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What's wrong with these shoes?
April 12, 2012 1:32 PM   Subscribe

What's wrong with square-toed shoes?

This article sums up perfectly what many people seem to think about men wearing square toed oxfords or boots of any color these days, especially in a business setting:

“Tasteless guys wear them,” he says. “They don’t even go to nice clubs. They go to cheap clubs. Every population has the same segments. We have the trendy individuals, the average individuals, and the tasteless individuals."

Personally I have one pair of shoes that look like this, and another that look like this. I like they way they look on my foot, usually with dark blue jeans. But apparently I am wrong.

Why am I wrong? When exactly did this shape of shoe become such a style-signifier? Is it a mere whim of fashion or do they actually look bad? They look a little bulbous, but hey, I got smallish feet, so it doesn't look clownish or something. Or maybe it does. I feel like I'm being gas-lighted. Do chukka shoes like Clarks really look that much more awesome? They are bulbous too.

Final bonus question! I like wingtips. Can truly you wear wingtips with really casual jeans? I can't decide--it feels like I'm wearing fairy slippers when I do.

Thanks fashionizers.
posted by Potomac Avenue to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (74 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean, it's a style. It's not one I'm personally especially fond of (it reminds me of the Witches, where they had no toes, their feet just ended in stumps... feet aren't shaped like that! I always think it makes feet look stubby and weird), but people where a lot of styles I'm not especially fond of, and it's not a big deal if they like things I don't. It's not currently on-trend, so that's where the "tasteless" comment comes from.

Business attire, even for men, has a certain expected "look". This shoe shape does not conform perfectly to it, that's all. It's not a big deal, but it is a fact of life.

And yes, you can definitely wear wingtips with casual jeans. It's a good look.
posted by brainmouse at 1:39 PM on April 12, 2012


They're not in fashion and look kind of dated, but if you like them, you should wear them anyway.

Bonus answer: nothing wrong with wingtips with jeans, but wearing dress shoes with jeans is pretty ... advanced. And by advanced, I mean kind of weird.

Here is a casual wingtip you may wear with jeans. Here is a dressier wingtip you may not want to.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:41 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's a style.

Indeed. My question is why and how did this happen?

Business attire, even for men, has a certain expected "look"...it is a fact of life.

Where do I get a hold of this byzantine document that declares such things? Not denying it, sincerely wondering.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:45 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hate square toed shoes, but that article is complete bunk. Is the author incredibly young?

This sentence is particularly laughable. Does she not remember the vilification of bell bottoms?

"Nor does any rhetoric about the changeable winds of fashion: “Hey, if acid-wash jeans can make a comeback . . .” Their image cannot be rehabilitated. They’re like Michael Bolton: They will never, ever be cool-ified."
posted by small_ruminant at 1:45 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a mid-20s female living in a pretty happening area of the US, I find this article to be utterly bizarre like something out of the Twilight Zone. I thought "huh?!" to myself more than once as I was reading it. I see guys wearing shoes like that all the time. It would never occur to me that there was anything wrong with them. Business guys, college guys, stylish guys, average guys. I don't know what the guys in wear in the "nice clubs" that the article referenced, because "nice clubs" are what I think of as where the cheesebags hang out. So, that's my data point for you.
posted by cairdeas at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


I think that details article author is full of puff and hooey and is attempting to mainstream a very minority opinion. While I don't have any shoes that are as agressively "blocked off" as in the article picture, they don't scream "members-only jacket" to me.

I'll put it this way - any prospective date who fronts a fashion ethic so ethereal as to be offended by those shoes isn't anyone I'd be interested in regardless.
posted by de void at 1:46 PM on April 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nothing is wrong with square toed shoes. They look good on some guys and I have never, EVER heard of this claim that only tasteless individuals wear them. That's ridiculous! It's like saying only old ladies wear flats.

Wingtips with casual jeans just look wrong to me, unless the jeans are fitted and rolled at the cuff all vintage-style. Otherwise, they make me think of that scene in The Shawshank Redemption where Andy walks back to his cell wearing the warden's shiny shoes sticking out from under his prisoner pants.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Where do I get a hold of this byzantine document that declares such things?

They do exist. We were handed one when I started work at a huge financial firm.

But also, the sales people at any higher end suit store knows such things.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:47 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hunh. I knew that I don't pay much attention to fashion, but I have fashionable men-friends who have bought square-toed boots and gotten lots of compliments on them very recently. And I, too, like in a pretty happening area.

