Creating a Successful Professional Style: A Male Perspective (Part 3 of 3)

Here’s our last (sniff) post from the stylish, guest-blogger, Art Magnaye.  Thank you Art for your insightful posts…

The next time you are downtown take a glance downward.  In contrast to the fairer of our species, for most men, shoes are an afterthought…something to protect your feet from the hot pavement (or to cover those nasty toes).  Even those men who profess to like their shoes (and spend a great deal of money on them), I submit, don’t.  Let me explain.

First let me qualify what I mean when talking about shoes.  What I am not referring to with the generic term of “shoes” are work boots, tennis shoes, runners, the vintage Air Jordans you just had to have on eBay, etc.  The shoes I will be talking about are dress shoes (again like pants I will be shortening dress shoes to just shoes – it’s easier).  Shoes anchor the wardrobe.  A $1000 suit with a designer label will look like a “Fit-Right” special with bad shoes.  Conversely a $300 suit can look awesome with the right shoe.  Don’t believe me – ask any woman?  Shoes are going to be one of the first things she notices (usually).

As men, we’re pretty lucky when it comes to shoes.  First off, men’s shoes are comfortable – or should be.  NEVER, EVER even contemplate buying uncomfortable shoes – life is too short.  They will not “break-in” or “soften” to the point of comfort.  If they pinch – they will always pinch.  If they’re tight – they will always be tight.  I have made this mistake – please do not follow my lead.  Secondly, for the most part, men’s styles don’t change drastically over the years.  If you buy the right shoes (and take reasonable care of them) you can have them for many years.

The one downside is that quality men’s footwear is not cheap.  No where else in the male wardrobe do you get exactly what you pay for (usually).  That $2000 designer suit I’ll wager has a hefty ad campaign as well as the expense of paying the handsome actor with a cleft in his chin to wear it on the red carpet.  Furthermore, its construction will not be any better than the $500 department store suit (a hand canvassed bespoke model is a topic for another post).  While the well heeled of us (pun intended) can afford to pay 4 figures for shoes, these will not usually be constructed any better than a shoe at half that price.  What one will be paying for is a softer leather or skin from some endangered species (ick!) or at the most extravagant – bespoke.  However, the right $400 shoe will be constructed light years better than the $200 shoe and will last several times longer.  Shoes are the only part of your wardrobe which I believe you must really spend your money – you really do get what you pay for.  If it fits, an inexpensive suit can still look great and that silk tie from Wal-Mart is still silk.  Cheap shoes will always look cheap.  And to add insult to injury, cheap shoes will wear out quickly requiring you to buy another pair of cheap shoes!

When looking at a quality shoe I prefer traditional “Goodyear” welted construction.  That means the upper is sewn to a midsole, which in turn is sewn to the outsole.  This gives you a nice thick leather sole that will lend authority to what you wear.  Please notice I said leather sole.  A proper dress shoe has a leather sole, sneakers have rubber soles.  While it is perfectly acceptable to have your cobbler (you do have a cobbler right?) attach rubber “taps” to help with waterproofness and traction the original sole must be leather.  Remember, we’re trying to develop a subtle style that will make you stand out from the crowd.  The right shoe will have people wondering what you have changed.

But I digress.  The Goodyear welt does another thing – it extends the life of your shoes.  Good shoes can be resoled an almost infinite number of times making that (seemingly) large initial investment more palatable when amortized for 20+ years.

If you’re only going to have one dress shoe you will never go wrong with a black oxford.  It is a timeless design that will go with everything from black tie to a pair of dark jeans.  If you decide on 2 pairs to further extend the life of your shoes, add a pair of brown wingtips (preferable in a darker shade).Both pair will go equally well with your dark grey or navy suits.

My 2 suggestions will take you every where in life you will want to go.  There is, however, one place where laced shoes are a bit of a pin…the airport.  If, like me, you spend an inordinate amount of time at airport security you may want to go with a slip-on.  A slip-on?  With a suit?!? Really?!?  Now, bear with me I am not talking about the penny loafer you wore in college.  What I am talking about is a high vamp shoe that comes high on your instep.  My personal favorite is the Monk-Strap as the buckle adds a bit of flair.

After your black oxfords and brown wingtips, there are an infinite number of options you may want to think about after your initial foray into quality footwear (and are willing to enter the advanced class).  From spectators, different shades for brown and burgundy and cordovan leather, to aging and coloring with different polishes… it never ends.  Remember to have fun with it (and find a shoe that fits).

What I hoped to do with my guest spots on Lazina’s blog was to help you make a step forward to getting noticed more for what you have to say.  Now, how does dressing do that?  Well, part of your package is that first impression – before you open your mouth.  If you look ‘put together’ and pay attention to the details, you will have a leg up on the competitor who didn’t; you can then wow them with your eloquence.  You may have heard “Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.”  A lot of people have heard that and are trying to dress for the corner office.  Paying attention to some of the details I have outlined will put you a step ahead of all of them.

Thank you to Lazina for giving me the opportunity post my thoughts and many thanks to you for giving me a read.  Good luck to all and may you have success in all you endeavor.