Why do women pay attention to men's feet?
June 2, 2009 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Do women notice a man's shoes and to what extent?

I was reading Shopgirl by Steve Martin the other night and there were some passages commenting on the shoes a man wore. The main character commented that the man she was interested in wore good shoes and that was one of the checkboxes she marked off.

That's a work of fiction and women may or may not be that superficial. I understand, but I've seen this commentary on shoes in other works as well.

Is this just a writer's need to discuss imagery? Or is there some truth to the fact that women give undue weight to the shoes a man wears? Where do shoes fall in the overall scheme of fashion?

I ask because I must dress for work and I am looking for a new pair of shoes. I can hardly tell the difference between two pair of oxfords, other than comfort and durability, so how can a woman tell without taking off my shoes?

For what it's worth, I normally wear Rockport dress shoes with suits to work. The difference between a $100 and $400 pair of shoes is lost on me.
posted by abdulf to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (69 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I think it depends on where you live.

I live in NYC and there's an expectation that straight men dress somewhat more fashionably than elsewhere. (Interpret this statement as you will; it's merely fact.)

Therefore, women in NYC do observe the shoes that men wear, and make judgments about the man from those.

As I recall, the novella takes place in Beverly Hills, right? It's probably the same concept there as in NYC.
posted by dfriedman at 7:43 PM on June 2, 2009

I critique everyone's shoes, as there's not much else to do on public transportation and it's the safest place to put my eyes.

There's alot you can glean from this critique. It's not like I'm saying, look at those $100 shoes, what a cheapskate, how will he provide me with diamonds and furs! It's more like, hmm, not only does this person know how to put thought into how he looks, he goes down to the last detail. This shows attention to detail and pride in one's appearance, which are attractive traits, unless you're some kind of hippie or college student.
posted by amethysts at 7:52 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am a woman, and I definitely notice a person's shoes. I'd estimate that a quarter of my female friends are similarly interested in fashion, and therefore shoes (which are very very important in fashion).

I don't discriminate by gender, and I only judge the shoes, not the person. Not everyone who appreciates a nice shoe is superficial! I find them aesthetically pleasing, like flowers.

I would never spend $400 on a pair of shoes, and I rarely spend over $100.
posted by pizzazz at 7:54 PM on June 2, 2009

As a college age male I can definitely tell you that I get many compliments when I wear my nice high end shoes (ferragamo, allen-edmonds, etc.) I can't tell if it's because people are expecting me to wear sneakers or less dressy shoes or if it's the quality of the shoe though. As far as the difference between a $100 and $400 pair of shoes there's just minor changes in the style of lines of the shoe and a certrain je ne sais quoi that you tend to appreciate the more you get used to looking at and wearing nice shoes.
posted by woolylambkin at 7:55 PM on June 2, 2009

I think the theory goes that when a lot of mens' fashion is very generic (and let's face it, one pair of jeans or smart casual trousers is pretty much the same as another) then the shoes become the main sign of apparent wealth or taste.

But I think it has more to do with nice dress shoes v fugly shues v grotty trainers, and not so much to do with near-identical looking dress shoes.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2009

I definitely look at shoes, but I really like shoes. I don't really judge them based on if they look expensive or not but I do think that what someone chooses to wear says a lot about themselves. I would probably be more impressed by Chucks or something that has a weird color, interesting fasteners or strange sole that a $400 pair of loafers. Then again, I'm more interested in guys with a bit of creativity that would notice and appreciate those details in shoes, belts or other parts of their wardrobe.

Not sure about the book, but in the movie Shopgirl I think it was a device to differentiate the different personalities, places in life etc. as well as income level. I can usually tell a $50 shoe from a $100+ shoe because of the sticking, detailing and leather. If it doesn't mean much to you just get what you think looks good, is comfortable and in your price range. I've taken my guy friends shoe shopping before so if you're concerned (and care) take someone who's taste you appreciate to help you choose.
posted by Bunglegirl at 7:56 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I notice if a guy is wearing Hush Puppies or sandals. All other differences are pretty much lost on me.
posted by puckish at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

anecdotally (guy here) i do find that women tend to comment on my footwear when i wear a pair of expensive boots; say, of the $300+ price range.

