Men’s footwear has undergone an amazing renaissance in the last few years, not least because Australian guys are growing to appreciate that high quality footwear can also equal understated style, value for money and amazing versatility.
We know we’ve been prone to moments of regression – especially as the weather warms up. While winter is a relatively easy season to ‘dress’, summer strips us back to our basics. Since we’re working at a new level these days, hot days are no excuse to cede to the whims of your inner slob and crack out the trashed Volleys, or make Havaianas (the Ebola virus of men’s shoes) your footwear staple.
That said, I’ll happily admit there is some suburban blood in my veins and I’m not ashamed to say that the aforementioned footwear holds a very dear place in Australian summer culture; we all need a battered pair of ‘old faithfuls’ somewhere near the front door for the Monday morning 6am rubbish bin dash, or the pre-barbeque bottle shop run. But just like our other Australian icon, the ugg boot, there are strict times and places shabby shoes should be worn. Or to be more specific, not worn.
My advice? Take what you’ve learned over the winter – a love of classic style and quality footwear – and apply it to these summer days.
It can be tricky. After all, it is a season that brings with it a host of footwear contradictions: shoes should be neither old nor new, luxurious nor practical. It’s about bringing a look together – making your life easier, not harder. So I’ve pulled together the five pillars of men’s footwear to keep you on track this summer season.
Oxfords & Derbys
Absolute classics that should run year-round. If worn right, they will do just about any outfit, including shorts, with style and ease. Just remember the golden rule of leather and suede – it must be high quality, well worn.
You really can’t have too much suede in the summer. The light, versatile material will tone down a formal shoe and give lighter textures and fabrics some body. This season suedes are coming through in fantastic muted colours, so it’s no longer a choice of ‘what shade of brown’. You won’t beat a well-worn pair of navy blue suede Derbys under your jeans or chinos for a day out.
Great examples from: Lacoste, Church’s, Loake, Paul Smith, Tristan Blair.
If you haven’t worn them, you’re sceptical. If you have worn them, you are perpetually on the hunt for your next edition, knowing that if you haven’t got your summer pair worn-in by November, you’re toast.
They’re not all good, so buy carefully. Outer-sole construction and grade of leather is key.
And never with shorts.
Great examples from: Bally, Gucci, Grenson, Loake.
Be careful here. Most Aussie guys are over 75kg and not exactly running the slimmest of silhouettes, so the proportions don’t work for everybody. Drivers can be stylish, ironic and make you look like Adam Ficek. They can also be low quality, poorly designed and make you look like a model from a Calibre photo shoot.
Keep the colours neutral and get the shoes working the position between nicely worn and trashed.
Be careful with shorts.
Great examples from: Tod’s, Bally, Loake, Church’s.
The summer staple we’re not sure if we like talking about. The classic boat shoe certainly polarises the fashion world, but like any other great classic, there is a reason they have been around for 75 years. Boats work. The better the quality, the better the look, because a good dockside doesn’t really come in to its own until about year three.
This summer run multi-colour docksides and team them with a well-cut jean, chino or canvas short.
Great examples from: Sebago, Sperry, Dubarry, Quoddy, Yuketan.
For those among you who grew up skating, this is the shoe variety you’ll likely end up sporting by the time you’re 25. Never give up your heritage, but if you (or more to the point, your partner) start to wonder where you go from the teenage style you’ve never managed to shake, this is your category.
A true plimsole can bridge the gap between skate shoes and the horrendous canvas Euro-slippers that made an appearance last summer. Good versions will carry you through a summer from beach to bar, and keep your warm-weather style sharp but relaxed.
Great examples from: Vans, Seavees, Ben Sherman, Paul Smith.
Absolutely. Keep them classic, fresh and high quality. It’s hard to beat a pair of khaki Stussy walk shorts with a fresh pair of New Balance 574’s on a sunny 32-degree Saturday.
Great examples from: Nike, New Balance, Puma, Adidas, Lacoste.
If they are lightweight, suede and have a low-cut elastic side, you’re in. A good pair of low-cut Chelsea’s will keep it stylish but not over the top. If not, it’s summer, boots are too heavy, so give them a miss and go for the Derby.
Great examples from: Grenson, Church’s, Paul Smith, Oliver Sweeney.
Important Side Notes:
a) Take it easy with coloured pants and coloured shoes. It’s great that colour is coming through in both categories this summer – we’re just not sure they were designed to be worn together.
b) No thongs unless it’s 39 degrees, you are in a mate’s backyard, the local pool or the campground showers. Yes, it’s an Australian classic. But you can still do better.
On that note, no slides, no Crocs, no Velcro, no hi-tech outdoor shoes, Scandinavian mountain clogs, and no tattered-old-working-class-bohemian-throw-back-bullshit.
c) Socks. Lose them.