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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ladies, is this true?

I was on the phone briefly yesterday w/a buddy in Texas - a buddy who has been hard to reach lately 'cause he's been in pursuit of love. So we began joking about our back-in-the-day pursuit of women and the measures to which we were willing to go in order to "make friends."

We went over the checklist, from making sure our teeth were brushed when we left the house, to making sure our shirts were creased, and our jeans hung loosely.

One thing we couldn't agree on though was feet. My buddy gave me grief 'cause from the time I was a kid, the women in my life have been drilling into my skull that women care about a man's shoes. He, on the other hand, thought shoes were inconsequential. And that's why I got more dates than him. Kidding. We don't know who had the higher numbers, but I always argued that clean shoes helped my case.

I can honestly say that I never believed this theory early on, but to play it safe I made sure I kept my shoes shined, and when they wore thin as long as I could afford it I'd toss 'em and buy a new pair right away. Seriously, my mother and grandmother, and even my older sister, would remind me regularly to not leave the house in scruffy shoes. I don't count my dad in this debate - not just 'cause he's not one of the family women, but also 'cause he was career military. So keeping shiny shoes was as natural to him as walking and breathing.

Anyway, I became a believer when I was 24. I had just returned to the States from London, where I'd done a short gig at the Financial Times. And I was just starting my first full-time job at an American newspaper. And with my first paycheck I paid first month's rent, bought groceries, and bought a really nice new pair of dress shoes - black Chelsea boots, if I remember right. That first day or two of work I was strolling down the sidewalk around the building, clutching a cup of coffee and getting familiar with the neighborhood. A woman - a little older than me - walking toward me, waved me down. I stopped. She smiled and said just two words: "Nice shoes." And then she smiled again and continued walking.

That day I became a believer and though I had polished faithfully before, I began polishing with vigor.

So I say to my Texas bud and the rest of you dudes: cleaning your shoes = impressing at least a few women (and maybe getting the hook-up).

Of course, when you take care of your shoes, don't neglect that other stuff, like washing your behind daily, changing undies and socks daily, brushing and flossing your chompers (multiple times) daily, and not using lame pickup lines, ever.


  • Unkempt men, in general, I do not find attractive. Stylishly rumpled, sure. I can even do nerdy, as long as it doesn't involve sweaters tucked into pants. But gross shoes? Ew! It's almost as bad as poor dental hygiene, which is my number one deal breaker (physically, anyway). I tend not to take a second look at a guy who looks like he might smell funny.

    But a sweet pair of shoes is rare, and a well-dressed man can literally make me sort of stupid sometimes. They just look so...good. So together, and confident. It's really nice, like a great suit or a nice shirt. Doesn't have to be fancy or expensive, but quality, you know?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:02 PM  

  • I think that women like men who take care of themselves. Personally, I never wanted a Narcissus, and I guess there are probably many opinions on the line between stylish and foppish, but a guy who was well-dressed and well-groomed was must. (Yes, shoes earn extra bonus points)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:03 PM  

  • Hey, James, while we're on the shoes/clothes subject - can you explain men who dress in big denim suits and lots of athletic team jerseys? Crazy colors and stuff? What's that about? It makes me think they woke up and forgot to take off their pajamas.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:04 PM  

  • Hmm. I probably wouldn't notice if a guy had really nice shoes. But I would notice if they were ratty-lookin, and that would be a total turnoff.

    Btw, time for some payback... I've tagged you with a meme.

    By Anonymous Freddie, at 12:28 PM  

  • yes, shoes matter...they aren't the only thing, but a guy that knows the value of good shoes and not looking like scruffy the kid--I had a friend once that went on a date and, I kid you not, the guy wore sweats. She told me later that she should have just left, but at the time she was still trying to be polite and give him the benefit of the doubt. But the date was a total fiasco. She never went out with him again.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:41 PM  

  • Interesting, ladies.

    Freddie, my wife's response pretty much mirrored yours: guy's shoes never jumped out at her unless they were in bad shape.

    And I'll check out and get to work on that meme later this afternoon.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 1:50 PM  

  • I once was going to write an article on shoes called "Kicks of Distinction vs. the Busted Humps of Despair" to say that you can read a person by how their shoes look at any random moment. Footwear is the most important element of outerwear because it's the only part of your clothing (and body) that actually makes contact with the Earth.

    People make statements about their personality with their footwear, whether they're hard working (steel toed boots), prissy (Mary Janes), garish (pink, purple and lavender gators), or practical (anything by Doc Martin or Red Wings). There is no greater shame than to see a pair of bota lecheros (milkman shoes) broken down and rolled over ace duece trey. White unlaced or untied sneakers on a 40 year old man indicates so much stunted adolescence; wing tips or deerskin uppers scream CPA, Lawyer, or Banker, but never Doctor. She wears old running shoes like the nurses and orderlies (or Rockports for the male MD's).

    Fly kicks, of course, can scream fashiom plate trading rent for glamour, but on the right woman, a pair of peekaboo toed 4 inch slingbacks makes me want to hump her leg.

    Ladies--stop putting your fat feet into skinny shoes--it looks like you're baking bread.