(shoes kinda bore me, but a nice, clean-lined ankle-length boot, yeah, that's the stuff!)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:00 PM on June 2, 2009

I never look at shoes, unless they are bright orange or something. I also live in a place where (I imagine) $300+ shoes are few and far between. I think someone wearing very expensive shoes would get points off in my book, to be honest. If I lived in NYC or LA it might be different, but where I live people display wealth by means other than fashion.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:05 PM on June 2, 2009

I don't think you're going to be able to pin this down as something women do or don't do. There are women who pay careful attention to shoes like amethysts above, and there are some who couldn't care less. That goes for men as well.
I tend to notice shoes mainly because a boyfriend loved shoes and I started paying more attention then. I don't think I'd be able to tell the difference between $100 and $400 shoes though. It may be worth it to pay a little more for shoes that last longer and that can be resoled however.
posted by peacheater at 8:05 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

It really varies. Some women care about and notice shoes, and some don't really care. Put me in the "don't really care" category. As long as they are reasonably clean and shined, I don't pay much attention to a man's shoes, let alone notice the brand. To me, your Rockports would be more than fine. Of course, I personally also pick my own shoes based on comfort, more than fashion.
posted by gudrun at 8:06 PM on June 2, 2009

This shows attention to detail and pride in one's appearance, which are attractive traits, unless you're some kind of hippie or college student.

I am some kind of hippie. I would not notice the difference between $100 and $300 shoes but I would notice if you seemed to be wearing shoes that were interesting, stylish or otherwise cool looking and I'd be like "hey neat" but everything else would be sor tof shruggo unless you were wearing something super-terrible.
posted by jessamyn at 8:08 PM on June 2, 2009

It's a damn good thing my wife didn't pay attention to my shoes. I wear sneakers with jeans sometimes...and hiking boots with shorts!
posted by notsnot at 8:11 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I notice if a man is wearing leather-soled, slim-line dress shoes as opposed to clunky rubber-soled Rockport-type shoes and have a strong aesthetic preference for the former.
posted by vilthuril at 8:11 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Someone at some point here is going to make the statement that it's going to depend on the woman- so let's get that over with!

I'm one of those rare women who, in defiance of stereotype, doesn't have the slightest interest in her own shoes, much less notice how a man is shod. Getting excited over shoe shopping??? *baffled.

That said, a few years back I acquired a wonderful boyfriend who, in defiance of stereotype, is extremely fashion conscious and particular about his wardrobe. So I found myself paying a little more attention to men's shoes- just out of curiosity, as I would any of his other passions / hobbies.

But do I give "undue weight" to footwear choices, and somehow use shoes as a measure of a man's character? Would there ever be a "checkbox", pass or fail, based on shoes?

Unless you were wearing flip flops to a funeral, or garden clogs to the job interview- nope.
posted by GuffProof at 8:12 PM on June 2, 2009

(and even then, I might give you a second chance. if your story was good.) :)
posted by GuffProof at 8:23 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I knew a woman that worked in a lawyer's office and had 100% accuracy on picking the new hires when they came for interviews simply based on their shoes.

Personally, I don't notice shoes though. I'm pretty clueless on brands and fashion though.
posted by saucysault at 8:25 PM on June 2, 2009

I'm a woman and I don't notice anyone's shoes. I have always found it strange when people do.

In other words, it depends on the person. But you can't go wrong with wearing nice shoes.
posted by Nattie at 8:26 PM on June 2, 2009

NYC female, I notice what shoes men are wearing, I don't care too much unless they are somehow out of whack with what he should be wearing (too fashion forward, too cheap/too expensive).

Shoes can make or break an outfit, to me at least. They should be commiserate with the rest of the outfit, as in if you are wearing a Brooks Brothers suit with Sketchers, I'll think something isn't right.

Error on the side of nicer shoes with not as nice clothes. We have plenty of sample sales/discount retailers here, so it shouldn't be too hard to do. If you don't have those options there, go to the local outlet for a discount. I say this all the time, but this is what the sales help is there for, I'm not saying go blindly on what they say, but tell them what you want, they'll be able to help. Look for cut and manufacture, you should be able to tell what looks well-made v. what looks cheap, look for construction and nice materials.
posted by cestmoi15 at 8:30 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

One amendment: I don't notice shoes unless an otherwise attractive guy is wearing tightish jeans with bright white running shoes ala superdad. EEP.
posted by pintapicasso at 8:32 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I am a woman in my 20s, and I live in Los Angeles, and I do not care about anyone's shoes (male or female). And the only reason I generally care about my OWN shoes is when they hurt or I feel like my feet are being strangled by "fancy" shoes when they really want to be in flipflops. I also gravitate toward others who I feel will not judge me by my footwear, so it works out well for me.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:32 PM on June 2, 2009

For men's shoes, what really separates a $400 pair from a $100 pair is its construction and its ability to hold a shine.