So I'd say it's a personal choice, one I approve of, and you should do as pleases you (unless it's huge polyester houndstooth pants. Those weren't a good idea in 1970, dad, and I won't apologize for giving them to the puppy in 1995).
posted by ldthomps at 1:48 PM on April 12, 2012


The Johnston & Murphy slip-ons look fine. The Daxx lace-ups are hideous. It's mostly a fashion thing, but it's also about maintaining a smooth, elongating line from head to toe. The line that a square toe shoe creates is a bit abrupt. Also it's guilt by association--slobs who wanted cheap shoes but have wide feet were attracted to this style and the industry reacted. Those guys should spend a bit more and buy a brand that makes shoes in a variety of widths.

Re: wing-tips. The chunkier styles (like this or this) work with jeans. Sleeker styles like this are more appropriate with suits.
posted by mullacc at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually just checked the article again to see if it was written on April Fool's Day. I think you can take it with a massive boulder of salt.
posted by cairdeas at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Indeed. My question is why and how did this happen?

Whims of fashion, just as you suspected.

Where do I get a hold of this byzantine document that declares such things? Not denying it, sincerely wondering.

Good luck finding only ONE. But there are books on fashion a-plenty that can guide you.

At the end of the day, though -- if you feel most confident about the way you look when you're wearing square-toed shoes, that's all that matters, not what some yutz who wrote an article says.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:49 PM on April 12, 2012


It's Details magazine, the male equivalent of Glamour or Cosmo or whatever. They make their money from fashion designers who want to sell men new shoes, not encourage them to keep wearing their old shoes. They are using a classic women's-magazine M.O., which is to shame their readers into feeling like they need to constantly buy all new stuff or risk being completely lame.

That said, square-toed shoes are kind of clunky and I wasn't crazy about them when they were officially in style either. But what the hell do I know.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Take a look at Katherine Wheelock's other Style & Advice columns. Her shtick is picking something and yelling about it.
posted by griphus at 1:50 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, here's a thought. The really cheap square toed shoes stand out as cheap more than cheap rounded toe shoes do. They lend themselves to extra long toes (that get squished down) and things like that. Maybe the cheap ones have tainted the standing of all square toed shoes.

Unlike de void and joan_holloway, I disagree that this is a minority opinion. It's trickier to look professional with square toed shoes. But I also don't believe, as the author of that article claims to, that they're across-the-board verboten.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:51 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day, though -- if you feel most confident about the way you look when you're wearing square-toed shoes, that's all that matters,

I disagree. You're going to have a lot harder time getting Job X if you're not dressed similarly to the successful Industry X folks, especially if you don't yet have an impressive resume.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2012


I am not very into fashion, so this may not matter to you, but I think the first pair you link to are very nice and the second are fine (not awesome but not ugly at all.) This is one woman's opinion, and it looks like none of the people who commented agreed with her. To me the oddest part of the article is Corbi's assertion that everywhere in the world is the same as far as the preferred shoe shape.

Fashion is fickle and the two guys she talked with are on the bleeding-edge and very interested in getting people to buy new shoes. Nothing wrong that, but that does not mean you should accept their advice without question. Now if people whose opinions you do care about express this to you (it sounds like they have?), you could give that more weight.

Lastly, have you seen the shoes these two are selling? Alan's vary from ugly to boring in my opinion. Corbi's site wants me to expand my browser, uh no, but if what google images shows me is any indication, there are not a lot of people wearing those shoes to work.
posted by soelo at 1:53 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Nothing is wrong with square-toed shoes, but if you are wearing a business suit, you are either trying to look conservative or you are trying to be stylish (or some combination thereof). Square toed shoes are neither traditional, nor are they currently considered stylish. Thus, I wouldn't wear them with a suit.
I like wingtips. Can truly you wear wingtips with really casual jeans?
If you like. Heavily brogued wingtips to me evoke an older guy smoking a cigar at his men's club sitting in a leather chair. The stark contrast between that and jeans can "work" if you can own that contrast.
posted by deanc at 2:00 PM on April 12, 2012


I've been sitting in a European subway car every morning for the last 4 months, and I end up looking at the floor a lot because I have not yet mastered the German ability to stare mildly at random people. I've noticed that a lot of European men wear long pointy dress shoes. Longer and pointier than the dress shoes I've noticed my American friends wearing. Maybe that's just because I don't spend a lot of time in American subways, and therefore spend less time staring at other people's shoes. But the designer in the article you linked to was Belgian, so maybe that observation is actually relevant.
posted by colfax at 2:01 PM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Here is literally the look I'm rocking today: Hot or Not?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:03 PM on April 12, 2012


Square-toed men's shoes are just out right now; this was very Night at the Roxbury clubby look from a few years ago.

Men's monks with buckle are out, too.

Feel free to wear either, you'll just look a little off (esp. with the monks).

