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20.04.2011
The fit and the aesthetic of men's dress shoes




About men and shoes
 
My father had a friend who owned an old pair of Ludwig Reiter, purchased on a trip to Vienna with his wife for their anniversary. Last year my father called me to ask if I can take his friend to Ludwig Reiter in Zurich where he was coming for his ruby anniversary. When my father’s friend arrived I took him to the shop near the Limmat river. I thought he would simply choose and buy a new pair, but instead he placed an order for a pair of the exactly same shoes. He wanted a copy of his shoes from 13 years ago. We ended up staying at Ludwig Reiter for 4 hours, talking about shoes. That might sound strange, as unlike women most men don’t sit around fantasizing about shoes and shoe shopping, but that day I found out that there are men who don’t let themselves down on footwear and they have their reasons.
 
Why would men wear anything else than sneakers?
High-end and low-end shoes are worlds apart and the differences are crucial to the foot and the wearer. A well-made shoe fits the wearer perfectly and this is what matters most to men: comfort. The quality of the material is equally important: there is nothing better for a shoe than leather. The material must stay flexible and should not get brittle, even if confronted with constant bending and stretching. Despite technological processes, weaved or synthetic material can never meet the expectations and the advantages real leather can offer.  Not only that, but durability will be different. With a proper care a good suit and a good pair of shoes, can last for years, if not generations, making it the more cost-effective buy over time.
In addition to reason we shouldn’t avert our eyes from another factor: aesthetics. Men shoes might never be fetishized as Mahnolo Blahnik’s were after “Sex and the city”, but men have to keep in mind that there is a reason behind mother’s traditional advice to their daughters to first look at men’s shoes. A well-made and taken-care-of shoe sends a signal to the rest of the world about the wearer. It influences not only the view of others to us, but it shows how we view ourselves.
 
 
Why the traditional method of Goodyear welting is still considered the best method of shoe manufacturing
Goodyear welting is an elaborate system of shaping and fastening the upper part of the shoe over the last by sewing a leather strip (also known as the “welt”) to the inner or upper sole. The welt forms a cavity, which is then filled with cork material. The cork amalgam molds to the bottom of the foot and enhances comfort. Another advantage of Goodyear-welted shoes is that they are relatively water-resistant and at the same time allow a constant flow of air keeping the shoes ventilated, durable and strong.
There are many other methods of shoe construction among which are the mocassin, the moulded and forcelasting methods. No matter that the Goodyear welt is regarded as a sturdy and old fashioned method that requires many hours of work (almost 20 hours per pair) only to create heavier and less flexible footwear, this method is still considered the best traditional crafting technique for finer quality dress footwear.
You can learn more about the method, the choice and the treatment of the shoe leather from the owner of the Ludwig Reiter shoe manufactory who is visiting from Vienna and hosting exclusively for ZURICH4YOU a shoe workshop at the Zurich Ludwig Reiter store. For more information read here (to the event invitation).
 
The difference between the need and the aesthetics
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the earliest known shoes were sandals, dating from around 8000 to 7000 BC. The oldest leather shoe is believed to date to 3,500 BC. It was made from a single piece of cowhide laced with a leather cord and was found in a cave in Armenia in 2008. As tanned leather doesn’t last normally thousands of years, it is very likely that shoes were used long before this, but there is no conclusive evidence. As for the aesthetics it came to matter only when Europe gained wealth and power. While before the French revolution most of the world’s population was lucky to have shoes at all, European aristocrats turned the shoe into a symbol of status. They flaunted their wealth on high heels (both men and women), in floral clothing, embroidery and heavy make up. After the revolution social equality was emphasized with a more somber and serious dress code. Heels gave way to flat soles and later boot style was abandoned in favor of the now ubiquitous Oxford style men’s dress shoe. Nowadays it might seem that men shoes are boring and there is no distinctive footwear product to be talked about in movies and at parties, but as I read in a Forbes article about men’s footwear once “unlike women, men actually give a damn about fit”.
 
 
 Tsitaliya Mircheva-Petrova
 


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