From the tribal days to modern times, men have searched for and valued footwear that both looked good and serve the purpose for which it was needed.
Over 70 years ago, an archeologist named Luther Cressman discovered the world’s oldest footwear in Central Oregon. These sandals were dated to be 10,000 years old, and were made with intricate weaves that indicated they were not only functional but also stylish in design.
Why care about your shoes?
A man should care about his footwear because it’s the foundation he stands on, except he has no legs, in an average day, your shoe absorbs the force of your weight as much as 3000plus times, a poor choice can lead to discomfort and injury during any of your steps if your select shoe inhibit your body’s natural gait and cushioning system.
Apart from being able to carry your weight confortably, the appearance counts as well. Your shoe is the visual endpoint of your dressing and it receives a proportional amount of attention despite covering only 5% of your body. They make up a high percentage of visual judgement by others.
This guide is intended to help you make a wise choice on your next shoe purchase. Once you understand the differences between the options available, you will know the best for any event or purpose for which it is needed whether for formal or informal occasions. There is a pair of shoe for every occasion and we will also look at the concept of quality that fits well which is a worthy investment. The right shoes for the right situation can substantially elevate your personal style and comfort.
Having great pairs of shoes in your closet is not a luxury but a necessity. There are different shoes for different purposes. Ideally, you want to choose a footwear that is both functional and stylish by following specific principles for the right style and type for the occasion.
Components of a shoe
In order to understand a particular shoe style that is relevant for that occasion or purpose, you first need to understand the components that make up a dress shoe. This will guide you in your shopping activities. Working from the front to back, a dress shoe has the following parts: toe, vamp, facing, and quarter. It’s the arrangement and placement of these pieces that gives each it’s individuality. This leads us to types of shoes.
Sections of a shoe
This is the material that is over the foot fastening the shoe to the foot.
This Is the inside part of the upper. It can be made of the same or different material as the upper.
This is a strip of material that's stitched between the sole and upper.
The bottom part of a shoes that faces the floor..
This is the part of the sole that is attached to the bottom of top leather of the shoe.
This is the section between the between the outsole and insole.
Top Box or Cap
This is the part connecting the upper part of the foot to the toes.
These are the holes through which shoe laces are inserted to fasten the shoe to the feet.
The heel is the back and bottom area of the shoe on which the back of the foot rest. Ti’s elevated than other part of the sole.
This are like designed ropes used in fastening the shoe to the feet.it could be round or ribbon, with round having the advantage of being stronger. The ribbon laces come in a variety of colors and are more elastic, thus a good choice for athletic shoes or hiking boots.
This is a form of ornamentation in which tiny holes are carved into the shoe’s leather. Note that the more decoration on a shoe the less formal it becomes.
Dress shoe toe styles
When shopping for quality footwear, you need to pay attention to details. The details of the shoe is all that brings personality touch to you dressing.
Here are the types of toe styles to take not of:
the vamp of this is unadorned, looks clean and unassuming.they are one of the simplest style of shoes.
Across the vamp of this there is a stitched line across horizontally. Most of this styles come mainly in Oxfords and a few other shoes.
This is known as apron toe, it features a seam that begins in the middle of the shoe, goes around the toe, and terminates at the middle of the shoe on the other side. They appear more on casual shoes.
This has plain toe and brogue decoration at the toe.
This has a winged cap that ends at the middle of the toe. This has a broguing feature in the center of the toe and along the seam of the cap.
this a traditional way which involves stitching an extra strip of leather called welt between the upper and the insole of the shoe. This causes a cavity which if filled with a cork for breathability. This feature makes the shoe comfortable and durable, and they can be easily resoled if nned be.
Shoes made with this method are costlier but last longer and protect against cold and heat.
Mainly used by Italian shoemakers, Blake construction uses a single row of stitching that attaches the insole to the upper and outsole of the shoe—this makes these shoes flexible and less sturdier relative to Goodyear welted shoes. However, because their soles are thinner, these shoes tend to be less water resistant. This process is also limited by the Blake soling machine-- less common and much more expensive than a Goodyear welting machine. Paul Evans and Jack Erwin’s Foster collection uses this process.
Similar to Blake construction in some ways, it uses a double row of stitching. The first row attaches the insole to a midsole and a second row of stitching attaches the midsole to the outsole. And although these shoes are waterproof and more durable than the Blake method, because of the two sole system, they are also less flexible.
