Walk this way

Step into style with desert boots, tasselled loafers and refined sneakers

By Patrick Langston
Photo by Ashley Fraser

Hey, gents, they’re back! Tasselled loafers, de rigeur in the early ’90s, are again adorning all the best feet, according to Kevin Eisenberg, senior footwear buyer at Harry Rosen. 

“For a few years, they were the kiss of death. Now they’re cool again,” says Eisenberg. Unlike the old days, however, men are now slipping them onto mini-socked feet, another hot trend for your nethermost regions.

Penny loafers, minus the now-defunct Canadian coin, are also surging back into popularity. Ditto desert boots, which you’ll remember if you grew up in the ’60s (or won’t remember if you truly came of age then).

It all points to just how fluid men’s footwear fashion has become.

Gentlemen are sporting patent leather shoes for formal occasions, but then hopping into velvet slip-ons for both dressy times and funkier nights on the town, says Eisenberg. Christopher Bates’ handmade velvet kiss slip-ons ($450), one of more than 180 men’s shoes on the Harry Rosen website, are at once serious and cheeky.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea boot — the Monte Rosso Enrico version is $495 at Nordstrom — has borrowed the desert boot look for its suede upper.

And, in case you hadn’t noticed, sneakers have snuck up on us big time. “The sneaker business has taken the world by storm, and it’s still big going into fall 2017,” says Andre Schad of Schad fashion boutique on Sussex Drive.

“People are wearing nice, clean running shoes with suits and with cool, narrow jeans and nice jackets,” he says. He notes, however, that Ottawa’s sartorially conservative ways mean dress shoes outsell sneakers for more formal wear.

He adds that sneakers, priced up to about $500 at Schad, have influenced dress shoes, with air soles pioneered in the former now adding comfort to some of the latter.

Esquire magazine, meanwhile, spotlights minimalist sneakers by fashion-forward shoemaker, Armando Cabral and clothing retailer, Theory among its must-have shoes for 2017. The low-tops come in five colours, including black and green, and Esquire assures its readers that the sneakers — which are apparently modelled on Cabral’s Broome line, but hint at a bowling shoe ancestry — are the ideal accompaniment to any outfit and retail for about $580.

Esquire has also posted an instructional video on achieving a clean look by straight lacing your shoes, sneaker or otherwise, so there’s no visible cross of the laces.

When it comes to dress shoes, Eisenberg, who earlier this year was scouting out trends at the Pitti Uomo fashion fair in Florence, Italy, says that the pointed or chiselled toe is giving way to a more rounded silhouette.

He adds that one of the biggest stories for spring and summer is a new softness to suede and leather as men go mini-sock —even in dress shoes.

The question of how much to spend on footwear is, of course,

a battleground with no victor. At specialty fashion stores, you can expect to pay anything from $100 for footwear to $3,290

for the calfskin leather Amalfi 2 Medallion Toe Oxfords by Salvatore Ferragamo.

Eisenberg cautions against cheaper shoes that look good on
the shelf, but start to deteriorate when they meet real life.
Good shoes, he says, “actually look better with age because they develop patina.”

Schad says to look for shoes with a good arch support and a “Goodyear welt,” a strip of leather or other material that connects the top and bottom of the shoe. It makes for better resoling and hence, longer-lived shoes.