Published: 12:00 AM, 12 December 2016
Compared to fashion's normal spin cycle, shoe trends move on a geological scale. Bar the odd interloper - we see you, pool slides - footwear sticks to the classics: trainers, slip-ons, lace-ups, boots. Where outerwear shifts seismically each season, shoes barely wobble the needle. Which is why runway appearances shouldn't rank too high on the list of features you look for in new shoes (and not just because, as Christopher Kane recently proved with his bejewelled Crocs, those appearances tend to be driven less by aesthetics and more by deeply uncool brands, with deeper pockets, after some catwalk cachet).
Instead, look to the trinity of build, comfort and versatility. Shoes are expensive. You will buy fewer than you do clothes. So invest in pairs that keep feet protected from weather, free of blisters and which you can rotate through at least a handful of outfits. That doesn't mean dull. You can consider this season's move towards seasonless, minimalist clothes a blank canvas for experimental styles. At Prada, that meant chunky, puddle-clearing soles. At DSquared2, laces that extended almost to the toe cap and at James Long, Refresher-tinged buckles and stripes. None of which will concern the seismologists overly. But all will keep this season's looks from being too down to earth.
Brogues: A menswear staple since Irish farmers punched holes in their shoes to let bog water out, brogues sit in that smart-casual sweet spot that takes the stuffy out of your suit, but dress up your jeans for lunch with your in-laws. "Craftsmanship and durability is essential for winter," says Mr. Porter footwear buyer David Morris. 'Made In Northampton' is shorthand for both - the town's churned out the world's best leather footwear since the Civil War and brands like Church's, Tricker's and Grenson ensure that reputation remains. The more broguing, the more casual the shoe - let whether you'll deploy weekday or weekend dictate - but Goodyear welting is non-negotiable. "A Goodyear welt provides a solid structural foundation, which is imperative at this time of year," says Morris. It also makes swapping the soles a cinch, which adds decades to your investment.
Though classic always works the demise of menswear means brogues have loosened up. "Brands have been experimenting with detailing to bring brogues more into casual wear," says Kasia Katner, stylist at Thread. Monk-straps: Monk-straps - beloved of medieval monks, then no one, until mid-2000s suit obsessive's made them street style catnip. When those hashtag dandies ditched tailoring for sportswear, their dub monks hit Oxfam. But this season, the strap gets another run-out.
"The most classic monk-strap has two straps, but in recent seasons more styles have featured a chunkier one-strap or even triple straps," says Katner. "They're a great winter option if you're looking for a slip-on look, but it's too cold for loafers." The variety of strap styles means there's a lot to play with; the right pair can be an expert bridge between office and cocktails. "For a smart look, opt for the classic double-strap in polished leather. They work really well with contemporary tailoring." Keep fits slim and your trouser breaks minimal to flash the buckles.
Derby shoes: The Derby, like the Oxford, is ubiquitous. Unlike the Oxford, it has an open lacing system, which makes it a touch less formal. For AW16, the more relaxed lace-up went wild. "They lend themselves to the classic brands such as Tricker's and O'Keeffe," says Morris, "but the designer brands have reinterpreted the style this season, especially Prada and Tod's." Huge, rubber soles raise Tod's Derbies off the ground - just as well, to keep grime off the cherry red vamp. They transform them into a boot-Derby hybrid, giving them a statement edge that summer versions just can't match. The more detail - big soles, odd colours - the further down they'll dress. For a casual look, wear with woollen trousers or jeans and an overcoat. If your shoes are plain, pair with suits or tailored separates.
Penny loafers: Don't box up your penny loafers just yet. They were big on the Gucci catwalk and, right now, what Gucci says goes. "You may need a pair of socks though," says Goldup. Well, unless you can stretch to the brand's fur-lined versions. You need to be ballsy to pull off the loafers-with-socks trend, though. To stay true to the Gucci look, wear with bunched-up hiking socks and either turn your jeans up or tuck them in. Think of it as cyclist chic. It's a punchy move that deserves a statement shoe; try embellished or tartan loafers and make sure you buy a half size up, so they fit all that wool. You can still wear simpler designs when the nights draw in, but make sure they've got more heft where it matters. "Choose a style with a chunkier sole as they'll be more versatile," says Katner. A thick rubber or plastic sole will help fend off the weather and give you grip. Just avoid too much other embellishment and keep your socks the same color as your trousers.
The author is a freelance contributor at www.fashionbeans.com