Men's Wear Highs and Lows - Footwear Edition
So this will be my first crack at the hubby blog contribution as a ride on the coattails of my wife's growing popularity online. When Nicole first started planning out her blog, she teased along my support for such by suggesting I might offer a weekly contribution to the blog from the man's perspective. As an embarrassingly over enthusiastic menswear fan, this appealed to my inner "fashionisto."
I follow a few men's fashion blogs, and one of the things I always appreciated most was advice on what and what not to spend money on. Over the years of a spending way too much money on clothes, I've come to realize that I really should have looked at a fashion blog earlier in life and taken note of which timeless and quality pieces would have saved me money in the long run, and which items I definitely spent too much money on. So here are a few of my own experiences on what has been worth spending money on, and what is not. I'll comeback to this topic with a different focus repeatedly, but for today I want to talk specifically about shoes/boots.
First the HIGHS: Items for which spending more money on is worth saving up and investing in for the long run. For you economics types, the ROI (return on investment) is well worth it. The basic formula is price divided by # of wears per year.
#1 - A good pair of shoes/boots: This is the clear and easiest argument to make. There are a number of items that have a diminishing rate of return because they may start off with a lot of wears the first year, but due to changing style trends, wear and tear, and boredom some items just don't get very many wears in subsequent months or years. Shoes and boots can be the exception to this scenario. If you get a classic, well-made pair of shoes or boots, they can easily last a decade or more. Had I known this 10 years ago, I would have saved 100s of dollars as I rationalized buying 2-3 pairs of shoes a year for anywhere from $30-$100 each would give me more selection, broaden my options, and prevent any one pair from getting worn out too quickly. Reality is, a good pair of shoes doesn't get worn out quickly (if properly cared for), and often look better with wear; and if the right choice is made in regards to color and style, they can be quite versatile. There are a lot of amazing options that can be had for $250 or less. That sounds like quite a lot of money at first; I know because 5 years ago I wouldn't have ever imagined spending that kind of money on shoes/boots. But had I bought one pair 5 years ago, I could have avoided buying the other 15 similar pairs I bought in that timeframe. Below are a few companies I have had the pleasure of owning and I would absolutely purchase again. Look for goodyear welt or blake stitched as these can often be resoled by a local cobbler (they are out there if you search for them). Also full grain leather as opposed to bonded is a must. Avoiding the glues and the low quality pieces of material is the goal here. You want something that will improve with age and mold to your foot. Here are a few brands I recommend:
Taft Shoes - my current obsession! I love the things Taft, founder Kory, is doing with their shoes. They are high quality Italian leathers, hand made in Spain, and have some creative styling that have really taken a few of the classic styles and added a modern twist that remains timeless while being distinctly eye catching. Shoes, are without question, one of the most memorable and first noticed accents of anyone's wardrobe. These Taft shoes not only deliver on both those accounts, but they have the added bonus of being the most comfortable shoes I own! I could wear them every day, if I wasn't already invested in a 40+ footwear rotation. If interested, you have to check out their Instagram @taft which posts beautiful shots a couple times daily, and Kory is meticulous about answer any and all questions via comments and DM. You won't find these in any retail store as they have a buy direct from the website (https://taftclothing.com) business model to pass on savings directly to the consumer. The new stuff ofttimes sells out quick so hop on something that you really love because they may not be there long. If in between sizes, size down for a great fit, and definitely read the reviews and the picture log of a few months wearing the Jack Boot every day to see what I mean about wear making a good shoe look even better! I own the Jack Boot in gray and oxblood and the Beck.
Allen Edmonds - the benchmark of classic footwear. Allen Edmonds is an All-American made shoe, pun intended. They do a great job crafting a shoe that will last for years, has iconic styling, have a myriad of options and styles, and have awesome customer service to boot (ok I'll stop with the puns). I have both their boots and shoes, and they are my go to shoes anytime I'm looking to dress up any outfit. I own the Dalton boot, the Rush Street cap toe (similar), the Strandmok oxford, and the Walden penny loafer (similar). They are in constant rotation in the wardrobe. Definitely check out the Shoebank (AE's seconds site) for deep discounts and wait for a sale because they run sales a few times a year that can save you up to $150. Outright these guys will cost you close to $400 for a pair of firsts, and they may be worth that, but I have not paid more than $212 (Daltons) for any of the pairs I bought, and I got one pair for $30 on eBay!
