As autumn begins to take hold the weather inevitably gets worse. The winds get stronger, the temperature falls and sleety rain showers become ever more frequent. Rain, especially, can play havoc with business attire. While most men sensibly protect their suits by wearing a waterproof coat, many neglect one of their most important – and most expensive – items of dress: their shoes.
Most good dress shoes have leather soles, which mould to the wearer’s feet over time and allow moisture to escape. But leather soles absorb rainwater, and the more worn-in they become the more water they soak up. Walking in leather-soled shoes in the rain can not only leave the insides damp, it also quickly wears out the soles, and if your shoes have got soaked on the way to the office or a meeting then you might have to endure soggy feet for hours. The solution? A good pair of dress boots.
It is worth spending some time thinking about what you need from a pair of dress boots. Good dress boots, like good dress shoes, often have leather soles, but you have to consider whether leather soles are really going to be practical. Admittedly, they are often extra thick, which helps to provide a greater degree of protection against the rain than single-layer soles, but they can still get soaked through on wet days. In addition, they provide virtually no grip on some surfaces. Walking across an ice-covered car park or wet tiled floor in leather-soled shoes can be a Spartan test of endurance that will have you clinging desperately to railings or shuffling along like a pensioner with haemorrhoids. In short, rubber soles are better. They last for ages, offer excellent grip and are – above all – waterproof.
The style of boot you choose is, as always, a matter of personal taste. The Chelsea boot is an established classic that works well with slim-cut, Modish suits; the lace-up boot looks like a normal dress shoe when the wearer is stood up, which can be an advantage in business circles; and, finally, there is the chukka boot, which lies somewhere between the two. Personally, I recommend lace-up boots for autumn and winter wear: they offer greater ankle support and are generally quite unobtrusive. They can also make the wearer look as tough as nails, as Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky (pictured above right) demonstrates.