“Men should never wear cheap shoes” read a post on a famous retailer’s Facebook page. A sensible notion, but more easily said than done. It is true that buying cheap shoes is often a mistake. Shoes need to be of high-quality materials and construction; while a £25 pair might seem like a bargain, they probably won’t even last a year of wear. Suitably, such shoes are decried as horrors; blasphemy against footwear.
The resulting dogma from the footwear illuminati is that you should spend as much money on your shoes as you can. The popular men’s forum pages are full of praise for brands such as John Lobb, Edward Green and Crockett & Jones; arguably the most elite footwear brands in the world. If you were a first time visitor, you would think, from all the high-horsed posturing, that other shoe manufacturers were not only less desirable but also absurdly embarrassing.
Great brands such as Loake and Barker are pulled apart for having leather of “an inferior grain”; as soon as someone has positively introduced a challenger brand, the guns of JL, EG and CJ are wheeled out – with acronymical affection – to deny not only the challenge but also the existence of these other brands; as if it was an acknowledged truth that every man is able to afford £300-£400 shoes.
I was recently asked by a friend if I could recommend somewhere to buy shoes for under £100. An educated professional working and living in London, he pays some of the highest rent in the world from a salary which has been frozen for the last few years. “There are some great shoes in the sale for about £190-£250” I say “they’ll last you years.” Sadly out of his range; £100 is the absolute maximum. “I’d prefer around £50-60. I’m absolutely broke.”
It is easy for enthusiasts to dismiss the penury of others and their decision not to spend great sums on footwear. For as many wealthy buyers as there are, packing in the Northampton shoes, there are hard-up fanatics who save consistently for such items. It is important to remember that this is a rather warped world, not the real world. I like being a style enthusiast but I would hate to think I was spending more on adding to my wardrobe than saving for my future. Hobbyists are useful to non-hobbyists because they manage to find the best through their hobby. However, hobby guides for the majority become less useful when they assume the same preparedness for expenditure. Which of us would listen to a Hifi enthusiast who says if we don’t spend our month’s wages on an obscure sounding set of speakers, our life isn’t worth living?
I recently bought, and returned, a pair of shoes from Jones The Bootmaker – a brand that most daren’t even mention on the popular forums. Bought because of their exceptional value – £55, reduced from £120 – and returned because they did not fit with a proper sock on. However, I directed my hard-up friend to the store for their excellent sale. “Are these shoes good?” he asked nervously. “They’re not the best” I responded, truthfully “but they’re not half bad for the price.” It’s easy to forget that this is the way most of us are forced to approach purchases in life; even those with more than a passing interest in style.