Back when I used to read magazines, I used to love this section that Esquire did called ‘What I’ve Learned.’ For me, it was one of the more interesting reads in the magazine as it was one that actually shared real knowledge. More often than not, it was a seasoned gentleman sharing his wisdom as let’s face it, the reality is that we get wiser as we get older. Whether or not I agreed with it all, it was always a pleasure to read, think about, try to understand and gain a new perspective. While I am still quite young, in shoes I feel old. Having spent 15 years now in the industry and having seen, tried, owned, sold and handled most of the shoes in the industry feel that my experience allows me to write the following. So, here goes with What I’ve Learned in the Shoe Industry

  1. No matter how hard we try not to, we always scuff our shoes one way or another. The legs to a chair are your heels worst enemy. Stairs are your toes worst enemy. And other people are your cap/vamps worst enemy. You are going to get your shoes scuffed so deal with it and learn to polish
  2. Getting flawless leather is simply paying for wastage. That the reality of it. Expensive shoes are expensive for 2 reasons. The amount of hours paid to the workers for extra details like fiddleback waists and the amount of leather you waste when cutting the hide. If you cut one pair from the hide that can cut 8 pairs, then you are paying for that 7 non-existent pairs in your one pair.
  3. Leather is more comfortable than rubber. I prefer a double leather sole to everything else. Rubber is rigid and doesn’t break in. It stays the same, always.
  4. Why is a leather sneaker always a derby? I never understood this. So I made an oxford sneaker. I prefer oxfords.
  5. Toe taps are the greatest invention. Heel taps are the worst. Toe taps do not make noise. Heel taps only make noise and are dangerous. Get toe taps. Avoid heel ones at all costs.
  6. Cheaper shoes are cheap for a reason. They will NEVER look nor feel as good as a well-made, more expensive shoe. In shoes, you literally GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.
  7. Italian leather shines the easiest. I don’t know why. Maybe they manage to get the pores shrunk during the tanning process. But it’s true. It shines quickly. French takes longer. Kangaroo is the hardest (read, RM Williams chelsea boots).
  8. Patent shoes are ridiculous. They are unnecessary and look silly and are a complete waste of money. A nice oxford with a high cap shine is all one needs to be formal and will take you a long way for many different occasions. Don’t buy into a marketing strategy.
  9. Shoe trees don’t wick away moisture. That is a myth created by Cedar wood selling shoe tree companies to make you buy them. They maintain shape. That’s their real intention.
  10. Complaining about small imperfections in your brand new shoes’ leather is pointless as there is a 99.9% chance that in the first wear you will do more damage to the upper than the insignificant flaw you are overthinking. They are just shoes.

There is a lot more that I can and will share, but here are 10 to think about for now. Will probably also have a go at a personal one too as that will be interesting to think about and read the comments.


6 thoughts on “What I’ve Learned – Shoes”

  1. Steve WIERHAKE

    I like your list. Perhaps you will do a brief write up on whether or not expensive sneakers are actually made better than average priced sneakers. Full disclosure: I happen to think it’s silly to spend more than $100 on a pair of sneakers to wear casually. (If a person is a serious athlete and needs certain design features, say for tennis or basketball, then paying more for those features seems reasonable.)

  2. Very nice perspective but I have to play devil’s advocate on your opinions about #9. Although I somewhat agree with you in that cedar shoe trees don’t completely absorb all the moisture (sweat) people’s feet emit I do feel not only do they hold the shape of a nice dress shoes but also preserve the life of one. That’s coming from somebody who has 20+ years in the shoe game!

  3. Your blue suede butterfly loafer wearer

    Most valuable experience = wisdom you offer, which I appreciate very much. The reason I get rubber soles is because rainwater destroys and walking wears down leather very quickly.

  4. Thank you for another great post as usual! While I can’t smile and agree more to all of them, I have on numerous occasions wondered and therefore particularly echoed the fact that there weren’t oxford sneakers made out there as I too prefer Oxfords to Derbys! It is absolutely amazing that you created one and that will be the next pair of sneakers I get when mine gets too worn out!

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