If you subscribe to popular lore, then you know that the first thing women notice about you is your kicks. Truth? Possibly, but regardless, shoes make the man, and if you want to get to know that man, then you must walk a mile in his shoes. While you used to be able to get away with wearing your Air Jordan’s everywhere from the gym to your cousin’s bar mitzvah, times have changed, and it’s time to get with the footwear program. So take a moment, commiserate with your inner Don Draper, and inject some respectable and much-needed life into your shoe collection with these four essentials.
The Fancy-Pants Dress-Up Shoe
Black patent-leather lace-up, brooksbrothers.com
Even if you aren’t tying the knot anytime soon, you might have to appear in court, go to an interview, or otherwise look presentable at the drop of a hat sometime in the near-ish future. When that time comes, you don’t want to be scrambling for the least-scuffed of the shoes your mom bought you for prom, college interviews or some other embarrassing moment, so get yourself to a shoe purveyor (any nice department store – Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Barneys, even Macy’s – will most likely have a bevy of young ladies eager to help you with all of your shoe-purchasing needs) and get fitted for a good pair of dress shoes. And remember, the recession is ending, so this isn’t necessarily the time to be a cheap-ass; these shoes could last you decades if you stick with classic silhouettes and a well-fitting product.
Some tips: while a pointier toe seems to be all the rage for fall, a more square-shaped toe is pretty timeless. And, although most style experts advise owning one pair of patent leather shoes (you can wear them with everything from a pinstripe suit to a tuxedo), if you can’t handle the reflection just yet, take it down a notch with a pair of nice leather loafers or lace-ups, which you can wear with a suit or to the club, if you’re that kinda kid. Just take a stroll through the dress shoe department and see what strikes your fancy.
The Casual Friday Sneaker Alternative
J.P. Loafer, Tods.com
On days when finery isn’t on the menu, you still need something to make your chill self presentable at the office or dinner with the in-laws. For Fall, anything from a slip-on to a lace-up or even an ankle boot will work, as long as it isn’t canvas and looks good with jeans and nicer pants alike. If you’re living in the world of eternal summer (or reading this 9-ish months from now), then you can get away with an open-toed mandal of some description; just try for something dressier than flip-flops (unless you’re on a boat) and resist the urge to wear socks with your Tevas.
Some tips: casual-nice shoes should also be leather (or, if you’re feeling adventurous, suede… and if you’re feeling really adventurous, snakeskin, although proceed with caution there, cowboy). If you find something you really like, then get a pair in black and a pair in brown (or some other neutral – ie, non-black – color), because being able to coordinate your shoes with the rest of your outfit is a valuable life skill for which you will be rewarded almost immediately.
The Hardcore, All-Purpose Boot
Frye ‘Rogan’ Double-Buckle boot, Nordstrom.com
The 90’s may be over, but manly boots never go out of style. When you need something for your weekend wood-chopping or roof-repairing (or trips to the gas station to buy beer), all-purpose work boots are essential. Even Skechers makes work boots now, so clearly there’s some demand for it.
Some tips: cowboy boots are the original work boots, but if you’re going the way of Route 66, then you’ll be well-served to find an actual western outfitter (or semi-actual online approximation of one, like Cavenders or Sheplers). Just, please. Don’t buy your boots from Urban Outfitters.
The Extreme Sports-Worthy Athletic Shoe
Nike Trainer 1 id Training Shoe, Nike.com
Whether you’re bringing it on the court or pumping your guns in the gym, you need a pair of shoes that’s both comfortable and supportive, or you’re going to end up getting knee replacement surgery when you’re 45. This is another time not to be stingy, because unless you’re a fat couch potato, you probably do some sort of work out at least 3-5 times a week, which means you’ll be using these puppies more than most other shoes you own.
Some tips: go to a store where the sales staff knows their stuff rather than a generic sportswear emporium or discount shoe hut in the mall. Almost all specialty athletic shoe stores will measure your feet to find out exactly what size and width you need, and some, like Niketown, will even analyze how you walk/run/whatever to find you the precise shoe of your dreams.
Honorable Mention: The All-Other-Times Shoe
When you aren’t at a black-tie affair, kicking ass in a business meeting, engaged in some life-threatening form of home repair, or running triathlons, you need something that screams your you-ness in a more grown-up way than slip-on Keds. For some, it’s designer sneaks, while for others, it’s old-school boaters, but whatever your individual style, shoes are the cherry on the thrown-together-outfit cake. If you haven’t figured out what your ‘thing’ is, then now’s the time; meditate on your current shoe situation, then go out and find some foot attire that lives up to your stylish potential.