One of my favorite pieces I have ever written was about men’s shoes. LL Bean boots, in particular.
I opined how hot it is for a man to wear duck boots because it speaks to a preppy ruggedness that I have always found extremely attractive. But WASP envy aside, you can tell a lot about a man by the shoes he wears, and when it comes to style, size doesn’t matter. So when I was asked to pen a shoe story, I didn’t hesitate.
Fact: women talk about and shop for shoes like nobody’s business. Saks in NY has a shoe floor that boasts its own zip code; it’s so large. But as we get older, our relationship with shoes truly changes. Because as much as we love the latest shoe, we secretly thank our stars that most of the shoes du jour are built for comfort. Take the current fixation on the Boston style of the Birkenstock. Both men and women are clamoring for it, and though it entirely reminds me of a Nutter Butter, I’m down with it, particularly on a particular type of man. I’d say tall, lanky, and sort of Bourdain-like is the proper brief. That or a blonde surfer dude. Otherwise, it could get very Tolkien. I’m guessing most men don’t want to look elfen so take that with a fine grain of salt.
So what is suitable for guys past 50, then?
It depends on your lifestyle, work style, and, most of all, comfort zone. And by that, I mean your cushy, happy, comfy place where your feet don’t hurt, and life’s too short to wear painful shoes.
My 52-year-old husband always wears classic Nike Jordans and loves the original look like these here. We live in New York City, and these feel just right for an urban lifestyle. The founder of this publication is a fan of the Nike Tailwind 79, which is sleek, versatile, and very comfortable. I also am a personal fan of a Converse Jack Purcell in the warmer months because they are classic and somewhat rebellious at once. And a guy who wears Stan Smiths always looks confident and cool. They are such an iconic kick that you can’t go wrong with them.
The desert boot
If you feel like sneakers are past due for you besides in the gym, may I offer up the desert boot?
I wrote about these a few weeks back and stand by their laid-back but put-together appeal. Pop these on with anything from jeans to a suit. A desert boot has youthful coolness that works well for a mature moment in life. To me, they say “comfortable in my own skin or feet.” These are good, too.
The Chelsea boot
This is one of my favorite boots for dudes because they are rock and roll sexy at their best. I love them with black jeans and a blazer with a button-down. This Saint Laurent take is the ultimate, in my opinion, but there are lower-priced options to be had like these from Zara.
The cold weather boot
And when it comes to boots, you can’t go wrong with a classic hiking boot; whether indoorsy or outdoorsy, they work well for “heartier” climates, aka cold weather. Here at AGEIST, we love the Aether varietal, and I prefer the moto lace up to the alpine boot, but you do you. This boot from Rag and Bone is also quite good, wearable, and more grown-up than a Doc Marten. Don’t hate me. A more affordable take like these from Thursday Boot Co.
The dress shoe
Now let’s chat about dress shoes because they’re tough (too pointy, too shiny, too cheesy).
Much like women, many men don’t have to dress for work anymore. The Don Draper era is long gone, and daily suit wear is the provenance of a very rare few. But if you wear a suit from time to time, a good lace-up is your BFF. We suggest something classic and admittedly spendy, like the Prada version. They look equally cool with a cuffed selvedge jean as they do with a suit, so that’s a win-win. One shoe that I don’t like? A monk strap. Don’t like. Never have. Never will.
I also am noticing an uptick in men wearing loafers in that classic Weejun silhouette that may remind one of “Happy Days” but are worth a rethink. I recently popped into the gorgeous new J. Press store in midtown and all the guys working there were rocking a stiff, shiny black loafer, and they all looked so amazing (it’s my preppy thing again). If it all feels too Yale Club, check out this take from Paraboot. I love them with khakis, rolled-up jeans, and a suit.
Regardless of your style or stage in life, shoes do indeed make the man. But so does a sense of humor, strong character, and confidence. That’s my take. And should you want to check out my poetic wax on the LL Bean duck boot, the post is here. It still makes me smile, so let’s hear it for the boys. Of course, never stop wearing your slip-on Vans. They’re the kick back, summer equivalent of my beloved duck boots. And yes, you may have worn them in high school or college, but they are transcendent enough to have ageless, effortless appeal.