A well-maintained pair of Allen Edmonds will last you at least 10 years of everyday wear. It might cost $50 or so to re-sole every couple of years, but otherwise its 100% natural leather construction will outlast any synthetic shoe, and well oiled/polished leather will always look good. They are actually better value over the long run.

Rockports and similar shoes just don't last very long. The synthetic materials they're made from will fall apart after a couple of years. But yes, they are inexpensive.

Expensive shoes can be more comfortable. But foot shape and stance varies so much from person to person that this isn't guaranteed. If your feet are difficult to please, just stick with what you know works.

A person who likes shoes (more men fall into this category than you might expect) will be able to tell from a few feet away which kind you're wearing. High quality shoes have finer detailing. They usually have flat, leather soles instead of rubber, treaded soles. High quality leather shoes recover completely after polishing from all but the worst scuffs, whereas low-quality or synthetic leather shoes will just gradually get worse and worse, regardless of how much you try to polish them. Expensive shoes usually look better because more effort has been made to make them look better. But it'll really hurt your wallet if you don't take proper care of expensive leather shoes.

I think it boils down to this: will you diligently oil and polish your shoes? If so, the expensive ones are worth looking at.
posted by randomstriker at 8:33 PM on June 2, 2009 [5 favorites]

I love shoes and clothes, but I refuse to get into brand snobbery. I do notice whether the shoes are clean, well-kept, appropriate for the occasion, and not too ludicrously fugly. Do I notice whether your shoes cost $100 or $700? No. Do I notice your ratty, dirty Tevas? Oh yes.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:35 PM on June 2, 2009

I don't think I'm high fashion enough to notice $100 vs. $400 shoes, but I most certainly pay attention to interesting/stylish shoes vs. tennis shoes/thick soled clunkers/grand dad dressy loafers. Generally, I loathe tennis shoes and tend to think grownups shouldn't wear them unless they're exercising, working in the yard, or, you know, sneaking in their sneakers.

Men's clothes are by and large quite limited compared with women's; there's only so many ways to style pants and a shirt with buttons. A guy's shoes are a nice way to show personal style. A guy in reasonably fashionable, well made, sleek shoes is a guy who clearly cares about his appearance and how he presents himself. I like that, aesthetically. Poking around the Rockport site, a lot of the dressy shoes are perfectly doable. Not, perhaps, fashion forward, but also not unpleasant in any way. The company also makes terrible, chunky soled clunkers, so YMMV.

But, in short, yeah, I do pay attention, but I don't demand all Ferragamo, all the time, just something sleek and suitably adult.
posted by mostlymartha at 8:35 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think it is a bit unfair to call it superficial. It is probably safe to call it a step in evaluation of someone. I don't look at shoes (I'm a male duh!) but I know people who looks at shoes, hair, and the way someone carries a conservation and they evaluate the whole package at the end. As a side note, I'm sure evolutionary psychologists can come up with a mechanism to explain this behavior too.
posted by caelumluna at 8:54 PM on June 2, 2009

Men are lucky when it comes to shoes. We can, when pressed, function successfully with just two pairs of dress shoes: black and brown. Also, a $300 pair of shoes will last you a decade, maybe even longer, and because nice dress shoes are timeless, they will never go out of style.

Speaking as a man, I think investing in quality shoes is a big deal in several ways:

- From a practical standpoint, you do have to wear them, and cheap shoes are bad for your feet.

- Investing in quality shoes isn't about flaunting wealth (for most men, anyway) it's about having the sense to recognize long term value.

- When it comes to suits, to the untrained eye, the difference between a $300 suit and a $3000 suit may be lost, but cheap shoes always look cheap to anyone who has devoted even a small amount of time to their study.

But don't get too caught up on dress shoes, most of us own casual shoes too. The "rules" there are more lax. In general I try to wear a few mid-level brands. Teva and Merrell are my two current favorites. I usually get about a year and half out of a good pair of casual shoes before they are relegated to the back of the closet.