    Men--try to at least take some Formula 409 to those scuffed and dirty white sneakers. I learned that trick from a 14 y/o in a substitute class long ago and it still shines 'em like new.

    And never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever wear socks with sandals (esp. those ugly Birkenstocks) unless you're scanning for metal on the beach with pants chest high, or draped in tye-dye on tour with Ratdog. You won't be in style at all, but at least you'll have unfashionable company while you twirly-dance.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:56 PM  

  • Yes, it's true. Women notice the state of a guy's shoes and judge him - or try to determine what kind of man he is - by it.

    By Blogger Tere, at 1:58 PM  

  • Of course shoes matter. We look at your feet first. You know, to see how big they are.

    I will work with a man with bad shoes. He may just need guidance. But if he can't take my shoe directives, I'm gone.

    Maybe it's just me.

    I love any post that asks for my valuable advice and talks about shoes and flossing. I could go on...

    By Blogger mist1, at 2:30 PM  

  • Men are often accused of staring at women's boobs, but ladies, who among us shall cast the first stone? Have you not mastered the discreet glance at the "package" before perusing down the inseam to the shoes? :-)

    Just kidding! Sort of ... hey, shoes are part of the look, presentability, a smile and personality are everything when making a first impression. Tell your friend to complete the whole "package" ...

    By Blogger Manola Blablablanik, at 4:14 PM  

  • I have nice shoes but I must remember to shine them.

    And I need to just stop it with the elbow patches.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:54 PM  

  • Shoes are a definite "turn-on" or "turn-off" thing. Personally, I don't have a problem with guys who wear Burkies or Tevas - it's what's in them that makes a difference. For pity sakes, please trim those toenails and wash those feet!!!!

    By Anonymous dogncatmom, at 6:11 PM  

  • DogncatMom I'm all about Tevas. Those are some really comfortable sandals.

    BD, do you realize that this post is the only one that for the most part you and I agree on?

    Manola, I knew you all looked too! Women can't keep their eyes off of us. Kidding.

    Mist1 we wouldn't have lasted. I'm really peculiar about picking my clothes. And my shoes? Forget it. No woman has ever successfully talked me into a pair of shoes. If I don't like 'em, I don't care how much she likes 'em. I'll walk w/my feet wrapped in duct tape before I wear a pair of shoes I don't like (as long as I can afford to do that, of course).

    And Matt, I'm not sure I want to know about the elbow patches. Or do you mean the kind that are professorial and come on tweed jackets?

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 6:21 PM  

  • I've never paid much attention to my shoes. I'm a size 15. All I care about is whether they fit. And yes, washing your ass is way higher on any list of priorities. At least it should be.

    By Blogger Dre, at 8:38 PM  

  • James...did you make the switch to Beta?

    By Blogger Claudia, at 9:30 PM  

  • Yeah, Claudia, I did. Is it a pain? I wonder if I can undo it.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 9:39 PM  

  • Duct tape?

    How popular were you with the ladies? I mean the non-redneck ladies?

    By Blogger mist1, at 10:28 PM  

  • OK, mist1, the duct tape was figurative...sort of. I'm saying I'd be willing to sport duct tape on my feet just to have my choice of shoes. But fortunately I've never had to go there, 'cause the ladies I made friends with were smart enough to let me pick my own shoes. I actually have pretty decent fashion sense, I think.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:36 PM  

  • YES! Clean shoes and nice hands... BIG BIG PLUS.

    By Blogger Dayngr, at 2:39 AM  

  • The shoes are very important. My daddy's shoes were always shined and neat. So that's one of the first things I check out. However, jacked up hands are a no no as well.

    By Blogger Angie, at 9:43 AM  

  • What're "shoes?" -- Native Floridian

    By Blogger Steve ("Klotz" As In "Blood"), at 11:42 AM  

  • JB--you're right--is an area of agreement upon which we could build more trust and confidence for future dealings.

    Bloodklotz--"Shoes" in florida mean any footwear that is not openfooted or opentoed has laces and or and upper and fully encloses at least 50% of the foot. Everything else is a flip-flop, thong, sandal, slide, or duck.

    Of course there is the bare foot, which, after years of abuse by running it over hot asphalt, oyster beds, shellrock, coral rock, gravel roads, polypebble, swimming pool bottom, sandspurs, knobkerry thorns and saw palmettos could resemble the rough texture of Joe Morton's foot in the movie classic "Brother From Another Planet" There is no more practical footwear but it won't endear you to the ladies who look at a hobbit/missing link foot with much disdain. When going barefoot, look for a pair of Birkenstocks on your mate to compliment your footwear choice.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 3:24 PM  

  • Oh, and BC, though my switch to beta Blogger has turned some comments anonymous from the post I did just before the switch (this one), I didn't forget your question.

    I don't know what the deal is with the sports jerseys and other sports gear. I feel about them the same way I do about overly baggy jeans: when you get above a certain age you should start dressing like a grown-a$$ed man. I wear sports the gym or to sporting events. Other than around the house or on picnics or other outdoor sportsy sort of outings I can't think of any other place for them.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 6:11 PM  

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