Sartorial Love/Hate: Leather Sandals


Completing a summer holiday booking is a great relief. Despite the damage to the bank account, the troublesome process of coordinating flights and hotel availability is so vexing that when it ends, a weight is lifted and a face once contorted with anxiety becomes a visage of contented peace. That is until the holiday approaches and then a new apprehension takes hold; “Do I have everything I need?” It is the fear of being ‘caught out’ of being ‘found wanting’ that drives this concern. Despite years of enjoying European holidays very similar in character (history+culture+relaxation+cuisine+cocktails) I am always concerned that I am going to turn up at my destination feeling ill prepared.

Footwear is one of the major worries. If you plan on spending your days curled up on the beach with an iPod and a Stieg Larsson, you might feel that shoes are your last concern. However, for the more active gentleman, the prospect of a summer holiday traipsing around temples and churches in inappropriate footwear provokes serious thought. I have always been a wearer of espadrilles. Long before they were stocked in TopMan, long before they were worn by the Shoreditch cocked-trilby-skinny-jeans brigade, I ventured into a little cobbler on the Amalfi coast and picked up a white pair for a few quid to see me through the week.

While no miracle of design, espadrilles are charming, cheap and a darn sight more appealing than the Velcro sandals or trainers that most people seem to wear on the continent. Appropriate with shorts or rolled up trousers; in the sweltering day or the cool, cool evening; by the turquoise pool or in the heat and dust of a UNESCO protected area – espadrilles are my faithful summer friends.

The alternatives, as far as I am concerned, are few and far between. However, I have often been recommended to try leather sandals. One friend remarked “For a lover of original clothing like you, I thought you’d be all over leather sandals – they’re as old as the hills.” Sandals are indeed old. Far older as a style of shoe than anything I wear, and yet I cannot imagine myself pacing around a smart overwatered resort with overfed guests wearing anything that exposes my feet.

I think sandals are perfect for women. A feminine foot looks respectable in sandals. Male feet, in my opinion, do not. I am not at all comfortable with the concept. However, I can see how they are appealing to others. Fans tell me that they are comfortably cool, although it seems strap-chafing is a common complaint, and that they are flexible. One even suggested they are ideal for wearing by the pool although I can’t imagine pacing around in swim shorts and a pair of the more gladiatorial sandals without feeling slightly ridiculous. Perhaps it is simply my peculiar personality, or even my nationality, that prevents me from converting to sandals.