February 06, 2010

What's Afoot? Shoes, Silly.

Time was when buying a pair of shoes was a delicious experience. A clerk in a shoe shop could expect to be treated as a respectable white-collar worker, an expert consultant, and an authority on quality. My childhood memories of being taken to buy shoes – walls lined to the ceiling with boxes, ladders on slides, metallic foot measures, shoe horns and the intoxicating smell of fresh leather – might as well be from the Edwardian period, and I cherish them. I’m not sure what happened to that kind of shoe shop, but it disappeared at some point in the 1980s and was replaced by something entirely tasteless, the quality and the knowledgeable salesman with it.

Now one has to work hard to find, and probably pay a fortune to own, decent shoes. And by decent shoes I want immediately to discriminate against designer shoes made by labels not fundamentally known for making shoes. Cobblers to them! I balk at shoes that cost a fortune but which come with no obvious assurances of quality manufacture. One wouldn’t buy a watch made by Armani, and shoes are no less objects of artisanal craftsmanship. In addition, shoes used to be made in different widths. If you’re anything but average, you probably have a hard time finding shoes that properly fit. You have my sympathies.

Providing you have struck it lucky and found the ideal shoes, I’m afraid I have bad news. You now need to strike it lucky another four times. Yes, a gentleman needs five pairs of shoes. Any fewer and you will wear them out too fast, and be inadequately prepared for all occasions. As a minimum, I would suggest Oxford or Derby shoes in black and brown, for everyday wear; dress shoes for best (one should relish the chance to wear patent leather); penny loafers for lazy Sundays; and either brogues or boots for gadding about in the country (or lounging around in cafes, depending on the way you ride). Of course, there are a million options besides, but I find it hard to imagine not having at least this much in my arsenal. Of course, winter wellies are a necessary extra, and a difficult one to boot.

Pictured, with apologies for quality, are my Derby browns by Gruppo Forall, Bruno Magli Oxfords, dress shoes by Moreschi, and John Fluevog boots. Suede loafers are away for winter, but I’ll update in the future.


  1. My Good Man,

    Excellent post. I've been working on a post of the same variety. Your selection of shoes reflects the caliber of your good taste.


  2. Surely sir, there is no room in a true gentleman´s rooms for "loafers". All slip-on shoes are an abomination.

    Your servant,

    Hildebrand Staggers VSOP (and Bar).

  3. My dear Hildebrand,
    That's a little prohibitive for my blood, but each to his own.
    I do hope you'll keep reading along, even if I don't quite come up to your exacting standards.

  4. Hildebrand and V.B.,
    I had not stopped to count until this moment, but I believe I have 5 pairs, plus some pumas for when social obligations demand the appearance of normalcy.

    Regarding the question about loafers, I would suggest a pair of driving mocasins. They are versatile, undeniably comfortable, and the perfect choice when a gentleman wishes to enjoy motoring.


Related Posts with Thumbnails