I think the bigger issue with the shoes you linked are that slip ons look douchey, and the second pair of shoes looks really cheap.

I like wingtips. Can truly you wear wingtips with really casual jeans?

I assure you, no, unless you're doing the "douchebag coming home from Nantucket/the Hamptons thing," which you really shouldn't do.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:04 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ok, here's a thought. The really cheap square toed shoes stand out as cheap more than cheap rounded toe shoes do. They lend themselves to extra long toes (that get squished down) and things like that. Maybe the cheap ones have tainted the standing of all square toed shoes.


I think this is it. Certain styles are harder to pull off in a cheap shoe. Square toes can look big and bulky and clunky, giving one's feet that "clown foot" look, if not done right. Fit has a great deal to do with this effect as well. I agree with the posters who said that guys with hard-to-fit wide feet or long toes might buy square toe shoes in lieu of actually buying shoes that fit; so the shoes are the wrong size AND worn by people who have big broad feet to begin with. Hence, the clunky effect. I see it as the men's equivalent of the women with wide feet who buy soft-sided shoes which are still too narrow for their feet, and the shoes wind up looking bulgy and misshapen due to the poor fit.

It sucks to have hard-to-fit feet (I know from experience) and have to spend more money and do more searching but it's really worth it both for comfort and style.

For the record: the first pair of shoes you linked to look fine. The second pair are really ugly and clunky looking, sorry to say!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:05 PM on April 12, 2012


Isn't it always the case that fashion is about self-debasing in order to signal compliance with a specific culture? Pointy shoes, and neck ties, and whatever else, are about "yes, this is stupidly non-functional, and often even anti-functional, but I'm doing this in order to show that I can conform to the group".

Further, fashion peddlers are about reinforcing personal fears.

So pick the group you want to display conformance to. If they're all wearing pointy shoes, go for it.
posted by straw at 2:06 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


"They’re like Michael Bolton: They will never, ever be cool-ified."

Anything is possible.
posted by headnsouth at 2:08 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is literally the look I'm rocking today: Hot or Not?

In that picture, their color makes them look like they're made out of vinyl or some other man-made material, which is pretty much never hot in a non-fetish situation. Maybe it's just the photo, though.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:12 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Indeed. My question is why and how did this happen?

I think the operative issue is that round-toed shoes are considered the "norm" or "standard." At a moment in time, there was a brief trend of square-toed shoes, and then they faded out. To some people, wearing square-toed shoes screams, "I am adhering to a fashion trend that disappeared 20 years ago and am willfully clueless that no one does this any more." I, on the other hand, regard them the same as wingtips: something people wear because they like them, even though I don't.

Half of these "this is a mortal sin of fashion violations and you shouldn't to this or you shall be condemned to the outer circle of unfashionable hell" are half-kidding. It's amusing to oneself to get over-the-top self-righteous about something that isn't really important. The stakes are low, so you might as well go over-the-top with your condemnation when you have the opportunity.
posted by deanc at 2:12 PM on April 12, 2012


Here is literally the look I'm rocking today: Hot or Not?

As a general rule, white socks are for sneakers.
posted by griphus at 2:12 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Haha those are light grey, please ignore them they are not under question here.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:13 PM on April 12, 2012


Maybe it's just the photo, though.

They are actual leather, as far as I know.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:14 PM on April 12, 2012


I also like your first pair of shoes. The second ones are meh but definitely not as ugly as the ones pictured in the article.
posted by naoko at 2:15 PM on April 12, 2012


Square-toed shoes for men are subject to the same basic rule as any other fashion choice. That is, if you think they look good and can wear them with confidence, and those in authority over you and/or who love you aren't telling you or tactfully hinting that you should reconsider them, then by all means wear them.
posted by orange swan at 2:17 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is literally the look I'm rocking today: Hot or Not?

Maybe it's the angle of the photo or the size of the pant leg or something, but they look like shoes you would need a prescription for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:19 PM on April 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's a cop out answer orange swan, the whole point of fashion is actually knowing the effect which your choices have on the observer. It's a slippery game but it's beatable. I'm just losing the shoe competition pretty hard right now.

It's not like I don't understand why things are ugly--Sketchers, Steve Maddens, Rockports, these I get why they aren't cool and look wrong. I just don't compute this one at all. Yet.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:22 PM on April 12, 2012


It might just be the picture, but those make your feet look really tiny.
posted by brainmouse at 2:23 PM on April 12, 2012


Maybe it's the angle of the photo or the size of the pant leg or something, but they look like shoes you would need a prescription for.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:19 PM on April 12


Just to be sure, here's another angle on mah feets.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:24 PM on April 12, 2012


They still don't look like leather. They must have don't a weird dye job on them. Not my style. Also, the raised seams don't do it for me, either. Sorry.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:27 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


done a weird dye job, not "don't"
posted by small_ruminant at 2:28 PM on April 12, 2012


Okay, there are things you should know about shoes and fashion:

1. Square-toed shoes have as long a history as any other kind of shoe - I do not have my links handy, but pointy and square shoes alternated as "court" shoes in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. They're not per se some kind of nineties novelty.

