t’s that time of year again!
The Styleforum Charity Auctions are back to help you stay stylish AND help others: every winning bid is a donation that benefits the Ronald McDonald House, an organization that houses families whose kids are undergoing medical treatment.
100% of every final bid goes to charity, so bid often and generously to help those in need. In exchange, our wonderful affiliates are donating some of the greatest items in their stock; for instance, today you can bid on a Good Art “rosette” silver bracelet (RRP $795) donated by Self Edge.
As we go about our business, walking in streets teeming with all sorts of people, clocking in the various passing outfits, we cannot help but absent-mindedly categorise, gauge and assess the way people are dressed. They say if you want to know how well a man dresses, you should look down. If so, your retina will most likely remain unimpressed.
There’s no way you will spot more than a few decent shoes in the course of one day in the city. In fact, you’ll be lucky if you see actual shoes—unless you stay positioned in the business district. Since casual now reigns supreme, the sneaker shoe has become the pervasive norm of casualness. It seems to stand as an emblem of rejection and distrust against suits and leather shoes. Let’s face it—sneakers have replaced classic footwear. Of course, they would: they have the simplest of designs and require only limited skills so they are cheap to produce and generate profitable margins.
But since they’re not particularly appealing aesthetically, the marketing of cool had to step in to promote a vintage legacy of sports and youth. It has thus become a ubiquitous emblem for people who want to flaunt their urban flair with a hint of rebellious attitude without going as far as standing out in the crowd.
One can only wonder at the short-term and self-defeating strategy of traditional footwear brands who go out of their way to sell expensive sneakers that have nothing special on their cheaper competition.
Maybe it’s time to embrace the dress shoe for what it is, a leather sculpture with the capacity to age. Classic footwear also represents a cultural connection to history and mankind’s eternal attempts at protecting its feet. Since we abandoned horse-riding or the need to cover ankles and calves, boots have made way for the many-shaped low-shoes, the derbies and oxfords, the loafers and monks.
These classic models display the sure-footed principles that combine skills, aesthetics and practicality. They are a foundation enabling a wealth of adornments—brogueing, medallions, Balmoral line— and a repertoire of shapes open to interpretation and invention, leading to renewal within permanence. The classic dress shoe is based on those patterns that can be transformed into new designs with an infinity of expressions and nuances, of colours and shades. As a common enough accessory, the shoe is thus a strangely unsettling and forever surprising source of subtle shapes.
The World Championships in Shoemaking remind us regularly to celebrate the corresponding skills and aesthetic legacy. The geek in us may be fascinated by technical aspects — welts and Cuban heels, channel closings and waistlines — but what makes a shoe a show-stopper is its design.
There’s magic in the mysterious balance of patterns and shapes; it’s actually what makes a shoe something of a live leather sculpture. The enigmatic seduction of a last, the minute details, the infinitesimal punctum of an eagle-clawed toe— it’s all winking at you in the subtlest of ways.
As for many things, consumerism has replaced maintenance and skills by blind forgetfulness and it would seem — at least in Paris — that not many people still know how to shine their shoes. It explains why high-gloss workshops have been burgeoning like secret Victorian parlours displaying marvels for the initiated enthusiasts to gather after dark. It seems to be the last resort to preserve a dying practice
Still, well-maintained quality shoes quietly shining at the end of your leg add a smiling glow to an outfit, and as a reminder of forgotten craftsmanship, they truly show what they are about, blending authentic practicality and portable aesthetic pleasure. So maybe it’s time you gave people a good reason to look down.