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Davis, California

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Column: Fashion for the feet

At this point in the quarter I would like to address the age-old question, what do your shoes say about you? Everybody from Seventeen to GQ has reflected on this fashion inquiry, and all seem to report different opinions. There are a lot of different footwear options roaming the streets, but some of the most interesting shoes lie on the feet of college boys.

Although I once glossed over college men’s shoes as just sneakers, that is only partially correct. College guys wear a few different shoe types and a wide variety of sneakers, all conveying different ideas about their overall sense of fashion and personality.

One alternative to sneakers for guys is the oxford. The oxford is a small step down from the dress shoe and huge step up from the sneaker. The shape is usually narrow, rounding off in an elegant almond shaped toe and held together by an abbreviated set of grommets laced by a thin shoestring. The oxford is not a shoe one can pair with laundry jeans and an indifferent t-shirt, the oxford demands class. The guy who wears oxfords knows how to put together an outfit and isn’t afraid of fashion. He understands style and the sophisticated edge oxfords bring, and he confidently struts around campus in them.

Another deviation from the sneaker trend is the boat shoe. Although there are many brands out there offering their take on this style, Sperry Topsider is generally considered the king. The boat shoe, in a word, is preppy. The guy who wears Sperrys probably also owns khaki pants and multiple Lacoste polo shirts and hails from some well-moneyed coast town. This guy likes to look good, and although he won’t be hitting the high seas anytime soon, he enjoys the styled yet relaxed vibe the boat shoes bring to his outfit without getting too fancy. He also may be on the crew team.

Another favorite on campus is Toms shoes. This slip-on is essentially a swaddled pocket of canvas with a flat, rubber sole and a squarish blunt toe. The company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every purchase made. An owner of a pair of Toms most likely also owns fitted jeans, flannel and a ticket to Coachella. My friend and fellow Toms wearer Brent Curriden says he loves his Toms “because they aren’t flashy at all.” When asked what he thought about the sort of people who wear Toms he said, “I think you’ll find that most people who wear Toms shoes are strong advocates for the company and their sleek pussy-magnet ice-cream-kicks.” I second his opinion.

Now come the sneakers. Many sneaker brands blur together, all conveying a similar style, but a few stand out with distinct personalities.

Vans dominate on college campuses. Both the slip-ons and lace-ups populate many a male’s closet, offering everyday casual comfort. The guy who wears Vans is less specific. He probably wears jeans on a regular basis, but his denim is either of the slim cut skinny sort, or the tailored straight leg. He does not wear his pants two sizes too large. He isn’t too concerned with fashion and is happy wearing t-shirts with interesting graphics or soft flannels purchased at PacSun or other similar surf shops. He would never wear oxfords, but might own a pair or two of Sperrys and will wear his Vans until the rubber bottoms flaps and the upper material is spotted with holes.

Another version of the sneaker is the skate shoe. This shoe is usually crafted by brands such as Etnies or DC and had its highest point of fame in junior high. The tongue is puffy and thick, the sole flat, and the laces usually threaded loosely to create an even larger image of volume. The type of guy who wears this shoe typically also wears oversized baggy jeans sagged halfway down his ass and t-shirts with brands like Fox Riders emblazoned across the front. He is fluent in the language of light beers and may have never actually stepped on a skateboard.

Finally, there is the athletic sneaker. Any guy walking the streets of Davis in a shoe by New Balance is not concerned with style and probably endorses my brother’s mantra that “shoes are for function, not fashion.” He wants comfort and arch support, and he doesn’t care what he looks like getting it. He probably wears Levis and a t-shirt that smells clean on most days and walks around in blissful oblivion of all the fashion teeming around him.

So with these thoughts in mind, next time you see a cutie on Unitrans, lower your eyes to his feet for a moment and listen to what his shoes are telling you.

BRITTANY NELSON owns multiple pairs of men’s shoes. What does that say about her personality? Reach her with answers at blnelson@ucdavis.edu.

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