For casual shoes all you need are shoes which are clean, and in good working condition. Shoes do need to "go" with what you're wearing. A lousy combination of pants and shoes will ruin a look. Coordinate when possible. Brown leather loafers always look good with darkish jeans. Canvas shoes go well with khaki... etc. Remember, match the belt to the shoes.

I work with a student worker, nice guy, maybe 21 or 22, but is from the sticks. He is the sort of guy who wears denim shorts with steel toed work boots. You can probably pull that off if you're a landscaper, but it's a hard sell in the office as evidenced by the apparent disdain I read on the face of a female coworker as she glanced down at this guy's combat boots the other day. No, I don't think he gets laid much...
posted by wfrgms at 8:56 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

As a lot of folks above me have already said, I'm not sure it's so much that "women" notice shoes as it is that "some types of women" notice shoes. Seems to me the more important question, then, is whether or not you're the type of person who wants to impress/be with the type of person who notices shoes.

Personally I would be hard-pressed to describe in much detail the shoes I'm wearing at any given time, let alone what someone else has on; I honestly can't think of any time that someone's footwear (erm, well, other than flip-flops, which I loathe ... but that's another story) has affected my opinion of them. But to each their own, eh?
posted by DingoMutt at 9:03 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't notice unless they're 1) ratty tennis shoes or 2) boots. Ratty tennis shoes are just wrong unless you're doing housework, and I have a boot fetish so *swoon*.

Regular work shoes? Meh, who cares.
posted by desjardins at 9:06 PM on June 2, 2009

Of course I notice a man's shoes. How else can one use the line "Nice shoes, wanna fuck?"

More seriously, I do think nice shoes are worth it, but "nice" varies by situation. I wear birkenstocks whenever I can, and tennis shoes when I can't, but that's because I am an academic and don't have to care.

I've noticed a guy's shoes whenever they are interesting in some way-- be they some really nice work shoes, a set of Five Fingers, or a pair of red keds worn with a good outfit, or some awesome boots.

I should also mention that expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. And comfort should come first- this can but does not always correlate with expense.
posted by nat at 9:19 PM on June 2, 2009

Keep in mind that people may not feel like they "actively" notice shoes (and thus think they don't notice them at all), but they're of course always part of "the package".
posted by BaxterG4 at 9:27 PM on June 2, 2009

women in NYC do observe the shoes that men wear, and make judgments about the man from those.

Really? You might want to rethink going around making such laughable blanket statements.
I'm a New Yorker, I don't don't notice them and I'll warrant many of my friends don't either. Unless it's birkenstocks or crocs. Then, you know, ew.
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:29 PM on June 2, 2009

I don't notice too much, but it does bother me when the heels of men's dress shoes are significantly worn off at an obvious angle. Part of it is a fashion issue, I guess, but part of me is just thinking about how they may be hurting their back.
posted by BlooPen at 9:32 PM on June 2, 2009

Unless you're with someone really superficial, the issue isn't so much the brand or even the cost as it is the look of something they find attractive.

I have a pair of shoes that I wear most of the time because they're wonderful for walking around town. They look nice, and I can literally walk for miles in them without getting sore feet.

Ah, but if I have a date, I wear my cheap $35 sale rack Steve Maddens. They're not nearly as comfortable, but they look great and I've gotten compliments on them.

Women notice.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:33 PM on June 2, 2009

I notice the shoes and if someone's wearing socks I notice those too. I'm not interested so much in whether the shoes (and possibly socks) are expensive-looking or not but rather how they fit with rest of the outfit. Men's footwear is generally boring (except for the various styles of athletic shoes) so I'm inclined to be impressed if the shoes hold my attention in a positive way for more than a couple of seconds. After lingering on someone's shoes for a bit, one starts to wonder what kind of decision process resulted in the selection of that particular footwear and what one might surmise about the person wearing them.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:44 PM on June 2, 2009

I don't really care about men's shoes as long as they're relatively clean and in decent shape. Also, I'm not such a fan of Crocs, or stuff with excessive designs/logos.

I'm an NYC native now living in Los Angeles, so according to the stereotypes, I should care.
posted by mirepoix at 9:58 PM on June 2, 2009

I'm a woman and a native New Yorker. I don't look at shoes on men or women, for the most part.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:58 PM on June 2, 2009

Seems to me the more important question, then, is whether or not you're the type of person who wants to impress/be with the type of person who notices shoes.