Thorogood Boots - American union made boots that are classic, tough, and incredibly comfortable. These are made for work, but look darn good despite logging endless hours in the yard. I've probably gone through 4-5 pairs of winter/work boots (live in CT) in the past 7 years, but had I found these from the start I'd still be using the original pair! For around $140 (they do a 30% sale 4 times a year and currently are running one for Halloween!) they are steal for the quality, comfort, warmth, and protection you come home with. I've gotten a ton of compliments on these boots, and truth be told I didn't even want to wear them for yard work or anything that might "ruin" them because they look so good. However, I've realized the error of my ways at this point and have found that I can wear them in the yard, in the snow, out in the field, or at the construction site, and if properly cared for, they look as good as ever, and I get the pleasure of wearing them more often. I own the 6 inch American Heritage with non-safety toe.
Now for the LOWS: These are shoes that will take a beating seasonally, are trendy or only appropriate for specific occasions, and/or are not worth investing in if you're looking for long term wear. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of people who invest handsome sums into some of these types of footwear, but my experience has led me to believe I wouldn't do it again.
Boat Shoes - I like Sperry boat shoes and was on that kick (I did it again) long before Sperry blew up in popularity. I remember getting a pair 10 years ago for $40. They are classic, iconic, summer wear, and I get a pair once every one or two years. So why do I consider this an item to spend a "low" sum of cash on? Primarily because I have to replace them every 1-2 years! Summer shoes take a beating. Often worn without socks, in all types of weather, throughout the sweaty and humid months (again, I live in CT) these shoes inevitably smell, get discolored, wear through the thing rubber soles, and peal and pull apart by the glued together insides. There are a lot of brands that make boat shoes, and they are an easy summer shoe that goes with almost anything, but I'll buy a new pair for $30 every 1-2 summers and just accept the fact that they will take a beating and be thrown away. In fact, that is what is nice about them... I don't ever stress about maintaining them because they only get about 4-6 months of wear before they are thrown out!
Fashion Sneakers - I know there are plenty who will disagree with me here, and perhaps I have not properly delved into the high end sneaker market to evoke any street cred here, but my experience has been that as awesome as those fashion sneakers look with one particular outfit, I have found that they often prove to not be very versatile, can wear out quickly because it seems you are more often than not paying for the brand name rather than the quality of craftsmanship. Bonded leathers and fabrics, glued soles, and faux materials that quickly leave creases, blemishes, and scuffs as eye sores for the world to see (because fashion sneakers draw a great deal of attention to one's appearance), I just find the ROI to be minimal. The number of times I wear them compared to the price just doesn't give me the same bang for the buck. I teach at a high school and watch many students awkwardly duck walking down the hall so as not to crease the "fresh kicks" and admire the dedication, but never envy the experience. Throw in the passing trendy nature of these types of shoes, and I have a hard time coughing up more than $40 bucks for a pair. I was a big fan of Diesel sneakers back in the day, but that time for me has come and gone. But again, that's just me.
Slippers/Flip Flops/sandals - Same rationale here as the boat shoes. Slippers and flip flops are often in direct contact with the bare foot so naturally are prone to absorbing the smell and sweat of your feet. Growing up I used to have a pair of Birkenstocks that I loved, and promptly wore a hole through the heal as a I wore them all the time in warmer weather. At the time I found that helped aerate the smell as they eventually became discolored and slippery whenever they got wet. Flip flops are certainly far more cheaply made, and I don't even know if there is such thing as a man's expensive flip flop, but I have no desire to seek one out. I don't even understand what a "quality" flip flop would be crafted from or how it could differ from the $8 special I wear in public facilities. Slippers are incredibly comfortable to wear around the house, especially since, much to my wife's chagrin, I attempt to subsidize the fashion budget by keeping the heat low all winter. Slippers though, also absorb smells with their long fiber fillers and shearling lined innards. I go a couple winters with a $20 pair from Woolrich, and am always excited to get a new pair every other xmas as the archetypical dad present.