ICLife.Style - 01 - Shoes

BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of PropagandaOKC
edited April 2009 in Style
My friends, the time has come for change. We aren’t the young kids we once were. We’re getting older. We’re building careers, families, marriages, or our own lives. Yes, we’ve changed in so many ways over the years, but we’re also still clinging to some old things that we need to let go.

We’re not in high school anymore. So, why do we dress like it? Perhaps it’s because society lets us get away with it? Or because we don’t know any better? Maybe a little of both.

That’s where ICLife.Style comes in.

The following series will enlighten and hopefully inspire readers to dress in a manner that tells onlookers we’re guys who’ve got it together. Now, I’m no expert and what I say can’t ever be seen as a hard rule, but I’ll do my best to point everyone in the right direction.

Shoes - What to look for

Today, the topic is shoes. What you wear on your feet make a big statement. It’s been suggested that your footwear has a huge impact on how someone sees you after a first impression in the business world. Shoes that look cheap give an impression of apathy. Shoes that are dirty give an impression of sloth. And shoes that are improper for the occasion are just rude. Remember, athletic shoes are for sports. Wear them for sporting purposes only.

What real men need are dressier shoes and good shoes have quality leather uppers. They last a lifetime with proper care and in the long run can be a better investment than buying cheaper shoes that wear out after 18 months of use. Black shoes are considered to be more formal and go with a narrowed variety of attire. Brown shoes are slightly less formal but work with a wider range of colors. But there’s more to shoes than just the color.

Lets look at leather. There are four types of leather, with the quality varying with each type.
  • Top Grain or Full Grain – This is the outermost layer of the hide. It’s soft, supple, and takes dyes easily. It should be very smooth, and you may be able to see the pores of the skin.
  • Corrected Grain – The leather is Top Grain, but has some damage. Look carefully over the leather if you see a tag that says corrected grain. If you see no damage, you’re good to go.
  • Split Grain – The lower layer of the hide. This is used for sued or embossed and coated to look like top grain. It’s usually tougher and harder wearing.
  • Bonded – This is the plywood of leather. It’s leather particles glued together and formed to look good. It doesn’t wear well and is quite cheap. Stay away.

There are multiple leathers available, from calf and deer to exotic lizards and birds, but one material stands out when it comes to shoes – cordovan. Sometimes called shell cordovan, it’s leather made from the hind quarters of a horse. One side of the rump makes one shoe. One horse makes a pair. It’s extremely durable and hard-wearing yet also quite soft, and develops a wonderful patina as it ages. The vegetable tanning process takes six months, and only one factory in the US still makes it. Because of the extensive work that goes in to producing it, and because horses aren't raised for the purpose of cordovan production, the material demands a premium. The higher cost, however, is worthwhile as cordovan lasts forever, has an amazing brick color, and can go with everything from jeans to a three-piece suit.

A word on soles; the sole of the shoe, for our purposes, should be leather. A little rubber on the heel is okay, but we are not looking for rubber soles. If it even distantly resembles a hiking boot, we aren’t interested. Rubber soled shoes aren’t meant to last, so why buy them?

The style is important. It's better to be the best dressed man in the room than to be under-dressed. I prefer something that laces, with a moderate pointed toe, and an average heel. Slip-ons are usually too casual. Tassels and loafers are cool for grandpa, but not for us. Flashy textures or gaudy stitching need not apply. We’re not trying to look like pimps or used car salesmen. Find something that fits your style and go with it. Here are a few examples of the multitude of dress shoe styles. It's about finding something classy.

When it comes to fit, in many cases the laces should fully close so the shoe’s tongue isn’t visible. The leather may be a little tight as it stretches when worn, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable. Try dress shoes on when wearing dress socks, as they’re typically thinner than their sporting cousins and will have an effect on the fit.

After finding something that feels right, it’s worthwhile to determine what last the shoe was built on. A last usually a wooden form in the general shape of a foot that shoes are built upon. If a shoe fits you, and you know its last number, any other shoes built on that last will fit you too, no matter what style they are. Determining the last number differs by shoe manufacturers. Also, remember that dress shoes come in widths. You need to know both the size number and alphabetical width of your foot to shop because the difference from a AA to a B to a D to EEEE is vast.

How to buy

So we move on to actually buying shoes. A quality pair of dress shoes cost upwards of $300 if you are buying new. The two brands most commonly suggested as entry-level quality dress shoes are Alden and Allen Edmond. Aldens tend to be quite conservative in their styles and have very fine finishing details. Allen Edmonds have better availability, a large variety of styles, and offer tremendous value for the money. And best of all, AE’s factory sells seconds and close-outs through eBay at substantial discounts.

