In medieval times, foot coverings were mostly rags and strips of leather, sometimes abetted by a thick wooden overshoe, the patten, which raised the wearer above the mud and muck. With so much else to face — plague, famine, mud — people back then weren’t in the best position to pay attention to their shoes.
Are Shoes an Index to Civilisation?
But society has evolved, and shoes along with it. To those who find an interest in shoes to be frivolous, my response is: “Get out of the Middle Ages!” One of the signs of the Renaissance, that rebirth of learning and culture, was the advent of a life for shoes. The era saw the introduction of the chopine, the platform shoe, to which the 1970s owes so much of its tacky charm. In the 1500s, two-part shoes appeared, with stiff soles, supple leather tops, and heels that were attached rather than added as secondary parts. If you want to see true shoe mania, check out the footgear in the court of Louis XIV. The Sun King was a fashion nut, and “Louis heels” became the rage, at first more for men than women. Louis decreed that only aristocrats could wear talon rouges (red heels), in a Louboutin-ish move avant la lettre. Eventually, women followed Louis’ lead and exaggerated the form, taking the heels to greater and greater heights. At one point, women’s heels were so high that wearers had to balance themselves with canes, Given that hair was also big and dresses cumbersome, one can imagine that simple activities — walking from room to room, no less going to the bathroom — would have been an ordeal. [read here]
The Monsieur’s Brief: Although written from a woman’s perspective, the article in question does shed some light on the long journey of the humble shoe from pure utilitarian tool (protecting your feet as you walk from A to B) to a symbol of style (ala Louis XIV) to once more utility with style (getting recognition for taste)- who says style cannot be utilitarian? And while I sometimes espouse the ethos of buy less, spend better- the truth is that when it comes to footwear, unless you have a butler or gobs of time for regular maintenance of your shoes (a wipe down and brush shine), you’re really better off with periodic shoe replacement because in terms of style, people notice scuffs and in terms of utility, the heels are so worn and with labour prices these days, topping up another $100 gets you an entirely new pair.
Cole Haan Men’s Loafers & Mocs
An 80 year old company and today a subsidiary of Nike, Cole Haan has been one of the few footwear firms that have provided men with a keen selection of trendy yet classic looks at excellent price points.
Ownership by Nike only means that they’ve managed to created a better men’s loafer with their concealed Nike Air technology. Pictured above is one of Cole Haan’s latest formal slip-on in patent leather and velvet combination; leather lined, the leather stacked heel with rubber injected sole is quite possible one of the most comfortable moccasins out there. [Shop here]
A hand sewn moccasin similarly equipped with Nike air tech, this penny loafer comes with rubber nubs much loved by lovers of car shoes- avoid the rain in this pair though. [Shop here]
Hand-burnished Italian calfskin and with pedigree of true Bologna construction, this has to be one of Cole Haan’s most classic looks. [Shop here]