I'd rephrase that to replace "notices shoes" with "notices fashion"

(in the broader sense of dressing "well", ie with some sense of personal style, not necessarily meaning expensively or cutting edge, both of which can be somewhat problematic)

The thing is, an alright outfit can be ruined by shitty looking shoes; and conversely, footwear that looks good can elevate an otherwise unremarkable (but not hideously ugly) choice of clothing. In that sense, I tend to follow cestmoi15's advice: "Error on the side of nicer shoes with not as nice clothes", especially as I have so many 2nd hand items, particularly jackets.

For a simple illustration, consider plain jeans-n-tshirt with trainers v the same, but with a nice pair of boots. One outfit just comes off as cheap & ratty, while the other is an understated classic.

(and my comment earlier about expensive boots...for whatever reason, i find it near-impossible to find new boots that look good for much less than a couple of hundred. seems as if the cheaper ones always go all out for some kind of arse-headed stylistic features that just fail, whereas you need to spend a bit more to get something that's straightforward, plain and sleek. it's as if cheaper boots try too fucking hard to make an impression)
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:59 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

"I think it is a bit unfair to call it superficial."

It's making a judgment based upon what's on the surface. That's pretty much the definition of superficial.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:03 PM on June 2, 2009

It's encouraging to see so many posts on the side of "don't really care/notice as long as the shoes are relatively clean and in halfway-decent repair". However, I am not sure that this (awesome) Metfite community is representative of the general public. I think this community is much more liberal and forward-thinking than general society (in North America, anyway). Observing water-cooler conversation at my workplace--a large, generic company of several hundred people--and overhearing public-transit or on-the-street conversations, I see and hear a lot of superficiality, obsession with brand names and money spent, and fashion-victim syndrome. I'm just sayin'.

Abdulf, you sound like a logical, sensible sort of person. I applaud men who aren't slaves to fashion. For me, it means they have weightier things in their heads than what's cool this spring. When you're 90, who really cares if you were decked out in the latest shoes/clothes/accessories every season? Yawn. Your family, accomplishments and memories will resonate a lot more than having looked cool (if you even remember that). Stride forth in your Rockports and knock 'em dead!
posted by parkerama at 10:05 PM on June 2, 2009

consider plain jeans-n-tshirt with trainers v the same, but with a nice pair of boots. One outfit just comes off as cheap & ratty, while the other is an understated classic.

Jeans are generally casual. Boots are not. Wearing them together comes off as trying too hard.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:05 PM on June 2, 2009

Jeans are generally casual. Boots are not. Wearing them together comes off as trying too hard.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! That's fucking insane.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:18 PM on June 2, 2009 [8 favorites]

I would notice if you were wearing Birkenstocks with socks, and that's about it. I don't even know any men's shoe brands. Oh, sometimes I notice when short guys wear "tall" shoes, a la George Costanza and his Timberlands. I like short guys; I don't judge, I just notice it.
posted by peep at 10:24 PM on June 2, 2009

I notice whether the shoes are clean and well kept just as I notice whether a man keeps the inside of his car clean. I don't care what shoes too much, just that they go with what he's wearing and that he's comfortable in them.
posted by x46 at 10:29 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I notice shoes. If the shoes are good, and if they match the outfit. I'm picky.

With jeans: No shiny stiff leather- don't mix formalities. Dress shoes go with dress pants- NOT with jeans. No actual athletic shoes, Seinfeld.

With jeans, say Yes to street sneakers, or shoes/boots made of thick soft leather. If your work has casual Fridays a sort of dressy-casual shoe like this blue sneaker thingie would work with khakis.

Never: Say No to sport sandals except at the cottage. And take your stupid crocs, tie them to a cinderblock, and drop them into a large body of water.

With suits: Formal shoes should be made of thick, shiny leather. Non-shiny leather is too casual to go with a suit. Puffy soles are not appropriate with a suit- this dress-sneaker Rockport look is frankly awful. Also, if your dress shoes cost less than $200 they probably look cheap.

