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A Grounding In Shoes

Like or lump the look, when of-the-moment menswear designers dictated that dress trousers would be cuffless and hemmed to almost clam-digger levels, they were also elevating the importance of shoes. Since your feet would be on parade, so to speak, it behooved you to put a lot more thought into how they were shod.

The wingtips pictured here are among the most expressive of men’s shoes (unless you consider sneakers). Named for the wings that flow from their narrow toecaps, they are also sometimes called brogues, a term that also describes the decorative perforations in the leather. Less flamboyant versions have a rounded toecap and restrained brogueing. When made with the tips in contrasting color to the base leather, they are called spectator, or co-respondent, shoes. A bit over-the-top, they might be something to avoid, especially since the alternate term refers to a dandified professional adulterer.

While a lot of terms are thrown around to define shoes, one principal distinction concerns the closure, or lacing. The monk shoe, so popular now (see Cigar Aficionado June 2016), is easily identified by its strap closure and lack of lacing. A blucher, or derby, is a laced shoe with the closure sewn to the body of the shoe. An Oxford includes the lacing closure as part of the body (which is shown here, but may be confusing as wingtips are often called Oxfords regardless of the type of closure). The monk strap is the most casual and is usually preferred for daytime wear. The Oxford is considered more formal than the blucher, but it’s a detail that most fashion police will fail to cite in subdued light.

Probably more important in terms of propriety has been color. The rule used to be that men wore brown shoes in daylight and black shoes at night. While black has long been appropriate in the a.m., brown will probably always be verboten with black-tie. However, several not-so-grounded hues have broken into the stylish color spectrum, confusing the issue. Yellows, oranges and reds are probably worn best in the day. As the name would suggest, midnight blue is especially dapper at night. Those who wear lavender shoes have probably ditched the rulebook altogether, and now all they have to worry about is coordinating socks and laces.

Style

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