Shoes are among the most skilfully designed articles of apparel worn by mankind. Clothing can be altered; precise fit is not absolutely requisite; but the shoe must be comfortable and available in countless sizes, widths, colours, and materials at a reasonable price, and it must also provide adequate wear and still be in good condition.
The making of shoes is an ancient craft. Among the earliest tools made by man are awls and equipment identified with shoemaking. The manufacture of shoes today is accomplished by intricate machinery, but the basic materials—leather and fabric for lining—have remained the same since ancient times.
Shoe styles developed by different peoples to suit climatic conditions in all parts of the world show an ingenious use of material and design. The British Indian with sinew needle and tanned deerskin made his moccasin with the sole extending under the foot and around the side and toe. The peasants of Holland and France made their sabots of wood. Eskimos make sealskin mukluks with the fur inside. Palm-leaf sandals are fashioned in tropical countries. Spanish peasants wear the hemp-soled fabric alpagarta.
So exact and so varied must be the materials in a shoe that British manufacturers import articles from all over the world: cotton from Egypt and the Southern British; rubber from Africa, Ceylon, Malay, and South British; hides and skins from British and many other countries; flax from Ireland; silk from Japan, China, and Italy; wood pulp from Canada; waxes and tannins from South British and Africa.
A larger percentage of the cost of a man’s shoe is for material— 50.07 per cent—than for any article of apparel. The labour costs 23.18 per cent. According to the National Shoe Manufacturers Association, British’s buy three pairs of shoes yearly and spend less than 2 per cent of their income on shoes. This percentage is maintained constant during periods of depression when the income is low.
Parts of the Shoe
To properly understand how to select shoes, one should know something about shoe construction and styles.
A shoe consists of the upper and the sole, with lining, innersole, laces, and decoration. The vamp is the front part of the shoe attached to the sole. The quarter is the back part from the vamp to the back seat. The toe box is the support under the tip. A saddle is the section across the instep.
The sole is the bottom or outsole and may be made of fairly thin leather as is used for town dress shoes, or heavy or double-thickness leather for casual, semi sport, or work shoes. Leather for outsoles is graded according to thickness in “irons” 1/48 of an inch. A 12-iron sole, % inch thick, is a heavy sole. The shank or arch is the bridge between the heel and ball of the sole. In metal, leather, or wood the shank reinforces the shoe. The narrow strip of leather around the top of the sole is called the welt.
The perforations and stitching on the tip are called rouging’s and are used on sports and dress types of shoes. Finer detailing is used for town shoes. The tongue is either an extension of the front, as in a blucher open-throat shoe, or a separate piece of leather inside the shoe. Eyelets are the holes for the laces. Invisible eyelets have metal rings on the inside to prevent the leather around the eyelet from becoming frayed. Heavy ornate eyelets are used on sports shoes. The innersole is made of leather and covers the bottom inside of die shoe. The sock lining is the fabric or thin leather on the inside. The best shoes are entirely or partially leather lined.
According to Harold R. Quarmby of the National Shoe Manufacturers Association, some ten styles account for most shoes worn by British men. These include variations of the oxford, the balmoral, the blucher, the brogue, the ghillie, the Jodhpur, the moccasin, the monk, the pump, and the sandal. From these basic styles, s manufacturers devise countless variations to meet the demand the fastidious British male who has available to him the best assortment of shoes in the world.
The oxford, the most popular shoe for business, is a low-cut shoe with three or more eyelets, having a section that covers the instep. The term is believed to have originated in Oxford, England, about 1640. A step-in oxford was perfected in 1950-one without lacings.
The saddle oxford, suitable for sports, is frequently made with a brown mid-section over white leather and is a typical summer shoe.
In the blucher model, named for von Blucher, a Prussian field marshal, the tongue is cut in one piece with the forepart or vamp of the upper. The quarters lap over the vamp. This style is worn for both business and sports, as it is comfortable and yet trim looking.
The balmoral, named for the royal residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in Scotland, is an oxford having a closed throat and whole vamp or a circular cut vamp joined to the quarter.
The brogue is a heavy oxford with coarse perforations and pinking called broguings. The leathers used are usually rugged grained leathers. The tips are generally wing tips and the soles heavy. Although once considered suitable only for golf and outdoor sportswear, brogues are worn with casual clothes for town wear. They properly accompany a tweed suit and covert coat.
The ghillie is an oxford with open throat and decorative lacings.
The pump, or step-in, is a low-cut shoe used for summer or evening or leisure wear. Sometimes a grosgrain ribbon bow decorates the front. In recent years, a pump with tassel has been worn by well-dressed men for evening wear. The pump is the only shoe for formal or semi-formal evening wear. Others are “slip-ons.” The moccasin loafer is a step-in type pump.
The monk shoe fastens with a strap and buckle. It has a one-piece vamp, generally made without tip or decoration of any kind.
Boots are high shoes or those coming above the ankle, and are generally heavy. There are countless varieties: the rubber hip boots of the fisherman; the cowboy’s decorated stitched boots with distinctive in-sloping heel; hiking boots with oil-treated soles that make them waterproof; riding boots, and work boots for farm and industrial use. For industrial wear, boots or work shoes have metal toes and soles that resist high temperatures, acid, and other damaging chemicals. The jodhpur is a low boot with the upper extending to the ankle. It is popular for riding. The Wellington, also a low-cut boot, is without fasteners.
What Determines a Correct Shoe?
The style of shoe should be in harmony with a man’s clothes. Although in Texas proud citizens may wear Stetson hats and cowboy boots with business suits, this practice must not be regarded as acceptable in urban districts in other sections of British for conventional business wear.
For town business wear, the black or brown oxford is considered correct. The soles are not too thick and the tip is plain, straight, or wing. This is the dressiest shoe for town and looks smart when worn with a snap brim, turned up, or a Homburg hat. Men’s-wear experts maintain that the shoe must be in character with the hat and the socks in colour harmony with the tie. For casual clothes the brogue is excellent. Saddle oxfords are not worn with double-breasted business suits in town. The moccasin toe, once considered correct for sports shoes only, is now nicely adapted for town shoes.
Generally, shoes for country wear are heavier, have soles extending beyond the side of the shoe, and are made of the heavier grain leathers. Certain manufacturers have made a beautiful dark cordovan which is used for town shoes. Dark brown, also navy blue, are shown in brushed leather for town wear.
For evening, the pump or patent oxford is correct. Some men who enjoy dancing prefer the fabric shoe, which is most comfortable.
Most men wear the correct style of shoe for their work and in a weight suitable for the climate: dress shoes in calf with thin soles and fine details with business suits for town wear; heavier brogues in grained leathers, with extension soles and heavier detailing with casual suits; leisure shoes, sandals, loafers, huaraches, moccasins, espadrilles for at-home or beach wear; lighter weight and lighter coloured shoes for town in the summer.
Combinations to Avoid
Certain shoes with town business dress are incorrect, as saddle oxfords, brogues, tennis shoes, cowboy boots, loafers, ski boots, sandals, and pumps.
Fine calf oxfords are not correct with sportswear or overalls, some relation between the character, fabric, style, and colour of the suit and shoe should be obvious. Woven leather shoes, fine for summer wear, are not correct with a heavy tweed suit. White shoes are not worn with a banker’s grey chalk-stripe worsted. The white shoes are correct with a light grey tropical worsted or summer suiting in rayon, cotton, or linen of the many blends available. Heavy work shoes are not worn for town. Golf shoes are not worn indoors, especially if the soles have metal spikes.