A version of this story first appeared in Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.
Although most men would argue they own too many shoes, footwear is the part of the wardrobe that's imbalanced most often — in my opinion, at least. If you love sneakers, for example, you probably own quite a few pairs of sneakers; same story if you're obsessed with boots. Rarely do men have a stable of solid options; affection for one type of footwear almost always leads to a shortage of others. Are you following?
Our list of new essentials covers all of the bases: boots, sneakers, sandals, socks and dress shoes. I'm clearly doing my best to justify buying one from each section, but surely adding just one (or two) to your rotation will greatly improve it — like when a sports team adds a few superstar players and suddenly wins a championship.
Boots are the tires on your daily driver (you). They can trudge through snow, traverse tough terrain and top off a tonal fall outfit. Markers of good-quality boots are rebuildable, welted constructions like Goodyear and stitchdown, and full-grain leather like Horween Chromexcel. If you base your buy off these benchmarks, you’re bound to end up with a boot that’s comfortable, hard-wearing and long-lasting. They’ll earn a patina while promising longevity. If you ever planned on emptying your savings on something you wear, this is the category to do it in.
Once considered a sartorial snafu, wearing New Balance sneakers is suddenly a very cool thing to do. Thanks in part to a long list of collaborations lending them street cred, the Boston-born company’s having one of its best years on record. They’ve clearly figured out the formula for success; while New Balance sneakers are everywhere, they're almost impossible to buy.
Sneakerheads have realized that $300 can be used towards better shoes than one-off Jordans, and thus, they are turning to a new type of footwear: loafers.
There’s a new cohort of brands crafting loafers out of materials classic labels never felt compelled to touch — colorful pebble-grain leather, mohair, hairy suede, denim and more. These iterations represent the streetwearification of slip-on dress shoes but also a shift in what consumers value. As cool as sneakers may be, the obvious concerns remain: How will they hold up with regular wear and will they make the right impression?
Free yourself from Nike’s release calendar, quit checking what your recently ruined New Balances are running for on StockX. A pair of well-made loafers will hold up better over time.
There’s no sensible way to wear Birkenstocks in a snowy winter. Hence, they’re a three-season sandal: fine for fall, super in spring and the star of the show in summer. There are leather, suede, rubber and even vegan options nowadays.
Let white sneakers become so embedded in your wardrobe that you lace them up on autopilot every morning. You won't have to worry about working to make them match — they go well with everything, from suits and wool trousers to mesh shorts and sweatpants. You can even choose one pair for dressing up, one for casual occasions and another for sportier settings if you're so inclined.
Why not wear socks you can show off? Stop stockpiling your top drawer with six-packs by Fruit of the Loom and Gildan and get a few pairs from this trio of all-star Japanese brands: Kapital, Anonymous Ism and Rototo. They last longer, look better and subtly signal you know fashion — well, at least enough to know good socks when you see and feel them.