CNN’s Dhanya Skariachan takes the first step toward easing the footwear shortage in 21st-century America.
If men’s style is any indicator, we are entering the early stage of a shoe renaissance. There’s the amazing resurgence of the Y-front slipper. There’s the return of the dandy-looking loafers and oxfords with their century-old innovations like the suspension swing sole. And, last, but certainly not least, there’s the budding mule-mintonium of the coveted 1970s medium heel, aided by a new and unusual terminology: mules and mintoniums.
In my newest book, “How to Look Like You’re an Old-Fashioned Man,” I devote a chapter to clothing, accessories and footwear — a 300-page look at the nuts and bolts of how men — whether bohemian or working man — dress today.
OK, men in the 21st century are wearing the right shoes and clothes to dress like a grown-up, but there are still a great many men out there who think (and act) like a teenager. According to a 2003 University of Michigan study on socially acceptable fashion, a full 42% of American men between 18 and 22 years old, generally defined as adolescents, don’t wear shoes with socks, while 30% don’t wear belts.
If you’re in a hurry to keep up with the latest trends, and you’re a man who can’t afford to buy comfortable, chic, well-fitting shoes, you’re in for a big surprise. There are actually a great many pairs of shoes on the market that’ll do the trick. Yet you’ll have to buy them almost exclusively for this very reason. You have to have cash to spend on shoes.
Part of my goal in researching my book was to figure out how to reach those men who are the footnotes of the 21st-century mule-mintonium (and, like those authors whose work I cite in the book, I know of such men.) But it turns out that there are several ways to get the job done.
In a book, of course, you have to educate the reader. But I also enlisted the help of former “Real World” roommates Grant Imahara and Ryan Christopher, who are in the new TV series “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” which premieres on MTV tonight.
Unfortunately, Grant and Ryan are about as trendy as the Duck Dynasty clan. But I figured that they were able to learn a thing or two, and we got a bit of our money’s worth. We showed them some pairs of stores and shoe styles that will get them ready for any of their future parties, meetings or even visits to the doctor.
It turns out that I’m lucky to have such a robust supply of mules and mintoniums on hand. The problem — as with most shoes, including sandals — is that buying the right pair takes an incredibly long time. That’s because shoes are generally purchased with some type of measurement (like a weight and length) that are non-negotiable requirements for a solid, appealing shoe.
Just take, for example, the design of a male Y-front slipper. I had someone from DSW, the national shoe department store, reach out to me and tell me that, since they actually market shoes with toe openings, the company’s lawyers won’t allow anyone to offer these on their web site or at their stores, because it’s still illegal to advertise toe openings. But that’s one big drawback to looking like a mule. They just don’t exist.
There are two major ways to deal with this problem, which doesn’t necessarily hold true for other footwear types. One way is to simply buy the shoes you like the most and have them made for you, without measurements. This will avoid the a-level-of-conundrum at hand, so I’ll give you two shoe companies that not only have shoe-mules, but they do it right: Leather Factory and Virginia Shoes.
They’ve got plenty of styles, sizes and colors, so long as your favorite color or size won’t look weird next to the picture of a whole new wardrobe. The other way to keep pace with the style trends is to shop for shoes early, carefully and buy them in packs, which adds to your cost. By having multiple pairs of shoes in stock, you have a backup plan for shoes that never match up to the next hot new style. It helps when there’s already another pack that’s not budging!
If you’re willing to invest some time and money, the results can be very rewarding. But be prepared to pay a pretty penny for shoes that fit right.