Monday, October 17, 2011

In these shoes?

 Hmm, shoes.  The responses to my last post suggested I may need to upgrade my footwear for teaching purposes, to help ward off lower back pain.  (And yes, I get it, I should also be exercising.)  Since this relates to an earlier post in which I wondered about buying new shoes versus repairing old ones, I am now considering afresh what to do about the damn things.  (Obviously, I never made it to a shoe repair shop this weekend.  Midterms.) 

So first of all, here are the shoes I've been wearing pretty much consistently for the last few years.  I don't like to think too much about this stuff, so I buy a pair in tan and another in black, and I'm covered for almost all wardrobe situations in my working and private life.  They work fine with business-casual trousers, they look great with jeans, and on occasion – including my memorable campus interview this past winter in a heavy snowstorm – I can even get away with the black ones when I'm wearing my charcoal-gray suit.

These shoes have several virtues in my eyes – versatility and comfort – but durability is kind of a problem.  A year and a half walking around DOU-Town did in my last pairs, and less than a year in Research Country accomplished much the same thing to my current pairs.  So, with that in mind, as well as my aching back, I'm no longer sure that I should bother to repair these, or even buy new pairs.

So, tell me, O internet, what other options have I, as a dorky academic who just wants a nice pair or two of plain-toe* oxfords for all occasions that fit comfortably and are good for my health?

Yeah, yeah, I know, Dr. Martens are supposed to be nice.  But I never really understood the point of these shoes, once we all graduated from college and were no longer allowed to look like...well, like college students.  That stupid-ass yellow stitching and creepy-colored sole utterly ruin color coordination with anything that didn't come out of the $1 bin at the Salvation Army.  And really, I never went for wingtips.  Wingtips are, from my perspective, kind of douchey.  Even the ironic ones.  For that reason, I'm not much fonder of these (non-ironic?) Dr. Martens.  As a final complaint on these shoes, I find the heel very thin and knife-like whenever I've tried them, and I really hate shoes that make my heels blister.  Comfort is key!

Swinging in the other direction, there are some seriously cushy-heeled shoes out there, like these Tims.  And Timberlands, as I've found, are pretty hardy shoes.  But these?  They're a little too boot-like for my taste.  As far as I can see, they are Timberland boots, except with a lower top that doesn't go over the ankle.  But this doesn't make them look like any classroom-to-dinner-date shoe that I've ever seen; it only makes them look like industrial-strength safety shoes.  (Don't they look like they should have steel toes?)  I can't imagine wearing these to a conference, especially in a year like this year, when I'm on the market and, pace Historiann, should be prepared to wear a suit or something close to it for my (fingers crossed!) preliminary interviews.

Now these more formal Tims are closer to what I'm looking for.  Nice simple lines, no wingtip nonsense, no ooh-look-at-me ironic-hipster trimming, and even a little cushioning around the heel.  Frankly, the only thing I worry about with these – apart from the obvious fact that I won't know how they fit unless I buy a pair online or trudge all the way up to Major Regional City and go shoe shopping – is that the sole may not offer the level of support that I need to teach on my feet all day long.  Well, that, and the inescapable fact that they cost $120 per pair.  The Dockers I've relied on for years cost half of that.  But perhaps this is one of those situations in which you get what you pay for.

I dunno.  Can anyone lend me some fashion brains for a few minutes?

And, lest the post title leave you hanging...

*Cap-toes can be fun, but a little ostentatious for me.  I have a ridiculously over-the-top pair of cap-toe oxfords that I've worn with my gray suit for ages, though.  Maybe I should get something a little less flashy and workaday, but I can't bring myself to do it, given that I wear a suit about four times a year and want to enjoy the occasions as they come.


  1. I LOVE THAT SONG. And was just humming it the other day, apropos of nothing.

    FWIW, I have a pair of Tims much like the first pair you link to, and they're eight years old and show no appreciable wear. However, I got them in the suede-ish finish, and I have no idea how to clean it, so they look a little faded/dirty. I like them particularly because they are professional enough to wear to teach, but are good in winter weather--not a concern for you this year, but in future years, perhaps.

    I have this cartoon on my office door; shoes are important.

  2. Those look pretty comfy up top but of course I have no idea what they look like in the sole; maybe you'd have to get padding/insoles.

    But if you wear those shoes 5 days a week for teaching then the cost totally amortizes out over a couple years, you know.


    I have a pair of Bass loafers-with-heels that are absurdly comfortable and very sturdy; seriously, more comfortable than flats, they are. This leads me to suppose that their men's shoes might be similarly comfortable/supportive/well-made. Their Oxfords are all under $75. Personally, I am sure you are a cool enough cat to pull off the Buchanon. (My hipster is showing, isn't it?)

  4. I think you should sit more. Seriously! So you would use any new pair from getting from your home to the lecture theatre/classroom. I remember fomer boyfriends (who were also in academia) using Kenneth Cole's. I don't know the brand used by current journalist people who also walk around a lot, bike around, but sit at desks for hours on straight.... I'm not being very helpful, am I? I know that Costas who is in a similar position to you loves his All Star's which he wears with suits....