Style Sin Or Summer Must-Own?

Straddling the divide between style staple and style sin, the sandal, in its many forms, is one of the most polarising pieces in menswear.

The stigma attached to sandals is undeniable and perhaps even warranted after decades of misuse, but with summer dressing a balancing act between practicality and style, they’re arguably the perfect warm-weather shoe: breathable, comfortable and smart.

Not only that, based on the SS14 runways, it seems the industry is determined to make sandals the go-to footwear silhouette for summer 2014. Yet unlike previous years, it’s not just avant-garde gladiator styles that are being pushed this season – the sandal has taken on a more wearable form that should help increase its appeal to the everyday male.

With this in mind, today we bring you the complete guide to this soon to be summer staple, breaking down the key silhouettes to consider and how to wear them in a contemporary and stylish way.

Sandal Buying Tips

First things first, it’s time to get those cuticles in order – socks and sandals is still a definite faux pas (no matter how hard designers attempt to convince you otherwise), therefore toes and feet must be kept in tip-top shape (consider a pedicure). No one wants to see hairy feet and/or unkempt toenails.

When it comes to purchasing a pair of sandals for your wardrobe, bear in mind the following:

  • Leather Over Plastic: Leather sandals are not only smart, stylish and timeless, they’re also vastly more comfortable than those made of synthetic materials, especially once they begin to soften and mould to your feet.
  • You Get What You Pay For: Consider sandals a warm-weather investment and staple you will get good use out of for many years to come. A well-crafted pair in high quality leather will hold up much better than cheap imitations and should offer more support for your soles.
  • Skip The Flip-Flop: this rubber footwear choice of Hollister models and worshippers everywhere is horrific for the health of your feet – and that’s without even considering the dreadful noise they make and their limited style credentials. If you must persist with this silhouette, try a thong sandal, which looks infinitely more sophisticated and refined.
The Gladiator

A silhouette traditionally associated with womenswear, the gladiator sandal – despite its name – is often dismissed as being too feminine to be a serious menswear option.

Designers have long pushed the gladiator sandal on the runways due to their high fashion appeal and undeniably striking aesthetic. However, this backing has yet to translate into a genuinely wearable trend for men.

That being said, with each spring/summer season that passes more high street retailers pick up on the style, with the likes of H&M, Zara and AllSaints pushing the gladiator in their SS14 lookbooks and campaigns.

So this year, forget all about the calf-high variants that previously defined the style and opt for a more wearable low-cut silhouette. Whether you pair yours with linen trousers, tailoring separates or a classic shorts and polo combination, the gladiator makes a rugged and versatile alternative to ubiquitous espadrilles and boat shoes.

Lookbook Inspiration

LBM 1911 SS13 bershka april 2013 SISLEY SS14 ZARA MAN 2012 allsaints ss13 minimum spring 2013 minimum spring 2014 allsaints ss13 bershka march 2014 he by mango ss11 he by mango ss11

Example Outfits

A minimalist gladiator alongside a statement suit is a trend-led combination that oozes effortless cool. Keep the suit fabric lightweight to ensure breathability and the sandals in a timeless shade of leather.

Dress up this fashion-forward combination with a neutral/pastel shirt for a summer wedding reception or down with a printed tee to make a statement at any smart-casual function:

  • Reiss Kingsley Open Collar T-shirt White
  • Asos Slim Fit Suit In Dark Green
  • Pull&bear Sandals

For those who favour a bit more structure to their footwear, a closed-off gladiator offers the best of both worlds: keeping your feet fresh and breezy while still offering some much-needed support and protection.

Wear with on trend printed trousers and a neutral vest to create a strong bohemian-inspired look that’s ideal for high summer or holidaying:

  • Topman Ecru Marl Classic Vest
  • He By Mango Slim-fit Printed Garment-dyed Chinos
  • River Island Dark Brown Gladiator Sandals
Key Styles
  • Allsaints Settet Sandal
  • Allsaints Shaw Sandal
  • Topman Tan Leather Sports Sandals
  • Asos Sandals In Leather
  • Pull&bear Sandals
  • Ancient Greek Sandals Aristotelis Leather Sandals 183452
  • Asos Sandals In Leather
  • Hurb Kurt Geiger London Navy
  • Alexander Mcqueen Vibram Rubber-soled Leather Sandals
The Cross Over Strap

An elegant alternative to flip-flops or pool sliders, if you’re in the market for a relaxed yet on point high summer shoe, look no further. Similarly, if you’re a recovering rubber footwear addict then consider these your new vice.

The leather cross strap is the style-conscious man’s holiday go-to, but there’s no reason you can’t wear them on home soil either. Prioritise those that have a good thick sole to maximise comfort and avoid doing your feet any damage.

This type of sandal offers obvious advantages – namely refinement and durability – over the flip-flop, yet it still manages to maintain a sense of minimalism and subtlety, making them an excellent choice for tackling warmer climes.

