In previous posts, we have looked at a critical piece of any gentleman’s wardrobe, his shoes, and discussed the elements of function and style. This post will finalize our treatment of shoes by discussing the role that materials can play and making some general observations about choices in the arena of footwear.
Materials can be divided into broad categories of organic vs. man made. They can also be divided into smooth vs. textured, decorated vs. plain, and various other categories. Keeping with the theme of previous posts of this series in dealing with non-athletic footwear, this post will look at materials in categories of leather, man made leather and fabrics.
Leather shoes typically are seen as the most reliable and the most serviceable in the long run. They wear well and, when taken care of appropriately, can last for decades. Leathers show up in smooth finishes that take polish, natural finishes including nubuk and suede that have an unfinished feel to them and are often used in outdoor and more casual footwear, and even in casual looks, like trendy sneakers and boat shoes. leather tends to conform to the foot more and hold odors less, so it is a natural choice when the price is right. That simple factor of price, however, keeps many of us from buying high quality leather shoes.
Man made leathers are seen more and more in today’s fashionable markets. They can carry much of the appearance, at least for a time, without the investment of full leather shoes. they do not require polish at the same levels, but they do hold up better with simple care. However, they will not last near as long as a good leather shoe. Eventually the material will crack, and as soon the cracks begin to be seen, the shoes are done. Additionally, man made materials don’t breathe as well, so odors tend to be held longer and be more noticeable.
Finally, we have fabric. Shoes made of fabric will most frequently fall in the casual realm and tend to be less expensive. However, they allow a level of flexibility in color and combination that rarely exists in the world of leather and man made leather shoes. Casual looks are often combined with more formal clothing, allowing the shoes to become a statement as much as simple footwear.
So what is to be made of all of this? Why these three posts? Simply this: make choices, but make them thoughtful choices.
Every man should have one or two pairs of formal shoes for events that require them. If your formal events are rare, man made leathers can be a fine choice and will require little if any care.
Every man should have one or two pair of semi formal shoes that can dress up jeans and not look out of place with a suit. If you are more interested in riding the tides of fashion, man made leathers may be a fair choice. If you tend to be more conservative in taste and can make the investment, a fine leather shoe is a wonderful choice.
Every man should make room in his closet for three or four pair of casual shoes, and these can be selected based on function. A pair for wet, sloppy weather, a pair for sunny days, a pair for wearing when walking for hours may be on the agenda and a pair for hanging out with the family in the back yard around the barbeque. Leather or fabric, expensive or downright cheap, these are likely the shoes you will feel most comfortable in, so allow yourself to enjoy those selections.
Even if they happen to be an old pair of athletic shoes once in a while.