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Trending shoe styles that do absolutely nothing for me (but that you might love)

I spotted a couple of styles at the recent London Super Trunk Show that inspired this post. The word "timeless" gets thrown a lot around with the kind of shoes I write about on this blog - fashion, they say, is fleeting; style is timeless.

But these things are cyclical, and as all styles pass into obscurity at some point, so too do new design approaches come into prominence. Look at makers like Norman Vilalta or Justin Fitzpatrick to see that there really is always something new under the sun.

I think it's fair to say that not every innovation works well - these are some "trends" (though in some cases the actual use of them goes back many years) that are visible in men's shoes at the moment that just do very little for me.... but which you conversely find pretty appealing. Different strokes for different folks, after all.

Tarsal brogues

A strange name at first glance, the Tarsal brogue is named for the additional leather strap running over the metatarsal of the foot (the long bones in the foot connecting the ankle to the toes).

The effect it creates could best be described as "polarising" - though I think for my tastes a better word would be "busy" or "crowded". Crowded in the sense that it really is cramming an additional design element in an area that would traditionally be left empty on a shoe - not that tradition should be the be-all and end-all, but in this instance, I do think it throws off the proportion of most shoes quite badly.

With that said, I can see the appeal if you need a pair of shoes that are superficially dressy, but also want to throw in a rakish design element. They do work best in mixed materials, often with quite contrasting colour and textures, where the design is fully committed to the level of contrast involved.

Reverse stitching

A very "does what it says on the tin" design feature here. The stitching is done on the inside of the leather, rather than the outside. See below for a good example from Paola Scafora.

I think the nicest thing I can say here is it's very technically "interesting". But I can't get over the mental image of it looking like scar tissue rather than shoe stitching - because of how it works, the puckering effect is quite apparent.

Notably, this sort of stitching is actually very visible in what is otherwise considered a quite conservative shoe style - split toe shoes can use this technique at the toe, although it tends to be a feature of higher-end makers like Edward Green or Acme. Cheaper models will use a more standard stitch. I suppose it works okay there because it's only a small finishing detail, rather than the basis of the shoe's whole design.

Norwegian welting

The Norwegian welt is a technically tricky technique that is increasingly visible on dress shoes. With a Norwegian welt, there is an additional horizontal stage of welt stitching (on top of the usual vertical stitch of welt to upper).

Now, I don't always think this is a bad look - for chunky boots it can add a pleasing extra level of heft. But I can't get my head around using this method for otherwise sleek and slim dress shoe designs, like these Shell Cordovan Enzo Bonafe split-toes below. They don't look terrible by any means, but the welt does seem a bit gratuitous:

With that said, I can sympathise with the instinct to gravitate towards these unusual and standout design features the bigger my collection gets. Maybe this is one I'm on the fence about rather than hating.

Shadow patinas

Very much a borderline choice here, as I've waxed lyrical about patina artistry before, but there are also aspects of patina as a selling point that I don't love. These Septieme Largeur Adelaide shoes are a good example - the patina is darkened around the points where sections of leather intersect, creating a "shadow" effect.

It's not that this is something just associated with lower quality makers, but bluntly I do think they make the end result look a bit cheap - a little bit more like costumey and fancy dress than would be optimum.

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Jun 01, 2022

I'm with you on all of that, other than the Norvegese. Although the technique is overused - e.g. on loafers - and it's something that I can only imagine wearing on a chunky winter shoe or, like you say, a boot.

I'll add one: the oxford (usually a wholecut) with brogue-type punching where seams would normally be. I don't like that at all.

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