Mainly used by Italian shoemakers. It involves wrapping and sewing the upper around the shoe. The sole is sewn directly to the upper. The upper is lined with normal leather, while the bottom (where the foot rests) uses softer leather. This method is ideal for shoes with flexible soles such as slippers or moccasins. The main disadvantage of this process is that the shoes are not waterproof or very durable.
Cement of Adhesive
The fastest and the cheapest shoe making process where the upper of the shoe is glued to the sole. This is the least efficient way to make a shoe. They fall apart after a short use and re-soling these is not an option. Aldo, Kenneth Cole and many other large fashion houses use this construction process.
A man’s shoe is truly an exquisite art form and to appreciate this piece of art, he needs to understand the craftsmanship that goes into bringing this beautiful and artistic product to life. He understands that his shoes are the creation of a master craftsman, expressing social standing of the wearer, while simultaneously providing the delicate structure of his feet with optimum protection from stress and strain of every-day life. It’s a quintessential item for a man’s wardrobe, one that defines his personality. As John Wildsmith famously said, “You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both.”
Types/Styles of dress shoes
This are lace-up shoes, worn below the ankle.the method of construction is called “closed lacing” as the low-profiled eyelet laceholes are stictched underneath the upper and over the instep.they originated from Scotland and Ireland, traditionally made of leather, they come below the ankle and have a small piece of leather sewn over the toes to create a type of cap.
They are commonly divided into balmorals and bluchers due to the differences in their lacing systems. Balmoral oxfords are the dressier of the two best worn with suits and formal wears. Bluchers usually have wider range of styles and colours, and more conservative. They look best with more casual clothings.
Oxford, the half-boat style shoe is the most basic and timeless of all dress shoes, always down for the a formal or casual arena. They come in both leather and suede.
When making a choice for business attire, we recommend dark brown, cordovan, English tan and the black leather are your safest choices.
When you are t.o pair them with a tuxedo and other formal wears. The black patent leather is your best bet.
The oxford is for general everyday wear.
The derby is sometimes referred to as a variety of the oxford. They are known as Gibson. They have open lacing rather ythan closed, and the eyelet tab are sewn on top of the uppers. This construction mode made it more comfortable than a typical oxford because of its widely fit. They are mostly double stitched and double soled, coming in plain, semi-brogue, or full-brogue design.
Derby are originally intended for sporting and hunting in the 1950s, it became accepted as appropriate for city wear.
The Monk Strap
This is similar to an Oxford as well, but in place of an eyelet closure, it has the monk strap fastened across the front of the shoe. The design lies between the Oxford and the Derby.
The monk starp is a wide swath of leader fastened across the front of the shoe, the strap is fastened with either a singleor double-buckle closure.
The name of the shoe originated from monks who originally wore them. The simple closed-toe design provide a great protection then traditional sandals worn my monks in those days.
The design of the monk strap makes it a versatile style of shoe, it is a go to if you don’t like tying shoe laces. It adds a certain panache to an outfit. It can be worn with cuffed jeans and dapper suits. It commands attention and they can be of leather or suede material. They come in decorative broguing too.
This is moccasin-inspired but with a slip-on style. This is originally intended for casual house wear or slipper specifically made for King George VI of England. The usage spread to the populace and gained great acceptance in 1960s when American businessmen and lawyers started wearing it with suits.
It flew in 1966 when Gucci introduced the bit loafer. The bit loafer has a metal strap in the shape of horse bit across the instep. This innovation by Gucci further propelled loafer’s status as formal footwear but not strictly casual.
There are different variants of the loafers; a penny loafer has a plain strap or a strap with a slit, the Venetian which a minimalist version has an exposed vamp absent embellishment or ornamentation, those nearer to a moccasin has an elevated seam that runs along the shoe’s toes. There is also the cool driving moccasin which are made of softer materials and are less structured with soles/ heels made to optimize for driving comfort.
The dress boot
This is constructed like the oxford and often the same shape, but it has a longer shaft. Being a short, lace-up boot, it features a wingtip broguing on the toe and along the seams which rises over the ankle.
It originates from the Victorian era, a time when men had few options in footwear. This is appropriate for formal daywear and it’s a great alternative to the typical dress shoe styles.
Note and go for sleek, thin laced, up dress boots, with nice soles which will distinguish it as classic. Do away with lug and commando soles as that makes the ones with these soles inappropriate for formal dressing.
Go with a colour that compliments your suit, suede and leader are good to go.
