Shoes for the tragically unhip.
March 4, 2010 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Can you recommend some stylish men's shoes in brown and black for a graduate student with a variety of needs?

I'm a 25 year old graduate student with teaching responsibilities as well as other events that may involve dressing up. My general uniform, however, is a pair of dark jeans and a button down shirt (Gap/Banana Republic style) or t-shirt.

I have no clue what kinds of shoes are stylish/appropriate for this kind of outfit. I really need to stop wearing sandals with everything as my default.

My current shoe collection includes a pair of brown flip-flops (which are my preferred shoe, as they're easy to slip on and get out the door), a pair of Onisuka Tigers that I bought off of a MetaFilter recommendation, and a pair of boring, ugly black shoes that I'm pretty sure I bought at Payless 3 years ago.

I need shoes in both brown and black that look appropriate for my work situation (having to get in front of a college class), but also look good paired with jeans and a t-shirt for heading out.

If it matters at all: I'm 6'1 with a round face and a larger build. Comfort isn't really a bit deal, but something that isn't like wood on my feet would be nice. I've also like some of the snazzy square-toed shoes I've seen, but I'm not even sure if that's the current style, or if they'd make me look 6 years out of date.
posted by SNWidget to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (23 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What is your budget? Shoe recommendations can vary depending on what you're willing to spend.
posted by Hiker at 7:17 AM on March 4, 2010

Best answer: First: Look at what other TA's and grad students are wearing to teach. Find people whose sartorial choices you wish to emulate, and take a good look at their shoes.

Next: I would go to two or three good shoe store in a somewhat fashionable part of your town, and browse around. Don't buy anything on these expeditions. You probably can't afford those shoes, anyway. (I'm a grad student too.) That way you will see what is currently in style, and which of those styles you like on yourself. (Note: If you buy flamboyant-looking shoes, with exaggerated styling and/or weird little embellishments, they're likely to be out of style exponentially more quickly than if you buy more understated ones.) Then, go to DSW or another less-expensive shoe store and look for shoes that have similar styling/qualities to the spendy shoes that you ogled.

Fairly casual shoes in brown or black leather will work well for the outfit you described, and are frequently worn by grad students, post-docs, and professors in my department, so you will have a lot of flexibility. It will look silly, IMO, to wear extremely dressy shoes with jeans and a T-shirt unless you're doing it knowingly and confidently, as a statement (and even then it will still look kind of silly). You should probably also obtain at least one pair of good black dress shoes for when you have to have interviews or give talks at conferences, though.
posted by kataclysm at 7:29 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can't recommend any specific shoes, but will suggest paying attention to comfort and fit. If you have access to a traditional shoe store with staffers who know what they are doing, it's worth it to pay a visit. If nothing else, you'll come away with an accurate shoe size.

If you are going to be on your feet much of he time when wearing these shoes, then you want something with proper support. What that is depends on the shape of your feet.

Wearing uncomfortable and ill-fitting shoes at 25 can lead to problems at 45.
posted by justcorbly at 7:31 AM on March 4, 2010

Best answer: In terms of a specific recommendation, I've been buying Clark's about once a year for my dress shoe needs. They sit well on jeans or dress pants, are incredibly comfortable, are fairly understated, and can be had for about $50 - 100 per pair (less if you can find an outlet store, or a good sale).
I got these for sale at a local mall store for $60 the last time I needed dress shoes, and I love them.
posted by codacorolla at 7:46 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I suggest something from Camper. Almost any of their styles would go with your button-down-and-jeans uniform (yeah, I was a grad student too), and most dress up well too, so one pair of shoes can serve multiple purposes. They're quite stylish, but not outlandish. They can be a bit spendy, but look for sales—there's one going on right now on their website (look for them at Zappos, too).
posted by The Michael The at 7:48 AM on March 4, 2010

I recommend not buying shoes that you will need to replace in a year or so. This thread has some great recommendations, and makes a compelling argument for spending $300 on a pair of shoes that will last you 10-20 years instead of buying another $100 pair of shoes every year or so.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:00 AM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: To those asking:

I'm willing to spend some money on this. I'm married to a non-grad student, and while I'm not going to drop $1000, I'm not living on a meager grad student stipend either.

As for emulating other TAs - the main issue with that is that there are very few classroom TAs around here. I'm in a music school, and most of them teach lessons (not a class), therefore their attire is different.
posted by SNWidget at 8:09 AM on March 4, 2010

Best answer: The Stacy Adams Madison Boot is amazing, it's a classic. Perfect or dressing up, or paired with nice jeans. I'm complimented on them very frequently.

