And just like that, you start wearing a suit five days a week and now you have to wear grown man shoes. You’re proud of you suit’s fit, comfortable in your shirt, dared the silk tie. You’re even wearing your favourite underwear… Great, but… what about those horrible worn out pieces of plastic you’re wearing on your feet? You don’t even notice. I do. Many do actually. The only solution for that is Hype Means Everything’s Ultimate Grown Man’s Guide To Shoes. 100% free. 100% necessary. 100% below.
I believe you can judge a man by his shoes. The first day in a new firm, I can remember a man’s shoes better than his face or his name. I know, I have a distorted vision and a biased memory. Whatever, I could remember and categorize every single guy I met thanks to his shoes. There are numerous styles of shoes on earth, but good news is you can make do with just a few carefully selected pairs. If you invest in a handful of classic, non- stylish pairs and take good care of them, you’ll be set for years.
Choosing the right pairs.
Before we even start the discussion, let’s talk shape. Your feet aren’t square. So shouldn’t be your shoes. Seriously. Man’s shoes should be as streamlined as the rest of your wardrobe. That means a slim contour (but not painfully skinny) and a rounded toe. Look for something classic, tasteful and masculine.
Start on the right foot.
The one shoe every man should own is a black oxford lace-up. You can dress it up or dress it down; it’ll work with everything from jeans to suits. And that’s the thing—don’t think of it as special-occasion footwear. They should be made of mate black leather and have no frilly or ornate details. You don’t want to catch anyone’s eye by looking like an apache.
Make the first step.
Grown men wear leather soles. Now you have to chose if you want to look like Zuckerberg or rather like a mature, trusty, confident man. Whether you like it or not, no matter how hard you’ll try to hide your plastic soles, I’ll be the one noticing you from miles away. You need to think about that and make some decisions. Do you want everlasting leather soles or more bounce in your step?
Some guys think leather soles mean hard and uncomfortable. So not true. If the shoes are well- made, they’ll mold to your feet and serve you just fine. True, they won’t be as cushiony as a pair of Air Force 1, but if you want real dress shoes, you want leather soles. Period. Now you’ve got two options: slim, contoured kinds that exude elegance versus heftier lace-ups with chunkier soles. Forget the latter option. OMG you’re so right : take the slim ones!
Let’s go further on the matter of leather soles… There are two main types of leather sole construction: the Goodyear welted and the Blake welted. Here’s some explanation.
The Goodyear Welted
The Goodyear Welted was invented in United States at the end of the XIXth century by Charles Goodyear Junior, son of Charles Goodyear, the inventor of the vulcanization process. At the end of the XIXth century, the greatest names of the fine shoes for men industry, in wide majority English and French shoes maker were fascinated by the qualities and the fame of this new way of construction. Lots of them came to America to learn and acquire with the American master bootmakers. To sum up, the sewing machine called “Goodyear” uses the same technology than the one used by the craftsmen of the handmade shoes industry. It is just adapted to the industrial fabrication of shoes by mechanizing several steps of sewing.
A Goodyear welted shoe is made with two stitching. The first one called “Goodyear” is realised with the Goodyear machine. It joins the welt, the upper and the insole. The second one is made with a “Little Points” machine. This stitching links the sole with the welt. With this construction, as soon as the outsole is timeworn, it is really easy to remove it and make a new “little points” stitching without any damage for the shoe and the rest of the construction! Now you understand why I recommend leather soles.
This construction is very long-lasting. Other benefit: the foot is lying on a leather insole which is on a thickness of natural cork. The natural cork has the particularity to take bit by bit the shape of the foot. As a result, you have the feeling that your shoe is made-to-measure and you can’t give up it.
Today, all the great names of the luxury industry: Weston, Church, Edward Green, Crockett and Jones, John Lobb etc still respect this tradition of Goodyear Construction.
The Blake Welted
Blake is the name of the inventor who realised, at the end of the 19th century, a machine which allows to mechanize the so-called “through and through stitch”. The Blake welted is a simple and solid construction. It allows you to have a welted and light shoe. This method is perfectly adapted to the smart dress shoes with a leather outsole: loafers, mocassins, styles with buckles, oxford shoes. The upper is first lasted on a plastic production shoe last. Then the outsole is put in position. After that the shoe last is withdrawn and the Blake stitching is realised from the inside to the outside in order to join the upper with the welt and the sole. The Blake welted, as well as the Goodyear welted, can also be easily removed to put a new sole as often as necessary. If all the components used in this type of construction are good ones, with a great level of quality, Blake welted is synonymous of luxury shoes.
