Shoes that didn't spark joy... and how to spot the dead wood in your collection
Last month somebody started a thread on Styleforum asking how many pairs of shoes people own. As expected, responses varied from the modest capsule collectors to the certifiably insane hoarders (indeed, the guy that started the thread claims to have 274 pairs, which... I mean, I won't tell you how to live your life, but I think that may be excessive).
The thing that interests me more is what level of daily wear those shoes see, and what proportion of them are very seldom, maybe even never, worn. I've written on this topic before in this article, which extols the virtue of only keeping shoes that you love wearing. But what about those pairs that look good on paper (or screen), and by all accounts you should love them... but actually wearing them just doesn't spark joy?
The unspoken factor in discussions of how many shoes we do have is how do we decide what shoes we don't want to hold on to. This post is a reflection on some such pairs I've owned.
Note that I've sold a lot of pairs for pure sizing reasons during the last ten years or so, but they are a bit less interesting to discuss. This is more about the pairs that I was a bit more reluctant to part with.
Gaziano & Girling Wigmore Boots and Hayes shoes
Opening with two pairs from a maker that I still hold in very high esteem, but realistically Covid has changed my taste in dress shoes, and G&G has a smaller place in my wardrobe than it used to.
The Wigmore is a beautiful boot - the dovetail seam and mixed leathers are quite evocative of the Edward Green Galway, while the medallion toe is a touch more formal and pointed. The combination of colouring is interesting here too, with a bright pop of cherry calf and the more muted chestnut on the shaft.
The Hayes meanwhile is an Adelaide oxford - this particular model had a lovely lizard contrast facing section. It's on the unmistakable Deco last. I picked it up some time ago as my wedding shoe, but several wedding postponements later, they never saw active duty.
In both cases, I simply found less and less use for the distinctive styling of the shoes. Covid has cemented my love for more casual trousers, and try as I might neither of these pairs worked with anything less than semi-smart tailored clothing. These were with the TG73 last and Deco last respectively - just too pointed at the toe and slim in the body to use day-to-day. Essentially they just never seemed like the appropriate shoe to wear for a given day, and so they got the chop.
Edward Green Galway and Dover
An almost blasphemous entry this, given the regard that both of these Edward Green models are (quite rightly) held in.
Like a lot of shoe enthusiasts, the Galway held a near-mythic place in my expectations before I finally snagged a pair. Indeed, the review of this Galway model is the first post on this site.
The Dark Oak and Mink suede combo is probably the most iconic of makeups for the Galway, but it just never quite clicked for me. The fit was okay, and while I continue to love Mink suede and Dark Oak leathers in isolation, something about the combination enamoured me less than I expected.
Perhaps it's related to my declining need for a dressy boot - after all, I tend to wear boots when the weather is looking a bit grey, so leather soles, polished calf and suede are actually some of the materials I least want to wear if its wet or muddy: a boot composed of all of them in combination is kind of a worst case scenario.
They ended up departing through eBay, but I will continue to keep an eye out for Galway models in future. This is likely to be a grain leather combo, or maybe a roughout suede combination. So overall this was more of an experimental first step than an abject failure.
Again, I'd previously thought the Dover could do no wrong as a design, but the colour of this suede was just too peculiar to get much use from. A sort of khaki-mushroom-beige with contrast light brown stitching. A very casual material that still looked too dressy with casual outfits, and was too unusual a shade to work with more formal ones.
These also took a surprisingly long time to sell on eBay, going for a pretty low price in the end, so it's not just me that wasn't so taken with the colour.
Crockett & Jones Vintage Handgrade Water Bison
A rather straightforward one here, albeit for a very interesting and old pair of shoes.
These Crockett & Jones Handgrade Windsors were bought as New Old Stock - pretty remarkable given that the shoes themselves are likely 50+ years old. The uppers are water bison leather, a material with a prominent grain and a rather polarising appearance.
But the reason I couldn't keep them was down to styling: the toes were too squared, and the sides of the shoes feature a darkened row of stitching that just screams 70s chic and put me in mind of frilled tuxedo shirts. Essentially I just end up having no idea what to wear them with. I've put them on eBay, although the rather niche appeal of them doesn't fill me with confidence that they will sell, but I think there are vintage collectors that will have more use for them than I do.
Alfred Sargent loafers and Crocket & Jones shell loafers
I have no loafers in my shoe rotation. I can just never get the fit right, and I've pretty much given up buying them now. I hate it when they look too pointy or dressy, and I hate it when they look too casual or slipper-like.
These Alfred Sargent Millers are pretty attractive, with a nice patina on the grain leather. But the fit was never quite right, slipping one way and squeezing the other. After trying multiple insoles and sticky pad fit adjustments that left them looking rather Frankenstein's monsterish, I just gave up.
These Crockett & Jones shell loafers had been on my list for a long time, but on trying them an issue became quickly apparent - they made my feet look just cartoonishly small when worn. They were sized UK 9.5, but were physically far shorter than laced UK 9.5 shoes I have, to the point of being completely disproportionate to my body when worn.
Crockett & Jones shell cordovan brogues and half-brogues
Finally, two pairs that I was surprised I didn't gel with, both in shell cordovan from Crockett & Jones.
These half-brogue Adelaides were made for New & Lingwood by Crockett & Jones. They showed a lovely patina and rich colouring, but the fit was always just a bit off no matter what I tried to do to adjust it. I probably do regret selling these now actually, but such is life.
These wingtip brogues were made for Ralph Lauren by Crockett & Jones. While initially fond of them, I found the shell a bit stiff and squeaky to be comfortable, and just never seemed to end up reaching for them given other more casual options.
Monkstraps, jodhpurs and lazymans
Kind of an "AOB" final entry to the list, but these are the various shoes with more eccentric fastening methods that just didn't work out.
These single-strap Crockett & Jones monkstraps were okay in terms of comfort, but the design lacked a certain sense of proportion, with quite a long, plain toe design leaving a huge expanse at the front of the shoe. They just looked a bit like a dressy clown shoe, really.
I've always liked the idea of a Jodhpur boot, but struggled to get a pair I loved. These Tricker's were a good attempt, but ultimately just not a pair I ever wore. A pet peeve of mine, that was starting to show on these, was the tendency of the leather to bow out just above the stitch at the sides, which looks okay from the side photo but looks quite unattractive when viewed from above.
This is a bespoke lazyman from G.J. Cleverley, and a good example of a bespoke shoe that seems like it should roughly fit when looking at the overall dimensions, but was completely unwearable on the foot. I have similar fit issue with lazyman shoes as I do with loafers.
So that's it, really. If you're unsure how to go about cutting down your own collection, you can start by simply ordering your shoes by how often you've worn them in the last few months. Look at the ones at the very bottom of the list, and reflect on why they never get any wear. In cases of bad fit I'd encourage you to jettison them - life is just too short to wear shoes that don't fit.
Or just rent a storage unit and fill that up with shoes, and it'll be your little secret. I can honestly see the logic either way.