The story of a pair of shoes

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I’ve owned these monk-strap shoes for over 10 years. I photographed them this morning for the purposes of this post. These are one of the pairs of shoes I use around the house for all kinds of work: home office, going to the cellar to fetch firewood, going into the dusty attic to put or get various things, renovation work, etc.

I used them last night as we mounted this restored door frame back in place, as I used a miter saw in the cellar, carried the various parts up to the house, used a nail gun to secure them in place and assemble the frame.

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You can see these same shoes in this video.

I also used them when I built our garden shed in Florida.

In spite of all the wear and tear I’ve put them through over the years, a little elbow grease always gets them looking great, and that’s a testament to the craftmanship of the shoemaker. The brand (Mario Calugi) isn’t as important here as the lesson to be learned from the experience.

Lots of people make a big stink about how wearing leather contributes to animal cruelty but the truth of the matter is, using every little bit of an animal that’s going to get sacrificed for its meat anyway, is the right thing to do.

Furthermore, taking proper care of your belongings, especially the ones made from other beings (because animals are beings, not things) is crucial and it is part of showing respect for the sacrifice of that animal, for the protection its skin profers you and for the hard work that went into making the finished good you now have in your possession.

Good leather lasts a lifetime if you take care of it. Great shoes also last a lifetime if you take care of them. Yes, it means changing the soles when they wear out, it means treating the leather and polishing it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s part of being a good, responsible human being to take care of your stuff. Please do it.

Should you use shoe trees?

Question: I’m learning how to properly take care of shoes, and while browsing the web late this evening, I thought about shoe horns/trees. Now in the past I’ve found them, really just a sales gimmick, hardly worth my money. What do you think?

Shoe trees are worth getting, especially if you have quality leather shoes that you’d like to use for years and years. The general idea is to use them after you’ve worn the shoes and the leather has creased at the toe joints.

The important thing is for them to be made exactly for the size of your shoe. Look for ones made of cedar, they’ll absorb odors and sweat salts and make your shoes smell and feel better. You can leave these in whenever you’re not wearing your shoes. Woodlore makes some good ones and Allen Edmonds also makes them.

Woodlore Shoe Tree

Allen Edmonds Shoe Tree

If you’ve worn your shoes for a full day (12-16 hours) and you can see that the leather is damp, or if it’s been raining out, what you should do first is to air them out by hanging them onto an open shoe tree like the one pictured below for ½ a day or a full day, and only then should you insert a shoe tree in them.

Open Shoe Tree

This is because the leather needs to dry out, it shouldn’t be damp or wet. A shoe tree will fill the inside of the shoe and may promote mold, depending on the material out of which it is made. Once the leather has aired out properly, the tree will be able to do its job, which is to restore the shoe’s shape and allow the leather to remain that way as it dries out thoroughly.

Don’t get ones made for all sizes, particularly the inexpensive ones made with springs (like the pair pictured below). If you must get those, you can use them but you shouldn’t leave them in more than 2-3 days, because they’ll stretch the leather too much and the shoe will start to lose its shape. When I use these, I leave them in for a day or two at most, then I pull them out and allow the shoes to stay by themselves in the closet.

Travel Shoe Tree

In case you’re a new visitor to my website, I’ve also put together a detailed video where I show you how to take care of several types of shoes. It’s called “All Season Shoe Care” and I invite you to view it.

I hope this has helped you!

Classic Solo Handmade Shoes

Late last year, I ordered a pair of handmade shoes from Stefan Burdea, a shoemaker from Bucharest, Romania. I’d like to show them to you now. They’re the Classic Solo model, a beautiful and understated pair of shoes made from a single piece of leather.

Some of you may already know that it’s fairly difficult to make these shoes, as it requires much greater skill from the shoemaker to get it right from a single piece of leather than it is to make them from multiple pieces, which can be fitted much more easily around the boot tree.

I’d like to show these shoes to you now via a video I made (part of my Elegant Gentleman series). I’m happy with them, especially since they meet a very important criteria for me: they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time. That’s the most important criteria for me when choosing shoes. They have to fit me very well. All other aspects: design, finish, materials, are secondary. Sure, I first pick up a pair of shoes based on how they look, but if they don’t fit me well, I’ll put them right back down on the shelf and move on.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had a pair of handmade shoes made for you, but you should if you get the chance. They’re much more comfortable than machine-made shoes. And because they’re handmade, there’s usually more attention to detail and a higher level of workmanship, as you’ll see from the photos. It’s rewarding to wear shoes that you know were made just for you. Try it sometime!

A video guide to choosing the proper watch band

This weekend, I put together a video guide that will help you decide the proper watch band for you. You may not have given a lot of thought to this topic in the past, or perhaps you’ve just lived with the band or strap that your watch came with, but I think after you watch my guide, you’ll start to think differently about watch bands — about the materials they’re made of and about the quality that you’ll want.

By average YouTube video length standards, my guide is like a novel, weighing in at around 20 minutes. I wanted it to be thorough. If you haven’t got 20 minutes to spare, here’s the abridged text version.

Watch bands are made of four different materials:

  • Leather
  • Metal
  • Rubber or silicone
  • Cloth

Leather watch bands are simple, elegant, readily compatible with all skin types, but they may wear out quickly, may tear and may smell (with time). If you get a leather watch band, make sure it’s molded round, it’s stitched with strong thread (contrasting thread adds an extra element of style) and that it’s thicker at its base (where it attaches to the watch) and thinner at its ends. This makes it strong and at the same time easy to attach to and detach from the buckle.

Metal watch bands are sturdy, practical, modern and they last a long time, but they may not fit properly on your wrist, may change color (oxidize), may open readily if clasp mechanism is worn or fails, and may not be compatible with all skin types (may cause rashes). If you get a metal watch band, know that mesh bands offer a better fit than link bands and link bands will need to be adjusted to your wrist at a watch shop.

Cloth watch bands are cheap, sturdy and colorful, but they may fray, discolor, smell and may not be easy to attach and detach. Go for cloth watch bands with metal (not cloth) loops and try not to wear them too much, or they’ll discolor and get grimy, and they’ll stay grimy even if you wash them.

Rubber watch bands are cheap, sturdy, great for aquatic sports and easy to wash. Newer silicone bands are colorful. But rubber and silicone bands may discolor or form a film on the surface when exposed to chlorine and salty water, may accumulate dust and grime inbetween their ridges, and let’s face it, they’re not elegant. If you get a rubber watch band, go for simple bands with fewer or no ridges and watch out for silicone watch bands, which will literally attract dust and grime. Only wear them when working out and wash them afterward as you shower, to make sure they stay clean.

Finally, there are two mechanisms for keeping the bands closed: the buckle and the clasp. The buckle is a time-proven design, works forever but is slow to open/close. The buckle will also indent the leather band where it closes and its pin may tear through the punch hole over time, requiring the purchase of a new band. The clasp is a modern, practical design which opens and closes quickly. The clasp pins and pin holders may wear out over time, causing the clasp to open suddenly and the watch to fall from the wrist. Whichever design you choose, go for something simple that is less likely to break.

I hope this has helped you!