2. No shoe is "ugly"/ All shoes are "ugly". Shoe aesthetics are situational - it's all about subculture, class, money. I had a pair of very nice green Dr. Martens square toes along about 1995. It's perfectly reasonable to prefer some shoes over others, but the reasons will always be about aura/style/culture; they are not scientifically verifiable. I say this as an incredible shoe snob who can distinguish Italian shoe construction from English.

3. Square-toed shoes are at the bottom of the style cycle right now. At present it's smart to have traditional/WASPY shoes (I have theories, none of them nice, as to why). That means that only poor people and people who don't pay attention to fashion have square toes, and it means that square-toed shoes are in the secondhand shops but are not yet vintage.

4. That article reeks of class hatred. The rich are always talking about how the poor want to start a 'class war', but it's the rich who trot out shit like this.

5. Here is what will happen: there's a kind of chisel-toed shoe with a very long and narrow but slightly-squared-off toe that you can get from the very expensive Italian and English makers - Edward Green does some. That kind of shoe will slowly creep into popularity among the snobbish and come down in price. Square-toed shoes will come back (because capitalism demands that everything come back). But they'll be different from the nineties version, somewhat, and the snobbish will make a big deal about how 'these aren't nineties square toes'. (You can see something similar starting to happen with the recuperation of the wide tie - a year or so ago, wide ties were totally out, but now noises are being made.)

Basically, rich people will continue to bullshit.

You can wear wingtips with jeans (if I had jeans, I'd do this all the time, as I wear a lot of wingtips). But if they're slim office-ish wingtips with a skinny sole, the jeans need to be hipster skinnies and if they're any other jeans the wingtips need to be chunky or "country" with a thick sole. To my mind, a very delicate shoe often looks odd with a very robust trouser, and vice versa.

White socks are actually pure trad - in the fifties, all the WASPs wore white socks with their loafers. I still prefer colorful socks myself.

One can be fussy about clothes on a personal level without being a jerk about other people's choices, but most men's style bloggers get mean and assholish and obsessed with rules and competition. Funnily, women's style blogs are less aggro than men's about this stuff. It's as if men need to make fashion into an extreme sport out of fear of being emasculated.
posted by Frowner at 2:29 PM on April 12, 2012 [18 favorites]


At a moment in time, there was a brief trend of square-toed shoes, and then they faded out.

See this is the info I'm looking for. When was that? Can you give some examples of who and how they were worn back then?

I'm not trying to defend them overmuch though, keep that in mind. I really am just highly confused by why certain things (in a business setting specifically) look uncool when they are only minorly different style-wise.

I guess it's obvious that I just moved to New York from DC, where these shoes won Best Shoes Within 30 Blocks every year 2009-2011.

Thanks for the input so far! I'll step out (chunkily) and be back to Best Answer everyone later.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:29 PM on April 12, 2012


It's not like I don't understand why things are ugly--Sketchers, Steve Maddens, Rockports, these I get why they aren't cool and look wrong. I just don't compute this one at all. Yet.

Because they look like you got them from Sketchers or Steve Madden? They are what I would call "ugly-pretty." Their aesthetic appeal is in the fact that they look clunky and functional. Which is a look, but it's a purposefully clunky look, rather than "sleek, sexy" look. I used to wear clunky shoes a lot myself, particularly when I was rocking a certain scruffy sysadmin/CS grad student look, but my legs got tired of dragging around all that weight, so I stopped.

I return to my earlier claim: round-toes are the "standard." Square-toes were a trend. So people look at your feet and ask, "why is that guy wearing square-toed shoes?" It's certainly not because they're trendy. So there must be some other reason (eg, you like them).

See this is the info I'm looking for. When was that? Can you give some examples of who and how they were worn back then?

The article says late 80s/early 90s, but I remember them being around in the mid-to-late 90s, alongside a whole Kennedth-Cole-clunky-shoe era.
posted by deanc at 2:31 PM on April 12, 2012


1. Square-toed shoes have as long a history as any other kind of shoe

Which is probably why people call them pilgrim shoes.

Those shoes look like they can't decide if they want to be dressy or work boots. Which is fine by me, if you're wearing them casually. But it adds to the orthopedic air that Admiral Haddock alludes to.

