
A common type of footwear in Australia is rubber flit-flops or thongs as they are often called in Australia. They make for ideal footwear for the hot Australian beaches, however wearing them away from the beach shows a total lack of any concept of style.
Boots are a very flexible style of footwear in that they can be worn casually or in more formal ways. Many boots today reflect the styling of dress shoes with features such as broguing, monk straps and wing tips.
For me, boots are my go to footwear especially in winter. They come in a range of styles from casual to formal, including chukka's, work, chelsea, cowboy and dress boots.
Chukka boots or Dessert Boots as they are sometimes called are an ankle high laced boot usually made with suede leather with a flat sole.
Pair Chukka's with jeans for a smart but causal look. They make for an ideal addition to any man's wardrobe, regardless of age.
The workboot as the name would suggest is designed as heavy duty footwear with safety in mind. As such they are typically equipped with steel caps as a safety feature.
However, today a second type of workboot exists, one that is not designed to be worn in an industrial or hazardous environment. These are boots designed to give the rugged look of a workboot but with the purpose of being no more than streetwear.
My captoed boots are an example of such a boot. With a rugged appearance reminiscent of workboots, they can only be worn in casual or semi casual settings. Warm in winter, water resistant, comfortable and offering good ankle support they are ideal in uneven terrain (think picnics in National Parks or by the river)
Whilst like all shoes, they should be well maintained, they have the added advantage of developing some character by wearing them in. A few light scratches and creases within the leather can add to there appeal.
Chesea or Slip On Boots are boots with an elastic side gusset allowing the wearer to simply slide their foot in with no need for laces. Chelsea boots can be of an informal work boot style or come as a more formal dress boot.
Dress Boots can come in a variety of styles such as my Chelsea Boots, more commonly slip on or zipped up, they can also be lace up. They have a sleeker profile and a sole reminiscent of a dress shoe.
A Dress Boot can include all or any of the decorative styling of Dress Shoes and so in many ways are more like a higher ankled dress shoe. They may include Brogueing, Capped Toes or even Monk Straps, if laced, the laces will be of the finer 2.5mm (2/16 inch) dress shoe variety.
Unlike other boots, dress boots can be worn with suits for work attire or more formal situations. Dependent on the colour and style they may also be dressed down, the less decoration, the easier to do so. I wear my Ortiz and Reed boots, regularly with chinos or even jeans and can do so as they have only a small amount of very fine brogueing on the toe.
Like all shoes, regular care is important, however like dress shoes it is even more important with dress boots. They must be kept well polished and ideally with a highly shined toe, obtained using a wet or spit polish technique.
For many men, Dress shoes are all the same with the obvious exception of their colour, the reality is that there is a differing degree of formality to dress shoes. For instance patent leather shoes should only be worn with black tie or white tie attire.
So what then are the options? Derby, Oxford, Monkstrap or even Whole Cut refers to the style of shoe. However, there is much more to the story, brogues, toe caps, suede, patent leather and wingtips can be decorative features on all but Whole Cut shoes and each decorative style carries with it a level of formality or informality.
Derby or Oxford
Derby or Oxford is the most perplexing question faced by men new to the intricacies of dress shoes. The Derby shoe is the more casual of the two and makes for ideal everyday footwear. Whereas the more formal Oxford has a more streamlined appearance making it more suited for business and formal attire.
So what then is the difference? Well it is all in the construction and look of the lacing. It may seem a small detail, but it does impact the overall formality of the shoe.
The formal Oxford, has what is known as closed lacing, which really means that the leather pieces through which the laces go (the Facing) is sewn under the vamp as opposed to on top. With Oxfords, the laces pull together leaving little if any of the tongue exposed, leaving a crisper and cleaner look.
The more detailing on your Oxfords the less formal they are. A Full Wingtip Brogue Oxford will work fine with a casual suit but will not work with a Tuxedo. A plain Toecap Oxford will work well in a more formal situation, yet is still not formal enough for Black Tie.
For Black Tie dress, your only options are plain Oxfords, patent leather Oxfords or Whole Cut Oxfords. White Tie events give you the sole option of wearing patent leather Oxfords only.
Derby shoes are perhaps the most versatile shoe in your wardrobe. Derby's can be worn casually with jeans at a BBQ, out to a dinner date with dress pants, at work in the office or at a wedding with your best suit.
Due to their less formal nature, Derby's have a slightly wider number of variations than Oxfords. Suede or Nubuck leather, Toe Cap, Brogues, Crepe soles etc.
I would recommend having a few variations in your wardrobe. I myself have a red suede pair as well as a pair of brown wing tipped full brogues and a plain black pair just for starters.
Brogues are characterized by their decorative perforations and the serrated edging along the leather edges. The amount of brogueing can vary, with the less decoration the more formal the shoe.
There are four different toe cap styles of brogues, full-brogue (or wingtip), semi-brogue, longwing-brogues and quarter-brogue. Each with a different degree of decoration. Brougeing can be seen on Derby's, Oxfords, Monk-Straps or even Boots.
Full or wingtip brogues, as seen below have a pointed toecap and wings that extend down the sides of the shoe as far as the ball of the foot. Semi brogues only have perforations on the toe cap (like my Ortiz and Reed Boots pictured earlier).
Quarter brogues are the most formal and only have brogueing and perforations along the edge of the toe cap and none in the centre of the toe cap. Longwing-brogues are rare and are similar to Full-brogues but with the wings extending the full length of the shoe to the back of the heel.
The term Brogue comes from the Gaelic word "bróg" (shoe). The origin of brogues comes from the Irish workers in marshes harvesting flax. The perforations were originally there to allow drainage.
Brogues are a versatile shoe (or Boot), however it is important to match the right brogue to the occasion. They can be worn with everything from jeans to a business suit, however when paring with something more formal like a business suit that the less decoration the better.
Monk or Monk-strap shoes have found a resurgence in popularity in recent years. Monk-strap shoes have no lacing and are closed by a buckle and strap across the top of the foot. The terms Single Monk, Double Monk and Triple Monk refer to the number of buckles. The most common is a Double Monk with its two buckles.
Wholecut shoes are made from a single piece of leather, their seamless look makes them ideal for the most formal of occasions. Due to the craftsmen's skill involved in making them, they tend to be on the pricier side
Part 2 of this article will deal with shoe terminology and shoe care. So if you don't know the difference between the Welt and the Vamp, keep an eye out for Part 2.
Divorced and nearly 50 I rediscovered who I was.