To the Men: Shoe Porn
Whenever I think about my group of friends they seem to fall into two categories when it comes to shoes. The first is the man who firmly believes in having as few shoes as possible and wears the same pair of beat up running shoes to work, errands, dates, weddings – you name it. The second is the man who obsessively collects shoes like they’re bottles of water on Gilligan’s Island. It’s the rare man who falls between these two extremes, which is a shame, because at the end of the day, you really only need 6 pairs of shoes as a man. (Warning: If your career or hobbies include bullfighting, space walking, tap dancing or deep sea diving, you will probably need additional footwear. Please feel free to consult our guide on “How to Protect Your Feet for the Needlessly Dangerous Activities You Insist on Taking Part in on a Consistent Basis.” But more on that later…)
1) Brown Oxfords or Wingtips
Brown Oxfords are the most essential item on this list. Wear them with Khakis. Wear them with Jeans. Wear them to work. Wear them on a date. Wear them to a club. Wear them while eating a sandwich at Subway or a steak at Morton’s. I think you get the picture; you can wear them anywhere, with anything.
Get them with a rounded toe in a rich, dark brown color with simple laces. Stay away from gaudy detailing, especially for your first pair. Two tone uppers, unique materials, such as snakeskin or alligator leather, or heavy buckles may make one outfit look amazing, but at the cost of versatility. I like the Cole Hann Air Colton casual wingtip. Wingtips give the shoe a slightly more formal touch, but the soft supple leather and easy stitching also lends an air of casual elegance to the shoe.
2) Black Oxfords
Slightly less versatile than the brown, the black version of the Oxford gives off an entirely different vibe. Wear this pair with dark jeans and a black dress shirt on a first date, or with black pants, a black tie and a clean white dress shirt for a big presentation. Black is traditionally a more formal color than brown, so with these two Oxford options you should have all bases covered. I like the Aldo Holstrom. Simple, elegant and decently priced; to all concerned, it’s a shoe that will definitely make a statement.
The key here is not to get so casual that you’re wearing running shoes, but casual enough to wear on a low-key date or out in the park. I like to stick to the classics when it comes to sneakers. Black and white converse all-star high tops are a great sneaker and they go with everything from worn in khakis to jeans. Pro tip: Never wear them with a suit. And unless you work for an advertising agency or its casual Friday, you probably can’t get away with wearing these at the office. If you’d rather go more modern than classic, Zara Soft Plimsoll shoes are two-toned, which adheres to the color-blocking trend seen right now for 2012.
4) Casual Boots
A great pair of boots is necessary. You’re looking for something you can easily throw on with jeans and a t-shirt for a hike or wear while working outside on your car. You want a pair that is neutral, something that goes with many different styles and, most of all, something durable. I like the KOFOOT by Aldo. The laces give these boots a tight fit with lots of ankle support, and the worn in leather upper means the shoes can be matched with anything. After a few years, don’t automatically throw your boots away; a good cobbler can breathe new life into them for a surprisingly reasonable price.
5) Running shoes
You want to look for something versatile here; something that can take you from the gym for a lifting session, to the track for some sprints, then to the park for a game of Frisbee with friends. Don’t buy running shoes because they look cool; they should be bought based on performance and functionality. Make sure to try each pair on, and if possible, try them out – running in them is the only way to be 100% sure you’ve chosen the right shoe. The best athletic shoe stores (the Nike Store in NYC for example) have a treadmill and a track for you to test out your favorite pairs. Also, keep in mind the conditions you will be running/working out in. If you live in the city, for example, don’t make trail runners your go-to shoe. If you need a lot of arch support, don’t go with very lightweight shoes. I live in New York and need a durable shoe that can take continuous impact on concrete, so I went with the New Balance 860v2. Great balance, lots of cushion and support, and sturdy enough to last you hundreds of miles.
6) Boat shoes
Welcome to Summer. Everything about boat shoes scream half day Fridays, weekend trips, rooftop BBQ’s, and cold beers on the deck while relaxing in the sun. Wear them with jeans or worn in khakis, but most of all wear them with shorts or a swim suit and never ever socks. Look for a light brown pair in leather to start off with; I like the Sperry Top-Sider Authentic Originals.
There you have it. While by no means a comprehensive list of men’s shoe options, these six shoes should take you anywhere you need to go in life, from the board room to the boardwalk….a vacation in the Hamptons to a bar in the east village….or from a 5k on a summer Sunday afternoon to dinner and drinks with an old flame – you name it, you’ll be prepared; at least from the ankles down.