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iStyle: Men's foot patrol - Sandals vs Shoes

To bare, or not to bare, when it comes to men’s feet? Charlie Porter and Alexander Fury go toe-to-toe on the ‘mandals’ debate


by Charlie Porter

I like to think in terms of positives. It’s hot. My feet would like to breathe. Wear sandals. Simple reductive thought, not bound by any negatives: no talk of the ugliness or otherwise of men’s feet, no interest in the alleged codes of menswear. Sandals are on my feet from the moment there’s the slightest heat through to autumn.

Out of everything I wear, sandals give me the most pleasure. I love wearing them, get excited by their design, and find them appealing on the foot. This is not about projecting the feeling of holiday onto the city – I’m a walker, and stomp through the streets in sandals rather than meander.

My current pair are two-year old dirty yellow sandals from Prada, the sole nicely thin and a plate of leather held by straps over the bridge of the foot. I have theories about how sandal design reflects the mood of a house, since things must be good if they’re thinking so clearly about a maligned item: spring/summer 2015’s Prada tan leather sandals with white bridle stitching speak of a design studio in rude health.

£310, by Lanvin, matchesfashion.com

So much of menswear corresponds to the body itself. Dainty doesn’t work because of our size and hairiness. Good men’s sandals are like design solutions, the straps of appropriate width, the soles with a decent amount of heft. I’d love to give you some examples for right now, but this being July, fashion’s out-of-kilter seasons mean that you’re more likely to find fur-lined boots in stores. There are a few around, like the nice woven sandals by Levit 02 at Other Shop, or Topman’s sweet leather strap sandals.

I hate the language of humiliation around menswear, how clothing is used to belittle men. It’s there in the annual “what-about-pasty-legs” hysteria over shorts, or in the fear of any male flamboyancy. It seems such a waste of energy. I envy the men who go to the mosque over the road for their ability to wear a longer length. I want more choice in menswear, rather than added limitations. There are restrictions to the way I can dress that I know will never shift in my lifetime. How sad is that? How sad that, in these times, it’s only my toes that are liberated?

Charlie Porter is the men’s fashion critic of the ‘Financial Times’


Overstepping the mark

by Alexander Fury

I hate sandals. The only thing I hate more than sandals is “mandals”. Hate seems a strong word. However, hear me out. The definition of hate, simply, is “intense dislike”. I dislike few things more intensely.

I hate the style of shoe, first of all. And perhaps more intensely, I hate that lazy portmanteau thrown up in the past half-decade  – a “LOL,” something to pepper a piece of writing when a journalist can’t be bothered to flick through their mental thesaurus and find a more interesting synonym. I hate the lethargy that both the word, and sandals, represent to me.

Sandals, I’m told, are design classics. They are an eternal piece of footwear, present in some form since Neolithic times, when people first tethered pieces of hide to their feet.

Haven’t we moved on?

One of the points of clothing is to offer protection. A coat protects from rain and wind; a sun hat from UV exposure; a shoe from sharp objects embedding in the sole of the foot. But what about the top? Say, a wayward stiletto skewering your foot like a shish-kebab? A falling lit cigarette? The daily dodge of faecal matter and chewing-gum, or the grime of city concrete, plastering against your skin. If King’s College says London’s Oxford Street has the worst air pollution in the world, imagine what’s on the pavement beneath your near-bare feet.

£25 riverisland.com

The qualities most often crowed about sandals are their comfort, and the fact they let feet breathe. But comfort is mostly mental, I’d argue. I also think there’s something a bit simplistic about chopping away at clothes to let your extremities breathe. My arse needs to breathe, but I have no plans to sport chaps (sorry, Donatella).

Ultimately, my hatred isn’t actually sandals. It’s the human foot I loathe. One of the reasons I dislike the term “mandal” is its limitations, the fact it genders issues: “sandal”: good, “mandal”:bad. I make no allowance for gender. I hate feet: men’s or women’s, pedicured or prehensile. Unless they’re hidden inside a good shoe.

Alexander Fury is the fashion editor of The Independent and i