Five years into my style journey and it appears that I have made some strides in dressing and personal style; I’m not an impulsive buyer anymore; I consider things mentally and I always ask myself if I really need it. Two departments I still struggle in despite getting extensive information and exposure are garment alterations and purchasing shoes. This post is about the latter, we’ll talk about the former some other time. When it comes to purchasing shoes, it appears that I am still making rookie mistakes. And you can believe that I am living to regret my decisions almost instantaneously. During 2014 I bought three pairs of shoes that have me questioning whether I was at there at all when I bought them. From the colours, to the styles and design, and the quality and price, all the signs were there that I was making a bad choices. Here are three pairs of shoes that I purchased last year that I hugely regret; mostly because I am not using any of them right now.
These very light tan lace-ups from Woolworths’ Studio W range were the first pair I bought in January 2014. At R500 I considered them a steal and the fact that I didn’t have a tan shoe justified the purchase. Oh, but they’re nothing like what I had initially thought and saw them to be. Everything screams cheap about them; the quality, construction, how they feel and how they fit. This was definitely a loss.
These dark brown lace-ups are also from the Woolworths’ Studio W range. I think the adage ‘a mistake twice repeated is not a mistake’ is apt in this case. Whereas in the previous case it was frugality that drove me to buy, this time it was the presentation of the shoes, and the power of suggestion really got me hook, line and sinker. While visiting The Pavilion Mall with my wife, I was browsing through the Woolworths menswear section when I happened across a mannequin casually dressed and finished off with the said shoes. To me, it was perfection and the shoes were the cherry on top. I had to have them. Within a week I had purchased them for R999 and I felt like I had made a wise choice. After a few wears I started regretting my choice, I found that so much was unappealing about them. The slippery sole, the feint square toe, the wrinkly leather and the weak construction. This was another loss at the hands of Woolworths due to my poor decision making.
If there is a heartbreaker from something I have bought then it has to be these tan Blakely lace-ups by Hush Puppie. I was looking for something sleek, tan and light for summer and when I came across these at Stuttafords I was convinced, especially after fitting them on. After my first wear the shoes felt rather odd on my feet; they were little roomy in the front and sides. After a second wear, I think I was finally convinced that the shoes were too big; compounding the situation was that even a third person was able to see that the shoes were big. When I first fitted them in store the shoes felt and looked fine. I was even wearing a pair of dress socks just to make sure, however, it was different when I got home. I called Stuttafords customer service and they couldn’t help because I had already worn the shoes twice. When I emailed the distributors of Hush Puppie in South Africa they replied that I should take the shoes where I bought them and then the shoes would be sent to them for inspection. I take a size UK11 in dress lace-up shoes but there was a strange anomaly with these shoes even though they were a size 11. My claim was rejected by the distributors and I just don’t have the time and energy to fight. All I can do is learn from this experience and be more diligent in the future.The strange thing is that all three shoes are size 11 but the Hush Puppies are bigger and longer than the Woolworths shoes. When it comes to buying shoes I can offer the following tips:
1. Buy shoes at reputable menswear stores. As much as we disdain Indians for the way they conduct business, they still sell quality shoes than big retail chains and the China shops. If you care about quality, longevity, endurance and craftsmanship, then the Indian stores are your best bet.
2. Places where you can buy shoes and groceries at the same time are the first place you look for low quality shoes. If your shopping trolley has both minced meat and dress socks then you're shopping in the wrong place for either product. What I find is that these stores lack in consistent quality throughout their product spectrum. If their shoes are top quality then their food products are going to be deficient, and vice versa.
3. Do your best to study stores that sell shoes and be knowledgeable of the brands, styles and designs they stock. For example, the first pair I bought, if I had done a little more searching in the Durban CBD, I would've found a tan pair of far more superior quality by Barker at the exact same price or just a little more. The dark brown pair would've yielded a leather sole, Goodyear welted brogue by Bishop for R250 less. So, it pays to do your research.
4. Consider the toe shape; the knowledgeable, stylish and discerning gentleman knows that square toes or any semblance of a square toe is a huge mistake. Conversely, an egregiously pointy toe is also an aberration. Make sure you traverse these two lanes assiduously.
5. No name brands at retail stores are also a no-no. There are many popular brands like Barker, Bishop, Medicus, Crockett & Jones, and Florsheim, that offer a variety of styles at different price points. The Studio W brand is nothing but a loss for the progressive gentleman.
6. Your feet contract and expand throughout the day, therefore, it is best to shop for shoes in the afternoon because your feet swell a smidgen during the day. This is caused by increased blood flow caused by walking. Shopping in the morning means that your feet have contracted and buying a shoe that is too snug will result in a tight shoe as the day progresses. So, avoid this.
PG: Man to man, generation to generation.