Formal footwear and sole-ful suggestions for men
Eric Raisina worn by Chanel Iman, Lars Andersson SS 2013
Shoes, shoes, shoes: Men and women probably have more footwear in their closets than anything else because, honestly, no matter how much weight you gain, your shoe size remains pretty stable once you reach maturity. Funny how our obsessions are keyed to our heft, huh?
That said, in terms of dress shoes, the modern gent needs a few basics, and from there, he can — to borrow a phrase — “add like mad.” I’m not going to get too much into style (“YOU MUST HAVE a double-monk, a cap toe and at least one brogued wingtip!”). Rather, I think color is a simpler, more reasonable way to proceed.
To wit: Most dudes basically require about four pairs of dress shoes: black, brown, whiskey and burgundy/mahogany pairs. Note: Shoes should be matched with your pants, preferably, unless you’re pulling off a coup in some interesting way (funky socks, in this respect, or cuffed pants really help). Naturally, belting falls in line with shoe color: brown shalt not go with black!
However, brown is now in vogue for multipurpose hoofing, and can work with effectively light trousers and garments. Black is perfect for grays or black pants and darks, in general; burgundy can go with just about anything; and whiskey turns out nicely with high-quality jeans or lighter colors (whites, dusk, beige and the like). Within these tints, below are brands that will provide you with fine options.
To me, these are fairly unattainable, and probably, the finest shoes out there. They’re bespoke, handmade, custom, exquisitely crafted, stylish—choose your superlative description. You will pay roughly $1,000 and up; hence, the “unattainable” element for me (but one can hope!). English shoes, in general, from the famed Savile Row and beyond—Crockett & Jones, Grenson, Tricker’s—all are worth the dollar-to-value ratio; many believe they are finer than those of Italian makers. Sturdy, stylish, beautiful kicks, honestly. So if you want them, and they don’t cost (forgive me) an arm and a leg to you, don’t hesitate...BUY.
People can point out that Gravati, supposedly, solely use Blake construction, and thus aren’t Goodyear-welted (for discussions about the technical insides and outs of shoes, visit here), but they can be directly ordered and customized via the company’s website, www.gravati.it/. Anyway, the black cap-toe Gravati I own are, honestly, the comfiest, smoothest rides in my closet, and I’m always complimented on them. Plus, they somehow make me look taller, probably because they extend sharply forward without being too clownlike. I also have a wide foot (I’m a runner), but these manage to slim the periphery of my clodhoppers perceptibly without pinching them. Worth your dollar.
Every pair of these I’ve tried, including the plain-toe oxfords I own, have run small, so keep that in mind. However, Ferragamos, I’m told, have a detail in their construction that makes them especially durable. The key is—and I saw this on TV, so it must be true, right?—that there is a slight allowance for movement in the midsole that makes them endure and “give” a bit better than other shoes. But styling, IMHO, is where Ferragamos’ true worth lie: Aside from their name-brand recognition, they simply look beautiful. However, my cobbler tells me that they sometimes have paper (as a replacement element) in the heel instead of leather. I’ve no idea what that means, but generally, head to a finer department store, and you won’t be disappointed.
With the rebirth of Americana and “American-made” pride in all things wearable, New England’s own Alden have returned in the past decade as a revived luxury brand (thanks also to a lucrative partnership with J. Crew). These are superb shoes—I particularly love their detailing and textures—with great varieties of styles founded on solid construction and looks. And they are sturdy, with really good heft, I find. Expensive for American kicks, you might argue, Alden still means quality and two-ply support: You’re supporting our economy, just as American labor is supporting your arches.