Almost any men's shoe from Fluevog would be a safe bet- they're nicely made, durable, stylish, pretty comfy, and generally awesome with cool details- yet not necessarily too flashy. Here are some good ones that will 100% get you L-A-I-D by ladies who notice shoes: Kerouac, Dougie, Capitalist, Marcello, JetStream, and best of all, Concord (look at those awesome little bubble cutouts!), and Attache (notice that little hit of blue at the ankle? She will!).

Good luck, fella!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:47 PM on June 2, 2009 [35 favorites]

I always look at shoes, in part because I sold shoes for eight years (and now, as a result of that, am the kind of girl who owns a lot of shoes). What I look for, though, isn't fancy shoes so much as it is well coordinated shoes. I've dated people who had impeccable taste in shoes, people who asked me for advice on shoes, and people who doggedly wore doc martens every day. My current boyfriend wears canvas slip-on shoes, which is something I'd never do myself, but it suits his style, and I've grown to dig them.

In each case, the shoes have been organic to the person's style, and in most cases, they've been interesting. That's all that matters.

Actually, one caveat to that: if you are wearing shoes that are both uncomfortable and ugly, I have no interest in talking to you, because that's just ridiculous.
posted by dizziest at 10:57 PM on June 2, 2009

Whoa, whoa, whoa! That's fucking insane.

Now let's try that look with a nice casual sneaker, shall we?

Just seems more natural to me this way.

Something classic and matched about jeans and sneakers. It even feels odd to me to wear jeans with shoes.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:12 PM on June 2, 2009

Hey, there's nothing wrong with jeans & sneakers (some kind of street sneaker, eg converse, not a sporting model); that's a look which fits together nicely.

But don't rule out boots, especially for a casual look that leans slightly more towards formal. Remember that womens' fashion pairs jeans with boots more often than not (either outside or inside the jeans), not to mention cowboy boots for both men & women.

Blundstone-style boots, as pointed out by pseudostrabismus, work well, or else something like RM Williams dress boots, which are practically designed with jeans in mind.

also, hm, some nice shoes there on that Fluevog site! mmm...
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:40 PM on June 2, 2009

Mmmm. Seconding boots on men. Shoes, I really don't care about. Sandals, only when necessary. I am a female.
posted by Vaike at 11:59 PM on June 2, 2009

What's wrong with doc martens?
posted by paultopia at 12:38 AM on June 3, 2009

I notice shoes, but only as part of the whole. The way a person dresses signifies the image they wish to project and what they value. I probably would not be attracted to someone wearing a $400 pair of shoes and would gravitate toward the guy wearing boots and jeans, simply because I would probably have more in common with Mr. Boots and Jeans. Mr. Boots and Jeans would be thrilled to go to the basement noise show with me.

It's not that I don't appreciate fine craftsmanship,and it's not that he isn't a perfectly nice fella, it's just that Mr. Allen Edmonds and I probably would not have much to say to each other. Perhaps he and my friend Miss Manolo Blahnik would hit it off, I think they'd make a cute couple.

For work? Don't get anything too cheap, too flashy or too pointy. Black is good. Keep them oiled and shined. I really don't think anything else matters.

If you're wearing Crocs, I hope you're wearing scrubs.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:24 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have never been complimented by a woman about my tie. I have been complimented by women for nice shoes. I don't think than most people will be able to tell between how expensive a pair of oxfords for work are. They will be able to tell if they have been shined or not. Dirty, scuffed, shoes look dirty and scuffed.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:04 AM on June 3, 2009

What's wrong with doc martens?

liek omg, dont u kno? the clunky soles..
posted by hobbes at 2:24 AM on June 3, 2009

I may notice if a man's shoes are in bad condition - really badly scuffed up or something. If I do notice, it's not a big deal, more of a "hey, I'm glad I'm not the only one who cannot remember to polish my damn shoes" passing thought. Beyond that, I pay no attention to men's shoes. I do notice more general how men dress, and to that extent might notice if the shoes completely failed to go along with the rest of the outfit.

