The Ideal Shoe Collection, a confession
As with so many things, once we are underway, the destination changes. In the time it takes to secure our goal, we have learned much about what we once desired, our taste has necessarily been educated and we have learned (and owe much to) our mistakes, and the ever evasive goal has evolved even as we ourselves have.
It is said, and not without truth, that every dealer is a collector. And so it is with me; even after having 3000 pairs of shoes pass through my hands, my own goal of achieving the ideal shoe collection has eluded me. Certainly I have collected many lovely examples of the classic shoe. And, yes, I have remained steadfastly and exclusively fixed on the dozen or so classic and traditional styles, but always some beauty appears that, with all my exposure to the medium, even I could not have been anticipated…and that beauty must, by any and all means, be acquired. And so it goes, something new insinuates its way into my collection, the collection that time and again I thought complete.
Of course, there is something to be said for the basics, a collection that is sufficient to accommodate a gentleman’s every practical sartorial need. Daytime and evening shoes, shoes that fit the season and the weather, formal and informal, town and country; these are perhaps the basic parameters, but since not everyone favours ever style, the number of shoes one needs is probably less than 20 to accommodate ever possible occasion; one might make due nicely with a dozen, if one leaves out the less often worn styles such as Spectators, Formal Slippers, Field and Riding Boots and so forth. I myself am a great fan of Brown Suede and therefore have collected the entire range, Full & Half Brogues, Monks, Loafers, Jodhpurs and so forth. Others are fans of Shell Cordovan and have a duplicate of every calfskin shoe in horsehide, so, on the other hand, the numbers can easily mount. The essentials -as long as you have secured the best example of them- are few, and the few will serve beautifully and long. Well made shoes, properly cared for, as a practical matter, do not wear out. If you acquire the classic styles and them only, and if you buy the best quality you can afford -always the best bargain in the long run- you can expect to wear them forever, yes forever.
Gentlemen who are used to paying thousands for custom shoes or these days more than a thousands for even ready-made shoes, will find these pages a good source for the best shoes in the world at very modest prices. My many repeat clients, my Stammkunden, have grown to depend on me for the best quality, the best condition and, often, the otherwise unavailable in shoes. One can spend a year looking for a bargain on Ebay and perhaps even find it. But more likely you will be disappointed for all the time you invest and for what you receive in the end. My faithful clients know that here, from these pages, they avoid all the easy-to-make stylistic mistakes buying on-line and with modest means can build an imposing collection of correct footwear suitable for the gentleman.
A suggested basic list for daytime; these can be worn interchangeably. Suit your own taste in brown (always brown or cordovan colour before 18:00 hours) calfskin, suede, or shell cordovan: The Monk Strap, The Full and Half Brogue, The Plain or Cap-Toe Oxford or Derby. Later add a Penny Loafer, a Spectator, a Saddle Oxford, an Alligator, a Sharkskin, a Norweger, a Jodhpur, a Field Boot and a duplicate of any of the above but with a Commando rubber sole for heavy weather or terrain.
A suggested basic list for evening, (always black after 18:00 hours): for formal wear, a Plain or Cap-Toe Oxford or Derby. For informal or semi-formal wear, a Monk Strap or a Full- or Half-Brogue.
These are the basics and they are achievable; the ideal shoe collection is a fantasy, devoutly to be wished, the stuff of quiet meditation, of pleasant day-dreams, but one that will always remain, like every ideal, just out of reach.