Most men tend to give a lot of thought and time to buying sports shoes but the shoes in which they spend 80% of their time, their working shoes, are usually a hurried purchase. “Perhaps the reason for that is that most men don’t really find comfortable shoes in India. Our research indicated that our customer base ended up buying brands such as Clarks or picked up shoes at export surplus markets in Chennai,” says Vishak Kumar, chief operating officer, Louis Philippe. “In fact, in India, 55% men wear loafers to work, which is not the done thing if your office dress code is formal.” We asked Kumar to tell us what men should look for in work shoes and what an executive’s shoe style is all about. Edited excerpts:
What kind of shoes should one wear to work?
If you are in a profession such as banking or finance where formal dressing is the norm, it is best to avoid loafers (or slip-on shoes). These are not the right shoes to wear. At work, opt for either the oxford or the derby, both of which have laces. You can get away with monk straps (shoes with a buckle and a strap) if your office dress code is not very formal. These shoes are also known as the “businessman’s best friend”.
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How does one differentiate between the oxford and derby shoe? And is one better than the other for office wear?
Men’s shoes are distinguished on the basis of how they are closed. When the tongue of the shoe is an extension of the vamp (upper part of the shoe, also called upper), the shoe style is derby, whereas when the vamp is stitched over the quarters (side pieces) and the tongue is a separate piece of leather, the shoe is an oxford style. The quarters are held together by the laces in a derby—and hence there is more flexibility to loosen or tighten the shoes in a derby; the oxford is less flexible.
People often assume that brogues is another classification of a shoe style, but that is not the case. Usually when the toe area of the shoe is covered with a perforated panel—a hangover from the days when farmers in Ireland had holes in their shoes so that water could seep out—which can extend down either side of the shoe, the shoe is referred to as brogues. Both oxford and derby styles can have this panel.
What else should one keep in mind while shoe-shopping?
When you are shopping for formal workwear shoes, make sure you are wearing a pair of formal trousers. After all, shoes are an extension of your trousers. You will never be able to gauge the correct look of a shoe if you buy them while wearing jeans or, worse, track pants. And please do not wear sports socks (towelled socks) while buying formal shoes. Ask the store attendant to get you a pair of cotton socks before trying out the shoes.
Afternoon is the best time to go shopping for formal shoes. Your feet swell in the afternoon. Your feet will also be a little tired by then too, so you may be able to judge the comfort factor better.
Your left and right foot sizes are never the same. It is best to try both shoes and walk around in them before making a choice. Wear them both for 10-15 minutes before deciding.
If a shoe fit is uncomfortable, don’t buy it, no matter what the shop attendant says about the shoe taking the shape of your feet. Always do the “one finger” test, that is, put your index finger behind your heel and between the back of a shoe. The finger should slip in without too much difficulty without pushing your foot forward. If this happens, the shoe is the correct fit. However, there should be no space for two fingers to slip into that space.
Any shoe management tips?
Don’t wear the same pair of shoes daily. Give them a day’s rest and allow them to breathe.
Invest in a wooden shoe tree. It will help your shoes stay in shape.
Please do not use liquid polish on your shoes. That ruins the leather because the polish does not spread evenly and gets collected in different parts. Use only wax-based polishes. Spread the polish evenly using a brush all across the shoe.
Which shoe shade works well with which trouser colour?
Black shoes work well with black, navy, grey trousers. Burgundy or cherry shades work well with light grey, light beige trousers, while deep brown shoes should be worn with various shades of brown. Light tan shoes work best with khakhi trousers.