Don’t over think this style, it will slot straight into any of your current high summer outfits with ease. From now on, sidestep plastic and rubber – leather or woven is the only way to go.

Lookbook Inspiration

paul & joe ss14 paul & joe ss14 paul & joe ss14 next ss13 duchamp ss12 tim. ss14

Example Outfits

Whether you’re strolling across sandy beaches on the continent or traipsing the local high street, this sandal has you covered.

Pair with some lightweight chinos, rolled once or twice at the hem, and a chambray shirt – a seasonal denim substitute for when temperatures rise. If the heat becomes too much, simply swap the chinos for a pair of tailored shorts:

  • Allsaints Sodermalm Shirt
  • Ben Sherman Ec1 Chinos
  • Alvaro Leather Sandals

Adopt a slightly edgier approach by reaching for a black pair of sandals. Combine with dark denim shorts and a luxe floral print tee for an all-black ensemble that makes an edgy, on trend statement.

Consider accessorising with a bracelet or, if you’re feeling particularly daring, neckerchief to finish the look off with panache:

  • Acne Studios Neo Printed Cotton T-shirt
  • Allsaints Print Switch Denim Shorts
  • Dan Ward Woven Crossover And Suede Sandals
Key Styles
  • Dune Cross-over Sandals
  • Poste Marcus Cross Over Sandal Brown Leather
  • Oliver Sweeney Eternes Leather Crossover Sandals
  • Dan Ward Leather Sandals
  • Asos Sandals In Leather
  • Dan Ward Woven Crossover And Suede Sandals
  • Office Caesar X Over Brown Leather
  • Keldy Kurt Geiger London Brown
  • Ancient Greek Sandals Kritonas Double-strap Sandals 183464
The Two-Strap

The two-strap sandal is a shape generally associated with Birkenstock’s defining Arizona line – something that instantly conjures images of unfashionable parents, hippies and early 2000s Abercrombie advocates. But 2014 is the year that all changes.

Fashion powerhouses like Salvatore Ferragamo and Givenchy have taken the double-strap and given it a new lease of life, updating the silhouette and aesthetic for the contemporary gent:

Men’s Sandals On The Salvatore Ferragamo (Top) and Givenchy (Bottom) SS14 Runways

It’s important to pick the right design if you want to pull this look off without appearing like an early nineties/noughties (you decide which is worse) throwback. Firstly, avoid Velcro fastenings – this advice can be applied to every aspect of your wardrobe, from your shoes to your wallet.

Secondly, leather or rubber soles are preferable and look much more contemporary than cork versions – leave those to your dad.

Tip: This sandal is the high fashion silhouette de jour this season, which means the majority of designs come at a premium. However, the likes of Topman, Aldo and Zara have produced styles with a third securing Achilles strap (see lookbook below), which are not only practical but give the appearance of a two-strap at a much lower price point.

Lookbook Inspiration

h&m ss14 minimum summer 2013 calibre ss14 he by mango ss12 avva ss13 he by mango spring 2012 j crew style guide 2014 farah ss14 calibre ss13 h&m ss14 zara man may 2014

Outfit Examples

Here we take a fail-safe high summer combination, navy tailored shorts and a white crew neck tee, and combine it with a complementary tan pair of affordable two-straps from ALDO.

Finish with a lightweight cotton bomber jacket for those days where the weather looks changeable:

  • Reiss Bless Basic Crew Neck T-shirt
  • River Island Navy Holloway Road Chino Shorts
  • Hentsch Man Woven-cotton Bomber Jacket
  • Newbold Sandal

Bring a contemporary twist to traditional smart-casual styling by dressing up your two-straps.

Opt for slim-cut burgundy chinos in a seasonally-appropriate cotton-blend and anchor the look with another key piece for SS14: the band collar shirt.

Finish with classic black leather sandals for a sharp, modern and comfortable high summer ensemble:

  • Topman White Stand Collar Long Sleeve Smart Shirt
  • Reiss Desert Soft Straight-leg Chinos Rose
  • Lanvin Leather And Suede Sandals
Key Styles
  • Zara Leather Sandal With Straps
  • Topman Brown Leather Smart Sandals
  • Office Marbella Buckle Sandal Black Mono Leather
  • Newbold Sandal
  • Ancient Greek X Carven Cleon Leather Sandals 183386
  • Jarid Kurt Geiger London Blue
  • Lanvin Leather And Suede Sandals
  • Dolce & Gabbana Burnished-leather Sandals
  • Givenchy Swiss Sandals In Black Leather
Final Word

Practical, comfortable and now in vogue, it’s hard to argue against the sandal this season.

A more refined and stylish alternative to flip-flops, invest in a timeless leather pair and you’re sure to get good use from them for many more summers to come.

But now we want to hear your opinion:

  • Is your stance on the sandal beginning to soften or are they still an unequivocal faux pas?
  • Will you be investing in a pair of sandals this season?
  • Which style has caught your eye?
  • How do you like to integrate sandals into your own high summer outfits?

Let us know in the comments section below…