Wearing Heavier Rubber Soled Shoes with Fine Clothing


In some ways this post follows on from my ‘Notes from Rome’ series, although it’s more a stream of consciousness arising from what I saw.

One of the notes of interest from Rome was the prevalence of rubber and Dainite soled footwear, when I’d expected to see elegant, slim Italian leather shoes. I’ve always had my concerns about Blake constructed footwear and its suitability to wet climates. This is the reason I’ve never bothered to buy a pair, that and the fact the soles are harder to replace. The fact that the Roman male also knew this and altered their wardrobe accordingly is interesting.


Of course the fact that replacement is even a consideration is not a reflection on one construction method over another, in reality it’s a matter of the suitability of leather soles for the job they have to do, particularly in wet weather.

There are great benefits to leather as a material for the construction of fine and comfortable shoes of course, but it is with good reason that one is advised to never wear the same pair of shoes two or more days in a row. In the best of weather leather soles will wear out, in the wet the speed of degradation is multiplied.

All my shoes – the exception being deck shoes and luggers – are bench made, good year welted and leather soled. I have fewer pairs than some and more than most and yet the rate and expense of replacing the soles has become irksome. Even rotating my footwear extends their life by a few months a pair only.

I know plenty of people who upon acquiring a new pair of leather shoes wear them once and then nip down to the local cobbler and have a patch of rubber added to the sole. I’ve contemplated this, but to date I’ve been reluctant to do it. Firstly, I’m told that placing a piece of rubber over the top of the sole isn’t terribly good for the leather underneath. Secondly, if I’m simply plonking a bit of rubber or plastic over a leather sole then doesn’t this negate buying leather soled shoes in the first place? Of course there is a third issue, that sense that you can’t call yourself a well dressed man if your shoes aren’t all leather.

But inspired by the Roman example, I feel I need to turn a weakness into a strength. I feel I want something made for the job, and to make it a part of my look. For the Roman male it was perfectly natural to incorporate a shoe made for dealing with wet weather, forgoing their slim elegant Blake constructed shoes. So perhaps it’s time I thought about doing the same.

If my Roman adventure taught me anything it was how well heavier rubber soled shoes can be incorporated into a look, including business wear. A logical step really, most of us bring out heavier suits, coats and knits for the autumn and winter seasons, so why not extend this to winter footwear.

For the casual wardrobe this is not such a problem, but the business wardrobe requires more care and attention to proportion. An increase in the heft of the footwear would be better balanced by a corresponding increase in the weight of cloth. Heavy flannel would seem a natural fit.

It will take some planning and some cash to rebalance my winter wardrobe, but by this time next year I hope to have added some serious winter weight.


  1. LL said:

    Old style palaces and opera houses (for example Vienna and La Scala) had a coach gallery so that gentlemen and ladies never had to actually walk outdoor. It looks like some rules of style come from that age and nobody took care of changing them to adapt to problems of modern life. But if you have to actually walk outdoor sometimes, you will need shoes matching the task. Even putting rubber soles on leather ones makes sense, above all for the added grip.

    Wearing always leather soled shoes does not mean that you can afford the superior shoes, it means you can afford taxi services for going anywhere with that shoes.

    I would add that the same problem comes with coats. Most male coats are cut too short: elegant if you move by taxi, a disaster if you have to walk under the pouring rain.

    February 13, 2011
  2. G. Carreira said:

    Excuse the late question, but what outfit did you end up wearing to the weekend dinner party mentioned in a previous post, and what was every body else wearing?

    February 13, 2011
  3. Jules said:

    I have leather sole shoes and I have had rubber put on them to give them more grip and make it last longer. I was told in the Churches shop that I shouldn’t put it as it makes it harder to breath. I am not too sure about that last one harder to breath… well what about modern day trainers that have rubber soles I don’t seem to have a problem with them breathing. I love leather soles but even worn in leather soles are a nightmare to walk on say polished floors compared to rubber sole ones.

    February 14, 2011
  4. Derrik Ollar said:

    Well, living in the Great Northwest part of the USA. I’ve had to deal with rain and lots of it for years. I’m probably older than most of you young turks (I’m pushing 50). The other day, I showed my lovely wife a pair of wing tips that I’ve been wearing for over 25 years (one of my first major purchases out of college). They still look fantastic, they are leather soled, and I’ve never replaced the soles because I had the rubber skins added to the shoes. I have had to replace the the rubber skins a time or two, but that only runs about $22 for the service. I have never had any problem with the leather as a result, and now have over a dozen beautiful shoes with “skins” on them. Note: I have always put cedar trees in my shoes after wearing them.

    February 14, 2011
  5. Neil S said:

    Rubber soled formal shoes are a most practical necessity and a while ago I would have sought them out with tenacity. There is one problem personally though. I walk everywhere in London, and wear galoshes at the slightest downpour. They protect the entire shoe from rain, but I imagine they are difficult to slip over a rubber sole due to the friction involved. So rubber soled shoes may have the grip of galoshes but are just as vulnerable as shoes sans galoshes in the rain. Does anyone team rubber soles with galoshes?

    February 15, 2011
  6. Andrew said:

    G. Carreira,
    Sorry for the late reply. I took a suit with me, but I arrived from London very late in heavy rain, with no long mac and no idea where I had to get to. So I went for the easy option. Stout shoes, jeans, shirt, very dandy Duchamp silk scarf, cotton twill P-coat and English flat cap. As it turned out I pitched it just right. Somewhere in the middle of the dress scale, with the scarf and hat adding just the right extra note.

    February 15, 2011
  7. Jules said:

    I do like the duchamp scarves, I got quite a few when they go on sale. I like the flat cap or a baker boy hat for the mix. Sounds like a great mix of clothing you wore.

    February 20, 2011

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