Picking the right pair of shoes in summer is, even for the most confident of dressers (well done), a conundrum. All that good work potentially undone by a shabby pair of boat shoes or scruffy flip flops. A pair of classic white trainers or lazy boy loafers are always a good bet, but there'll be a time where you might have to go to the beach, or a swimming pool, or on holiday!
There'll come a time where you'll need a pair of sandals.
Over recent years the man sandal (mandal?) has become a key piece from entry level brands to designer. There are slides, straps, buckles and soles to contend with, meaning more choice than ever, which is good... definitely. But that also means there'san opportunity for a mandal mishap.
"I actually have a bit of a personal phobia of sandals" says Thom Scherdel, menswear buyer at Browns Fashion (getting us off to a good start). "I’m usually the random guy wearing Common Projects on the beach however I love buying them. We try to buy sandals that aren’t just super high end, more of an everyday piece and not just prescriptive to beach or seaside wear. At Browns we like them to be statement, to look good with jeans, trousers or shorts and feel like they are a really important part of the look rather than a holiday necessity."
While an old school Birkenstock can do no wrong, there is a growing taste for tech-y, outdoor-y sandals with a sportier aesthetic. Teva, a favourite of Colorado mountain guides and Bristol hippies, has recently found itself as an unlikely fashion favourite. On the higher end of the scale there is Suicoke, a Japanese label who specialise in sandals, slides and fancy house shoes with Vibram soles and durable nylon straps. They have collaborated with everyone from APC to Aimé Leon Dore, solidifying their credentials along the way.
Scherdel is another Suicoke fan. "They feel futuristic and avant-garde and are super comfortable and robust which is perfect for pairing with normal outfits, alongside Prada who have always have brought their chrome obsession to their sandal business."
More 'traditional' British footwear brands have also noticed a new taste for open-toe footwear among previous non-believers. Church's and Grenson both turned their Northamptonshire shoemaking expertise to original designs in fine leathers that can be worn around the house, and in the garden, or to a very important Ibiza-based poolside business meeting. Dr. Martens: work shoe icon, champion of the subculture statement boot, maker of high-quality and heavy-duty footwear, has found summer success with a wide range of sandals that play on its rugged heritage, featuring chunky AirWair soles and thick straps.
"The key issue for a sandal is that it needs to be very breathable so that it's comfortable when it's hot." says Tim Little, CEO and creative director of Grenson. "It's all about the design of the upper and we use leather pieces that overlap but have plenty of gaps in between. Good quality leather is more breathable that cheaper leather, so that helps too.
"When we are designing, I think of sandals as either city or beach. Both have very breathable uppers but the city sandal has a more robust sole."
And what of the sock with the sandal? Heinous for some, an essential for others (I must admit to falling into the latter camp), white socks and sandals used to belong to the realm of the dodgy Euro camper, but have been legitimised by the runway and countless designers in recent years. "You’ve got to be super cool to pull off socks and sandals" says Little. "It's possible, but if you’re not sure, leave it. As a guideline I’d say give it a try if you’re under 30 or over 70. Everyone else: proceed with caution."
For Scherdel over at Browns? "Socks, always."
There you have it.
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