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When I'm not wearing sneakers, I'm wearing boots. In particular, very heavy black leather boots. The kind of boots you might find on the feet of someone who peppers his conversation with exclamations like, "oi!" and "I'll be arsed!!" I like these boots because they provide me with an excellent gravitational base, and their steel toes and black, glossy leather, riddled with scars, make my feet look like they fucking mean business.

But, as noted above, they're really heavy. And I wear them almost exclusively. As a result, after many years, I finally decided to supplement them with a second pair of shoes – something that will fall between the Peter Pan complex look of my Nike Air Force hi-tops and the surly skinhead-for-hire look of my Gripfast combat boots. This task was more difficult than I'd imagined, because it turns out that most practically-designed men's shoes fall into one of four categories:

  1. For Squares - this is basically any black or brown leather shoe that's supposed to look metropolitan but, instead, looks like you're just wearing a poorly-rendered sketch of an oxford shoe. These shoes often look best with very light blue denim jeans, cut in a "relaxed fit" style.
  2. Slack Shoes - slack shoes are the kinds of shoes – usually with leather soles – that are fairly attractive but seem to require the accompaniment of slacks whenever you put them on. Here's a good example. I don't really own many pairs of slacks, so whenever I pick up a shoe that falls into this category I suddenly become filled with clammy dread. These shoes trigger all kinds of personal insecurities surrounding my inadequate degree of accomplishment, etc. A voice goes off in my head that tells me the purchase of these shoes would require an additional purchase of many dry-clean-only items of clothing fabricated from fine silk and merino wool. Then the voice adds that I am a grown man and I will probably never graduate past hoodie sweatshirts, Asics Tigers, and military-issue sweaters. As I'm replacing the Slack Shoe on its cherry-wood pedastal, the voice mumbles, "you're also short. And Jewey. I'm just saying, is all."
  3. The Adult Sneaker - possibly the worst criminal of all trends in men's shoes. I can understand their appeal – a little out-of-the-box in terms of design – but do not be fooled. The adult sneaker is an outcast, a bastard for men who are too ashamed of their misspent youth to still casually enjoy its gifts, yet too sissified to put a shoe of any substance on their feet. Worse still, the wearer of the Adult Sneaker believes he's "fun" and "casual" when he's usually really "non-confrontational" and "balding." You can't get into an argument in adult sneakers, and you can't run from the cops in them. It's frustrating.
  4. Skechers - there are lots of shoes that are like Skechers, but none so much as Skechers themselves. Still, I would use this name like "Kleenex," to describe a broad category of shoes that seem to look OK and rugged from a distance but, upon close inspection, seem to be made of cardboard, chewing gum, and sprinkles. Also, count on Skechers to include one inexplicably horrible detail that serves as the deal-breaker in an otherwise appealing design. For example, a large red brand tag that is stitched on to the outside of the shoe, or a giant embossed word or design pressed into the stiff area near the heel. Or yellow stitching. Or, sometimes, a gum sole that's fabricated from the rended bones of dead Apache Indians.

After trying on several pairs of shoes, and laughing at several others (thank you, Otto Tootsi Plohound!), I finally found a pair of shoes I thought might be able to wean me off sneakers and jackboots. I felt really great about them, and then I wore them for the first time and swore I'd never put them on my feet again.

Then, two weeks later, after casually passing a shoe store display on my way to a party, I found the perfect pair. I can't take them off, actually. I love them so much. They're so comfortable that I find myself staring down at my own feet as I walk, unable to believe I'm actually wearing shoes; I sometimes fool myself into thinking I'm wearing a pair of teddy bears instead.

I realize some people feel they should protect a new fashiony purchase, to protect themselves from being replicated incessantly, but I'm not one of those people. I want everyone to get these shoes, truly. I've even included a picture of me wearing them in a typical state of beautiful relaxation. Aren't they cool?

WE FIRST MET ON 10.18.2004

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