In addition to shoe care, the most common questions I get is about purchases for those who have just started to take an interest in classic quality shoes. Here is a concrete guide on how to think when to build a shoe wardrobe.
Generally I am not so interested in, or especially good at, giving style advice of various kinds, hence it rarely appears things like that here on Shoegazing. This is a bit different though, this is a lot about function and practicalities, and an area that I’ve, during my nine-ten years as a shoe enthusiast and at times also as working in the industry, had reason to think a lot about. I have also planned to be better at writing posts that are more aimed at those who have recently gained an interest in the subject, I’m aware that it can often become very nerdy, even though I try to vary subjects and be reasonably easily accessible even in those situations I go in-depth.
Below is a list of six shoe models that come in the recommended purchase order. These six pairs are an excellent base wardrobe with classic men’s shoes for most occasions (that you have other shoes such as sneakers, rubber boots, running shoes, sandals and so on alongside are given). Of course, it is just a guide, depending on your own taste, where you live, how you dress otherwise and so on, you can of course move about in the order or think completely or partly differently in some cases. But see it as a good starting point to work from. And I promise that with the following shoe models you have a really good base with quality shoes, where you always have two pairs that you can alternate between each season, and a wardrobe that you can build on from there. For each model, I also list some good suggestions of Goodyear welted shoes at a lower price level, and in all cases it’s models offered by many different manufacturers.
1. Dark brown plain cap toe oxford
One of the most versatile shoes, perhaps the most versatile, you can own. Works for everything from a dark suit (the garment, not the dress code) or flannel trousers and jacket, to chinos and linen shirts or jeans and polo shirt. Preferred is a relatively traditional last shape with a nicer round toe or slightly square toe, it makes them the most timeless and something that will work even in 5-10 years. Single leather soles is the most classic and it does work even if there’s some rain, as long as the sole has to dry properly before being used again. There are, however, several variants with thin so-called city-rubber soles, which in principle look exactly like leather soles, or you can also choose to put on a rubber topy. Here it’s better you choose a shade of the leather that is the quite dark.
2. Brown quarter brogue with rubber sole
This is a slightly less formal shoe, and here I think that one should definitely choose a rubber sole, ideally the mentioned city rubber sole or a single Dainite sole or similar. Then you have something that you can easily choose when it is worse weather outside. Quarter brogue means that the shoe has a brogue pattern either along the toe cap (usually called punched cap toe) or along all parts of the shoes, but no medallion. Here you can go with both derby (with open lacing) or oxford (closed lacing), depending on what you like best. Oxford can also be adelaides, which is when the pattern runs in a sort of bow around the shoe’s lacing. The formality is a bit higher on the oxford variant, but the slightly thinner sole means that both models can be used in similar contexts. Middle brown, which is better to go slightly more towards dark brown than light brown, has the advantage that it fits almost all shades on pants.
3. Black plain cap toe oxford
As as a standard this model is recommended as the first purchase of classic quality shoes, since the black plain cap toe oxford is usually said to be the shoe that must be present in all men’s wardrobes. It is true that in formal contexts and the dress code dark suit, such “should” be used, but in today’s society no one is being thrown out from the party because they come in some other black shoe, and it is the case that for a majority, the two models above will be used much more than this pair. Here as well a more classic, slightly neater last shape is recommended, something that will work also in a decade. If you buy a shoe of good quality and it may not be used so frequently, it will last a long time. Single leather sole or thin rubber sole. An alternative can be a black wholecut, which has the same level of formality and can be used in exactly the same way.
4. Chelsea boot in brown suede with rubber sole
Chelsea boots have for many years now been a favorite for many, men as well as women, and many people have a pair, even though they may not have bought a pair of finer Goodyear welted ones. Choose one in brown suede with a single or double rubber sole (double has a midsole in leather and becomes a bit heavier) ang you have an excellent boot for autumn, winter and spring. As I have often written, suede works fine also in snow and slush, as long as it’s good impregnated they can often handle salt and wet conditions better than ordinary smooth calf leather, even if you might need to wash them a bit more often. However, you have less risk of water spots and salt stains and those things. Here you can choose according to taste what kind of last shape you prefer and if you want a darker or lighter brown shade, nothing that significantly affects the area of use, and if you don’t like suede you can choose smooth leather, and if you dislike chelseas, chukka boots are relatively equal alternative.
5. Brown full brogue derby in grain leather with rubber sole
Here we have a more casual shoe, which may well have a double sole and storm welt (when the welt has an edge up towards the upper for extra protection against water), which works fine for worse weather and more relaxed contexts. If you dress a bit more formal at work, it is an excellent weekend shoe. The embossed grain leather makes it a bit more durable and easier to take care of. You can have either a regular wingtip brogue, or a longwing where the wing runs all the way along the shoe back to the heel. A country brogue, one would call this. Also here as in the case above, one can vary the shade a little, according to what color you have the most pants in, for example, darker pants darker brown, and vice versa, and of course grain leather is not a requirement, also regular leather works.
6. Penny loafer in medium brown suede
Here we have a nice summer shoe that should be with a single leather sole, a shoe that becomes soft and comfortable and breathes nicely. Can be unlined, but then it gets worn faster and maybe not as good for spring and autumn. You can choose Blake stitched if you want an even lighter shoe, but here too a welted shoe is preferred for durability. Here you can basically choose freely between different shapes of lasts, although a neater variant with an almond shaped toe or a slightly rounder more bulky version is most common and what people mainly associate with the model. All works equally well for the same things. Medium brown suede, often called polo suede, is perhaps the best choice, a warm nice color that does well in the summer.