The investment aspect of quality shoes comes into play here. Good leather shoes can be resoled or completely rebuilt. A good cobbler can do it, or with the case of Alden and Allen Edmond, their factories can “recraft” the shoe to brand new condition, usually for less than $100. This includes new heels, soles, foot beds and laces and refinishing the leather. They even send you a pre-paid box to ship the shoes to them in, and they cover the return postage to you, too.

Real savings then comes in buying used. At a high-dollar consignment shop, I found a pair of AE cordovan leather dress shoes for $26 dollar. Had they been in the right size, I could have purchased them and had them rebuilt at the factory. The whole process would come out to about $120 and I’d have shoes that would last a lifetime, with new foot beds and no worries about sharing somebody else’s athletes foot and sweat.

Don't buy used if the shoes show signs of heavy wear without planning on having them redone. Worn heels are a good indication. What happens is, everyone has a different gait and different shaped feet, causing different wear patterns for different individuals. Our shoes naturally mold to our feet based on this wear pattern. If you try to mold an already broken-in shoe to your foot, you risk developing serious foot problems.

Get out there and do it!

Here’s what I recommend: To start this style change process, buy a pair of brown dress shoes. Check out styles online, and then head to a local store that carries what you’re interested in. Find what fits you and make a note. If you’re extra sneaky, find the last number of the shoe too. Then, hit the internet and do some bargain hunting. There are deals to be had if you’ll make the effort to find them.

Once you’ve got what you’re looking for, try wearing them. A brown dress shoe can work with whatever you’ve got in your wardrobe if you give it a chance. And here’s a hint: The belt should compliment the shoes. No black belts guys. It’s better to be belt-less than to make the <i>faux pas</i> of wearing brown shoes with a black belt.

Extra credit


For further reading, here are some resources:
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Comments

  • edited February 2008
    Peter, can you comment on how well the various qualities of leather can handle scuffing at the tips? This is my major problem with shoes and they tend to become beat to a suede-like material at the toes within a few months.
  • jaredjared College Station, TX
    edited February 2008
    Pics, or it didn't happen.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited February 2008
    Oooh, good question, and one that I don't have an easy answer to. Scuff resistance is determined a lot by the finish of the leather. A slicker finish, as I understand it, has better abrasion resistance. Also, I believe that Top/Full grain leather may be more resistant than the other hide types, but I can't verify that yet. I'll look into it.

    Since I haven't found a good answer, I'll have to go off personal experience here: Consider Dr. Martin's boots. The heavily oiled and waxed leather is crazy durable an clean up beautifully with a few wipes of shoe balm on a sponge. Also, my riding boots are are top-grain buffalo hide. The leather seems to be pretty well oiled, and for all the work I do around our barn and with our horses, I've yet to put a mark on them.

    What'll make the difference is the proper care for your shoes. Polish is cosmetic, but it's also functional. It adds to water resistance and protects the outer layers of the leather from damage. It won't protect from sharp objects, but it's pretty sweet for daily wear and tear.

    I'll keep digging.
  • ThelemechThelemech Victoria
    edited February 2008
    Nice read BuddyJ. I will definitely be using the info when I purchase a new pair.
    I'm used to Rockport and have noticed the sole wears down much quicker than the leather upper.
  • fatcatfatcat Mizzou
    edited February 2008
    wow, very informative Buddy J :thumbsup:

    I didnt know pretty much any of that about shoes. Good read!
  • AnnesAnnes Tripped Up by Libidos and Hubris Alexandria, VA
    edited February 2008
    Excellent article, BuddyJ. You have further fueled my lust for stylish males.
  • QCHQCH Ancient Guru Chicago Area - USA
    edited February 2008
    StainMeNow wrote:
    Excellent article, BuddyJ. You have further fueled my lust for stylish males.
    Me too!!!



    I mean, not the lust part, but the style part... Well, there was this one guy at the LAN last year with nice shoes and I DID wonder.... Nevermind.
  • GnomeQueenGnomeQueen The Lulz Queen Mountain Dew Mouth
    edited February 2008
    StainMeNow wrote:
    Excellent article, BuddyJ. You have further fueled my lust for stylish males.

    So true! I think at the LAN we should all go shopping so we can find sweet outfits for you guys. Speaking of, I totally need to take my boyfriend shopping.
  • AnnesAnnes Tripped Up by Libidos and Hubris Alexandria, VA
    edited February 2008
    I think at the LAN we should all go shopping so we can find sweet outfits for you guys.

    I know for a fact that the IC guys can handle this task on their own, no prodding needed.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited February 2008
    uhhh.....
  • LincLinc Bard Detroit
    edited February 2008
    StainMeNow wrote:
    I know for a fact that the IC guys can handle this task on their own, no prodding needed.
    That's just a lie. The only nice clothing I've ever seen Brian wear was purchased by someone else. :p
  • GnomeQueenGnomeQueen The Lulz Queen Mountain Dew Mouth
    edited February 2008
    StainMeNow wrote:
    I know for a fact that the IC guys can handle this task on their own, no prodding needed.

