When did my feet get so old? Not that 47 is old, but older in the sense that once the en trend shoes that filled my closet and completed a 'look' now get me “looks” - and not the kind that say “hey great shoes mate”.
The shoes that kicked off my quest to become more shoe-wise were a rather pricey pair of designer purple patent leather trainers (a little disco-sparkly if I am honest) and in a momentary lapse of judgement I decided that they would work the look I had planned for my birthday.
I realised (later) that the problem was that when I envisaged the shoes with my outfit, I wasn't seeing my own reflection, but rather thinking about how good these same shoes had looked on a guy I had seen some weeks back on Collins Street, clad in pin striped suit, checked purple shirt and those sparkly shoes. Convinced I could pull off the same look, I decided to walk the same stretch of city block and get me some street cred.
To my horror the second person I saw was the bloke from my fashion moment. Had he really been so young? Worse still, when his eyes went to my feet, his smirk of 'nice try old man' sent me on a mercy dash into the nearest restaurant loo to change back to the shoes I had been wearing (and I swear I saw him twittering the encounter.)
After many deep breaths, I finally emerged, took a long hard look at my feet and made a decision. The days of sparkly colours for my feet were over and my, my, my, my, boogie shoes would now just be another memory from the 70s.
But that didn't mean I was ready to turn into my dad. So the age-old question (and in this case it was really the age old question) is where to find the age-appropriate footwear that will take me from the office to endless social and business events?
After hitting a huge number of shops, I have compiled a guide to the essential shoes and this winter's styles for the over 35 guy.
Because the lines between work and play are sometime blurred –no guy can go wrong with a pair of dress boots. And while the Military look is here for a few more seasons, unless you're allowed to wear jeans to work, I suggest you save these for heading out on the town versus heading up your department's multi-million dollar presentation.
This where the Dress Boot is your best friend. These are slim, ankle length boots. (Avoid anything higher than you ankle unless you plan on joining a motor cycle gang or taking up a career as a musician).
The elastic-sided styles I found fitted better than the zip-up and lace-ups were too cumbersome and had that use-by-end-of-season feel about them.
The Ankle boot has a slight heel, is highly polished and some of the best are made from calf leather. I suggest you avoid patent (high shine) leather, especially if you want to wear these more than once a week. The best news is that they work just as well with a suit as they do with dark jeans.
Yes, yes I know. Flashbacks to those blisters we all got at the start of the school year. But the Oxford is an enduring style that while may not have all the whiz-bang whats-its that the other shoes sitting nearby have, but they do have style. Think of them as a small car. You get great mileage, maintaining them costs little and they practically go with anything your closet can throw at them. Oxfords are dress shoes when you don't need a dress shoe. Tan or black seem to work best. But if you want to step it up a notch – the brogue style can add extra flair to any affair. Also look for the return of the Wingtip. Featuring a toe cap that comes to a point in the centre – the shape resembles wings. The drawback I discovered is that wingtips are too narrow for broad footed guys like me and often come in mutli colours which don't suit everyone and limited the clothes you can wear with them.
For winter, the emphasis is on the rounded toe – thankfully replacing the long pointed toe look from last season (which translated into a circus clown look on my feet).
Two buzz words that the fashion industry has decided to overkill this year - whether clothing or accessories. But the look works and can translate across most generations. The urban look is a toned-down pair of military style boots – ie the less cumbersome chunky heel heavy looking shoe. (Very few men can wear these without looking like they're on a day pass from the Army).
Instead try the distressed look. Goots, like your favourite jeans should look like you have owned them for years and these soft leather babies give the impression you've been wearing these long before someone decided they were cool. Avoid trying to wear these with the laces undone and your jeans tucked into the top. Very few guys can actually get away with this look (known as the City Boot) – and from personal experience I found that not having my laces done had me slipping as I was walking along, and instead of a strut I affected a sort of a stop-start stagger that had mothers turn their staring children away from me.
My search for the age appropriate look ended when I discovered the loafer. For years I had wronged these slip-on bits of heaven. But dressy or for casual, these are to guys what a smart pair of heels are for women. Traditionally made from leather, they are also known as boat shoes and cars shoes, penny loafers, and resemble a moccasin on top (hence my initial fear of them). But these are not your dad's Grosby's. There are so many styles of loafers that once you find a style that suits you'll be back for more. These are the ultimate in Eruo-chic for men and women love a guy in them. From the dressy stirrup buckle styles from Gucci, Ralph Lauren and Prada which have the added heel for even more class, to my daytime favourites – the flat soled leather loafer. For me tans and black work well. You may be tempted by the endless colours that have flooded the market, but again too much colour can limit your dressing choices.
The biggest no-no with loafers is wearing socks of course. Yes I know its winter, but sometimes we have to suffer a little for fashion.
Have you ever been caught wearing a shoe that is too young for you, and which styles could you not live without?