Monday, December 4, 2006
Men who wear suits need shoes that look as though they have been made by hand and are composed of natural materials such as leather. Like other natural materials, leather shoes need a day of rest after a day of wear. That means that a minimum of two pair are required so you do not wear your shoes out prematurely. More are required for variety. Seven pair will give you a basic wardrobe for wear throughout the week, to which you should add evening shoes if you need them.
The classic types of shoes worn today appeared in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The oldest type is the laced oxford, which is worn with suits in the city. These shoes should be plain, with either stitched or perforated toe caps. They are always correct in black calf. Dark brown or dark reddish brown may also be worn during the day and dark brown reversed calf and tan, like the shoes pictured on the left, are seen on less formal occasions.
The country and suburban shoe wardrobe, worn with or without an odd jacket as well as with flannel, tweed and linen suits, encompasses a broader range of models, including monks and derbies. Shoes are often more decorated, with wing tips, brogueing and flanged soles. They may include dark and light brown, tan, and burgundy choices.
“I own perhaps two dozen pairs of shoes.” Edward H.R.H. The Duke of Windsor.
Black Calf Oxfords
The basic town shoe is a black calf cap-toe Oxford with leather sole and punched or plain stitched toe-caps. Oxfords were made in England as early as 1830 and were widely adopted around 1880. They are correct with dark city suitings. Toe medallions reduce the formality of the shoe and render it less correct for very formal occasions like funerals. If you wear a mixture of black and brown shoes during the week, you should have at least two pair.
Brown Calf Shoes
Dark brown and dark reddish brown versions of the black oxford are correctly worn with city suitings. They usually carry slightly more decoration than their black relations. You should have two pair.
Brown Calf Monk Straps
The plain toe monk is a change of pace shoe similar to the plain derby in that it is more comfortable to wear than an oxford for people who have a wide foot or a high instep. The monk has a buckle closing instead of the derby’s two or three eyelets. Originally worn for spectator sports wear, today the monk strap shoe can be worn in the city on less formal occasions. One pair will see use during the work week as well as on weekends.
Brown Calf Derbies and Full Brogue Oxfords
The derby is a shoe with open lacing. The full brogue is an oxford decorated with holes punched into the joins and edges like the pair pictured at the left. The derby can also be decorated and the two shoes fill a similar function in the wardrobe, being appropriate for country and suburban day wear, with or without a jacket. You should have one pair of each to alternate with your monk straps and casuals.
Brown Calf Slip-on Casuals
Slip-ons are more casual than the monk strap. You may want a pair of Norwegian style casuals for lounge wear around the house or outdoors in warm weather.
Black patent leather oxfords with flat silk laces and pumps with grosgrain bows are the correct choices for either semi-formal (black-tie) or formal (white-tie) evening wear. Pumps are more formal than oxfords.
Many men these days wear a black calf oxford instead of either patent oxfords or pumps. While they are not ideal evening wear, they can also be worn during the day. If you do choose them they should be very plain, with no brogueing of any kind.
Expanding the Shoe Wardrobe
The only limitations on the shoe wardrobe are storage space and budget. H.R.H. Prince Charles is reported to have fifty pairs of shoes. Several additional types of shoes are worth considering when you are ready to expand your basic wardrobe.
Brown reversed calf shoes are appropriate for spectator sports, country wear or very in-formal town use. Unlined versions are cooler than calf shoes in warm weather. Brown semi-brogues are a stylish addition to the shoe wardrobe once the basics are in your closet.
Ankle boots, particularly in brown suede, are useful with odd jackets and flannel trousers in cooler weather. In cordovan, they will keep your feet dry in rain and snow.
White bucks, if you can find them, are also a classic summer shoe as are black and white or brown and white brogues, known as spectators. The white portions should be reversed calf, buckskin, or twill.
Well maintained shoes last indefinitely. Add a pair of good quality classic shoes every year and you’ll build a substantial shoe wardrobe over time.