    I mean I haven't seen them dress, so you could be right, I just know that most of the guys I know cannot dress.

    I mean, I might just be wearing jeans and a tshirt right now...sooo classy.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited February 2008
    Selvage jeans and a fitted t-shirt screen printed by a local artist.

    I need to write something about denim...
  • GnomeQueenGnomeQueen The Lulz Queen Mountain Dew Mouth
    edited February 2008
    Lucky brand jeans, Les Mis tshirt from high school, north face jacket, and Vans.

    Vans are amazing. I totally support the people of IC wearing them, in any situation.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited February 2008
    I am wearing a shirt that someone else bought.

    And jeans that are so old and destroyed it should be criminal. They couldn't give these things to poor people :-/

    I am a completely and utter putz when it comes to clothing, Anne.. You should know this. You've lived with me!
  • edited February 2008
    I am wearing a fitted pinstripe dress shirt and flat-front no iron khakis with a permanent crease. I'm at work. :(
  • AnnesAnnes Tripped Up by Libidos and Hubris Alexandria, VA
    edited February 2008
    Alright, alright. Maybe I'm only referring to BuddyJ and GH's trip during last LAN to get swanky hats. I might be a bit misguided.

    Still love you guys, even if you do dress like hobos.
  • primesuspectprimesuspect Beepin n' Boopin Detroit, MI
    edited February 2008
    You are definitely misguided. I dress worse than a hobo :-/

    I have a lovely collection of short-media / icrontic t-shirts that i can select from at the beginning of each day! :)

    And I have two pants!
  • edited February 2008
    Bite your tongue, sir! Icrontic and Short-Media attire is not only better than hobo fare, it is downright dapper!
  • AnnesAnnes Tripped Up by Libidos and Hubris Alexandria, VA
    edited February 2008
    I really need to stop projecting BuddyJ on the rest of IC. Everyone is BuddyJ to me!
  • edited February 2008
    StainMeNow wrote:
    I really need to stop projecting BuddyJ on the rest of IC. Everyone is BuddyJ to me!

    That's really scary. It reminds me of that scene in Being John Malkovitch...
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited February 2008
    AHAHAHAHAHAA
  • ChipChip Dallas
    edited June 2008
    BuddyJ!!! I've graduated from our morning IRC chatroom of 3 to IC!

    Anyways, I found the best all purpose shoes. They can be polished up to work with a suit or look great with black jeans, industrial belt and T. I danced in them all night at Neo (underground alternative club in Chicago). They're loafers so they slip on quickly when going through airport security. They're Rockports so they're comfy too.

    Plain black, squared toe, plain except for dual seams on top right and left. Rugged and cheap at K&G Menswear.

    I'll shudup now before I sound like that guy from Men's Wearhouse
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited June 2008
    Hey Chip! Glad you made it on!
  • MAGICMAGIC Doot Doot Furniture City, Michigan
    edited June 2008
    Buddy J wrote:
    Selvage jeans and a fitted t-shirt screen printed by a local artist.

    I need to write something about denim...

    It should only be worn on your legs.
    The end.

    As for shoes, i like Eccos. The leather is soft and they are just all around comfortable shoes.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited June 2008
    Lies.

    inside-dvd-outsiders.jpg
    Stay gold, Ponyboy!
  • NomadNomad A Small Piece of Hell
    edited June 2008
    Saucony is a good brand as well, Toms are nice if you are filling the need to assuage your developing-world guilt.
  • BuddyJBuddyJ
    loves his burlap Toms.
    Dept. of Propaganda OKC
    edited June 2008
    loves his burlap Toms.
  • tmh88tmh88 Pittsburgh / Athens, OH
    edited June 2008
    Do want:
    ST33Wood.jpg
    ST33WoodNlogo.jpg

    Each design reflects one of the elemental concepts, for example, the "Earth and Wood" version is mostly brown with distinctive tree patterns strewn throughout.
  • edited August 2008
    In researching some Allen Edmonds last week, I found that a great many of their new styles are all rubber-soled. It seems that only the most formal of their styles of dress shoes sport leather soles. I'm assuming that a pair of rubber soled Allen Edmonds wouldn't be "lifetime" shoes, despite the $300 price tag? Or do they recraft even their casual shoes? I've found some excellent eBay deals on some prior year models that I'm interested in picking up.

    On another note, I picked up some shoe care goods from the Allen Edmonds site with free shipping, and I polished up a pair of six-year old leather shoes I have that were beat to hell. I followed the directions on the site you linked in the original post, even stripping down the previous layers of polish with rubbing alcohol as the site suggests, and the shoes are once again perfectly serviceable for daily wear at work. It's pretty incredible considering their prior state, actually.

    Also, Peter... WRITE MORE OF THESE ARTICLES.
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