World-class shoes made in Australia - R.W. Williams and Wootten
If you’re working hard to impress someone - a potential employer or the possible love of your life – don’t let your shoes be the deal-breaker.
Yes, yes, yes, it’s incredibly shallow to make snap decisions based on the quality of a man’s wardrobe, but we all do it. And for many reasons, people are especially judgemental about shoes!
Shoes are one of the biggest criteria people use when making up their minds about us. And one of the easiest to get right. Will they hire us, date us, or let us move into their neighborhood? Sometimes it all comes down to a quality pair of shoes.
Shoes Reveal Our Secrets
Research has shown that footwear reveals more about us than we realize. "Shoes convey a thin but useful slice of information about their wearers, Shoes serve a practical purpose, and also serve as nonverbal cues with symbolic messages,” wrote the authors of a University of Kansas study
“People tend to pay attention to the shoes they and others wear. Expensive shoes belonged to high earners, flashy and colorful footwear belonged to extroverts and shoes that were not new but appeared to be spotless belonged to conscientious types,” the authors noted. "Shoes have a great variety of styles, brands, looks, and functions. Because of this variety, shoes can carry individual difference information, but do they?
“We suggest that the answer is yes.”
So, blokes, invest (and that is the right word)…INVEST…in one or more nice pairs of dress shoes and then a quality pair of boots and you’ll be set for years and years. You’ve got to spend a little more, but you’ll get a lot in return - quality, performance, and, who knows, love. Over the long-term you’ll even save money as your friends toss their ravaged discount shoes and buy new ones every year, while your quality footwear marches on, looking better than ever with care and occasional re-soling.
Even if you’re on a tight budget, we recommend saving up to buy one great pair of dress shoes, preferably a deep brown or tan, which coordinates with just about any suit or casual work outfit.
Pricing the Goods, Crunching the Numbers
From fashion experts to financial planners, smart shoppers know it's wiser to spend more on quality. The Adult Man-style blog emphasizes that “Not all leather is created equal. This is especially true for men’s footwear. More formal dress shoes will use fine leathers such as calfskin, scotch grain, or authentic patent leather. Fine leathers need more care than full-grain leather, but the payoff comes from their quality,” it recommends, adding, “Avoid footwear brands that don’t disclose the kind of upper material used.”
Frequently, discount shoe/boot brands will even invent terms like “bonded leather,” or “corrected leather,” which usually means it’s blended with plastic and other chemicals. Cheap or faux leather may look sharp for a few weeks, but it quickly discolors, peels and creases.
A New York Times piece by financial planner Carl Richards titled “Spend the Money for the Good Boots, and Wear Them Forever” offers a number of logical points from the author’s experience, including the decision to buy $300 ski pants 17 years earlier rather than a much cheaper alternative, even though he was a student on a tight budget. “Whenever I go skiing, that’s what I wear. And guess what? They still work. Just as good as the day I bought them. And I can almost guarantee you, if I had bought the $50 pants…, they would have been gone before the end of the first season,” Richards writes.
Plus, he’s whipped out the calculator and done the math. Quality IS cheaper. “I would have had to buy those $50 pants at least 17 more times over the years, spending more than $800, to get as much use out of them as I have from my well-made Moonstone pants. Not only would I have had the cognitive, emotional, and logistical drain of perpetually having to replace the old pants…but I would have spent more than twice as much money in the long run.”
The Professor Recommends…
So, now that you know what to shop for and why quality equals value, who makes superior shoes and boots? If you’re looking to shop local, start with R.M.Williams. Since 1932, this South Australia-based quality boot and shoemaker has been handcrafting stylish, sturdy, comfortable, and long-wearing footwear including rodeo wear that, with proper care, and occasional re-soling, can last for decades.
For dress casual, we recommend the Kingston Loafer ($395), available in both black and the more versatile caramel brown, and the stylish Craftsman Boot ($495), leather-soled with yearling leather uppers – perfect with a suit, khakis or jeans. To help you care for your purchase, R.M. William's fantastic website even has a detailed section on leather care.
Tasmania, the Professor’s home, is also the business and manufacturing base of renowned bootmaker Blundstone. Founded in 1870, it’s grown from a Tassie favorite to an international brand as popular in New York as it is locally. Made for men, women and kids, exceptionally comfortable Blundstone boots are still reasonably priced. For work or casual wear, you can’t go wrong with these Chestnut Brown Ankle Boots ($229.95). Outdoorsmen will like Blundstone’s thermal boots (also $229.95). Sturdy and toasty warm, they’re available in black, rustic, and antique brown.
For that perfect pair of oxfords or brogues ($820), consider investing in a customized, made-to-order pair from Melbourne-based Wootten, available in black, tan, brown and cognac leather. Part of the recent slow-fashion movement, in addition to custom-order options, Wooten makes stylish orthopedic footwear (Yes, it’s possible!) and bespoke shoes and boots by appointment at its Ballarat workshop, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne.
The beauty of quality footwear like this is that it goes with almost anything, lasts forever, enhances the look of a well-tailored suit, and even helps camouflage the questionable quality of a less expensive pair of khakis or jeans.
Buy Better...Be Better
Finally, without getting into details, spending more on good shoes and other essential clothing items is ethically sound and better for the environment. You’re much less likely to learn that your tailored suit was made by children in a Turkish sweatshop or your boots crafted by workers making less than minimum wage.
Why are quality goods better for the environment? Lots of reasons, but here’s an obvious one - Duh, they almost never get thrown away and end up in a landfill!
Gillath, Omri, “Shoes as a Source of First Impressions,” The Journal of Research in Personality/Science Direct, 2012
Cotter, Paul. “4 Easy Ways To Identify Good vs Bad Quality Footwear,” The Adult Man. March 22, 2020.
Richards, Carl, “Spend the Money for the Good Boots, and Wear Them Forever,” The New York Times, February 1, 2016.