Welcome back friends! Today we’re talking about my all-time favorite fashion subject, shoes. Why am I so excited to be talking about shoes? For one thing, they’re the source of the majority of the blunders I see on campus every day.
Probably more importantly, women (and gay men) notice shoes. Women notice shoes like we notice cleavage; they’re just more subtle about it. Thankfully, shoes are easy to handle, and unlike the administration’s policy on hacking, there’s a clear list of dos and don’ts. Let’s start with the latter.
The following are always the wrong answer:
Flip-flops are made for the beach and the shower, period. I don’t care if they’re Rainbows or Kmarts, they just look silly being worn in the city. And don’t even try to give me that “they’re so comfortable” line. It’s often cold and always wet in Cambridge and Boston, and nobody like having cold, wet feet. Leave the flip-flops when you leave the communal bathroom.
Athletic shoes are any shoes that: (a) are mostly white, (b) have New Balance written on the side, or (c) are 39 different colors. Athletic shoes do a great job of cushioning and supporting your feet, and they’re essential for playing sports or working out. But that’s all they’re essential for. Worn with jeans or (God-forbid) slacks, they make you look like an extra in a Hardy Boys movie. Fail.
“Tech” sandals are those clunky, 8-strap, extruded composite polymer monstrosities that make materials scientists squeal with delight. Great for a UROP project or the cover of Popular Science, but not for your feet. Tech is something you read, not something you wear.
Now that I’ve vetoed every pair of shoes many of you out there own, what should you be wearing? It’s simple.
The Oxford shoe or blucher is the classic “dress” shoe. It’s a plain leather lace-up and is as essential to your wardrobe as an eraser is to your Course 18 psets. Get a pair in black and a pair in brown, and they’ll go with everything you own.
The wingtip or brogue is similar to the oxford, but the toe of the shoe has small holes / dimpling / embellishment on the leather. There’s a nifty story behind each name for this shoe, but these are beyond the scope of this article (e-mail me if you’re curious). These are most often seen in brown and are a little less dressy than oxfords, but they still look great with jeans, khakis, or corduroys.
A loafer is basically any leather shoe without laces. These come in every style (monkstrap, penny, tassel, etc.) and color (black, brown, cordovan, aubergine, etc.) known to man, and I’m not picky about the particulars. Just find a couple of pairs that you like, and wear them with jeans, casual slacks, or shorts (no socks, please!).
A Chelsea boot is an ankle-height boot that has an elastic panel or a zipper (technically it’s a Beatle boot if it has a zipper, but that’s splitting hairs) on the side instead of laces. They’re named after the Chelsea District in Manhattan, a place where almost everyone is gay and almost everyone is obsessed with shoes. These are less common than the others, but are relatively easy to find and will really stand out. In black they make an eye-catching alternative to an Oxford with a suit or dress slacks, and in brown they look fantastic with jeans, khakis, or cords.
Finally, a simple sneaker can add a hip, casual flair to slacks or even a suit. To be clear, this is not the athletic shoe I talked about above. This is a plain canvas or leather lace-up in black, brown, or navy. Think Converse All-Stars or Adidas Sambas, and ditch the white laces for something more subtle (read: black).
What brands should you buy? It’s largely up to you and your funding source. If money is no object, Gucci makes the best shoes around. If you’d like to eat this month, check out Aldo (they’ve got a great store at the Cambridgeside Galleria), Steve Madden, Rocket Dog, and Kenneth Cole for great shoes in the $100-$200 range. If you’re on a tight budget, French Shriner (<$40 at Payless ShoeSource) makes a good shoe in each category I covered.
Keep in mind that with shoes, you really do get what you pay for. MIT is a big campus and Boston is a walking city, so it’s helpful to think of good shoes as an investment.
Finally, realize that this list is far from complete. These are just the basics that every man should own regardless of his wardrobe. If you found this article interesting or you already own all these, you’re probably a closet shoe-whore. Embrace your addiction and have fun with it! Newbury Street is your oyster.
That’s all for now, guys. If you’re intimidated, clip this article out and take it with you to the Galleria or Copley Place — the sales people there will be happy to help. I’ll be here when you get back, and we’ll talk about pants then.