Check out the video of the talented artisans of Louis Vuitton showing an abbreviated example of how they create their beautiful handcrafted footwear.

My mentor in the custom clothing industry told me about 10 years ago, “Michael, when you start wearing quality footwear, it should be one of the most expensive items in any clothing ensemble that you put together.  You have to invest in ‘quality’ footwear!”

Gentlemen, it is important as you build your wardrobe, to invest in quality footwear.  I tell all of my Alan Michaels Design clients the following guidelines:

Average Suit (+) Great Suit = Elevated suit.
Average Suit (+) Average Shoes = Average Ensemble.
Average Suit (+) Bad Shoes = Epic Fail.
Great Suit (+) Bad Shoes = Epic Fail.
Great Suit (+) Great Shoes = WINNING!

Again it is critically important to be conscious, and invest in stylish, quality, well-made shoes, as they are an apparel item that are noticed by all, as much as, if not more so than one’s suit!  In buying your footwear, you want to make sure that every dress shoe purchased is made with the “Goodyear Welted” method.  Goodyear welted refers to the stitching of the sole of a shoe to the body/upper of the shoe, as opposed to the soles being glued or heat fused to the upper of the shoe, which can lead to the splitting or separation of these two components over time and wear.  These two key footwear components are literally sewn together.  This is a key element in buying quality footwear, and should provide you a good fit in a pair of shoes that should last longer, and be easier to maintain.

There are a few key things to remember in making a quality shoe purchase:

(1)  First you need to decide on the type of ‘Last’ that fits your style.  The ‘last’ refers to the wooden ‘form/mold’ that the leather upper of the shoe is draped/pulled over to form the shape of the actual shoe, including the shape of the toe.  I personally prefer a last that has a more narrow, but not too pointed toe, and even a slightly-squared toe, but not an exaggerated square toe.  Both the extremely pointed and the extremely square-toe shoes, represent more ‘fashion’ trends that can be out of style within a season or two, or even less!  At all cost gentlemen, please avoid shoe styles that ‘curl’ at the toe.  That is just not the direction you want to go, to step-up your shoe game.

I prefer my footwear and clothing to be based more on style than fashion, making it timeless and classic.  I also prefer a last that has a bit more of a tapper at the ‘waist’ of the shoe, which is that curvature on the inside of one’s shoes, that hits right at the arch of the foot.  For me, that harder taper gives a sleeker, dressier look that provides a more fashion-driven appearance than other more traditional business shoes (i.e. Allen Edmonds, Johnston Murphy, etc.) (As a side-note, for those gents needing a great ‘classic’ business shoe, Allen Edmonds is a great choice.  These shoes work well in the workplace, are not too fashion-forward, come in at around $350, boast a great, thick ,Goodyear welted sole, and can be sent back to the company to be ‘refurbished’ for the life of the shoe)!

(2)  Ensure that the ‘uppers’ and the soles of the shoe are leather and not some handmade material.  Leather shoes are simply better.  They will crease and age better, provide greater comfort, breath better than a man-made material, and simply ook like a higher quality item.  There are a lot of dress-slippers on the market now that are made of cloth, but even with these styles, you still want to ensure that they have leather soles.  There is a plethora of leather materials to choose from for uppers, the most popular being something made of ‘calf-skins’.  Some other options would include suede and exotic skins.

Along with the choice of leathers are color choices.  I encourage any gent working to grow his wardrobe with quality, to venture outside of the realm of always selecting standard black and brown footwear.  Dress footwear, and particularly custom footwear can be made in a large array of colors and finishes.  I was recently asked by a client if he could wear brown shoes with black and/or navy, and my answer was a resounding – YES!  I have been very pleased with wearing a cognac-toned shade of brown with both black and navy suiting.  It just needs to be the right quality shoe, and the right shade.  Cobblers are making footwear in a variety of colors and finishes, but make sure that you remain in style when making these selections, to avoid looking as if you are wearing a costume.  I am personally loving the ‘burnished’ finishes that many cobblers and footwear makers are using now to detail their shoes.  Burnishing is the process of darkening areas of a shoe (i.e. toes, heals, brogue, etc.) to add another detail to them.  I personally love a brouge on a dress shoe.  The brogue is the dotted holes that you see on many wingtip, cap-toe, and spectator styles.  Finally, I am a completely sucker for a great spectator, which are two-toned shoes.

(3)  Gentlemen, you MUST invest in the care of your shoes!  Like anything else, over time and wear, your shoes will begin to look worn.  If you are not knowing of how to care for them yourselves, identify a shoe repair shop in your community, and take your shoes to them for maintenance and care as needed.  Periodically, have a professional treat the leather of your worn shoe’s, have the shoes polished, and the outside of the soles re-dyed.  Invest in ‘taps’ for your newly bought shoes.  Taps are the small pieces of rubber that are nailed into the soles of your shoes at the toe and the heel, to help prevent wear at those two key points.  And trust me, it is much cheaper to replace worn taps on your shoes, than it is to replace full-soles, half-soles, and/or heels.  Providing maintenance to your shoes will increase the life of the shoe and help to maintain a beautiful appearance.

Also make the investment in cedar shoe-trees.  Shoe trees are the spring-loaded wooden forms that are put into the shoes when not being worn.  Cedar shoe-trees serve a three-fold purpose: (1) They help to absorb foot-moisture from the shoe leather after shoes are worn, (2) they help to reduce and eliminate foot odor from the shoes, and (3) they help to maintain the shape of the shoe.  Another good investment are ‘dust-bags’, which are bags that shoes are placed in when not being worn, which do just what the name implies, they keep the shoes protected from dust that can accumulate on them when not being worn.

(4) Please invest in protective covers for your shoes.  Whether you buy fashionable/colorful shoe-covers (i.e. Brooks Brothers), or the standard black low-top or boot versions that can be purchased from any shoe repair shop, this is an imperative purchase in protecting your shoes.  Having worked in NY City for nearly 20 years, which meant I walked virtually everywhere, I had multiple pairs of show-covers for home and my office, so that I was never caught off-guard, having to wear expensive shoes into inclement weather.

Finally, the purchase of quality shoes is truly an investment.  You can find good quality ‘Goodyear welted’, thick-soled shoes, in the $300 to $400 range (Allen Edmonds, Johnston Murphy a bit cheaper).  Mezlan is a great place to look for more fashion forward styles from $350 to approximately $650 for the exotic skins.  More fashion styles from the likes of Ferragamo, Gucci, Fratelli Rossetti, Bally and others can be found in the $650 to $850 range.  Traditional British and Italian makers like John Lobb, Crocket & Jones, Church’s, Edward Green and Todd’s, in the $800 to $1,200 range.  Sleeker more fashionable beauties from Gaziano & Girling and St. Crispins in the $800 to $1,500 range (Also offering bespoke services which are priced higher).  And ready-to-wear offerings, along with bespoke offerings from the likes of Mark Austin Bespoke in the $1,500 to $1,900 range, for some of the most beautiful shoes on the planet.  The benefit to custom footwear is similar to that of custom clothing, these shoes are made based on a tracing of your foot imprint (old-world technique of measuring one’s foot), and approximately 10 specific measurements of your foot.  There are several companies popping up on-line that boast ‘Goodyear welted’, custom footwear, at affordable prices ($400 to $600 range), that may be worth a try, but know that you truly usually do get what you pay for.

Here’s wishing you good shoping, with a hope that these tips will help you not only find, but also maintain your quality footwear.

Instagram:  @alanmichaelsdesign

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