Also, yes on the class hatred, only done, ironically, in a low-class way.

Again, that article is bunk, and my commentary on your shoes is just my opinion. If you saw me, you'd know I was no fashion maven, (though a have a few friends that are.)
posted by small_ruminant at 2:32 PM on April 12, 2012


I think they're funny looking because, as brainmouse says, feet aren't shaped that way. It's like how those very pointy-toed women's shoes end up looking like genie slippers--what's all that extra shoe doing out there? I think they make men look like they're wearing scuba fins.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:32 PM on April 12, 2012


Mens clothing is generally conservative, mens dress shoes even more so. There have only been a few different basic styles over the last hundred years, and they haven't changed much. So when something diverges from the classical shoe-shape orthodoxy, it really stands out. It looks novelty-ish, and once the vogue has passed, the ex-novelty is viewed with disdain.

I don't know why the square-toed shoe thing happened, but in NY at least, it peaked around 2001. Not sure if any high-end brands ever made this style (I know Prada was into the clunky aesthetic for a long time), but fashions tend to trickle downward on the price scale, and at this point, this shape tends to be associated with cheap mall shoes. Nothing objectively wrong with cheap mall shoes, of course, but that's how they will "read" to a lot of people.

I think suede wingtips look great with jeans.
posted by neroli at 2:36 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I will continue, I guess. Square toes were popular in the mid-nineties in both the US and Europe. I suspect it was part of the mod/minimalism of the nineties, when shape took precedence over detailing. Also, it was part of the seventies revival of chunky shoes. Your chunky shoes look a bit seventies to me. This was generational - the folks in their 30s (who had the money and creative control) in the 1990s had been young teens in the seventies so there was nostalgia; also the folks who were teens and twentysomethings in the nineties didn't remember the seventies much so there was a different kind of imagined nostalgia.

There was also more populism in pop culture - now all this WASP/wingtip/Horween/veldtschoen crap is about showing off snobbery and showing your ideological alliance to wealth in a time of right-wing resurgence. (Again, I say this as a total shoe snob - my brogues are English, and not the cheap kind, either.)


Your shoes are "corrected grain" leather. That means that imperfections in a cheap hide are covered ("corrected") by the application of a plasticy substance. There's cheap corrected grain and pricey corrected grain; the cheaper, the more plastic-like it looks. Non-corrected grain shoes are generally....oh....at least in the upper $100s new.

Seriously, wear them if you like. As you get older, you'll realize that the only kind of style/cool that endures is having enough character to do your own thing. When you're around a bunch of insecure twenty-somethings, everyone parrots whatever the latest commercial style line is - and genuinely believes it, too, just as we genuinely believed that the styles of the nineties were dashing and suave.
posted by Frowner at 2:37 PM on April 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


They still don't look like leather. They must have don't a weird dye job on them.

They're probably corrected-grain leather, which can look plasticky.
posted by mullacc at 2:39 PM on April 12, 2012


whoops, shoulda previewed. :(
posted by mullacc at 2:41 PM on April 12, 2012


Women have had to deal with this for, like, ever, except that the rate of change in what's in style/what's totally out is much faster, and it applies to every item of clothing, hair makeup, handbag, etc.

Look at people you think are well-dressed. Look at their shoes, and pay attention to the details of how they're dressed. Buy the best quality you can and take care of it. Good quality shoes, properly polished, are going to keep looking good.

I have no issue with your shoes. I recommend buying jeans that don't need to be rolled up. Try washing in HOT water, and putting in the dryer; sometimes they shrink up. Usually only if you don't want them to.
posted by theora55 at 2:43 PM on April 12, 2012


As I said upthread, I really do think that the ultimate end of the square-toed shoe was A Night at the Roxbury (1998), and the SNL skits that led up to the film.

I think there is a benefit to a square-toed shoe if you're in a club where people might step on your feet; there's an extra safety zone for toes as compared to a rounded toe.

It's young people who go to clubs (generally) and the stores that catered to them--Aldo, Steve Madden, etc. churned out a lot of square-toed product, saturating (loosely speaking) the market. Their shoes are cheap, and people were quick to throw them away as they became worn or even ever-so-slightly out of date. The shoes are either in the trash or at goodwill, and that reinforces the notion that they're not cool.

It's much different for rounded-toe shoes; they're the norm, and so when they're discarded or donated or whatever, it's not particularly salient. But when the novel new look (granted, square toe is not new) ends up in the garbage, it reduces its half-life and they become more spurned.

