How much should a good pair of shoes cost?
- $200? Fair enough.
- $500? Questionable.
- $1,000? Expensive!
Well, it's a bit more complicated than three price points.
Here's what I think.
Don't buy shoes just because you're comfortable with the price.
You should buy shoes if and only if they're the best choice for you.
Regardless of how much you spend, make sure you'll enjoy wearing them for a long time. You deserve shoes that are comfortable, durable, and perfect for your style.
Where do you find them? Read on!
Here are my 5 key tips for buying the best shoes.
This article is brought to you by Ace Marks dress shoes & sneakers.
This company offers $600 dress shoes for $200 or less. All of their shoes are specially made by Italian craftsmen. They have Blake Flex construction, providing lots of flexibility without the need for breaking in. They use premium full-grain calfskin leather. All shoes can be re-soled.
You can also buy their $400 luxury sneakers for $180 or less. These comfortable sneakers are calfskin lined, with padding on the tongue and collar and shock-absorbing insoles.
Check out their Ace Marks campaign on Kickstarter. Pledge a certain amount to get in on a number of product deals, including belts, shoe horns, and other extras.
Also, take part in Ace Marks' Buy Back program, in partnership with Career Gear. Donate old shoes (of any brand) and receive a $60 store credit towards a new pair. Donated pairs will be given to men in need to help them re-enter the workforce.
Never settle for shoes that are just good-looking. You want great quality first.
While it's true that higher prices don't always guarantee the best products available, they're often a good starting point. If you spot shoes that cost between $400 and $700, they're worth looking into. Why? Because chances are they're constructed with high-quality materials.
No manufacturer would waste expensive, quality materials on a substandard shoe. They use the best kinds of everything for one fantastic product. This is the reason people who know and care about shoes look down on low-priced, obscure department store brands. There's almost always something off or sub-par in terms of their material or build (see tip #2).
For dress shoes, always check the leather. Is it dense and flexible? What type of grain is it? Full-grain leather is ideal. You can also ask whether the leather is cow or calfskin. I prefer calf since it's softer and thinner while still quite durable. Suede is a material that comes from the part of leather that's split off at the grain/corium junction (basically the skin's surface). This material gives the shoe a more napped finish and the ability to absorb moisture well. Top grain leather is also an option but it doesn't have the same level of absorption.
For all these materials, take care of your shoes regularly and apply a protectant to prevent moisture from damaging them.
In addition to cowhide, there are other animal skins available for shoes, including crocodile, alligator, and ostrich, among others. These alternatives are also quite popular for boots. As you'd expect, they can be pretty expensive, but that also means they're made with the best quality materials and craftsmanship. Are they worth it? Again, it depends on where and how often you plan to wear them.
When a pair of shoes costs more, part of that amount goes to the cobbler who spent the time and effort to build it from scratch. It's a meticulous job. Many things have to be put together properly by hand, which is why it's important to inspect the shoe like you would for a bag or a dress shirt. Here's what to look for.
How is the upper attached to the sole? If it's Goodyear-welted or Blake-stitched, you'll notice a line of stitching on the edges. This shows that the shoemaker has skillfully constructed a tough, durable shoe that can be re-soled without difficulty.
If you see no stitching, it's probably because the shoe has been glued together. You can ask the person how the gluing was done, but remember that these aren't likely to last as long as stitched shoes. I suggest you play it safe and think ahead. Invest in easily-repaired shoes that'll last you a long time.
Other specifics about the construction of dress shoes:
- Threading: Look for at least 6-7 threads per inch. Check that the lines are straight and that no threads appear loose.
- Inner Lining: Check for a thin leather lining on the shoe's interior. This protects the outside of the shoe from moisture damage due to foot sweat.
- Broguing: Make sure the perforations line up neatly, especially on the shoes' edges.
Things are a little different for sneakers. There are more variants, but the most important thing to check is whether the upper is stitched to the sole on the outside. Is the threading neat and consistent? Do the sneakers have a nice lining that can absorb sweat? Is the insole detachable? It should be. You'll eventually want to replace it after it gets a lot of mileage.
Shoe Buying Tip #3 – Choose The Right Style For You
Once you know how to identify good shoe material and quality, you'll realize that you still have a ton of options when it comes to available shoe styles.
How do you choose? Start by understanding what image you're aiming for. Want a casual but sophisticated look? Upgrade from running shoes to white leather sneakers. White is historically a luxury color, and these shoes are relatively easy to clean and maintain.
Is white too boring for you? Bring in colors like navy or brown to make your overall style more modern. These sneakers would look great with indigo jeans or cream-colored chinos, and the contrast isn't that stark.
What about dress shoes? You might consider wearing a casual suit with black Oxfords or Balmorals, but how about changing it up? Try two-tone shoes with a dark brown midsection. Or try a solid-colored pair with broguing and a medallion toe. These are some simple tricks to make your shoes grab a bit more attention.
Here's a lesson I learned from a previous week-long business trip: you can get more compliments for awesome shoes than any other piece of clothing combined. Yes, more so than a nice suit, pocket square, and classic watch combined!
How do we explain that? Well, there's just something about attention to shoe detail that sets you apart. It tells others that you're a man who knows how to present himself from head to toe. People assume their shoes are the least important and least visible part of their wardrobe, but it's actually the opposite. Anyone who notices how stylish your shoes are will think more highly of you.
Consider the details that add more dimension and uniqueness to your footwear. Maybe it's broguing in the form of “wings” found on wingtip shoes. Perhaps it's the buckles of a pair of double monks, which look better if the metal matches your belt buckle. Don't underestimate the value of these features. What good is it buying high-priced shoes if they're just going to blend in with everyone else's?
Shoe Buying Tip #5 – Use Color Strategically
Finally, be more adventurous BUT strategic in terms of color. If you can't resist wearing oxblood Chelsea boots to your next cocktail party, that's fine. Just keep the rest of your ensemble subdued. This rule of color applies to your entire outfit, not just your shoes. Treat it like salt – too much will ruin the taste.
Another example. If you're traveling for business, you may find it useful to wear penny loafers like I do. I like how light they feel on the plane and how easily they can be removed while going through airport security. If you're opting for blue, maroon or tan ones, keep the rest of your outfit muted to avoid any “clash” between multiple clothing items with bright or distinct colors.
These are my tips for buying shoes. Are good shoes overrated? No! On the contrary, they're actually an underrated and quite important aspect of your style. Be selective with your footwear. It says a lot about you, whether you're wearing sleek, black oxfords or multi-colored sneakers.
Speaking of sneakers, did you know Ace Marks sells luxury sneakers for less than $200? They offer sneakers with a much better quality than those generic, low-priced casual shoes you find in malls. They're made using only the best Italian full-grain calf-skin leathers, which is why they're durable and super comfortable to wear. These sneakers also come in different color schemes, most of which would go perfectly with your casual outfits.