Most of the casual shoes I see are the same boring designs and the wrong color. Leather slip-ons, that is. The vast majority are black penny loafers of one sort or another, and how many black penny loafers should a man be forced to look at over the course of a lifetime?
In the first place, there aren't that many occasions when casual shoes are right. Around the house, of course. Maybe back and forth in the car for lunch. But most shoe professionals tell me that casual shoes are really not constructed for a day of walking or standing. And my feet agree.
That's quite a change from my youth. Raised on Weejuns, I doubt if I owned any laced shoes until years after I entered the work force. For dress I had cordovan leather Alden penny loafers and tassels, in brown and burgundy. I still wear the penny loafers perhaps a day a month. But 90% of my shoes are laced, and have been for years.
Driven by the need to slip shoes off and on at airport security, earlier this year I set out to find some not-penny-loafer styles that I could wear with odd jackets. I settled on two models from Edward Green. The first, an earlier version of the the Bamford pictured at the top of the essay, is a burnt pine slip-on with a toe medallion (the photo is from Sky Valet). The other, the Telford, is a butterfly model with some light brogueing (the photo is not actually a Telford but G. J. Cleverley's crossover band casuals.) I ordered mine in tan, from Tom at Leather Soul.
And that leads me back to the topic of casual shoe colors. It's my belief that casual shoes should usually be brown or burgundy. This stems from an interpretation of the old London rules that makes sense to me:
- Casual shoes are worn with odd jackets, or no jackets at all.
- Odd jackets are worn outside the city during the day, where and when brown shoes are worn.
- Hence, most casuals should be brown.
The exceptions to this way of thinking would be for entertaining at home in the evening (though that's a great time to wear slippers), or for the rare occasion when a more formal black casual is worn with a suit in the city. But the latter should usually be elastic sided slip-ons which are essentially laced shoes without laces.
Casual shoes should be brown. Add style points for suede.