Sunday, January 01, 2006

Lifestyle: Weekend FT, By Their Shoes We Shall Know Them

By Julie Earle-Levine, Oct 30, 2004

If it is true that you can always tell a woman by her shoes, doesthe same apply to men? According to Meghan Cleary,US author of the forthcoming book,The PerfectFit: What Your Shoes Say About You, the answer is "absolutely": men choose their shoes to make a statement.

For those in doubt (are the subliminal signals of say, black lace-ups, really any different from those sent by brown buckled numbers?), Cleary agreed to put her theories to the test and cast her expert eye over the tootsies of various men in the public eye.

From US President George W. Bush's 25 pairs of handmade cowboy boots (between $295 and $40,000 a pair) to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's sneakers and Brazilian president Lula da Silva's black suede moccasins, shoes, apparently, can provide a clue to the man. Consider the way these world figures are shod:

George W. Bush The president likes to wear black patent wing-tips and a classic dress loafer by Allen-Edmonds, an American shoemaker based in Wisconsin. He also wears the same shoes as his former nemesis, Saddam Hussein (a black brogue by Italian shoemaker Vito Artioli). But he still seems more comfortable in his cowboy boots, sneaking them into formal occasions. He wore black eelskin, size 10D boots by Texas boot maker Rocky Carroll for the 2004 National Republican Convention. The boots are a picture of restrained decorum, but with a pant leg hiked up, or feet swung up on a desk they become all flash - Bush's boots sport his initials and the American flag. Analysis: according to Cleary, a man who wears cowboy boots counts on friends he has had since schooldays.

Tony Blair Britain's prime minister favours a classic black Oxford by John Lobb, a 137-year-old company considered the epitome of old-world British style and favoured by high profile Londoners, including Hugh Grant. Analysis: Blair is a true Brit. His choice of classic black Oxford wing-tips says he is a man who tends to speak forthrightly, a straight shooter and a solid family man who probably values hard work.

John Kerry Kerry owns Allen-Edmonds, just like Bush and actor Tom Hanks, and buys them in Boston. He also owns a pair of John Lobb. Analysis: Kerry is an active guy and definitely comfortable in formal attire. The fact that he owns at least one pair each of what are considered to be the ultimate in American and British-made shoes shows he is interested in consistent, classic values and also able to successfully embrace and navigate difference nuances - especially in black wing-tips. His casual style is sneakers, for salt-water fishing and windsurfing.

Vladimir Putin The Russian president wears "world leader" black with a significant sheen. Analysis: he is a man who cares about his shoes, but in a departure from the typical, slightly round-toe wing-tip, he sports a toe that is lopped into an interesting, square shape instead of a point. He is willing to be radical, but within limits. Putin is prepared to put himself out there in a fashion sense; his choice is both lively and stately.

Luis Inacio Lula da Silva Brazil's president doesn't like shoelaces, and favours a slip-on style. One of his favourite brands for formal occasions is J. Jacometi. For his inauguration in January 2003, he wore a black moccasin style with a square tip, made of extra soft goat leather. He found them so comfortable he ordered a second pair. Casually, he wears tennis shoes. For soccer matches, he uses a pair of golden Nike cleats, a gift from football star Ronaldo. Analysis: Just because he favours easy access doesn't mean he skimps on stateliness. His slightly round-toe dress shoes sport a serious sole - it extends from the actual shoe, and wields a substantial heel. He wears shoes made in Brazil, symbolic of his "Buy Brazilian" policy, and prefers shoes from Franca, a city in São Paulo state.

Jacques Chirac The French president likes black slip-on moccasins, also seen on the feet of designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. His shoes are low to the ground, almost like a slipper, and made for a comfortable gait, with just a bit of style. Analysis: Chirac approaches life with an easiness and relaxed vibe. He is confident in his own skin, and likes to take the time to finish an excellent meal. The moccasin guy may seem to luxuriate in life's beautiful moments, but he is also a keen observer, excellent adviser and a solid friend.

Silvio Berlusconi Italy's prime minister likes shoes with classic black wing-tips and a slightly squarish toe, the very definition of Italian elegance - classic, with a twist. Analysis: enjoys fine food, wine, beautiful surroundings and is the ultimate gentleman. He pulls out chairs for ladies before he sits down, and conducts after dinner grappa and cigars with aplomb. Most likely a man who believes chivalry isn't dead.

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