Wondering how to walk a mile in those shoes? Then who better to ask but an expert on Italian style, leather and shoes? Here are five tips our expert guest blogger recommends to find the best style and fit for your feet.
- Aesthetics – “We Eat With Our Eyes First”
The first thing I look for in a pair of shoes is whether it catches my attention. Is it visually appealing on the shelf? Is the design unique, are the proportions of the shoe well balanced? After picking up the shoe I look at the details and finishing of the shoe. Is the stitching on the upper properly spaced and complete? Is the lining smooth and clean? Is the upper finished elegantly and does the sole have a nice design? There are many hand crafted shoes that look like works of art on the shelf. They should look even better on your feet.
- Fit / Comfort – “Your Feet Don’t Lie”
The second thing I look for is comfort. Unlike some women, most men will not suffer for fashion. Shoes have to fit well. A pair of handmade shoes will usually be stiff right out of the box. A snug fit is fine as the leather and stitching will relax after 2-3 wears, however pinching and excessive tightness means the shoes are too tight. Conversely if you do not hear a “whoosh” of air when you put your foot in the shoes and have heel slippage, then the shoes are too big. For those wishing to avoid the break in period for a new pair of shoes, there are options such as shoes made on a Bologna or Flex construction which are generally comfortable on the first wear.
- Quality / Construction – “An Informed Consumer is a Good Consumer”
It is important to know what you are buying. I look at the type of construction used to make the shoes. Quality welted shoes are constructed so that the soles can be replaced, which is nice considering quality leather uppers can last 2-3 times longer than the accompanying leather soles. Cemented shoes are glued and will not last. I look at the quality of the leather on both the upper and soles as they can vary significantly. Although all shoes will crease, flex the shoes to see the reaction of the leather. I am wary of shoes that retail for over $600 and have a stamp indicating “Vero Cuoio” meaning “Real Leather.” To me it is the equivalent of dining in an expensive restaurant and the menu indicating that they use “Real Chicken.” Invest a few hours reading about the making of quality footwear and it will pay off in spades.
- Versatility – “We have to Multi-Task”
The fourth characteristic I look for is the versatility of a shoe. Most of us are not required to wear a suit and tie on a daily basis anymore so investing in a quality pair of shoes that can be used for various occasions is ideal. Outside of specific shoes dedicated to very formal suits, I look for shoes that can be worn not only with a suit / sport coat but also with cotton pants and even jeans. The old rules of not being able to wear loafers with a suit are outdated. Lace ups that are neither too heavily brogued nor too plain can generally go both ways.
- Value – “You Pay for What You Get”
This phrase is likely closer to the truth than “You Get What You Pay For” because sometimes you pay a significant premium for a brand name but you don’t get much bang for your buck. I like to say that in shoe making there is no silver bullet, meaning that there is no way of making high quality shoes cheaply. This is primarily due to the fact that the materials used and the craftsmanship employed are major determinants of the end quality and longevity. I believe that investing in high quality shoes is smart because a good pair of shoes can be re-soled several times and if properly cared for, can last over 10 years. Calculate the cost per wear versus focusing on the initial investment.
There is a commonly used phrase: “There are 2 things you should invest in, a good bed and a good pair of shoes because if you’re not in one you are likely in the other.” I like to add that “on a really good night you might be in both at the same time!”
Featured here: SB721M – Monk straps, because of their buckles, tend to make them a bit less formal. This shoe in particular with its mid- brown color lends itself to a variety of outfits and also can be worn with suits, khaki’s, and jeans.