Last time, I addressed the importance of matching the shoes to the function and your expectations within that function. I tried in that post to make a case for understanding that a dress shoe did not need to be as comfortable as an athletic shoe, because the functions they serve are different.
Today, I will address the next logical piece of that process, the style.
Now, I know that some men consider the issue of style to be completely foreign to a real man’s man. And if I were standing face to face with someone who held that view, I would politely and firmly tell him that nothing is farther from the truth. If I had time, I would explain that even the rejection of the changeable winds of fashion is, in itself, a manifestation of personal style. However, that will be saved for another day. Today I will limit my discussion of style to the shoes.
I break style, for shoes and clothes and anything else, into three broad categories; formal, semi-formal and casual. Let’s talk about the hallmarks of each.
The word formal, for most men, brings up an image of that most quintessential element of the man’s wardrobe, the tuxedo. And, while it is true, that the tux is formal, when I address the idea of formal style it is a little larger than that. Formal is any environment where rules are fairly rigid and expectations are fairly high. As such, an environment that demands a suit and tie could be considered formal. Another element of the formal style is the expectation that little physical activity will be called for. While it is true that many FBI agents work in environments with rigid dress codes, there is an expectation that they may engage in extremely demanding physical activity at any moment, thus the style called for can be a little less than formal.
By contrast, semi formal style is characterized by less rigidity in rules and lower expectations of conformity. This doesn’t mean that the items of a formal wardrobe cannot be worn here, but rather, that the choice not to wear them is not seen as a rebellion but as a simple statement. Semi formal style may blend the ruggedness of a work boot with the elegance of a hand made shoe into a single piece that may be (almost) at home in both environments.
Finally, casual style is manifested in a choice of comfort over conformity. Untucked shirts abound in today’s expression of the casual style, while only a few years ago such a concept would be considered sloppy, not stylish. If it is hip, but it disregards rules, it is likely casual.
Likely as not, as you have read this, you have been forming pictures in your mind of what would fit each level of style. Boat shoes, for example, would likely not be seen at a black tie gala, anymore than patent leather shoes would be likely to be seen in a business casual environment. I’m sure you’re getting the picture. We’ll flesh it out a little further next time when we discuss the critical component of materials.