The shoes you're wearing, though, suffer from a different flaw; the square and the rounded corners really make them look like some sort of therapeutic footwear. They make your feet look very short. The big thick laces and the gap between the eyelets also contribute to its rusticated look. The Johnston and Murphy slip on is not my favorite, but the more streamlined look seems preferable.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:49 PM on April 12, 2012


Not sure if any high-end brands ever made this style

'High-end' is in the eye of the beholder, etc., but maybe John Fluevog?
posted by box at 2:56 PM on April 12, 2012


I was going to mention Night at the Roxbury as well. I'm glad someone else did first. To me, they go along with pleated wide-leg dress pants and dark striped dress shirts half-unbuttoned with a tank top underneath. A relic of the late nineties, in other words.

I think it's easier for you to pull off square-toed shoes than it would be for someone wearing a suit where everything looks sharp... except the shoes. I really don't mean for that to sound insulting-- just that you have a little more leeway wearing jeans.
posted by supercres at 2:57 PM on April 12, 2012


To add some perspective, I can remember when no one would have been caught dead in wing-tips.
posted by telstar at 2:58 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article says more about the writer than it does about the wearers of square-toed shoes. (Of which I am one, at this very moment.)
posted by The Deej at 2:59 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


One last thought, and I've said variations on this on MeFi before.

There is a palpable difference between "fashion" and "style." The former is the look of the moment, the latter is a personal creation. Sometimes a person embodies both, sometimes one or the other.

Square-toed shoes are far from fashionable. They could be part of someone's style, but rocking something actively unfashionable as part of your style--and not looking like you are just oblivious--requires masterclass-level panache. Not to equate the two, but think of Warhol's disheveled white wig or Terry Richardson's glasses.

If you're going to incorporate something unfashionable into your style, and buck the mode, you gotta work it hard.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:00 PM on April 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I wear Oxford wingtips and longwings frequently with jeans but I think balmoral wingtips look a bit too dressy with casual clothes.
posted by cazoo at 3:39 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here is what will happen: there's a kind of chisel-toed shoe with a very long and narrow but slightly-squared-off toe that you can get from the very expensive Italian and English makers

French, as well. This is the look of the current "it-shoe", the $1200 Corthay Arca which seems to have the exact toe style you described.
posted by deanc at 3:41 PM on April 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here is literally the look I'm rocking today: Hot or Not?

Not -- sorry -- the shoes look cheap and dated. I thrift-store shop a lot and those clunky 90s things are being sneered at even by the very poorest folk at this point. The little roll on the jeans is also odd -- it looks like if you just let it hang straight it'd break just fine. If you want to roll do slightly longer jeans and a darker sock.

The article is pretty lulzy, though.

This Roots oxford is what an up-to-date versatile leather's men's shoe looks like in my mind. Minimalist. Do you remember the period in the 90s when all sorts of shoes were made with super-thick soles? (And a lot of squared-off toes.) Women's and men's footwear was heavy, clunky. Your shoes seem to be of that era. If you absolutely adore them I'd stick them in the back of the closet and wait for a point where they'll clearly be "vintage, funky" rather than "oblivious to fashion," or at least I would if I wanted to appear to be paying some attention to this stuff, which this question suggests you do?

I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all answer for "X shoe with jeans"? Jeans come in so many varieties now. You have a lot more room to play with the shoes if your jeans are a modern, stylish cut (and topped with something like a wool or cashmere sweater over a nice shirt which you've ironed); if you are in your sloppy weekend jeans and a tee the shoes are restricted to more casual looks (and there the Clarks desert boot is a nice call).
posted by kmennie at 4:03 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


That Corthay Arca has leather you just want to pet, its texture looks so lovely.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:15 PM on April 12, 2012


Next time you have questions about your style, just look at people around you. Are they wearing those shoes? OK, then. No? Don't do it. I personally think that they aren't very attractive, but if that's what is popping in your social circle--whatever. It's no less cringe worthy than the woman with terrible children who was rocking Tory Burch Revas and a Louis Vuitton mono print today at Target.
posted by 200burritos at 4:28 PM on April 12, 2012


I think most people are just talking about the whims of fashion, but there is a bit more to it than that. Different shoe shapes, like different fits of clothing, emphasizes different proportions. Clunky square toed shoes, especially on smaller feet, look very wide and make the feet look even shorter. Right now, stylish men wear clothes that fit them without a lot of extra shape, and narrow shoes are a large part of that look, aside from any other details. This is also why Keen shoes aren't hip, but Pumas can be. The other details may have trends, but are fall much more under the auspices of personal style than the silhouette. I would argue that the styles that become dated (and don't really come back often) are most often those that have needlessly exaggerated proportions, like the eighties and their shoulder pads, or the stringy square toed shoes we are discussing now.
posted by Schismatic at 5:12 PM on April 12, 2012


