Sunday, February 24, 2013

Shoes Fo' Po' People

A theme of this blog is the recurring problem that as one becomes more enlightened to the ways of looking good, one’s taste in clothes (and then things, and then women….haha) gets more and more expensive. Unfortunately, not all of us have the financial means to keep up with those tastes, which leaves a lot of us with the problem of not being able to afford what we we want, but knowing too much about the alternatives to want to settle.

This post adresses what, to me, provided the biggest gap between want and ability (besides maybe custom/bespoke suits, but I guess I don’t really need one of those at this point in my life): Shoes. It really seemed to me that, unless I was willing to throw down close to $300 on a pair of Allen Edmonds, I was relegated to fake leather, synthetic soles, boxy toes, and every other sign of sub-par footwear. Then, I found eBay.

Ok, that’s a bit overdramatic. I already knew about eBay. But, I had never really tried to use it to buy clothes and shoes. I’m still iffy about buying clothes (too much of a gamble regarding unseen stains, snags, stretches, and, worst of all, smells), but I have found eBay to be a goldmine for finding high quality shoes in good (not new, but good) shape for extremely affordable prices.

My advice before diving in:
  1. Know your shoe size: This whole thing really only works if you can confidently bid on a pair of shoes without worrying if they are going to squish your toes. I know I am a size 10 D, and so far have not been let down (size-wise) by anything with those measurements.

  2. Stick to leather shoes: This goes back to my aversion to clothes and shoes that smell like other people. Decently cared for leather shoes smell like, well, leather. Running shoes, sneakers, etc., these things tend to smell like sweat. And feet.

  3. Know the brands you like: It is way more productive to search by brand than by shoe type. If you search for “Brown Loafers” you will get way too many results and half of those are gonna piece-o-shit shoes. Stick to quality brands, and search using those names. I have a list of brands that I routinely check for on eBay. These are brands I have worn and loved, or are reputable brands that I have seen on other forums with styles that I know I love.

  4. Look for damage to the uppers as well as wear to the soles: Damage to the uppers is probably the most important, as it is very hard to repair deep scuffs or scratches. Soles and heels can always be repaired and replaced (as long as they were leather to begin with), but just be sure to factor that cost into your budget if need be.

  5. Set yourself a standard price limit, and use the filters: My method is to, every few days, start a search under ‘Men’s Shoes.’ I slap on a price filter and a size filter (I usually run with $50 max, size 10D), and then just start plugging in those aforementioned brands.

  6. Lastly, stick to items ending that day: You can find a lot of great deals, but you will also see a lot of great shoes starting at really low prices and then skyrocketing in the last day or two of the auction. You will be disappointed over and over again if you start bidding too early. Look for auctions that are ending soon, or have a Buy-It-Now option (this is just basic eBay shit, so get with it, people!)
Applying those guidelines, I have started to build a hell of a shoe collection. Here are my recent buys:

I scored these nice, Johnston & Murphy wingtip brogues for $35 and free shipping. While Johnston & Murphy is bit below Allen Edmonds as far as quality goes, these shoes came in great condition for $35. The sole is barely scuffed, the heels are only lightly worn, and the leather uppers are in perfect condition. They are a little stiff, but I’m hoping with regular polishing and conditioning they will soften up nicely. These shoes normally run $175 on the Johnston & Murphy website.

I had been really wanting a new pair of brown shoes (mine were, horrifically, a bit square toed), so I went after these bench-made Brooks Brothers cap-toe oxfords and brought em home for just $45 (plus $10 for shipping). These show a little more wear on the soles, but the uppers are in great condition and they are very comfortable. I also love that they work casually and formally equally well.

My favorite shoes are these black, quarter-brogue Allen Edmonds I bought for ONLY $25!!!! I love Allen Edmonds, and tend to use them as a scale against which I measure all other shoe brands (so get used to it). I also love these shoes because they were part of the beginning of my wardrobe upgrade and are my first nice shoes. This was when I broke away from long toed, or square toed, or synthetic, or other crap - shoes and landed with a classy, comfortable (the leather on these is incredibly soft), and versatile pair of dress shoes. Couldn’t. Be. Happier.

Lastly: I JUST (as in just yesterday) received a pair of Original Clark’s Desert Boots via eBay (for a slim $35 + shipping/handling). I haven’t gotten to wear or photograph them yet (with my shitty iPhone camera, I feel like saying ‘photograph them’ is a little misleading, but still…), but I guarantee a full report soon! Shop well, friends.

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