Q I enjoy reading your menswear columns. I always felt pretty comfortable as a respected doctor in my community (I think), so I generally didn’t feel like I had to prove anything by my fashion choices. Nevertheless, my ideal would be to show a discreet, but appropriate taste.
From an early age I had foot problems that required orthopedic shoes as a child, then I was able to wear more regular shoes. Now, towards the end of my years of practice, I have given up fashion for comfort. I had foot surgery and tried several types of shoes and orthotics to avoid the pain. I generally use athletic/orthopedic shoes, even with dressy clothes. My wife and I presided over the local symphony ball and I wore Chacos sandals with socks with my tuxedo. Chacos has been my standard shoe.
I coped with this need to adapt by 1.]having a sense of humor (e.g. wearing socks with sandals, Ha ha; I think it’s important and healthy to be able to laugh at yourself -self) and 2.]talking to me -confidence that my shoes don’t define me.
While I really appreciate your columns and advice, I would like you to recognize that in some cases shoe selection is more of a necessity than a choice.
A You certainly seem to have summed it up about as well as you can in your last sentence.
I recognize that sometimes we can’t all be perfect. Some of us may feel that we are too heavy, or too short, or too old for our work environment, or that we are the wrong color for the most acceptable clothing options, and that we should look for ways to solve our “problem” to reduce it. in the eyes of the world. Your foot problems seem to fall into the same type of category. I admire your efforts to confront them in a grown-up, not too playful way. Of course, I would like to be as helpful as possible.
You used two important words: “underestimated” and “appropriate”. Even acknowledging that your clothing choice shouldn’t define you, it’s still true that we all tend to draw conclusions about people from what we see them wearing. Years ago, when he was a lesser known designer, Ralph Lauren made a dramatic fashion statement by dressing for a black tie event in a proper top half (black tuxedo jacket, white shirt and bow black butterfly) while wearing jeans. It worked for him, but it’s hardly something I would recommend for a more typical guy.
I’m not saying you should be in pain all night, and I wish I could give you the name of a shoe that would work for you and look appropriate with evening wear, but I can’t. Still, if you think the only type of shoe you can wear without pain is a sandal, you should look for one with more leather coverage, rather than thin straps, to make them less obvious and noticeable. While your black tie outfit combination with Chaco sandals and socks may have been a necessity, I hope you haven’t stretched your credibility by adding colorful socks to your combination. Anything that makes the sandals less conspicuous would be a more appropriate approach. At least wear black socks with black sandals!
Incidentally, as you must know, you are not alone in your foot problem. Many men with a similar condition comprise a large group of ardent fans who refer to themselves as the ChacoNation. The company itself has also tackled the dilemma of what to do about sometimes needing to wear socks with sandals (normally a big fashion no-no!). They (as well as other shoe companies) have options of sandals without a toe loop to accommodate wearing socks. They also make closed-toe styles that are suitable for foot problems; these have the same special midsole and insole design, with the same support and comfort, as the sandals.
While, of course, my column and my job is to explain style, rules/suitability, and to look his best and most comfortable, above all, a man should only wear what he can without risk or pain. I wish you luck as you continue to hold your head up high and know that your shoes don’t define you.
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