Sunday, November 7, 2010
I admit I was surprised when I read that the great British dandy Neil Bunny Roger (the photo, from the catalog of Sotheby's auction of his things in 1998, shows some of his suits) had more shoes than tailored clothing. Roger was known for commissioning four pair each time he added a suit to his wardrobe - as he did up to fifteen times a year. After all, each pair of a man's shoes works with a variety of tailored clothing. And though that is true I have come to understand that there are reasons to have more shoes.
Now, it is easy to love shoes for themselves. A pair of hand-made shoes may be the most beautiful example of the men's clothing arts, depending on whether one includes cufflinks, dress sets and other jewelry in that category, and hobbyists tend to collect the beautiful. But that is reasoning independently from the place shoes occupy in the wardrobe, where they can be compared to shirts and neckties as accessories.
Put that way, the concept begins to make sense. Most of us have more than one shirt for each jacket, and, other than a few solid-tie wearing extremists, more than one tie for each shirt. Accessories give variety to tailored clothing and shoes perform the same function. After all, who among us does not do the equivalent of pairing polished calf semi-brogues with gray flannel one day and reversed calf another time?
That said, few men will have Roger's fourteen pair of navy and white spectator shoes but it is not too challenging to see how more than the basic dozen pair can be useful. If I can assume that most men began building their wardrobes as I did, with a few pair of shoes standing next to a larger variety of jackets, it is just not automatic to think that way.