I had to go shoe-shopping with my partner for dress shoes a few months ago and was astonished at the amount of time he and the salesman spent debating over pairs of shoes that looked identical to me. Apparently I am incapable of telling men's shoes apart.
posted by Stacey at 3:01 AM on June 3, 2009

Some good points above esp. from parkerama and pseudostrabismus. I hope it doesn't sound patronizing to say this but do match the colour of the shoes to your suit. Since you say work dressing is your motivation here, an example of how poor attention to detail can affect your work image: at my workplace one manager insists on wearing brown shoes with a grey suit. Consensus among colleagues of both sexes: "Look at yer man, you'd think he was a knacker at a wedding." By implication, a man with such inattention to detail is unlikely to be ultra competent in other areas. This may not apply in a U.S. setting though.
BTW I strongly suggest that you avoid using Steve Martin as any kind of guide to "What women think". Even asking a woman what other women think is a bit dodgy and suggests that one assumes all women think the same about everything. I'm just saying.
/knee jerk feminist response ;)
posted by redsky at 3:08 AM on June 3, 2009

FWIW, at any social event, I wear spiffy socks and appropriate fashionable shoes.

Literally, 100% of the time, I get comments. Seldom do they come from men.

When attempting to project technical competence, I pay attention to what I look like generally, and try to avoid little details that subtract from the look, whatever that is. I'm an engineer, so I wear the 'uniform', which usually involves a tie and for me, rolled up sleeves, appropriate color combinations, etc. I try and look as if I have been solving problems all day. (Helps if I actually have been successful!)

People DO notice, DO pay attention on some level, and assign initial credibility points based on appearance. It pays to pay attention to this when it's important. Everyone comes with feet, so they must be addressed when dressing. It's a lot easier for men, whose shoes selections don't need to be wide to accomodate the normal color schemes men wear. Women's fashion is a lot more variable, and the effect of shoes on female body form, balance, and height is substantial. Also, there are subtextual issues in shoe choice for women. (Boys don't have CFM pumps, for instance. Nothing remotely equivalent or that's all boys would wear, I wager.)

Another anecdote... an old WW2-era buddy of mine (Harvard MBA, JD), now deceased, and I were involved in a business deal once. He and I pegged a fellow as a fraud by his re-soled shoes (not re-heeled) and his obvious brand new, still-with-fold-lines socks. After we met with the guy, in our post meeting caucus, my friend and I both mentioned the footwear and its character / subtext implications along with the substantive content of the meeting. Fascinating to hear two MBAs from two generations bringing this up. Other factors were involved in our assessment, of course, but the fellow's overall credibility sufferred because of his footwear choice.
posted by FauxScot at 3:45 AM on June 3, 2009

Shoes can make or break an outfit, to me at least. They should be commiserate with the rest of the outfit.

Commiserate? They should.... suffer together? Feel sorry for each other? What?

In a prior life, I used to wear suits to work each day, and I had many lovely pairs of shoes. It was fun to have them shined at lunch. I could pretend I was a Big Important Person. A number (maybe half) of the women in that office would notice and/or comment on shoes, to the point that they would notice new ones. Men never did this, other than the very gay and very too-fashion-conscious receptionist, and I think he was trying way too hard, myself.

So I suspect the same number of women who take shoes very, very seriously in their own lives (some fraction, maybe a third?) also notice the shoes of others -- of men AND women -- to a predictably heightened degree. And yeah, my own experience suggests that the percentage of men who notice/care is quite a bit lower, maybe four or five percent. All of this is anecdata-ly speaking, of course.

Think of it this way... if you had a moustache fetish, you would be especially conscious of the facial hair of others, right? You'd be checking them out all day. Or if, as a man, you had a large tie collection, and spent 20 minutes each morning choosing the perfect tie to wear... you would probably notice each and every tie on each and every other man you met that day, right?

We notice in others what's important to us about ourselves. Hair. Teeth. Eyes. Clothes. Money.
posted by rokusan at 5:08 AM on June 3, 2009

I wear FiveFingers as my default shoe these days, so my opinion is very skewed as far as the attention directed at my footwear choices. In Japan, it seems that many women only notice the shoes of each other, as all salarymen tend to wear the exact same thing.

This doesn't apply to college-age students in Japan, who by my estimation spend most of their waking day worrying about how they look and what other people think about how they look.
posted by mezamashii at 5:14 AM on June 3, 2009

If you want the sort of girl who notices shoes, then yes you should expect her to notice your shoes too, obviously. You might find life is happier in the long run if you avoid that girl though.

As an aside, I think the very high end working class shoes, like maybe SAS, run you only about $200, but are frequently far more comfortable than any other shoe. I guess these are the puffy soled shoes pseudostrabismus was complaining about, presumably they don't match the suit precisely because they are comfortable for extended periods of use, i.e. working class.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:47 AM on June 3, 2009

I am a woman and I do notice shoes, but not so much if they are hugely expensive. Put me down for clean, classic, and well-kept.