(and yes, avoid the square toe)
posted by ripley_ at 8:17 AM on March 4, 2010

From your profile I gather you are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

If they have a DSW location close to you, I'd go there. They sell things like Kenneth Cole, Cole-Haan, Allen Edmonds, Johnston & Murphy, etc.

Most shoes from these manufacturers will look good with jeans.
posted by dfriedman at 8:28 AM on March 4, 2010

Best answer: The Ecco Berlin Bicycle Toe Slip-On Shoe is really comfortable and goes with either jeans or a suit. If you are looking for versatility something like this might be in order.
posted by caddis at 8:43 AM on March 4, 2010

Someone JUST posted about those men's shoes that MeFites love and how they are available on Sierra Trading Post for 1/2 the price. The name is Allen something???
posted by k8t at 8:44 AM on March 4, 2010

k8t, that's Allen Edmonds. And yep, Sierra Trading Post carries them occasionally. I like these.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:50 AM on March 4, 2010

I was gonna suggest Ecco or Stacy Adams. Fine shoes at reasonable prices that will last awhile. Not so much re-soleable, but nice quotidian workin' and standin' shoes that you can wear to a bar without looking like a yuppie.

"Allen something" might be Allen Edmonds, a classic men's shoe co.
posted by rhizome at 8:52 AM on March 4, 2010

I've always thought of Clarks desert boots as the archetypal grad student shoe. They go with everything (except a suit), and are quite fashionable now amongst traditionally-inclined types (ie, those people who run away screaming at the sight of shiny, square-toed Kenneth Coles).
posted by neroli at 9:19 AM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: caddis: Those Ecco Berlins looks really snazzy. That may be my go-to brown pair in quick order.

ripley_: Any particular reason to avoid the square toe? And yes, that boot is awesome. I'm definitely considering that as well.

Thanks for the suggestions so far!
posted by SNWidget at 9:21 AM on March 4, 2010

Response by poster: Also, a question to all: are these the same types of shoes you'd wear when going out to a bar with friends, or just socializing somewhere? I tend to wear just my junky Payless black shoes everywhere, unless I'm wearing flip flops.

I know I'm coming off as a bit neurotic about this, but I'm genuinely confused. I feel like I missed this day in growing-up school.
posted by SNWidget at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2010

The bars I go to never serve $8 mixed drinks that they call "martinis," so I usually just wear docs or something similar. All of the shoes that look like leather versions of tennis shoes/driving shoes can be worn to just about any bar. Cap-toes are on the borderline; no wingtips and jeans unless you're looking to make a statement.

Square toes are sometimes disfavored because they visually shorten your foot, and therefore your leg. A longer, rounded toe gives you the impression of a longer leg.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:32 AM on March 4, 2010

These chukkas (mine are dark brown or "T. Moro") are my all-time favorite all-rounder shoe. They dress up nice and rock under jeans just as easily.

They are not cheap but I love them so much I am thinking of getting a second pair in black (or maybe one of the suede colors ...).
posted by cairnish at 9:53 AM on March 4, 2010

This may be too NW outdoorsy for you, but I like my Keen Austin's as an all-around shoe.
posted by surfgator at 10:13 AM on March 4, 2010

codacorolla's clark's laceup oxfords are an awesome choice and a frequent find on clearance as each tiny iteration or alteration of trim constitutes a seasonal design. mrdoodley got a really nice pair, same brand, similar style, substantially less trim, for $30 at famous footwear. there are great deals to be had. If you're in the US Southeast, try K & G Fashion Superstore. they have the überbrands for cheap.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:15 AM on March 4, 2010

Best answer: Do you have a larger foot? I wear around a size 12.5, and the square toe makes me look like I am wearing tissue boxes.

I wear almost exclusively loafers from Johnston & Murphy.

This was the pair of shoes I bought with my first paycheck. I wear them everywhere, with jeans, slacks, and suits. But I've never said I'm very fashionable.
posted by gagoumot at 12:20 PM on March 4, 2010

Seconding (or thirding) Clarks. Reasonable, stylish, supercomfortable.
posted by troywestfield at 9:58 AM on March 5, 2010

I just found out that oxblood (a deep burgundy) colored shoes are considered to be able to be paired with all colors of clothes. I read this and thought, "Finally! I don't have to have both black *and* brown shoes!" If you're like me and don't particularly have a need to have a bunch of shoes, you might want to get just the one pair in this color.

Whatever you get of course, the belt needs to match.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 4:39 PM on March 5, 2010

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