Today, several famous brands offer quite only Blake welted shoes: Berlutti, Aubercy, Santoni, Stefanobi, Testoni…At the beginning, just after the purchase of a Blake welted shoe, you are more comfortable. After some days of use, the Goodyear construction is more comfortable though. It is up to you to choose the construction you feel better. However, keep in mind that most of the Blake welted shoes are generally more fragile than their Goodyear mates.
Preserve Your Feet and Save Money
Three years ago, I bought myself a nice little pair of Ralph Lauren wingtips for 500 euros. I know, that’s an insane amount of money for a pair of shoes. But wait a minute. I changed the heel pad once for like 5 euros and they still are almost new. And I wear them two days a week. That’s eventually not that expensive if you consider how many pairs you would have destroyed in the same time or worse, you probably don’t wear them anymore because they’re out of style… Here’s the the thing: if you invest in quality, it’ll pay off. These shoes will last me a decade, maybe two. If I bought a pair of cheap rubber-soled lace-ups, they’d be in the trash already. No need to be a math guy to understand that you quicky spare some cash…
Save Your Sole
The most worn item in your wardrobe—that pair of quality leather-soled dress shoes you regularly wear to the office—requires the most attention. Just like a supercar would need some fine regular tuning and benefit from clean wheels, you have to take care of your shoes. I personally never use taps on the sole but some people wouldn’t live without.
- Taps are plastic paddings that will prevent the soles from grinding away. Taps typically wear out or fall off after about several months. Don’t do glue them yourself and ask a cobbler to do it, that’ll last way longer. (10 euros per pair)
- Walking on warped soles can ruin a good pair of shoes and even cause back trouble. Start checking your soles after a year or so, and be sure new ones are sewn on, never glued. (75 euros per pair)
- New heels every 6-12 months are a good bet, and the right cobbler can adjust them to fit how you walk. Have them changed before it’s too late (20 euros per pair)
- Heel Pads : don’t. Please. That’s disgusting.
Polish One Off
When I was working in Turkey, I remember being amused by a shoeshine man who used to come every Friday at the office and propose his services. I would never have trusted him polishing my shoes and I felt like shining my own shoes once a week was gentleman enough.
I kind of like the ritual actually. You can see it in full in this old post I wrote.
Now Get Your Shine Box : All you need to care for your shoes
- One tin of black wax polish, one tin dark brown and one tin of neutral. The black for your black leather dress shoes (obviously). Brown for your dark brown pairs. And the neutral for the rest and the brown pairs if you essentially want to moisturize the leather and not color it.
- An old T-shirt will do the trick for applying wax.
- Don’t skimp on the brush—you want a wood handle and horsehair bristles.
Kill a Tree, Save Your Shoes
Yes, if you want your shoes to last, you need shoe trees. Ones made from cedar. They’ll preserve the shape of your shoes, prevent them from developing deep creases, absorb moisture, and even make them smell better. They’re a no-brainer.
Kill a buffalo, make a shoe horn.
You don’t want to ruin the back of your dress shoe, don’t you ?
Quite a crucial point here. I’m rather strict about socks. Go for a plain black cotton of dark grey wool. Don’t try to be bold. You’re too old to wear comics socks now.
The White Powder That Will Get You Hooked
Despite the numerous remarks of my conservative dad, I love to go sockless in the summer months. Looks cool, feels cool. Obviously, you have to use talcum powder obsessively. I give my shoes a dusting with it every time I want to use them before I go out. My feet slide right in, and they actually do feel cool. Of course, one dusting doesn’t completely keep me from sweating on brutally hot and humid days but that surely helps. Don’t however go sockless in a conventional office like a bank or a similar serious environment.
Show Some Ankle
Going sockless is a quick way to invigorate everything from a trim suit to short-cropped khakis. But there’s a sensible way to pull it off. Do you really want to walk around all day not wearing socks with nice leather shoes? Thought so. Besides talcum powder, consider loafer socks—they’re so low-cut they’re essentially invisible. Ralph Lauren makes some. Buy a bunch and wear them all summer long.
Now you know a bit more about shoes. You can browse through our Upper-Shoes selection to find some complementary shoes to your black oxford shoes or ask any question in the comment box !