Last week we gave you our Guide to Buying Shoes where we taught you how to distinguish quality when you step into a store. This week we want to teach you how to build the base of your footwear collection. With so many choices in every possible color, shape, and material it’s pretty hard for a guy to start from scratch. That’s why we’ve cut it down to the 5 shoes that every guy should have in their closet…
The Brown Wingtip
This is the first shoe you should buy. The brown dress shoe is the shoe you will wear with your grey and navy trousers, and thus a shoe you will wear very often. This is also the shoe that you should not skimp on. Invest in a quality wingtip and you will not regret it. It will be the centerpiece of your footwear collection for years to come. You want something slim, but not too slim, and with gorgeous, preferably antiqued, leather. There are a few options you should check out when looking into a quality wingtip, and they will all cost you. Of course, you could go with Church’s–their reputation for quality footwear speaks for itself. There is also Barker Black, which we promote all the time–their Archdale wingtip is one of our absolute favorite shoes. But we want to point you in a different direction this time.
Crockett and Jones’ handmade shoes are some of the finest footwear around–and have been since 1879. The Northampton-based shoemakers pride themselves on their gorgeous antiqued leathers and first-rate Goodyear construction. We can find no better example of their expertise than their Clifford Wingtip. It is such a strong and sturdy shoe, yet is still slim and flattering. The ornamentation is original, but not overly lavish. And finally there’s the leather, which is the real highlight. These are the kind of shoes that are going to age so well, you’re going to like them more in 5 years than when you bought them.
Unfortunately, we can’t all spend $700 on shoes. Luckily, there is a brilliant pair of wingtips made by Loake that will cost you less than half of those made by Crockett and Jones. If $256 seems high for you, we suggest you rethink. If you were to buy a pair of $100 wingtips, you may have them for a year or two, but they will quickly die. These ones by Loake will last you a while, and look good for their entire lifespan–so think of it as an investment.
The Simple Black Dress Shoe
How often you choose to wear this one is entirely up to you. Of course it is a necessity for most formal events, but it is also something that can look very good when done properly. This will also look good with your trousers, but doesn’t give quite the warm vibe that a brown wingtip will. However, you can’t wear your wingtips every day, and you need some variety in your footwear so that you don’t become boring. Now, there are a few styles you can choose from when choosing a black dress shoe. Of course, you can go plain toe, but we only suggest doing so if you’re ready to pay some significant bills because you get what you pay for in the plain toe shoe game. Our suggestion for an affordable black dress shoe comes from Barney’s… like actually made by Barney’s. Their in-house line always turns out some really awesome stuff, and these cap-toe dress shoes are no different. For $160, you can snag some surprisingly solid Italian-made shoes that won’t let you down.
Once again, we want to reiterate that in the world of clothing and shoes, most of the time you get what you pay for. So if you’re really trying to look like a million bucks, you’ll have to fork up some cash to do so. Luckily, there is an easy way to justify such expenditures. Quality shoes are an investment. If you buy an $150 shoe, it might last you 2 years–which is $75 a year. But if you buy a $582 pair of Dries Van Noten lace-ups, you could be wearing these for at least ten years with a couple refurbishings, which would bring you to around $80 a year. Oh, and did we mention how awesome these guys looked?
Once you have your dress shoes figured out, you can start to move into casual footwear. And of course, the first casual shoe you must buy is a loafer. It’s the most classic of all casual shoes and will transition the best between work and play. There are a few options to choose from here, all of them good. You could get a tassel loafer, penny loafer, or horsebit loafer. We love ourselves a tassel loafer, but they’re not for everyone, so we will suggest going with one of the other two loafers. Of course in the world of loafers, there is one name that shines above all the rest: Gucci. The Gucci loafer is money in the bank. Their penny loafer is super-slim and very French, which means they’re not for every guy. However, we are hard-pressed to find a guy that doesn’t look good in Gucci’s Horsebit Loafers. There is absolutely no shoe that will look better with age than these, as shown by the picture above. We prefer them without the ribbon, but it’s a matter of personal preference.
Gucci isn’t the only big name in the world of loafers. There happens to be a much more affordable (and American) one that’s been making quality shoes since 1876. G.H. Bass & Co. is probably one of the most popular brands in the history of Ivy League style. They’ve been making their Weejun Penny Loafer since 1936, which means they’ve had more than enough experience to perfect it. And the sure perfected it when they came out with their newer, slimmer “Dover” model in March of ’09. This isn’t quite what your Dad wore back in the day, as they really made an effort to modernize it for younger and hipper guys. There are few shoes under $100 that are going to treat you as well as the new Bass Weejun.
The Desert Boot
We love our desert boots here at Prepidemic. It’s amazing how many different forms they can take on, just by changing the leather and sole. You can get a pair with simple leather and a crepe sole to inject a little bit of a rugged vibe into your look. You can keep the crepe sole and switch to a suede upper if you want something a little more preppy. Or you can get something with a suede upper and a leather sole to feel very crisp and Italian. And who better to buy your desert boots from than they guys that did them first? Yes, Clarks Desert Boots may just be the shoes that will give you the most bang for your buck on this list. It’s amazing how comfortable and durable they are–not to mention stylish. We don’t really need to elaborate on them because you should already have a pair, and if you don’t, order yourself one. Go with either the classic beeswax leather or the dark brown suede.
Now if you really want to go above and beyond, there are some options that will look a little better than your Clarks. It’s really important for us to stress that there really is very little reason to buy your desert boots from someone other than Clarks. The biggest reason would be that you want a slightly dressier boot, in which case, we hear you and are more than happy to oblige. If you’re looking for a dressier desert boot, the English are the ones that got you covered. In particular, we’re really digging Grenson’s model as it has a nice slim leather sole and a gorgeous dark bown suede upper. For $300, you’ll be paying the same price as you would for about 4 pairs of Clarks, but hey, they do look pretty fine.
The White Sneaker
The last shoe you need is the one that is easily the most casual, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look good in them. The white sneaker has been the go-to shoe for every college kid since Americans got hooked on sportswear way back when. It’s something you most likely already have, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in better looking and ultimately more timeless pairs. It’s a pretty clear-cut formula here: simple lines, no ornamentation, and a sleek (but not super-slim) shape. Back in 1965, Adidas made the first perfect white sneaker. Named after one of tennis’ greatest champions, Stan Smith, the shoe has been one of the most popular and recognizable sneakers on earth. For $60, there isn’t really much of a reason not to pick up a pair.
The other champion of the sneaker game is Common Projects. The minimalist footwear company has been making some of the most popular sneakers out there since they burst on the scene in 2004. Made from premium Italian leathers, these aren’t your average sneakers, but for over $350 they better be pretty extraordinary. Many of you might short-circuit thinking about tennis shoes going for that much, but many true aesthetic-obsessives will find more than enough in the Achilles Low to justify their purchase.