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.

The right attitude toward possessions

In this video from The Elegant Gentleman series, I talk about one’s possessions and the attitude we should have toward them. In a nutshell: it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. And it doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or on a limited income. You should always opt for quality or you’ll pay more and feel cheap in the long run. Enjoy the video!

How to pair shoes with pants

While it’s good to have variety in your outfits and to sometimes break the rules when it comes to choosing what you wear, it’s also important to know how things go together. As Picasso used to say, you need to know the rules before you can break them.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer you this video I put together recently, where I give advice on matching your shoes with your pants. In it, I’ll show you how to pair certain shoes with certain pants, what goes together with what and what you should avoid doing.

Enjoy! And here’s that same post on my Facebook page, which I encourage you to like in order to see much, much more content published several times a day.

Shoes and Foot Health

In this video, I wanted to share my thoughts on the importance of two things:

  1. The proper fit of a shoe, and here I mean its length, width and arch support, and
  2. The habit of walking barefoot one day a week.

When it comes to the fit of a shoe, it’s even more important to watch its width, not just its length. A shoe of the right width for your foot provides proper ankle support as you twist your feet. You may not find it an important criteria for your shoes until you twist your ankles or worse, break them, which happens quite a lot with ill-fitting mountain boots and ski boots.

Adequate arch support is obtained by trying on lots of pairs of shoes and knowing what to look for, or with the aid of inserts, which I do not like, or best of all, by getting measured with a proper mold for bespoke shoes. This involves stepping into a box filled with a special pressure-sensitive foam that conforms to the exact shape of your foot and stays that way, allowing the shoemaker to make a shoe just for you.

I believe it’s important to walk barefoot one day a week, for the following reasons:

  • It provides you with a pleasurable sensory experience to step over varying textured surfaces, relaxing your mind and your body. Try walking barefoot on cobblestone, pebbles from the riverbed, sand, grass, marble or hardwood flooring and you’ll see what I mean.
  • It allows your feet to breathe and stretch out. As much fun as it is to wear great shoes, our feet need to “breathe”, to be free of the confines of a shoe, every once in a while. Your nails will look better after having seen the sun and your bones will re-align, helping you regain your proper gait.
  • Walking over textured surfaces will stimulate pressure points on the soles of your feet, points described by the practice of reflexology. Stimulating these points will allow your body to function better, more freely, with less stress.
  • Having your feet in contact with the ground will initiate a process called earthing, which will release negative electrical tensions in your body, letting you breathe easier and sleep better. It’s the same concept as the grounding wire in your electrical outlet.

Enjoy the video!

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 comprehensive guide to all-season shoe care

During the past few weeks, I worked on an extended video (about 50 minutes long) on shoe care, where I explained how I take care of my shoes. In order to offer as much advice as possible, I selected three pairs of shoes: a summer pair, a pair of winter boots and a pair of old shoes that had been abused in the garden and the yard. The point was (and is) to show the viewers how to take care of all sorts of shoes, whether they be warm weather, cold weather or just plain old shoes. As an added bonus, you’ll also learn how to get a spit shine (also known as a mirror shine or a bull shine). Here is the video, enjoy!

This video is part of my “Elegant Gentleman” series, to which you’re encouraged to subscribe, here or on YouTube and on Facebook.

Have great shoes? Use a cobbler.

If you like and buy quality leather shoes (over $100 or more), and if after you’ve worn them for some time, they need repairs (sole or heel repairs or restitching) don’t throw them away. Find and use the services of a good cobbler (a shoe repairman) to breathe new life into them.

A cobbler repairs shoes. A great cobbler can make old shoes look new again and can even repair a shoe’s sole so well that you’d never know it was replaced. Good cobblers are few and far between, but they’re the only ones that can help you, so it’s worth it to find them.

In this video, I talk about how I repaired three pairs of shoes.

There’s also a great video from Put This On, a web series about dressing well, where shoes and shoe repairs are discussed (found it thanks to Sheldon Schwartz). It’s a great video that teaches you how quality leather shoes are made and how they can be repaired. It will also show you how to shop for good shoes.

Enjoy!

My favorite pair of casual shoes

I’ve been wearing a new pair of Keen shoes for the past few weeks, and I love them. If they haven’t got the showroom look in my photos, it’s because they haven’t been sitting in the closet.

I spotted them at L.L.Bean and couldn’t resist the design. They looked so comfortable and cool, up there on the shelf, that I had to try them on and get them. Indeed they are comfortable, even for extended walks, and they’re a lot of fun to wear.

One thing I should mention, if you care about that sort of thing: this particular design will make your feet seem smaller. I took a photo of one of my formal shoes next to one of my Keen shoes, just to show you the difference. Believe it or not, the formal shoes are slightly tight on my toes (length-wise, not width-wise). The Keen shoe looks smaller, yet my feet have no problems fitting in there.

While women may love having their feet look smaller, I understand that some men may not go for that sort of thing… Apparently foot size is associated with a certain other size in our vernacular. Personally, I’ve gotten over that, because I like these shoes a lot. Just thought I’d put that out there in case any of the women reading this are thinking about getting them for their significant others.