08 January 2009

Saddle Shoes, Some Personal History

Lately the old blogs have been all a-twitter with discussions of the all American saddle shoe. Opinions seem to run anywhere from love to hate. As the proud owner of a pair, I thought I'd throw my own hat in the ring.

You may remember that I recently received a pair in dark green and tan from our man Toad. I wore them today:

This outfit is fairly drab and neutral. Tan cords, blue oxford, brown sweater, all chosen for comfort while running various mundane errands around town. The shoes are just a little detail to lift the outfit from boredom, quietly. Which is how I feel they are best worn: at the bottom of a subdued outfit, the only slightly punchy element. Besides, they're as comfortable as slippers.

Me and saddle shoes go way back. I'll never forget my first pair.

I attended a Catholic elementary school, and we wore uniforms. Every year, the purchase of "school shoes" was an end of summer ritual. The summer before sixth grade, I discovered a beautifully tattered pair of black and white saddle shoes in the attic that had been my Dad's, and I was obsessed. Alas, my feet were bigger than his, and there was no hope of appropriating them.
Come school time, I begged my mother for a pair. They were Walkovers, with the red soles, and we had to special order them from the Ball Square Shoe Store, a place which specialized in crepe soled nurses shoes and the repair of the police's leather jackets.

I wore those shoes to death, in and out of school. The dirtier and more cracked they got, the more I loved them. I kept getting them resoled for at least ten years at the store where I bought them until they became so worn that the old guy refused to fix them anymore.

They had some kinda staying power, those shoes. When I went through my infatuated-with-the-1930's phase in high school, the saddles fit right in. When I went all punk rock for 5 or 6 years after that, they fit right in. And when I calmed down and became a father and decided to act like a grown up, they fit right in. They're like Art Blakey in a button down collar: classy and bad-ass all at once.

Take care when wearing them, however. Keep them away from cardigan sweaters, bow ties, pompadours and glasses with tape on the frames, lest you wind up looking like a cartoon dork. Don't wear them with an overly busy outfit, lest you wind up looking like as if you're dressed as a "White Guy" guy for Halloween. But do wear them. Just keep it relaxed and you'll be fine, a rule that applies to all manner of dress and comportment.

So all you guys who threw saddle shoes under the bus this week (you know who you are) think twice. They're not just for sock hops, golf courses and vintage five year old's.


SCO said...

"Quietly." That's the key - with saddle shoes, as with anything else - understatement. As you're wearing them in this photo, they're virtually unnoticeable because they blend so well with the rest of what you're wearing. Without the title, I may not have even noticed.

The problem comes when people dress consciously and conspicuously, that is when one doesn't have any style. At that point, like everything else, saddle shoes stand out and the wearer looks silly.

Toad said...

Remember Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets? That's just about the greatest saddle shoe movie ever. Old, dirty white and brown saddles. Jack makes them look fabulous.

ms. mindless said...

i went to an episcopalian school and the kids(girls and boys) in lower elementary had to wear black and white saddle shoes. getting fitted for the new pair each year is such a good memory. i loved mine so much and sometimes i am sad that i can't get away with them anymore. your pair is great!

Pigtown*Design said...

Toad is a star, indeed!

Stephen said...

No this outfit is the epitome of sexy. Love the pants, shirt and sweater over it. The shoes give the "Yep, I mean it." that is necessary for this look to garner a phenomenal response without others seeing your face. Wow, these closes are powerful. Thanks for the moment.

Stephen in Cloverdale, CA