Hamish MacBain on the extreme difficulties of finding a satisfactory solution to the male footwear-for-heat problem
Annoyingly sporadic showers aside, summer is currently as here as it has ever been, bringing with it all the beer gardens, suncream requirements and holiday envy any man could wish for. The trade-off for all this joy is the highly unappealing daily prospect of a too-hot office and – more importantly – the difficulties of dressing for such conditions.
Feet are a big issue. The biggest.
Men barely even notice their feet in the winter, but in the summer months they become sweat-laden lead weights of which you are more constantly aware of than any other part of your body. And try as we, you and everyone might, also impossible to dress both comfortably and correctly.
So please agree with the following guide to why nothing – not any style – works, and pray for winter.
(Images: Ben Lamb)
Plimsolls and pulled-up socks
Socks, basically, should never be pulled all the way up. Page one, rule one. This is one of the many good things about trousers; you can get away with the halfway house that is the sock’s natural state. But cometh Wimbledon and McEnroe retrospectives, cometh men teaming canvas plimsolls with pulled-up white socks (always white). This works on the court, in the Seventies. In your office, in 2015, it does not.
Proper shoes, no socks
In a similar fashion to card tricks that you have sussed out (read: YouTubed when you got home), this curious last-few-years phenomenon has begun to
seem a lot less incomprehensible (or bonkers/stupid/annoying) now that it is widely known that ‘no socks’ actually means ‘weird little mini upturned shower cap things’. To the extent that now, on seeing someone sporting this look, rather than joining their mum in thinking, “Gosh, those poor feet must be permanently covered in blisters”, you can’t help but visualise a washing line with seven pairs of tiny sweat-catching cotton condoms hung out to dry on it. Which does rather undermine any defiant air of bohemian cool.
Big undone boots
The clever thing about this look is that it turns what might be the most summer-inappropriate footwear in existence – massive army boots – into something approaching the most practical and air-conditioned footwear in existence. The snag is you will look like you’ve just strolled off the set of a third-rate apocalyptic thriller and… actually, scratch that: you’re not going to be doing any strolling in Big Undone Boots. This is probably the real snag, along with the constant snagging of laces.
Too hot hi-tops
Trainers are sleek and futuristic and soft on the inside and, quite often, look cool as hell. That is why they are great, and why people utilise them beyond their ostensible athletic purpose all year round. Introduce shorts into the mix, however, and you have problems. Again, it’s a sock-related scenario. No socks is just disgusting, those shoe-liner things are – for reasons discussed already – out, and regular socks just make you look like a gym teacher. The solution of adding an inch and a half of fabric up the ankle to cover the sock area may seem ingenious, but it is a fool’s errand: you are basically asking your feet to wander around the desert in a pair of fur coats.
Worryingly, the growing trend for people – let’s call them ‘maniacs’ – going running barefoot appears to have seeped onto the pavements of city centres in recent weeks. It is, at present, not a frequent occurrence, but it has begun. Frankly, this is taking the “I’m well rustic, me” thing much, much too far. Craft beer and thick beards are one thing, but wandering into your local organic coffee shop with blackened soles is just not acceptable in any way whatsoever.
These bad boys are about as tasteful and un-naff a display of assumed, delusional affluence as a photograph of yourself in aviators behind the wheel of a Ferrari that you’ve paid by the hour to drive (total permitted driving time: one hour). A mélange of over-formal stiffness and not-quite-relaxed awkwardness, spending a large sum of money on what is basically a belt for your big toe sends out a very confused and unsettling message to all who survey your hairy feet.
There is nothing like involuntarily blurting out the phrase “What is that all about?” at an emerging trend to make you feel like you are on the fast track to becoming your dad. In the case of these trainer-glove things where each toe has its own little mitten finger, however, rest assured: it’s not you, it’s the generation beneath you, miles airborne above a massive shark. There is no reason to feel old or out of touch when you see these things and think they look really, really stupid. Because they do look really, really stupid.
We all have a friend for whom summer simply does not exist. They never come out without a jacket, would rather watch their parents having sex than succumb to the indignity of wearing shorts and probably even balk at the introduction of ice cubes to their rum and coke. But nowhere is this lack of concession to Her Upstairs more difficult to uphold than on the feet. If you are going to join these summer-deniers, you will require reservoirian quantities of Odor-Eaters spray, and bi-weekly industrial sock-washing sessions.
A long time ago, desert boots were only used by soldiers in South African bush wars and people attending festival headline slots by The Verve. In recent times, they have made a reappearance in less extreme segments of society and, in theory, given their name, should be ideal for times of extreme heat. Unfortunately, one smattering of even light rain and they are all over, which makes them a big no-no for the could-turn-at-any-second British weather that we have all had to become accustomed to.
Here is how this happens. You go on holiday, but forget to buy any flip-flops because you are, frankly, a bit worried that someone you know will spot you committing the serious social indignity of buying flip-flops. You pay over the odds for a pair at the beach, and use them to walk the 5ft to the sea every couple of hours. Then you get home, and there they sit, by the door. Soon you are seeing them as convenient, quick slip-ons for when you need to nip to the corner shop for some milk at 11pm. Before you know it, you are wearing them for the short walk to the gym. And soon enough, the pub. None of this is OK.