The Chelsea boot
Sparkles Hall, Queen Victoria’s shoe maker in Victoria Island was the one who invented the Chelsea boot. The boots come with elastic gussets which allows for easy pulling on and off, without compromising the refined silhouette of a laced boot. This is a clean shaped boot as it doesn’t have laces, a good alternative to the rigid Victorian boots of that age. The Beatles had are fond of the Chelsea boots, this brought it to the limelight in the 1960s.
The boot have ankle length rounded toes with low heels. The vamp and the quarter meet near the ankle and are connected to an elastic gusset. It’s clean look comes as a result of the vamp and the quarter made of a single piece of leather, reducing the number of stitching points. Their simplicity makes them the go to shoe with jeans and traditional style suits.
They come in suede too, just use the suede ones as casual anytime.
The Chukka Boot
The chukka originates from the game of Polo as the game of Polo is measured in chukka. A chukka in the game is about 7 minutes long.
The chukka resembles a shorter version of boots worn by Polo players as they are worn by players after game. They are ankle-length boots with two to three pairs of eyelets on each side making for a lace-up closure. They are similar to dessert boots, but the lace openings are less loose on the ankle, making for a snug fit at the ankle. This design allows it to fit well with trouser bottoms unlike other boots that disrupt the trouser.
Chukkas could be mistaken with Dessert boots easily, chukkas are just less casual btu they have similar shape. The soles of chukkas are not made of leather like dessert boots.
Chukka are exceptional and less formal but only appropriate with casual attire.
What to consider when buying shoes
Know the type of shoe you need
Know the purpose the shoe will serve. Is it for day to day work, or occational for parties. Boots are typically designed for work or heavy outdoor use. Some shoes are designed to be worn at more formal occasions, and others are designed for casual wear.
Know when best to buy a shoe
The best time to buy a shoe during the day is in the afternoon. This is because your feet naturally expand with use during the day and may swell in hot weather. This will ensure that you pick a shoe for yourself that will be very comfortable for you no matter the time of the day.
Smell the Leather
If your desire is to buy men’s shoes made with quality and natural leather, then you need to know that such leather do not smell, but the artificial and synthetic ones do have peculiar smell. The only thing a leather should smell like is its own natural aromas or the polish. Any leather with perceivable chemical smell will not be a good leather. If it looks or feels like plastic or if it stays wrinkled when stretched or bent, avoid it. Such leather will eventually crack and will not last long.
Tryout the shoe
Stand and walk around. When trying out the shoe in the store, never do so sitting down. Stand in the shoes. Make sure you have at least a quarter to a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
You also need to walk around in the shoes to determine how they feel. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off? Do not assume or listen to the sales attendant when they tell you that the shoes will stretch and become more comfortable with time. Find shoes that fit and are comfortable right from the start.
Do not completely rely on the printed shoe size
Be the real judge of the shoe comfort and fitting. Do not rely on the shoe size and description alone because this may vary across different shoe makers or manufacturers.
Feel the material used for insole and linings
Do not be fixated on the outer appearance and design of the shoe alone. Ensure that these parts (i.e. insole and linings) and other interior part of the shoe do not contain tags, seams, or other material that might irritate your feet or cause blisters. This is even more important if it is a shoe you intend to wear without socks. Check the all stitching on the shoe too for quality, especially along the baseline, inside and out.
Test the sole
The sole is quite an important part of the shoe and its primary role should be protection. Check to be sure that the sole is strong enough to protect against sharp objects. Does it cushion your foot adequately? How does it feel on a hard surface? Does it deliver both safety and quiet or does it squeaks and slip? Insufficient sole friction with the floor or ground should be avoided.
Check the Heels
It’s advised that unless you are below 5 feet tall, you should not be wearing heels that are much higher than 3cm or 1.2in.
Test for flexibility and strength
You can check out how flexible and strong a shoe is by grabbing both ends with your two hands and trying to bend it. When you do this, only the front third i.e. from the Toe cap/box to the Throat line, should bend up. The rear two-thirds of the shoe should be strong and difficult to bend.
Still grabbing the ends of the shoe in each hand, try to twist it by rotating your hands in opposite directions and watch to ensure that it is not easily distorted when released. Press and squeeze the counter too to ensure that it is strong enough to support the heel.
Consider your wardrobe
When buying formal men’s shoes, it is appropriate to consider the colors of your belt as matching shoes and belts on formal wears delivers the best result.
Understand shoe sizes
Depending on where the shoe is made, the size system used will be different. Know the size conversion from the size chart of different countries.