Saturday, September 27, 2008


Clive James, recalling his early days in London, noted how he often wore ridiculous shoes. The suit, shirt and tie might be fine, but his shoes were bizarre.

That story recently came to mind when my younger brother was teasing me about a pair of black walking shoes that I own. They have Velcro straps, which he assures me are major signs of geezerdom. I like them because they are comfortable. That too may be a sign of age.

Now I take his criticism with some skepticism. Throughout his life he's worn shoes that appear to have been stolen from - and this will date me - Gladstone Gander; in fact, my older brother and I used to tease him about his Gladstones. This recent criticism may be a form of revenge on his part.

Nonetheless, I am circumspect in my footwear whenever meeting with clients or conducting training. Long experience has taught me that shoes are noticed, particularly by women. Men may only be vaguely aware that another person is on the room, but women will instantly appraise the cost, style, and wisdom of your shoe selection.

Shoes with laces are more serious than those without. Black is more professional than brown. Leather soles beat out all of the more comfortable and cushioned alternatives when it comes to seriousness if not for practicality. Men should wear white shoes, of course, only if they are wearing a white suit or are in some sort of uniform. Black and white shoes may be worn if you are Mel Brooks.

Shoes, like ties, are a subtle indicator of personality and that may be why they evoke emotional responses. I had to smile when a photo of Churchill meeting with his chiefs of staff came my way. The Prime Minister was wearing black shoes with a large zipper up the front.

My kind of guy.

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