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Wear the right shoes to make a statement. Here’s a pick of shoe essentials for gentlemen and ladies

Pythia Barretto steps through time to examine the evolution, essence, and economics of footwear

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a fabulous pair of shoes.” ~ Unknown

From the soft whispers of leather that cushioned the feet of ancient explorers to the resounding click of heels on modern-day runways, shoes have done more than just cover our feet. They’ve echoed our ambitions, flaunted our style, and in many ways, paved our path forward.

This artful blend of function and fashion, utility, and luxury, makes shoes an indispensable accessory in our daily lives. Regardless of our stride or style, shoes truly define our story.

A walk-through history

Centuries ago, before the gleam of designer logos and the allure of high fashion runways, shoes had a simple mission: to shield the feet. Yet, even in their simplicity, they reflected the wearer’s identity and status.

Ancient Egyptians wore sandals crafted from palm leaves and papyrus. Their design varied, from the plainer versions for the masses to the gold-studded sandals of the pharaohs. The Greeks and Romans introduced boots and leather shoes, highlighting the connection between footwear and societal rank.

The tale of the high heel, however, is surprising. Its origins trace back to 10th century CE Iran. These wooden heels weren’t for dance floors but for horse riding, helping Persian men stabilise their feet in stirrups. By the 12th century, heels arrived in Europe via Persian emissaries. Originally a men’s riding essential, they soon signified European nobility. With time, high heels transitioned into women’s collections, symbolising femininity and grace.

From the practical designs of ancient times to the luxury of Renaissance footwear, shoes have always mirrored societal changes and evolving fashion sensibilities. As we look into the future, one can’t help but wonder: How will the shoes of tomorrow reflect today’s stories?

Boardroom to boardwalk

Shoes do more than just dress our feet; they anchor our style and often, our confidence. The right shoe can craft a statement, transition an outfit, and often inspire our journey.

Here’s a pick of shoe essentials for the gentlemen:

The Classic Oxford

A timeless staple, this shoe, especially in dark black or rich brown elevates formal attire and even sharpens the casual look

The Loafer

The embodiment of versatility, these slip-ons effortlessly transition from dead-drop formal to business casual

The Desert Boot

Casual yet refined, they’re a great match for jeans or chinos

The Athletic Sneaker

Beyond just workouts, sneakers define the urban, on-the-move lifestyle

Here’s a pick of shoe essentials for the ladies:

The Stiletto

Perfect for formal events or an evening out, they’re the definition of power and elegance (though they may not be the most comfortable!)

The Ballet Flat

An excellent combination of comfort and grace, these shoes glide with almost every outfit

The Ankle Boot

A cold weather staple, ankle boots harmonise fashion with function

The Sporty Sneaker

From running errands to a coffee date, the modern sneaker is the epitome of casual chic.

Building a Capsule ‘Shoe Wardrobe’

For those just starting out, aiming to declutter, or seeking a minimalistic approach, building a capsule shoe wardrobe can be transformative: Here’s how to get started:

1. The Black Pair: Opt for a versatile design that can transition from day to night, such as a black Oxford for men or a black stiletto for women.

2. The Tan/Brown/Neutral Pair: Think loafers for men or ballet flats for women. This colour tends to be universally flattering and pairs well with most outfits.

3. The Walking Pair: Prioritise comfort! Athletic sneakers work best. Cushioned flats that can handle long hours are also ideal.

4. The ‘Fun’ Pair: Let your personality shine. Whether it’s a vibrant sneaker, a patterned loafer, or a glittering heel, have one pair that feels uniquely ‘you’.

With these essentials in place, you’re set for nearly every occasion.

Every step counts

“In their lifetime, an average person walks around the world almost three times. Make sure you walk in good shoes” – Anonymous

Footwear isn’t just about style; it also impacts your health. Each step counts, make sure yours are well supported. Here are some reasons why investing in quality shoes is paramount.

1. Foot health: Quality shoes support the foot’s arch, averting immediate discomfort and potential long-term issues. Poorly made shoes can cause numerous foot problems, and even hip, knee, and back problems.

2. Durability: Quality shoes last. They may cost more initially but often outlast cheaper options, making them more economical over time.

3. Economic sense: Think of the cost-per-wear. Quality shoes worn frequently over the years offer better value than a budget pair that soon wears out.

4. Environmental care: The fast fashion industry places a heavy toll on the environment. Opting for more durable shoes means less waste and a reduced carbon footprint.

5. Comfort: Quality shoes made from superior materials ensure better comfort. This is vital for those on their feet for extended periods.

6. Confidence: A fine pair of shoes boosts self-assurance. Their fit, sound and feel can instantly make you feel and look more confident.

Trending pace

“Fashion fades, only style remains the same.” ~ Coco Chanel

Amidst ever-evolving trends, shoes have evolved from just being functional wear or indicators of status. They emphasise our desire for comfort and an undying commitment to style.

Comfort-centric brands like Crocs, Uggs and Birkenstocks, once viewed as purely utilitarian, have reimagined style, merging comfort with chic. These once-criticised brands are now being embraced by the public and even promoted by celebrities. At the other end of the spectrum, luxury brands like Louboutins, Manolo Blahniks, and Jimmy Choo continue their reign, representing unparalleled artistry and sheer luxury.

As sustainability gains traction, eco-friendly brands are pioneering creations using recycled materials and sustainable alternatives, like pineapple leather. Meanwhile, the resurgence of vintage designs, like ‘70s platforms or ‘90s chunky sneakers, is complemented by modern materials and design twists. And inclusivity in design ensures that everyone irrespective of foot shape and size, finds their perfect fit.

Athleisure continues to refine boundaries. Sneakers, once exercise wear, now grace boardrooms and parties – a testament to the blurring lines between sportswear and daily fashion.

Fun facts

  • The earliest known shoes – sagebrush bark sandals – date back to approximately 7000 or 8000 BC. They were found in the Fort Rock Cave in the US state of Oregon in 1938.
  • The term “sneakers” came about because the rubber sole in the shoes allowed you to walk around without being heard.
  • The average woman owns 21 pairs of shoes versus the average man, who owns “only” 12 pairs of shoes.
  • The world’s largest shoe collection belonged to Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines. She had over 3,000 pairs of shoes.
  • The most expensive shoes ever sold at an auction were the Ruby Red slippers from The Wizard of Oz. They sold for over $660,000 in 2000.

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