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When shoes attack, men come off second best

American novelist William Burroughs explained the phrase Naked Lunch, the title of his best-known book,as “a frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork”.

What Burroughs failed to identify is ‘naked shoe’, a frozen moment where you see exactly what is on the end of every foot. But the sense of horror is just the same. The next guy you see in a striking outfit, check out his footwear. Chances are it won’t quite go.

In the film Quantum of Solace, James Bond chases a villain over rooftops wearing a Tom Ford suit and the sort of stacked, black trainers that an octogenarian might sport around a nursing home. Men’s magazines like to print little maxims like “women notice shoes”. Is this true? Do women notice those vile trainer hybrids strapped on with sticky bandage? Do women notice the crass branding that gives ownership to a half-inched design?

Surely men can do better. Start by leaving the innovation to the innovators. Rediscover Dr Martens. Find a perfect pair of brogues. Pull out the classics: beefy boots from Red Wing, basketball lo-tops. And think about size. The shoemakers at George Cleverley told me that most of us wear footwear that is too small. It’s chiropractic murder: just go into a room full of shoe lasts and check out the deformities. It’s as if the feet suffer from elephantiasis.

Too small is too bad and retailers are missing a trick. My brother-in-law has the most exquisite feet - they’re all symmetry - accounted for by his growing up in the Caribbean where he wore no shoes at all for the first eight years of his life. So maybe Galahad Clark and his Vivo brand of “barefoot” shoes are the natural next step. That or move to the country, where you never have to wear anything but wellies or flip-flops ever again.

  • Oliver Horton is a freelance fashion writer and commentator

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