Gentlemen Feature: Shoeless & Clueless

I received the following e-mail from a male follower about thirfting for men shoes. I decided to find somebody who has much more experience and expertise in this area, Mtokufa, designer and fashion consultant. He has an excellent sense of style and has a website of FABULOUSLY, custom designed pocket squares, I felt, provided his experience, he could answer this question better than I. While this post is geared towards the men, he provides awesome tips on thrifting which women can benefit from as well. I am honored to have Mtokufa provide his insight. Thanks again, Mtokufa. Please visit his website and follow him for male style inspiration and tips. Thanks to Omoleye Akande for the wonderful photography!  Ladies, share this post with all the special men in your life!

Dear Mrs. Sharlendipity,

I'm a man, and have a problem. I'm tired of buying cheap shoes--I just found out that an $80 pair of shoes from ALDO is considered cheap. I'm now ready to step up my game and spring for some high-quality dress shoes--i.e. Allen Edmonds--that will last me several years, maybe even a lifetime. The problem is, I don't have Allen Edmonds money. So when I saw the launch of your blog, and learned of your "thrifty" ways, I thought you might be able to help. Do thrift stores exist that resell such premium dress shoes? Am I out of line for even entertaining the thought of wearing previously worn shoes? And while you're at it, how do I go about choosing that ONE premium shoe that works as well at a desk job, at church, and at a formal dinner?

Sincerely,Shoeless and Clueless


Dear Shoeless and Clueless,

You may be shoeless, but not completely clueless. You asked completely reasonable questions. In your questions you stated a couple of brands (Aldo and Allen Edmonds); buying shoes at thrift stores; and then asked what is a staple shoe that can be worn to work, church, and a formal dinner. There is never a good reason to buy poorly made shoes.

I have never owned a pair of Aldo shoes but I can definitively say they do not agree with the shape of my feet. I have very narrow feet and a flat arch and there is not much support there, so I do not buy the product. They do however make very nice looking shoes that are classic and sometimes trendy. When buying leather shoes your aims are quality, leather uppers and great stitching (no glue should be used). Seriously. Your shoes should be as streamlined as the rest of your wardrobe. That means a slim contour (but not painfully skinny) and a rounded (but not sharp) toe. They should look stylish, tasteful, and masculine.

The one shoe every man should own is a black lace-up. You can dress it up or dress it down; it'll work with everything from jeans to suits. ‘Real’ dress shoes have a leather sole. After that purchase, start having fun with browns --- cognacs especially. Then when you become well versed, jump to the oxblood. That is a very deep red, they work as an alternate to brown. My favorite.

Whatever shoes you have, remember to take care of them: use shoe taps on the heels and toes, insert cedar shoe trees when you're not wearing them, polish them, and use powder (gold bond). The shoe taps preserve the sole where most pressure is applied, the toes and heels. This simple purchase can add years to a pair of shoes. The cedar shoe trees not only keeps the integrity of the shape of the shoe, but also pulls moisture out of the leather. Shoes polish will keep the shoes looking smart! And lastly, before and after wearing, the powder is key incase you have very sweaty feet. This helps with the moisture control.

Basic Tips For Thrifting-

Good neighborhoods mean good thrift stores: The more affluent and deep-rooted the neighborhood the better the stock. Look for stores in richer neighborhoods with long-standing residents. I am not saying great thrift stores do not exist in poorer neighborhoods, but you will consistently find a certain quality of donated items in certain neighborhoods.

Go regularly: Thrifting isn’t like going to Macy’s or Nordstrom. Stock varies and is constantly rotating. Only through regular visits will you get to know quality clothing and find the ‘good stuff.’

Sometimes you end up with nothing: Remember that a great percentage of your thrift store visits will end in no purchases. This is part of the challenge!

Look for damage: Look carefully for any damages. CAREFULLY. There’s nothing worse than losing money on an item with moth holes you overlooked. Hold items up to natural light to help spot holes, and check for stains. Always check to make sure zippers work, but don’t be deterred in making a purchase if the zipper is faulty. They can be replaced inexpensively.

Only buy if you truly love it: If there’s something wrong after looking for the damage, it will usually get worse.

Peruse the entire store:Just like many treasure hunts, the best items are often displaced (sometimes other patrons).

Know your brands: Your goal should be to identify quality by sight and touch. If you are not sure, here’s a trick: keep a mental or written list of brands that fit you well. And of course in this technological era, Google and blogs, like this one, will serve you well. For example Stacey Adams shoes are not known for quality but Church’s, Bally, Allen Edmonds and To Boot New York would be absolute great purchases from a thrifting adventure.

Overall, thrift stores are full of high-quality menswear and thankfully menswear is relatively timeless. But be sure be pick classic items over the trends.

Finally, be sure you understand the difference between consignment shops and thrift stores. Consignment shops are selective about what they accept. Thrift stores receive donations and are less selective about what they accept and also tend to be much larger meaning harder to navigate.

Happy Shopping!

Mtokufa, The Squares Follow us: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: @forthesquares

Photography: Omoleye Akande