You need to move to Holland. I'd say this is the predominant style that I see men wearing in Amsterdam. Certainly widely popular.
posted by humboldt32 at 5:58 PM on April 12, 2012


Wow. Well, at least until I read the panic-inducingly brusque dismissals in this thread, I was very happy with the square-toed Eccos I wear to work most days, which are pretty similar to the Johnston & Murphys you linked. And people have complimented me on them recently enough that I don't think the contempt or feeling of total outdatedness is universal. I'm not surprised to hear humboldt32 say they're common in Amsterdam; I think there's a certain northern-European aesthetic of boxiness to them.
posted by RogerB at 6:16 PM on April 12, 2012


Where do I get a hold of this byzantine document that declares such things? Not denying it, sincerely wondering.

A bookstore. As others have mentioned, there are books on dressing for success or similar. Men's fashion magazines also tell people what's "in" or "out" right now. In the US, alas, that's probably GQ right now; on an international level, you can never go wrong with L'Uomo Vogue.

Wear your square-toed shoes if you like them and if you feel they fit with your personal style (as distinct from fashion). Not everyone cares about being in fashion. But if you want to be in fashion, put your square-toed shoes away until they come back "in" in five or ten years, as they undoubtedly will.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:34 PM on April 12, 2012


I think square-toeds are fine but it depends on what else is going with them (I'm not convinced about jeans, but then that would depend too - how dark and textured are they, in other words how expensive-looking?). But I also think it takes a certain man with a certain style to carry it off. Actually now that I think about it square-toed shoes with jeans are an absolutely terrible idea, aesthetically. That said, for the love of god don't ever buy a pair of those relatively-recently-fashionable pointy witch-toed shoes that seem to add seven inches to your foot. Every man I have ever seen wearing shoes like those has looked comprehensively stupid.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:50 PM on April 12, 2012


I'm sure tons of people wear square-toed shoes - average folks for whom getting dressed up just means a newish button-front shirt in a flattering color and some kind of khakis and maybe a sportcoat (one says "odd jacket" now if one is trendy, but I refuse). And you know, that gets you about 90% of the way there. Really, most people look pretty decent in their dressing-up clothes. If you are really serious or fussy about fashion and you run with a crowd who cares about that stuff, well, it may be worth the rest of the effort.

Clothes are only clothes. Things are only things. I've been a very thing-oriented person all my life, into my thirties, and honestly, it's a pretty empty way to live. My happiest times have been the times when I've been the least bound up with worrying about things. My closest friends and most valued community are people who, well, frankly, I couldn't tell you today what they wore yesterday. Jeans and tees and hoodies, probably, along with some spectacularly undistinguished shoes. My big secret crush? Wears a fleece pullover every chance they get.

I am invariably the flashiest-dressed person in the room. I suppose I'll always care about clothes for myself because it's such an entrenched interest, but I've come to have zero interest in aesthetic snobbery about what people have on. (Although I'm certainly capable of ideological disapproval.) And that's a gift - being free from the restless competition, the drive to the new, all that need to acquire and show off, the need to constantly display my identity through possessions.

I did also want to point out that fashion magazines, fashion books and the tumblr give us a false sense of the past. Those things create an image of the past in which after 1996 everyone abandons their square toes; after 1947 everyone is wearing the New Look and only the New Look; in the sixties all dresses were vertical; etc. If you ever have a chance to see non-fashion photos of people's clothes from the past, it's really interesting - I have a book which is newspaper photos that have interesting clothes in them from the 1900s through the 1970s and the real life photos always have 1. more diversity of style than the "official" narrative of the time; and 2. people continuing to wear older clothes along with the new - a New Look skirt and a 40s blouse or whatever. This is because people come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, so even in an era when most of the dresses are mod there will be a few others. And also because most people aren't wealthy clotheshorses and their clothes have to last, so new things get intermingled with the old.

There's a great deal of fashion scorn heaped on people for acting like people instead of like consumption machines. That's where a lot of this square-toe disapproval comes from. Refusing to send "I care about contemporary fashion mores" signals reads to some like a challenge. They try to dress it up in language about how "clearly you don't respect yourself" or "you owe it to other people [to dress in new clothes, clean old ones won't do]", but really what it means is that they feel challenged and threatened because they are not secure enough in their desires for new shoes or whatever, and have to have them validated by conformity.
posted by Frowner at 6:59 PM on April 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have noticed this, too. I have shoes like yours and I like them. A few years ago I bought some pointy-toed shoes and while I knew I was being stylish, I never gelled with them. They always just felt kind of wrong for me, even if others thought they were cool.

