Don’t overlook shoes when picking an outfit

Don’t overlook shoes when picking an outfit

Q. My husband does not seem to understand that wearing a pair of dress shoes with jeans and a pullover is not dressed-up for a night out and that wearing work boots with a suit is inappropriate or just ridiculous. Can you explain to him that shoes matter, and why these are wrong (or about the ways to leave your lover!)

A. You are certainly correct when you say that shoes matter. They affect a man’s overall appearance.     

In the past, when I have been asked what categories of clothing tell the most about a man’s taste, my response has always been, “. . . his tie, his watch, and his shoes.” While being the subtlest of the three, shoes send very clear signals, especially to those who are knowledgeable enough to read their messages.      

Perhaps the easiest way to get this across to your husband (and to most men) is with a chart:

FORMALBlack patent leather “pumps”
Plain-toe black lace-ups
White-tie” & “Black-tie” attire
Suits, especially dark dressy ones
Suits, blazers, elegant casual wear
Less dressy suits, blazers, sport coats
MEDIUM DRESSYTassel & Plain loafers
Suede lace-ups (winter)
White bucks (warm weather)
Khaki suits, blazers, sport coats
Medium-dressy wool suits
Seersucker suits, khaki suits
CASUALCowboy boots
Desert (Chukka) ankle boots
Blazers, sport coats, sweaters
Deck shoes
Work boots
Khakis, jeans, shirtsleeves, polos

There is a narrow category of men’s shoes that can go in one of two opposite directions; it can either be elegant, or showy and flamboyant, depending on who is wearing it. In old Fred Astaire films, he often wears two-toned wingtip dress shoes, known as “spectators.” On such an elegant dresser – and on dance floors and 50’s-society functions – the look comes across as classic, tasteful, and very special (it would be in the “Dressy lace-ups” category). But what looks good on him is not likely to work so well on most others. If a man who does not have great taste or style wears spectators, the image projected is likely to be loud, gaudy, and way too much. It could come under a separate category, “Inappropriate.” 

No discussion of appropriate shoes is complete without referring to shoe colors. Well-dressed men usually wear black shoes with blue or gray suits, dark brown shoes with tan suits, and cordovan color shoes on occasion. These three colors also work with similar-colored somewhat casual clothes. You may veer a little (or a lot) when your clothes are even more casual. As an example, light- and bright-colored moccasins, deck shoes, and sneakers can be whimsical and fun when paired with khakis, jeans, and shorts. Just as with spectators, wearing colorful shoes is yet one more place where the wearer needs a healthy dose of knowledge and confidence to carry off the look.  

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