Grown-Up Shoes For Grown-Up Men

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Grown-Up Shoes For Grown-Up Men

Words by Ms Molly Isabella Smith

10 October 2018

Sick of slides and ugly sneakers? Invest in a proper pair of shoes instead.

For those who can still remember A-Level English literature (or your international equivalent), you might vaguely recall Mr William Shakespeare subdivided the milestones of a man’s life into seven neat stages, from adolescence to old age. Far be it from us to criticise the Bard, but he seemingly overlooked one crucial episode: the day a man buys his first proper pair of shoes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably less important than, say, birth, marriage or death. Yet we’re of the opinion that graduating to grown-up shoes really does mark a new chapter in your sartorial career. Once you’ve taken a pair of bench-made Oxfords for a spin, you’ll no longer be content to settle for just any old footwear.

Yes, there are certain shoes that you cherish and nurture with regular shines, cleansing wipes, judicious brushings and resolings; the sort that require a shoe horn; the type you carefully remove at the end of the day and gently place back in the dust bags and box whence they came. And it’s not just you, or your wallet, that’ll be affected by your fresh appreciation for footwear. Proper shoes sort the men from the boys. Like your haircut and your handshake, they’re one of the first things new acquaintances note.

So, grown-up shoes. Since the modern man’s footwear needs, like his wardrobe remit, have diversified somewhat over the past few decades, it’s not just the usual smart suspects we’ve selected for you to consider. In addition to Oxfords and Derbies, there are also elegant sneakers and versatile boots that will hold their ground against the fickleness of passing trends. They’re all just a scroll away.

As far as grown-up shoes go, Oxfords are the daddy. They’re the shoes you’ll probably get the most mileage from – at work, awards ceremonies and weddings for the large part – so it’s worth forking out a bit for them. If your milieu is Wall Street or the City, chances are you’ve heard your colleagues wax lyrical about John Lobb’s City II shoes. They’re considered the dress shoes to wear in well-heeled circles and are one of the brand’s flagship styles. A classic cap-toe, it’s a shoe that means business. There’s an elegant simplicity about its proportions. Don’t let the lack of bells and whistles fool you. Each pair is Goodyear-welted in Northampton, Britain’s traditional shoemaking centre, in a painstaking 190-step process to render them hard-wearing enough for a lifetime of pavement pounding.

Derbies – think of as them as the Oxford’s more casual cousin – differ from the dress shoe in only one key respect: the lacing is open. This substantially alters the overall silhouette. And while the Oxford is only really appropriate for formal affairs, the Derby has morphed into an anything-goes sort of shoe. You can wear it dressed up or down. To the pub or on a date. With jeans or tailored trousers. Sold? Now you only have to decide which pair to invest in. We couldn’t compile this list without casually mentioning the fact that we’ve only gone and made our very own footwear line, could we? The Mr P. Jacques model comes in burgundy, which reminds us of the style’s rural beginnings, and is rather chunkier than usual, thanks to an outdoorsy lug sole.

Berluti boasts an illustrious clientele (everyone from Mr John F Kennedy to Mr Frank Sinatra has been on the brand’s books) and the Parisian cordwainer’s expertise is the stuff of legend. Several myths circulate about the house’s shoe-shining prowess, not limited to the alleged use of vintage Dom Perignon for polishing (the alcohol brings out a certain lustre, apparently). But it’s the atelier’s signature patination that has earned it a place in the annals of sartorial history. Introduced by Ms Olga Berluti in the 1980s, the top-secret burnishing process is what makes these Chelsea boots shine like a recently restored antique cabinet or, to paraphrase the woman herself, gives them soul. The depigmentation technique is supposedly governed by the moon’s phases and lends the leather a unique transparency. Even if you don’t buy into all that, they’re really very nice, aren’t they?

If you’ve been scouring the MR PORTER product pages for some autumn-appropriate shoes, fill your boots. Because, right on schedule, we’ve had an influx of sturdy footwear. The practically inclined will find an untold number of suitable options on site, but only a few have the heft to equal Moncler’s Clement style, a shoe made from water-resistant shell and fitted with retractable ice spikes. We’ll admit they’re not quite as smart as whole-cut Oxfords, but they’ve got such gravitas, we doubt anyone would dare to question you if you stomped about the office in them. And, come the weekend, you need only pull on a down jacket to look every bit the après-ski expert.

Like an artisan coffee maker or breakfast in bed, slippers aren’t something you necessarily need, but they certainly make mornings much more pleasant. With summer now gone for another year, once you do drag yourself out of your bed’s warm embrace, it’s likely to be dark. Dark and cold. Bare feet plus freezing floors isn’t the best way to start the day. Or end it. When you finally unlace (please, we beg of you, don’t try to yank them off with sheer force) your Oxfords after work, we heartily recommend you sink your feet into something warm and pillowy. Derek Rose’s gentlemanly slippers are made from Harris Tweed and lined in shearling, so they feel far more indulgent than shoes reasonably should.

This news is unlikely to shock you, but not everyone at MR PORTER headquarters is on board the ugly sneaker train. Sure, we appreciate the nostalgia. Yes, we think certain models are tantamount to works of art. Maison Margiela’s Fusion pair is worthy of its own exhibit at MoMA. We applaud the fact that sneakers-on-steroids have stuck around for several seasons, but the maximalist silhouette is not likely to be described as “timeless” any time soon. Something smarter and sleeker, in the form of Tom Ford’s Warwick low-tops, for example, is much more versatile and unlikely to put you on the receiving end of funny looks in the office kitchen. And if more conservative colleagues question your sneakers-with-a-suit combo, you need only point out the designer’s initial on the sides. That should swiftly settle the matter.