My dad, although now retired, always wore beautiful suits and timeless shoes. Even when he was coming up through his various jobs, he had his suits made, and made in classic lines. One could wear them today.

But, you know what--wow, some of those Fluevogs linked above are absolutely out there. The Capitalist model was ok, I suppose... if you are looking to own a pair of shoes you will wear for 10 years and not feel like they have gone out of style in a season or like you are wearing a trick shoe, stick with something like Allen-Edmonds.
posted by oflinkey at 5:57 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you want the sort of girl who notices shoes, then yes you should expect her to notice your shoes too, obviously. You might find life is happier in the long run if you avoid that girl though.

why on earth is that?

guys routinely expect women to make an effort in their appearance, and buying some nice shoes as a tradeoff for bathing & shaving once every seven years is *nothing* in comparison with the kind of effort that the typical guy expects as an uncommented & expected baseline from women, eg haircare, makeup, hair removal, nice shoes & clothes, etc etc etc etc etc.

if people want to go feral together, then more power to them, but in general, it doesn't work that way until they know each other first. there's plenty of time to go to rack & ruin later, as just about every couple i've ever known can illustrate perfectly well.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]

I never notice men's shoes. I think men who overthink their clothes and shoes are undesirable and girlish.
posted by anniecat at 6:18 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I definitely notice shoes, but do not put them in the category of expensive/not expensive. Rather, I think shoes say a lot about a guy. There's a certain type of adult male that can pull of Vans and still look mature, there's another type that can wear fine dress shoes and ooze comfort and confidence.

So yes, ladies notice shoes.
posted by agentwills at 6:23 AM on June 3, 2009

Thanks for the "blue sneaker thingie" link, pseudostrabismus. Finding cool vegan shoes can be a challenge.
posted by orme at 6:25 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Commiserate? They should.... suffer together? Feel sorry for each other? What?

I suspect the word was meant to be "commensurate" rokusan.

However, regardless of whether a woman notices or not (I think we've established the answer to that fairly thoroughly), Sam Vimes summed up the value of good shoes pretty thoroughly I think.
posted by fearnothing at 6:55 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Really interesting discussion! In the end, abdulf, there's always more to learn; you really just need to pick up and go with what works for you. I say this as a 30-something urban gay man who has endured multiple gentle makeovers from well-meaning friends and finally thought I had fashion nailed down...only to discover when I went to take a two-step class recently that I don't have any leather-soled shoes, making it really hard to turn. (Moral: sometimes fashion has a function.)
posted by kittyprecious at 7:14 AM on June 3, 2009

People notice what is important to them. If you are happy to date women who wear jeans and sneakers, you will be fine hanging out in vans yourself, but if you want to date women who have dozens of different fashionable shoes to match a variety of outfits, then you'll want to be the counterpart to that. (Men don't have to have as many different shoes since their outfits aren't as colorful, but you make up for that by buying high quality).

Of course a fashion-conscious person sometimes ends up with a non-fashion-conscious person, but if you're deciding whether to invest in shoes, you're deciding something about your personality / how you come across, in a way. There are plenty of women who don't care about shoes, but they'll expect you not to care about (their) shoes either. You have to decide whether / how much it matters to you.
posted by mdn at 8:53 AM on June 3, 2009

Women are different, we value and notice different things.

I don't really care about shoes unless they're really notable (like, bright colors or really smelly)
posted by kathrineg at 9:55 AM on June 3, 2009

Also, now is probably not the time to be spending undue amounts of money in order to attract a woman, unless YOU can tell the difference and it makes YOU happy to spend that money.

A man who spends a lot of money for relatively little gain is not the kind of person that most thinking people want to be with for the long term.

I mean, hey--if we get married, those $400 shoes take $400 away from our future together...you know?
posted by kathrineg at 10:02 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Dunno what it is, but a nice pair of shiny black boots is the male equivalent of pointy stilettos... heads turn, eyebrows lift, and all of a sudden you have lots of attention from the opposite sex without really trying. I have a pair of custom black biker boots I wear under jeans on occasion, and a girl taking a guess at how high up they go was a common conversation starter. It's nice to be noticed, even if just for my shoes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:48 AM on June 3, 2009

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