Shoes maketh the man… but breaketh the relationship

Tourists in Paris
French GQ magazine, a veritable goldmine of fashion and lifestyle dross, published a short supplementary booklet in an edition a few months ago.

The booklet was a manual on ‘Being a man’ – and was apparently conceived without irony, considering the audience of GQ is the young bo-bo (bourgois boheme) males, who have been raised to act like men since the age of 13.

One memorable nugget was “You own a different pair of shoes for each day of the week”. Coming from a land where if you’re not wearing Blundstones, you’re wearing flip-flops, this information cast the concept of the male pedal-wardrobe in an entirely new light.

On reflection, though, on this measure of manhood, I did fit the bill – if only because I was at that time dating a woman who worked for the label Andre shoes, and thus had a different pair for each day of the year!

Yet while I was technically a man, I wasn’t a particularly well-dressed one: each and every one of the seven pairs of shoes I own has been labeled as “bad shoes” by those who count – ie, women.

A summary of comments from the last six months:

  • Khaki loafers: Your shoes, are they orthopedic?
  • Black leather shoes: You look like a clown dressing up for business.
  • Moroccan moon boots: “Yes I noticed your shoes, they are…mysterious.”
  • Closed-toe sandals (with ingrained authentic doft of Africa footsweat): “Don’t ever wear those fucking “shoes” with me, or you’ll be dumped quicker than you can say ‘lace-up’.”

Last Sunday, a French girlfriend imparted her wisdom on the subject. “Every girl looks at a man’s shoes.”

This was news to me, and troubling news at that. Firstly, while I know many girls put thought into their own shoes, I never realized that they paid equal attention to those worn by men.

Secondly, the only choices Australian men make about shoes are ‘rubber’ or ‘cotton’, in reference to the material used on their flip-flop toe-string, and ‘steel’ or ‘normal’, in relation to the toe of their boots.

She explained that women in France make a lot of assumptions based on footwear: “Flip-flops are usually only worn at the beach. Tonight I see you wearing flip-flops and I assume that you are a relaxed guy, but also probably a tourist.” At this point, my exposed toes started feeling very naked.

Worse was to come. “Shoes can ruin a relationship,” she continued. “I was dating this guy for a while, and things were going OK – not great, but still OK. Then he started wearing this particular pair of shoes, and I thought, ‘uh-oh’. It was a deal-breaker. I dumped him soon after.”

This friend has been living in Switzerland for a while now, and had come back to Paris to notice a particularly worrisome trend. “Open-toed boots. Can you imagine the horror!”

No, I can’t. It must have been a shock. Thankfully the trend is so far only limited to female shoes. Needless to say, neither will it likely be a trend that makes it to Australia – do you know how hard it is to cut the toe out of a steel-capped boot?

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