Thursday, August 11, 2005

Shod(dy) for success

The 19 Minutes staff recently had occasion to shop for dress shoes. This was something of an unusual situation, since the last time I bought dress shoes was something like 10 years ago, and that was only because I was en route to a wedding and inadvertently left my dress shoes behind. And at that point, I had a Wardrobe Look in mind, and that Wardrobe Look included the pair of shoes I had forgotten, so I found another pair that looked exactly the same.

A decade later, my feet haven't grown at all. And since (except for a 9-month stint in the actual business world) I wear dress shoes an average of five times a year, I still have the same couple of pairs of essentially identical black loafers.

But in conjunction with a back-to-school sale at the local mall, my wife thought that perhaps my dress footwear could use some updating.

And so I found myself in the shoe section of the JC Penney, looking bewildered as Gretchen held up each subsequent pair of shoes, asking whether I liked one pair better than the others. As someone who wears either sneakers or hiking boots to work nearly every day, all the dress shoes look the same. Sure, some of them have laces and some of them don't (um, loafers, right?). And some of them are brown and some of them are black. Some of them are probably white, too, but as I'm neither a junior high school principal nor a pimp, the white dress shoes are pretty easy to disregard. But basically, they all attempt to look dressy without necessitating the wearing of a tuxedo.

But I dutifully attempted to decide which shoes were my style and which weren't, using the distasteful memories of over-dressed high school classmates as a guide. With only loafers in my dress shoe drawer (Yeah, like I have a "dress shoe drawer". Forgive my figurative blogging.) for the past 15 years or so, I was honestly surprised that the laces on men's dress shoes weren't merely decorative, but actually required tying. Gretchen suggested that if I wanted decorative laces, I should borrow our 14-month old's shoes.

My other handicap is a lack of familiarity with any of the brand names. At least when I'm shopping for boots, names like "Merrell" and "Sorrel" bring an image to mind - an image of shoes too expensive for the 19 Minutes budget, but an image nonetheless. But with dress shoes, you could make up a brand called "Repugnants" and I would look at them with the same bewildered look I'd give to a pair of Clarks, or a coati at the National Zoo. In fact, I almost bought the coati at JC Penney.

In the end, I wound up with a pair of brown(!) vaguely saddle-like dress shoes, that - with my normal use - should serve me find for say, the next 45 years. Especially since I can now rotate them with my two other pairs.

At least I didn't encounter my usual problem in the shoe department, which I generally have when shopping for sneakers - that is, discovering the pair of cross-trainers I want are actually women's shoes. I'm pretty sure this pair of shoes I ended up with are from the men's department. I think.

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