There is nothing new about Commando soles. They have been around for the longest time. But what is new is the fact that they are gaining momentum in the classic dress shoe industry, being implemented on pairs that would otherwise normally have ‘dress soles.’ And this trend appears to be here to stay, at least for a few years more.
When I think of a Commando Sole I think about the classic Alpine boot by Paraboot (shown below), the classic Timberland boot that everyone used to wear, or Santoni’s famous Fur Lined boots. I never really pictured them on a loafer or an oxford or even a monkstrap. Yet today, you can find the commando sole on nearly any model if you look hard enough. And the reality is that this is not novel. The Italian designer/larger brands – think Prada, Church’s, Santoni, Gucci (classic bit loafer on lug sole) etc – have been doing this for years. But I don’t really pay attention to those companies as I tend to put my focus more on the classic dress shoe brands and/or ones that are semi-classic that fuse other unique ideas into their ethos but that do not stray into the designer unknown. Hence this post only being written now, after 11 years of having the blog.
I never thought much about it when Norman Vilalta launched his collection and incorporated a lot of commando soles on models that traditionally never had them. I thought, ‘there is Norman being Norman and uniquely himself.’ It was not really my style to put heavy soles on shoes supposedly meant for ‘Summer’ attire. But I always appreciated the fact that Norman did what he liked and wanted. And as time went on it intrigued me more and more. And I think everyone else too. So, for me, while Norman surely did not create the idea of putting commando soles on dress shoes, I think that his influence in the dress shoe industry and heavy use of commando soles on all models has created a ripple effect that is starting to take place. And, I won’t lie, I am guilty of getting on board with it.
Last A/W saw the first, real influx of commando soles on unconventional models for this look/idea. Crockett & Jones put it on a huge proportion of their Winter line, from boots to monkstraps to even loafers. Which blew my mind being that they are one of the more traditional shoemakers still left (most others have followed all other trends and left their traditional roots behind). Then Septieme Largeur did so too, not only in the A/W but also in their S/S putting a huge commando sole on a pair of blue suede derbies (featured above). And I am pretty sure this model crushed it in sales. And if it did, that definitely left a taste in their mouth to follow through with more commando soled creations. And I can only imagine what A/W ’22 will bring not only for these brands mentioned on the post but for the many others that have caught on to this idea and will inevitably be looking to stay afloat by offering some form of commando model. Time will certainly tell. And I think that time is just around the corner.
Lastly, a bit about my own journey with commando soles. At heart, when it comes to dress shoe models, I am quite traditional. I like leather soles. If you have been following the J.FitzPatrick line from its inception, you will know that you can probably count on your two hands how many rubber sole models I have released. I nearly put everything on a leather sole (hiking boots not included). But at the same time, as I get older and evolve, I am continuously pushing myself to be open to trying new things. The commando sole was a big one for me. I don’t like clunky things. At all. It doesn’t suit my style. But as I have evolved, so have commando soles. There are varying degrees of height to their rubber studs. And so when my factory found a fairly soft version of one with a thin trim on the welt and not with too much height that added to your stature, I thought to myself, ‘let me see what all of the fuss is all about.’ So I made a few samples. But I did so on models that for me, could/would be a commando sole type. 1. My hiking boot, which a commando sole fits naturally on. And 2. My button boots, which are not normally a commando sole type of style. And you can see the results below.
I have a feeling that in a few months we will see a flood of options with commando soles. So get ready for it. And if you don’t like commando soles, well you better get on board as I think that this trend is here to stay!