It may only cover five per cent of your body, but good footwear is the foundation of any successful wardrobe. Decent shoes anchor your look, complement it and can lift the simplest of outfits out of Dullsville by adding a flash of colour or contrast.
Over the past few years, more Australian designers have begun catering to a growing number of guys who are keen to branch out from their safe haven of sneakers in favour for something a little more statement making.
Ranging from traditional Oxfords and Penny loafers, to biodegradable sneakers that leave behind no carbon footprint, here are seven Australian shoe designers you need to know about that are guaranteed to keep your dogs looking their dapper best.
EVE & KANE
Eve & Kane was launched in 2013 by Bondi Beach local Gabi Levi who, in his quest to find quality footwear that wasn’t boring, found it was easier to create his own.
Combining contemporary design with classic style, Eve & Kane has taken the traditional loafer and driver and given it a much-needed update using animal prints (if you’re confident) and a bright, eye-catching colour palette. They’re a great way to add some detail to your work gear, or just take your weekend outfit up a notch.
Eve & Kane’s handmade Brooklyn hi-tops in matte python embossed leather are a great option for guys who prefer their shoes to come with a bit of a bite.
None Of The Above (NOTA) is the nom de plume of three Sydney-based lads determined to give the style-conscious man a range of footwear that comes with all the features of bespoke without the astronomical price tag.
Every pair of NOTA shoes is handmade by small team of master craftsmen using the Blake Rapid method, a construction style known for its durability that uses a blake stitch on the mid-sole and a welt stitch on the outsole. For that additional touch of luxury, NOTA also has a personal monogram service where you can have up to three initials embossed on the inner sole of one of its premium dress shoes.
Launched in 2009 by James Noakes, Mere offers a range of handmade footwear for guys who prefer a more laid-back (yet no less edgy) aesthetic. its simple, almost minimal, aesthetic makes Mere’s range of boots, low-cuts and sandals versatile enough for any outfit.
Using top-grain nubuck leather, Mere’s strength lies in its subtle details and finishing techniques, such as waxed and denim pressed leathers. Focusing on a light, earthy colour palette, Mere shoes are perfect for gents who like their clobber a little different but who don’t need bells and whistles.
The shoe for the ethically minded, FEIT is by brothers Josh and Tull Price (formerly of Royal Elastics). They wanted to create a shoe that was as environmentally friendly as it was stylish. What started as a modern take on the simple court shoe soon expanded into hi-tops, boots and sneakers.
Each pair of FEIT shoes is made from entirely organic materials, from the leather to the vegetable dyes used in the tanning process, creating a completely biodegradable range of footwear that leaves behind no waste and you with a clear conscience.
Based in Melbourne, Christian Kimber has built a reputation for creating distinct yet timeless footwear for men. The former Londoner worked on the prestigious Savile Row while learning footwear construction at London College of Fashion before moving to Australia and completing his training at RMIT.
Known for his trademark suede loafer, the beauty of Kimber’s footwear is its ability to be relevant across menswear genres – whether it be the weekend or the working week or a night out on the hops.
Kimber’s latest release, the Passport Collection, ventures into the luxury sneaker market with a range of slick low and hi-tops.
The story of Wootten shoes really begins in South Australia in the ’70s, when Ross Wootten learned the art of shoe design at the feet of the Belgian master shoemaker, George Koleff.
Now run by Ross’s son, Jess, Wootten has grown to become synonymous with perfectly crafted and bespoke footwear that marries traditional techniques with modern style.
With ready-to-wear options and a bespoke service available, you can choose anything from old-school Oxfords to the perfect summer sandals in a range of leathers including calf, kid and kangaroo, to crocodile, snake and barramundi.
ROBERTS & HASSETT
Melbourne-based bespoke shoe-makers James Roberts & Theo Hassett are the destination of choice for the true aficionado who prefers their shoes made to order as opposed to off the shelf. Whether you’re after the perfect boot or just a simple weekend loafer, James and Theo can help you bring your vision to life.
An intricate measuring process that includes everything from instep to leg-length ensures a perfect and individual final product that feels as good as it looks. Premium leathers, including emu and kangaroo, are used, but the boys can also ship in any particular style you might have in mind.
Admittedly, a pair of Roberts & Hassett shoes will set you back a bit of rent with a starting price of $1500 but the pay off is a pair of shoes so well-crafted they will not only outlive you, but also your grandkids.
LIFE LESSONS: TIPS FOR BUYING A DECENT SHOE
• The best time to try on shoes is at the end of the day, when your feet have already expanded. This way you won’t suffer post-purchase shock when you go to wear them and they feel tighter than they did in the store. Generally speaking, you should have about a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the leather of the shoe to allow your foot to shift when standing.
• Shoes take a beating, particularly the soles. Always check your soles after a year or so and make friends with your local shoe repairer. A simple re-sole can exponentially extend the lifespan of your shoe. Also, be sure new ones are sewn on, never glued.
• Invest in a leather conditioner/cleaner, especially if you’re keen on white or lighter shades of leather. On average, give your shoes a rubdown once a month. This not only keeps them looking cleaner but, much like using sunscreen, helps prevent the leather from aging and discolouring.
• If you go the bespoke route and are prepared to splurge, shell cordovan is the holy grail of leathers. Made from horsehide, it’s nigh on indestructible and the tanning process it undergoes is as good as it gets. It might mean paying twice as much as those made from calfskin and may take a little longer to break in than other leathers, but it makes for footwear that lasts a lifetime.