Okay gents (or ladies buying for their gents), we've covered the basics of men's fashion up to this point: pants and shirts. We even ventured into accessory land, which was a bit of a tactical risk on my behalf, but I'd like to believe that some of you out there gained a little insight or got some ideas as a result of it. Today we move on to the third staple of every man's wardrobe. It's part of the "three S's": shoes, smell, and smile. Unfortunately, I can't really help you with the smell or smile part other than to give the advice of regular grooming and using all scents in moderation.
That means I need to stick to what I have some insights on: men's shoes. This posting will only go into detail regarding tennis shoes. Boots are simple: just go basic in black or brown and you're fine. Get Doc Martens if you can. For dress shoes, it's all your personal taste, but I say go with either an oxford, wingtip, or cap-toe. Pointy shoes are out, and square toes seem to be gradually fading from vogue. There are two other rules of men's shoes before I get down to the meat-and-potatoes of tennis shoes: first, don't wear topsiders unless you actually sail, and second don't wear loafers. Ever. I don't care what anyone else says, there are too many other shoes out there that don't make you look foolish to resort to that outdated style. Seriously, loafers haven't been popular since JFK wore them, and I'm not talking about Junior.
I'm going to try to be quick and efficient, but that seldom happens when I write. Luckily, I think I can break all my recommendations down into four easy groupings, primarily by brand. I'm trying to go in alphabetical order here. Please note that I am not linking directly to any of these shoes because we offer such a wide array of shoe stores, it would be limiting to send you directly to one site. Instead, being the savvy shoppers that you are, I will send you directly to our Shoes category, and you can do the comparing on your own. So here we go:
I have been surprised by Asics' recent development in men's shoes. For a long time I always associated them with athletic, running, or cross-training shoes and little else. Recently, they have not only stepped up their designs here in the U.S., but they have also introduced a Japanese production line billed as "Onitsuka Tiger", and the shoes made on that line are wonderfully fashionable.
At left, you see the Onitsuka Tiger "Mexico '66" shoe, which captures the look of the Tigers that were made famous in the Olympic Games held in Mexico City in 1968. At right, you see the Asics Stormer, which can be considered to be the Americanized version, or the sportier version, of the Tiger. It also boasts "vegan production" which, I assume, means no animal products used. Both look great with either jeans or any of the pants covered in my previous blog, though I will offer one word of warning: stark white tennis shoes are strictly taboo. If you jump on a pair of those Stormers, make sure you take a run somewhere grimy, and take a little of the white sheen off of them before you take them out in public much. Both are in the $70-$80 range before coupons or cash back, so they won't set you back too much either.
I'd like to hope at this point in our lives, I don't even have to say anything about Converse, because most everyone should own at least one pair of Converse All Stars in their lifetime. Chuck Taylors (or "Chucks" as they should really be called) are the quintessential American shoe, and even though their production facilities have moved overseas, they are the single shoe most anyone can immediately recognize. I don't know that I could possibly count the pairs of Chucks I've owned in my life, but suffice it to say, I got my first pair at age eight (I remember it well) and there has never been a point in my life since that I have not owned a pair.
While everyone knows Chuck Taylors, comparatively less is known about it's Converse cousin, the Jack Purcells. Equally classic, and made of leather rather than canvas, a pair of Purcells say "I love the look of Converse shoes, but am disillusioned with the number of people who wear Chucks for style." It's a subtle declaration of individuality and knowledge that folks in the know will definitely pick up on. Chucks seem to hold steady around $40, but the more durable Purcells hover around $60, though they will admittedly last longer.
I hope that most of you are familiar with the New Balance story. They are based in Boston, and continue to make the great products they started back in the early 1900s.
They do not employ any sweatshop labor, unlike some of their more... unsavory competitors, and they capture that "1970s track star" look better than almost anyone else. Oh, and more importantly, they make some of the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I have on a pair right now, as a matter of fact. The pair I'm wearing, the m595, are pictured at right, while the left hand is the next pair I have my eye on; the harder-to-find m410. While I love the timeless look of the 595s, those 410s are a little more eye-catching, a little younger, and proudly display my Swedish blue and gold. A pair of New Balances will set you back between $50 and $60, but can you really put a price on comfort or social awareness?
There are two other shoes that bear mention in the race to be the most of-the-moment. They're both a little retro, they're both a little timeless, and they're both between $40 and $50, depending on where you find them. The first is the Saucony Jazz, pictured at left. I own a pair of these as well, and they are the only shoes that give New Balance a run for their money in the comfort category.
They are similar in styling, but have a bit more "hipster cred" than New Balance because of the lesser -known status of Saucony. The other shoe I needed to mention was the Vans Old Skool. Pictured at left, this shoe was what kept Vans "cool" during the whole "clunky skater shoe" bonanza of the late 90s. This look is classic, it's sleek, and it's comfortable. I find them to be a great alternative to Converse, as both feature a very flat sole, and have a similar fit. They're made of a sturdy blend of leather and canvas, and actually fit comfortably right out of the box. Available in a number of colors, these are the perfect complement to a number of different outfits, and I think they look pretty much perfect with a pair of Dickies.
Phew... that was borderline exhausting. So now it's your turn. Buy some shoes, check out our Shoes category, or just tell me where I'm wrong.