OPINION: MALE CALL

Formal leather lace-up shoes best look for the office

Q I've increasingly had problems with my feet and wonder about if it comes from my wearing the same shoes to work most days and whether I have other options.

I work in a very professional setting at a financial company where the clothes we wear are dressier than those at most of today's other business establishments. That is, even though we no longer wear suits on a regular basis to work, we still wear them occasionally and most of the time I'm in a blazer or sport jacket, a button-front shirt, and a necktie. I wear leather loafers and I wonder if these are the only shoes that go with our rather formal business environment? Is it acceptable to wear something less formal such as the comfortable dark sneakers I see men in other offices wearing? Or, are those only for more informal settings?

A I am happy to give you my input on which shoes are the most appropriate and attractive for you to wear with different types of clothing and how to take the best care of those shoes. But, if your real question has to do with problems you have with your feet, then perhaps what you need is to consult a podiatrist (a medical doctor whose skill and training have prepared him for the care and treatment of the human foot).

I will say that wearing the same shoes day in and day out can eventually make you uncomfortable. Instead, rotating between a few different pairs of shoes and perhaps a different style occasionally can give your foot and leg muscles a chance to rest. Be sure that whichever shoes you choose fit you properly, that they are not too tight, they allow for toe motion, and especially that they give your foot enough support.

To answer your specific question about sneakers, I never recommend wearing even the dressiest dark sneakers in a really dressy work environment, such as yours. So, I am not going to suggest that you move in that direction. A better option is to try wearing a different type of slightly formal leather lace-up shoes instead of your slip-on loafers. The laces will give you more support and will look perfect with all the clothes in your on-the-dressy-side work wardrobe. Keep in mind that not all lace-ups are as super-dressy as wing-tips. The two other lace-up styles that don't have perforations (plain-toes and cap-toes) are usually less dressy as wing-tips and are ideal choices for the well-dressed man's work and social wardrobe.

When you find a pair of shoes made of top-quality leather and with faultless workmanship, don't be surprised at the price tag. Paying a hefty sum (several hundred dollars) for a pair of shoes is not unusual in today's marketplace. But with the right care, the cost per wearing will be quite low over the years. Having invested a considerable amount in fine shoes, go the extra step and buy a set of wooden (ideally cedar) shoe trees for each pair. After shoes have been dampened by rain or snow, they can crinkle and tend to crack when drying if they are not set out to stretch properly on shoes trees. Frequent polishing is another essential. Of course, it is important to replace soles and heels if they are wearing down ... a lot less expensive than buying new shoes. These easy chores will guarantee years of top-rate condition for any shoe that was constructed properly in the first place. And if you are wondering which colors to buy, the most versatile choice would be black, with dark brown next, and then cordovan.

Allowing shoes to "rest" a few days between wearings increases their life as well as likely reducing foot discomfort. This is another reason for expanding your shoe wardrobe to the extent that your budget allows.

Please send your men's dress and grooming questions and comments to MALE CALL:

Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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