Now I have $40 Dockers. They have square-ish toes, and are not at all cool, but haters can suck it. I like how they look, and I like how incredibly lightweight they are. Nthing wear what you fet with.
posted by zardoz at 7:00 PM on April 12, 2012


I find this thread fascinating. Similar to a few other posters, I live in a relatively happening place where both style and fashion are diverse enough that one could easily create a great look around your chunky shoes. So I think they're fine.

In my opinion the "haute" look is more limiting than the full, funky diversity of fashion that's around in a bigger city. Designers typically raid street fashion for inspiration, as often as the other way around! That said, you may just like that look, or need to follow that look for social or professional reasons. In that case, I would generally agree that the Corthay Arca shoe is a good way to go, at this moment in time.
posted by lillygog at 7:01 PM on April 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm far from a fashionizer, but serendipitously I recently spent a couple of days at an event where an awful lot of the men in attendance seemed to be wearing some kind of square-toed shoe, and my observation is that there's actually two different styles of square-toes.

One is "normally" proportioned, more or less, like the ones the OP linked to, or the Ecco's. I can't really see why anyone not on the cutting edge of fashion would complain about these.

But there's a whole other style where the toe area past the ball of the foot is like half the length of the entire shoe - like this. And since we've evolved past having enormous monkey-toes, the proportions look unnatural. I think this is the kind of shoe the article is ranting about.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:09 PM on April 12, 2012


The first thing to keep in-mind is that magazines/websites like Details are part of the fashion business machine. They're in the job of keeping the apparel churn humming along. Thus, they feature a constant flow of articles declaring this-or-that in/out of style, where "style" is whatever product various corporations have filled their pipelines with this season. The hope is that people will read these declarations and obediently trash their supposedly now-horrible togs and drop some buck on the new stylishness. Repeat the cycle in 6 months. Profit!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on April 13, 2012


Kids, remember:

45% of fashion advice is oriented at trying to get you excited about a new trend, so you'll buy into it.

45% of fashion advice is oriented at trying to make you afraid to wear what you own, so you'll buy something new.

10% of fashion advice is helpful to those who are simply trying to get an objective opinion on how to dress a certain way (date casual, business casual, standard business, etc.).

This advice was in the "fear" group. Ignore it.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:39 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


But, all of the kindly things said about your specific shoes aside, you might want to back-of-the-closet them for a while. They're very big and bulbous, but they're not classic big and bulbous (Docs). Go shopping for a couple of pairs of shoes if they're all you have. Take a fashionable friend who understands and likes you, and let them tell you what you ought to wear.

And buy your jeans longer if you want to roll them up.
posted by jrochest at 7:40 AM on April 13, 2012


All this said, if you're in IT/Engineering/R&D, the truth is that footwear is considered a free-for-all. People come into work wearing running shoes and hiking boots and birkenstocks and other shoes that I can't even categorize except for the fact that they clearly look awful. It's a non-issue in certain workplaces. To a degree, this question is like asking, "do I look good in this tshirt and old jeans?" The answer is no, but that's not the point of why you're wearing them, so who cares? Those shoes are not any worse than most stuff you see in casual workplaces, and in some cases better, because they intended to be worn for an indoor workplace, as opposed to athletic shoes or mountain boots, which are designed for other activities.
posted by deanc at 8:13 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh I threw them old shits away last night. After the abuse heaped on me by you cruelty merchants it felt like they were literally burning my feet off, so I went out and bought these suede calf boots instead and unrolled my jeans. They were on super-sale too! (which probably means they are wrong also but one thing at a time--at least they are roundy).

I'm kidding of course, this thread is great. I still don't really understand why the style in general is bad (like jrochest points out, classic big and bulbuous could work!) but I understand why these specific shoes, and most of the other ones I see in the thrift stores I frequent, are crap. Double points to Frowner, who should really start an awesome fashion blog. Thank you!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:22 AM on April 13, 2012 [3 favorites]


Today's version of your footwear and jeans is much, much, much better.
posted by cooker girl at 1:55 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still don't really understand why the style in general is bad ... but I understand why these specific shoes, and most of the other ones I see in the thrift stores I frequent, are crap.

Ever since you posted this I have been looking around to see if my perspective really was extremely wack and only unstylish rubes are wearing this style.

So data point: this past weekend I went to a chic wedding, in Hollywood, with a very rich, French gay dude who pretty much lives his life surrounded by stylish people. And to the wedding, he wore square-toed shoes. So yeah. I still really do not think that article you originally posted is something that everyone or even most people think.
posted by cairdeas at 9:23 AM on April 23, 2012


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