We don’t say this lightly, but it’s time for a national intervention on men's shoes.
Ask the men of Britain to gather in a large open space, and ask them to wear their favourite pair of formal shoes. A strange request, true, and enormously hard logistically, but just play along for a second.
When everyone’s there, take a chance to walk among them. Take a good look around. On first scan, what you’ll find is plenty of well-turned out, smartly-dressed and thoughtfully put together people who take pride in their appearance. So far so good. The trouble, however, will start when you pan down to the footwear.
Because it seems there’s a blindspot in the British male brain when it comes to ‘smart’ shoes, where in surprisingly large numbers, tastes seem to have been frozen in the late Nineties when a wave of pointy, curvy, square-toed and badly made cheap shoes flooded the market.
The Nineties Winkelpicker: Wanted Dead Or Alive. But preferably Dead
Shoes in all manner of unsightly shades of curry brown, shoes that instead of lieing flat, rocked and curled in the manner of a medieval jester.
Shoes that couldn’t be classified in any of the traditional categories – brogues, derbies, oxfords – that had served us men so well for so long, but instead mashed up different elements in often grotesque hybrid designs.
Shoes, if that’s what they must be called, which occasionally feature elasticated straps in the manner of footwear you might buy for a toddler.
Back in 2000, it seemed destined to be a passing fad, surely, a stylistic blot soon to be consigned to fashion’s Room 101. Except 15 years on, things have barely changed. On the tube, on the bus, in the office. When you’re least expecting it, one glimpse can send shivers up the spine.
On a recent stag do, where the smart but comfortable shoe is a popular choice for getting into questionable nightclubs and walking endlessly around foreign city streets, I couldn't help conducting a straw poll on the subject. A remarkable 6 out of 12 of the men there had chosen shoes that should have been confiscated on aesthetic grounds immediately.
We wrote about this phenomenon in 2011, when the inexplicable chicken korma brown loafer and ripped hem bootcut was still in its heyday.
The Curvy Seamed Loafer: Wanted for crimes against men's style
We wrote about it again two years ago. But sadly progress has been slow. Like any important cultural shift, there would be stumbling blocks.
But then an American friend recently reignited ths subject by floating the simple but powerful question: “what the f*** is it with you British and shit shoes?”
It's not everyone of course, but it's a sad fact that plenty of otherwise sane and rational men of otherwise good taste continue to make terrible decisions regarding their footwear.
Perhaps it's an unwillingness to see shoes as an investment worth spending a little extra on, perhaps it's men in their thirties whose style habits are still associated with their University days. Whatever the reason, it's giving British men a bad name on the world stage. And given the now burgeoning choice of places to buy classic and affordable loafers, desert boots, brogues, derbies, oxfords and chelsea boots to name just a few examples, the excuses are running out.
If not for yourself, if not for those of us who have to look at them, do it for the women in your life. The old adage, "You can judge a man by his shoes" is as true today as it ever was. And, yes, people are judging.
So at that time of year when we often give the contents of our wardrobe a little reassessment; what’s in, what’s out, what needs to go straight to the local Pets In Needs Of Vets charity shop, let's pick up the mantle for a final push.
Let’s all agree to an amnesty – a nationwide agreement to assemble a giant bonfire of bad men's shoes. Actually, given the high quantity of pleather on show, bad idea.
Just look into your own cupboard and throw out the worst culprits for all our sakes. You'll never look back.