They say you can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, which is fair. But how can you be expected to do that when cheap shoes don’t even last the average pub session let alone the stumble home? If you limit yourself to implementing only one style resolution this year, make it to invest in shoes that’ll actually go the distance. Here are six options worthy of your hard-earned, to get you started on the right foot.
We could go on and on about the versatility of the brogue (no really, we could), but what makes this Scottish export so durable? Firstly, there’s the punched holes, which were originally designed to allow water to drain from the shoes but soon caught on as a decorative feature. Then there’s the sole: Northamptonshire brands such as Grenson have stayed true to the original anatomy with thick, rain-friendly rubber versions that add traction to the technically sound design. Grenson Archie Grain Leather Brogues, available at Grenson, priced £230.
The oldest known leather shoe was discovered by archaeologists in Armenia in 2010 and is more than 5,500 years old (1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza). While we can’t be certain whether or not it was a pair of Oxfords, there’s no denying the versatility and durability of this formal silhouette. An Oxford is defined by its closed lace system (the eyelet tabs are attached under the vamp) and low heel, while the toecap – a common but not essential feature – is stitched to the leather upper for extra reinforcement. A classic pair can be worn countless times to everything from your first job interview to your wedding day. Herring Charles II Oxfords available at Herring, priced £350.
Happy New (Good) Year
Most people are familiar with the term ‘Goodyear welt’, but less so with the specifics of it. A welt is a ribbon of leather that runs around the edge of the upper and is used to hold the component parts of the shoe together. Named after inventor Charles Goodyear Jr, who invented the unique construction method in 1871, a Goodyear welt involves running a lockstitch through the upper, insole and welt, while an entirely separate stitch is used to attach the outsole. The end result is a highly waterproof and durable pair of shoes, so Goodyear-welted footwear will look and feel better for longer. Better yet, the process also allows for easy resoling once the outsole is worn or damaged, meaning you don’t have to replace the whole shoe. Oliver Sweeney Ashby Tan Derby Brogues available at Oliver Sweeney, priced £229.
Chelsea boots were never meant for us plebs. In 1837 the royal shoemaker J Sparkes Hall was commissioned to design a shoe perfect for Queen Victoria’s jaunts around the royal gardens. While you’re likely to never set foot in Buckingham’s backyard, the same robust features – chiefly forgiving elastic sides, a heel pull and sturdy rubber sole – means they will survive even the muddiest of pursuits. Although we advocate considering both form and function, if you want a pair of boots that are truly built to last, we’d suggest choosing hardy leather over suede. Scarosso Cooper Black Chelsea Boots, available at Scarosso, priced £255.
Characterised by its open lace system (the eyelet tabs are attached on top of the vamp), the Derby became a popular hunting choice in the 1850s thanks to its thick, hardwearing sole and watertight stitching. Granted, the majority of us don’t kill much deer these days, but such features prove useful during unpredictable weather. Less formal than its Oxford cousin (but no less stylish), Derbies are a solid choice to wear to with everything from unstructured suits to jeans, particularly in suede or grained leather. Church’s Northwood Split Toe Derby, available at END Clothing, priced £415.
Though its earliest forms date back to around 1901, men have only recently re-strapped themselves back into this sleek buckled shoe. Revived by #Menswear dandies, the monk-strap is now seen as a sleek and contemporary alternative to traditional smart silhouettes like Oxfords and Derbies. However, in order to secure a pair that will get good use, think about how you plan to wear them most. Single strap designs in smooth dark leather are more minimal and timeless (therefore dressier and easier to combine with a suit), while double-monks make more of a statement, particularly in suede and/or a non-standard shade like oxblood or navy. Paul Smith Luigi Double Monk-Strap Shoe, available at Blueberries, priced £200.