Style

The Sharper Staffer: Best Foot Forward

Before the New Year, I pledged to start writing posts on men’s fashion since the number of male readers has grown somewhat since my last survey in 2009.  I was initially hesitant to foray into the realm of men’s style because most men cringe whenever a discussion about fashion takes place. 

I know that the men in my office (sans one) would rather have their eyes poked out with a red-hot coat hanger than listen to my thoughts on their wardrobes.  No matter how well-intentioned and correct (IMHO) this counsel may be.  It’s not a concern of theirs and they would prefer that I not try to fix something (that in their view) isn’t broken.  Hopefully, my advice will be better received on this site than it is in my cubicle farm.

While I had planned to do an introductory post on shirts and ties, last night’s walk home forced me to reconsider. 

As I walked through the Metro last night, I decided to count the number of men who were wearing dirty, scuffed, warped and otherwise worn out shoes.  In just three stops (including one transfer), I spotted 22 pairs of broken and beaten shoes. 

Even my own office is not immune from this faux pas.  My co-worker often wears a pair of braided, tasseled loafers that look like they’ve been to war on the feet of a Roman legionnaire. They’re depressingly dilapidated.

A professional man should own a minimum of two pairs of dress shoes (one black, one brown).  And you should care for these shoes not only so they look nice, but so they last a long while.  Here’s how:

Step 1: Before you leave the store, ask if they can weatherproof your shoes for you.  This is your first defense against future damages. 

If they don’t offer this service, buy a can of weatherizer at Nordstrom or Bed, Bath and Beyond.  Sure, it’s $15, but it could save you big in the long run.

Step 2: Use a shoe horn.  This will prevent damage to the back of the shoe.

Step 3: Shine your shoes at least one per month.  This will keep the leather looking sharp and keep the scuffing to a minimum.  This is especially important in the winter months when sidewalk salt and grime seem to be everywhere.

Step 4: To properly store your shoes, you need cedar shoe forms.  They help your shoes keep their shape (last longer), absorb moisture and eliminate odors.  Your shoes can last twice as long, if you use forms.

Step 5: When your shoes start to fray at the seams and are looking less than their best, take them to a cobbler.  Often, they can replace the laces and soles and freshen them up for far less than a new pair will cost. 

This season, I had the toes of my boots re-leathered, the soles replaced and the heels changed for $31.  This was a $125 savings.  Not too shabby.

Step 6: Know when it’s time to give up the ghost.  When the shoes have permanent creases in the toes, frayed seams and separations in the leather, it’s time to say goodbye. 

Sure, most men will argue that it doesn’t matter what their shoes look like, because people shouldn’t judge you by your shoes.  But just because they shouldn’t, doesn’t mean they won’t.

Nothing ruins a nice suit and tie like worn out kicks.  It’s like wearing a frayed, acid wash denim jacket with a cocktail dress.  So weatherize your shoes when you buy them, shine them regularly, and care for them as best you can.

If “fashion” makes you roll your eyes, then think of it as being fiscally responsible.  You’re saving money on shoes in the long run, and looking more professional and polished in the short-term.  So grab a horse hair brush and start polishing.

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  1. lorrwill says:

    There are some great videos on You Tube describing how to really shine your shoes. Hey – we DIY gals need to keep out shoes looking good too.

    As an aside, a cordwainer would pop you one for calling them a cobbler. Cobbler is to shoes as quack is to medicine. But that may just be in the bespoke world.

    My highly informal survey at my office revealed that very few men use the cedar trees but a couple of the executives do have their shoes refurbished. A couple of the other guys just buy new shoes every year or two. They say they break them down that fast and they can't be repaired. (I am not so sure about that but that's what they told me.)

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  2. lorrwill says:

    There are some great videos on You Tube describing how to really shine your shoes. Hey – we DIY gals need to keep out shoes looking good too.

    As an aside, a cordwainer would pop you one for calling them a cobbler. Cobbler is to shoes as quack is to medicine. But that may just be in the bespoke world.

    My highly informal survey at my office revealed that very few men use the cedar trees but a couple of the executives do have their shoes refurbished. A couple of the other guys just buy new shoes every year or two. They say they break them down that fast and they can't be repaired. (I am not so sure about that but that's what they told me.)

    November 30, -0001/Reply
  3. Alexandra says:

    Where in the world did you get boots repaired, resoled, and reheeled for $35???? And did they do a good job???

    January 6, 2011/Reply
  4. lorrwill says:

    There are some great videos on You Tube describing how to really shine your shoes. Hey – we DIY gals need to keep out shoes looking good too.

    As an aside, a cordwainer would pop you one for calling them a cobbler. Cobbler is to shoes as quack is to medicine. But that may just be in the bespoke world.

    My highly informal survey at my office revealed that very few men use the cedar trees but a couple of the executives do have their shoes refurbished. A couple of the other guys just buy new shoes every year or two. They say they break them down that fast and they can't be repaired. (I am not so sure about that but that's what they told me.)

    January 7, 2011/Reply
  5. Jill says:

    My boyfriend takes good care of his shoes and uses cedar trees, shoe horns, and gel inserts (more for comfort than maintenance, I think, but I wonder if those help). Anyway, I think he sees, as Belle points out, that good quality shoes are an investment to be protected. In fact, he takes better care of all of his shoes and clothing than I do. I need to watch and learn. ­čÖé

    January 7, 2011/Reply
  6. garethforshort says:

    Thanks for diving back into the world of men's fashion. It's very much appreciated. I think you're definitely on the right track as well, by starting out with the practical rather than the theoretical. It's easier for us boys to digest. I would like to add one tip that has worked wonders in my opinion, in extending the life of my shoes, and that is to keep the shoes in the box. I know it sounds obvious but I can't tell you how many guys have their shoes just piled on top of one another in their closet. This may work for sneakers, but spells death for dress shoes.

    January 7, 2011/Reply
  7. Anonim says:

    With some exceptions, men's shoes should also have leather soles (not rubber).

    January 19, 2011/Reply