Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Sharp Dressed Man

I'm putting together some blogs for my son about becoming an adult. So if some of my posts seem a bit "master of the obvious" just bear with me. He's graduating this year and I want him to have stories that he can read, or not, about life and lessons learned. This one is about shoes. 

Shoes. Just writing the word makes me want to go shopping. At the Marshall's shoe superstore of course, because I've got a kid leaving for college in a year. Shoes are my Achilles heel.  Even when I've sworn off shopping, shoes will lure me back. My other weakness is travel. For example, this summer I went to France with my friend Sylvie completely on a whim, partially financed by credit card debt, and I'm so glad I did. 

When I was a kid, our family traveled quite a bit. My dad worked for IBM and was very successful, always winning trips to beautiful places like Hawaii. And then we moved to various places too, as all IBM'ers did back in the day. The only trip I recall taking outside the US as a kid was crossing the Rio Grande into Mexico via rowboat. Then small donkeys took us to a tiny border town. I'm pretty sure we made that crossing illegally, but it was back in the 70's when there wasn't a wall.

In college, I spent my junior year in Paris. Lucky girl. I know that now. I probably knew it then, but I definitely know it know. Having a home base in Europe gave me the opportunity to train it to lots of other destinations and I traveled as often as I could. When I got out of school, I continued to travel frequently. My mom planned this wild trip to Egypt and India and it was on that trip that I learned the lesson about shoes. 

I also learned about dysentery. But here's what I learned about shoes. 

We were riding on a barge down the Nile for several days with a group of fellow travelers from England, New Zealand and Canada. One of the women traveling was a headhunter in London. She had a very scary demeanor, even with the Egyptians, that said don't mess with me. And she had one of those classic English hairstyles like the Queen. I have no idea how she kept it so rigid under the conditions we were living in on that boat.

We were talking one night about her job and the interviewing process. She told me she makes an immediate decision based on the job candidate's shoes. If their shoes are scuffed or not cared for, they're out. That's it. Not because they don't have the credentials or the education. She makes a snap decision based on their shoes. 

I thought wow that's harsh. Then she explained that if the job candidate doesn't take care of their shoes that says something about them. Maybe it says this interview isn't important to me or I'm disorganized, I'm sloppy etc... She explained that the shoes don't have to be new or expensive, they just need to look sharp. Today, I have pairs of shoes I've had for years and I make sure when I'm headed out to a meeting or a party, those shoes are polished and look good. Sometimes I take a black sharpie to them to fill in scuffs.

My advice for you Will is to buy the best shoes you can afford and then keep them looking sharp. You never know who's watching.



  1. Thoughtful post, Beck, and good advice. My first work shoes were a pair of black calfskin cap toe shoes from Brooks Brothers on Madison Avenue. Practical and comfortable, I had them resoled at least a half dozen times over several years. Will needs at least two pairs of shoes, along with quality cedar shoe trees to dry them out between wearings. That's the key to durability, along with Meltonian Cream.

    1. Hey Will thanks for reading and for the shoe tips. I'll keep them all for reference. For me too -- I mourn the loss of a good shoe.