Feet on the Ground, Part 2

The man of style and substance in today’s world knows the importance of a good pair of shoes.  But knowing the importance and acting on that knowledge are often two separate things.  In today’s post, I will explore some things that every gentleman should know concerning preserving quality footwear designed to accessorize nicely with a suit.  I will also discuss a few of the manufacturers that have become synonymous with today’s professional arena.

While it is not imperative that you read the previous post, it may be helpful.  I encourage you to take a few moments to familiarize yourself with the ideas in that post, and then come back and enjoy today’s post.

Preservation!

When the word preservation is brought up, many people become uncomfortable, thinking that we will be discussing the latest environmental impact studies.  However, in the context of footwear, preservation means three simple steps that, when taken, will ensure that the investment made in quality footwear will pay for itself many times over.

The first thing to remember in the process of preservation is to ensure that the shoes are polished regularly and buffed with each wearing.  I prefer to use a cream applied in a light layer with a soft cloth first.  I then follow with a heavy coat of wax based polish, buffed lightly. Finally, I finish with a lighter coat of polish, sometimes in a neutral tone rather than the color of the leather, and buff this coat to as high a gloss as possible.  This process can be done once every one to three months, depending on how frequently you wear the shoes, but quarterly has seemed to be about right for ensuring a long life to the shoes.  One pair of shoes I took care of this way lasted nearly 10 years before the sock liners finally wore out and the shoes couldn’t be repaired.  However, the cobbler I took them to said that the uppers were in the best shape he had ever seen.

The second thing to remember in preserving the shoes is to invest in a decent pair of shoe trees.  I have used shoe trees for a quarter of a decade in my dress shoes, and they have two distinct benefits.  The first is that they prevent the leather from shrinking on itself after the foot is removed.  By placing the trees in the shoe on removal, the leather will contract slightly, but the shape of the trees will ensure that the shoe holds its size and shape. The second benefit that shoe trees brings is in the releasing of odors.  This works best if the trees are made of aromatic cedar wood.

One gentleman I spoke with when buying shoes recommended a pair of shoe trees for each pair of shoes.  I don’t recommend this, as on overnight stretching with the trees is generally sufficient.  In the morning, removing the trees allows the shoes to finish breathing.

This brings me to the final point in preservation of shoes, rest!  If at all possible, you should allow the shoes to rest at least one day between wearings if you want to keep them in premier shape.  The rest allows the odors to finish dissipating and the leather to relax and be ready for another wearing without over creasing.

Resoling the shoes should be done as needed, and the aid and opinion of a good cobbler is always something to seek out.  If a manufacturer offers a refurbishment for your shoes, this may be well worth the investment if you have kept the shoes in good repair.

Manufacturers!

Johnston and Murphy may have spent a significant sum of money in advertising in recent years, but they are a shoe that lives up to the hype.  they offer a refurbishing service for their higher end shoes, including repairing sock liners, which can stretch a shoe investment into several decades of wear.  The company has been strategic about developing relationships with other manufacturers which has allowed them to utilize a variety of build techniques to make their shoes extremely comfortable.

Rockport is a brand whose reputation is built on the years and miles their shoes have covered helping salesman in the finest department stores throughout the United States.  These shoes are sensible, if a little less trendy than the aforementioned J&M’s.  Solidly built, they can be worn all day and, when necessary, all night and still look and feel fine.

Florsheim for years sold their shoes only through their own stores, and struck a nice balance between fashionable and traditional.  Like Rockport, they survive on a reputation built in the boardrooms and salesfloors over decades of wear and generations of up and coming executives and established business leaders.

Clarks of England and a similar company, Ecco, both use TPU outsoles to bring a greater measure of flexibility and comfort to the shoe while maintaining lines of both traditional and trendy dress shoes.  The only downside to these shoes are the inability of the shoes to be resoled (in most cases) and the squeaky sound that accompanies them when walking on certain surfaces, such as wet tile.  Having said that, I am currently wearing a pair of Clark’s in its 7th season in the winters of Utah, and they continue to hold up beautifully.

There are many other brands, some more couture and some more mainstreet, but these seem to be the most reliable while still providing a strong statement of confidence and fashion sense.

I hope this has been helpful.  Watch for next weeks post as we explore more ways to accessorize the suit with style and panache.

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