A few thoughts on why wearing Wellies isn’t a great idea after all…

W22_unic_1922Summer is now long gone and, although St Andrews has been reasonably dry so far, the wet misery of a Scottish seaside town winter is approaching. These are dark times; the time of rain, mud, and salt on the sidewalk – the time of rubber Wellington boots and their grim connotations. The inelegance of the object has no equal but the ghastliness of its affectionate nickname, ‘wellies’, and I would probably quite enjoy treating them with great violence, but no matter- we are not there yet. Whilst the (very relatively) clear and sunny days persist, we get to wear actual shoes without dying a little inside when thinking about the hundred and one reasons we might have just ruined them on our way to Tesco’s. (I’d rather be repudiated by my whole academic family than put on a pair of Wellingtons and so will be dying a lot inside, but then again, it’s only me.) In any case, let us explore different styles of footwear to indulge in on the gentler days of Autumn.

Loafers – In a little more than two years I have seen more types of slip-ons than in any other place. Plain leather; brogue; cap-toed; buckled; tasselled; suede; suede and tasselled;  from the more sober, black or brown all-leather English form to the louder, caramel or maroon American specimens, the place has a lot to offer (but not always well). Have fun with them: they are quite innocuous as long as you don’t mistake them for evening shoes. You might want to reconsider wearing them with a suit as well – it takes a solid East Coast accent to make that combination work.

Derbys – Because of their casual open lacing, their  plain surface, and their number of eyelets (three or four is too few to be considered formal), Derby shoes have become a confusing in-between. They are not neatly elegant enough to be worn with a suit, but they go very nicely with a pair of chinos, corduroys, or jeans (not that I would ever encourage the wearing of jeans).

Brogues –  Born in Scotland and Ireland, they may possess the greatest potential for versatility among the ranks of day shoes. The joyful curves and patterns of a subtle broguing harmonise with the crisp aspect of a closed lacing with five eyelets to form a well-balanced shoe fitted to complement odd woll or tweed trousers, or a full suit. It is worth mentioning that wearing brown brogues with a grey, navy or green suit is almost always quite a good idea.

Oxfords – The sterner front of cap toes and the efficient, direct stitching make traditional Oxford shoes the preferred choice of fashion conservatives in pinstripes. In other tones – cream, caramel, light brown tan- it is prone to project the image of old-fashioned and slightly dandified youth, which, in youth, is never a bad thing. It is worthy of notice that black, cap toe Oxfords are the most approachable norm for morning dress footwear. This limits the occasions, one would think, but then again- every morning should be an occasion for morning dress.

Evening dress shoes – The same goes for evening shoes as for any garments : what was relevant in the sunlight becomes out of place when evening comes. Wearing brogues at a Black Tie event is as wrong as wearing a day suit, if not more (no offense to those who did just that at the ball). White Tie and Black Tie footwear must accord with the rest of the outfit by tuning to its stately, minimalistic aesthetic, for which plain patent leather without much upper stitching is quite probably the soundest option. The greatest article of dress footwear is arguably the court shoe, or opera pump, a slip-on made of such material and adorned with a silk bow at its middle point to trick the eye into perceiving the wearer’s feet as smaller and thinner than they are. (Ah, White Tie…) Court shoes worn with Black Tie are considered somewhat pedantic, though, and as they are impossible to find anyway. A good consolation is the slim, plain, Oxford-shaped patent leather dress shoe with closed lacing. Some favour black and white dress shoes, but the close contrast of opposites does detract from the rest of the outfit when the rest of the attendees should be busy making sure that you can tie your own bow tie.

Having run out of trivial things to conclude with, I should end with the most important consideration of all : whenever possible, go for welted leather soles. They are slippery, wear faster, and self-destruct in the presence of water, but there is no pleasanter music than the echo of leather soles thumping on the floor an empty church.

Peter Zahnd

Image: H Prints