“We Eat With Our Eyes First”
The first thing I look for in a pair of shoes is whether it catches my attention. Is it visually appealing on the shelf? Is the design unique, are the proportions of the shoe well balanced, does it have beautiful coloration and patina, and what is the shape of the last? After picking up the shoe, I look at the details and finishing of the shoe. Is the stitching on the upper properly spaced and complete? Is the lining smooth and clean? Is the upper finished elegantly, and does the sole have a nice design? There are many hand-crafted shoes that look like works of art on the shelf. They should look even better on your feet.
2) Fit / Comfort
“Your Feet Don’t Lie”
The second thing I look for is comfort. Unlike some women, most men will not suffer for fashion. Shoes have to fit well. A pair of handmade shoes will usually be stiff right out of the box. A snug fit is fine, as the leather and stitching will relax after two to three wears; however, pinching and excessive tightness means the shoes are too tight. Conversely, if you do not hear a “whoosh” of air when you put your foot in the shoes and have heel slippage, then the shoes are too big. For those wishing to avoid the break-in period for a new pair of shoes, there are options, such as shoes made on a Bologna or Flex construction, which are generally comfortable on the first wear.
3) Quality / Construction
“An Informed Consumer is a Good Consumer”
It is important to know what you are buying. I look at the type of construction used to make the shoes. Quality welted shoes are constructed so that the soles can be replaced, which is nice considering quality leather uppers can last two to three times longer than the accompanying leather soles. Cemented shoes are glued and will not last. I look at the quality of the leather on both the upper and soles as they can vary significantly. Although all shoes will crease, flex the shoes to see the reaction of the leather. I am wary of shoes that retail for more than $600 and have a stamp indicating “Vero Cuoio,” meaning “Real Leather.” To me, it is the equivalent of dining in an expensive restaurant with the menu indicating that they use “Real Chicken.” Invest a few hours reading about the making of quality footwear, and it will pay off in spades.
“We have to Multi-Task”
The fourth characteristic I look for is the versatility of a shoe. Most of us are not required to wear a suit and tie on a daily basis anymore, so investing in a quality pair of shoes that can be used in various occasions is ideal. Outside of specific shoes dedicated to very formal suits, I look for shoes that can be worn not only with a suit or sport coat, but also with cotton pants and maybe even jeans. The old rules of not being able to wear loafers with a suit are outdated. Lace-ups that are neither too heavily brogued nor too plain can generally go both ways.
“You Pay for What You Get”
This phrase is likely closer to the truth than “You Get What You Pay For” because sometimes, you pay a significant premium for a brand name but you don’t get much bang for your buck. I like to say that in shoe making, there is no silver bullet, meaning that there is no way of making high-quality shoes cheaply. This is primarily due to the fact that the materials used and the craftsmanship employed are major determinants of the end quality and longevity. I believe that investing in high-quality shoes is smart because a good pair of shoes can be re-soled several times and, if properly cared for, could last more than 10 years. Calculate the cost per wear versus focusing on the initial investment.
There is a commonly used phrase: “There are two things you should invest in: a good bed and a good pair of shoes because if you’re not in one you are likely in the other.” I like to add that “on a really good night you might be in both at the same time!”
David Eisele is the owner of Davelle Clothiers, located in the Reston Town Center at 1921 Freedom Dr. Suite 100 Reston, VA www.DavelleClothiers.com. Priding itself on 25 years as an independent small business, Davelle Clothiers combines custom and off-the-shelf exclusive designers for an opportunity to create your own one-of-a-kind look. Stop by for a nitro coffee or a glass of wine and experience the personal touch with attention to your body shape and personal taste. Davelle clothiers motto is “Invest in your style, invest in yourself.”