7.23.2019

OT: Shoes. Well dressed and comfortable. Nothing at all to do with photography; tangentially related to business.

Yes. We were using medium format digital cameras way back in 2009.
And, yes. Shoes are part of a complete look. 

For a photographer I seem to have a bipolar personality when it comes to clothing and sartorial competency. When I walk around in downtown areas to take photographs in the Summer I dress for the heat. An old, worn pair of shorts, a thin, cool and UV blocking short sleeve shirt, a light toned baseball cap and a comfortable pair of sandals or rugged hiking shoes (Never hiking boots with shorts. Never!). 

On casual days around the house; when I'm working on a book or post processing some files I'll probably be in a comfortable pair of khakis or jeans, and a well laundered polo shirt, along with a pair of loafers or running shoes. 

But when it's time to meet with clients and professionals I like to dress well enough to play on their turf.  I am, by nature and nature, a fashion traditionalist. I have a section of my closet filled with suits and jackets and nice trousers. If I buy "off the rack" I do like to spend a bit more money to have each suit well tailored. I think a suit coat should be long enough to cover one's bottom and am aghast at the new fashion of much shorter cut suit coats. I like shirts with button down collars but I also like well made dress shirts without collar buttons (I'm getting more relaxed in my dotage...). I don't like "blouse-y" shirts that form a loose tent over one's torso. A shirt should be fitted but not so snug that one's belly pushes at the fabric or gaps the front placket either.  Also, a necktie should reach to the belt, maybe an inch below, but a long tie is surely the sign of a small mind or a total lack of couth. Or an embarrassing inability to tie a tie...

But shoes are the make it or break it accessory for a well dressed person. I prefer oxfords or derbys and I prefer them with as little decoration as possible. A cap toe is fine but brogues (wingtips) are dicey... I have six or seven pairs of really nice dress shoes and I rotate them instead of wearing the same pair over and over again. 

In my mind a lace up shoe always beats a loafer, and a plain loafer always trumps a pair of loafers with tassels on them (which never look right). And always leather, never any other material.

Just as with cameras there is a certain brand loyalty which is different, person by person. I'm partial to two shoe makers. My feet seem to be made for Cole Hahn shoes and their traditional oxfords are incredibly comfortable and very presentable. But my favorite shoes are the pairs I've gotten from shoemaker, Allen Edmonds. After a few days of breaking them in they are incredibly comfortable and seem to have been designed so nicely that they make any ensemble of clothing look great. As the shoes get older and more worn, and broken in, I buy a new pair and make the older, worn pair into a casual wear choice. A pair of deep burgundy or cordovan Allen Edmond's cap toe oxfords, even after being well  bit worn, can upgrade jeans or khakis, with sport shirts, almost to business casual. 

I don't know why, maybe it's because my father was a military officer and kept every pair of shoes he owned perfectly polished and in good repair, but I tend to subconsciously judge people in my professional sphere partly by how well they keep up their shoes. If I'm hiring an accountant or a lawyer or even a second photographer I'm never really happy to see scuffed toes or worn heels. We can all be "well heeled." It's not prohibitively pricey to take care of our stuff. 

If you are shooting on a remote location, or out in the elements then all bets are off when it comes to "proper" footwear and you should take advantage of the right stuff. Hiking boots for rough terrain, insulated boots for walking on glaciers, etc. If you'll be walking for miles with your gear you'll need the right shoes for that as well. 

But looking back I find that most of my work takes place in executive office suites, convention hotels, convention centers, law offices, medical practices and in many other interior locations, all of which are air conditioned and not very challenging (technically) for quality footwear. 

In these workplaces dressing well has distinct advantages. Dress down and people will slot you into a workplace hierarchy that works to your disadvantage. Presumptions about your expertise, your taste and your competency surface. Dress down too hard and you'll be relegated to the same level as the guy who comes in to fix the copy machine or to run cable for the telephones. Dressing well elevates one to "peer" or near peer status in many businesses and profession; offices where a certain level of privilege and deference is extended (in both directions). Dress well and people will take you more seriously, they'll be more inclined to accept your suggestions and to value your expertise. And they will be less reticent to pay you well. And quickly. 

Funny to think that spending a few hundred dollars more on a pair of shoes can have such a positive affect but you'll know when you get it right. That's when the fashionable partner in a practice says, "Nice shoes. Who made them?" And buying good shoes is a lot more cost effective than trying the same level of parity with automatic wristwatches or sports cars. I can afford the shoes but a Panerai watch or a Ferrari is too big a stretch. At least the cars are mostly parked out of sight... A well tailored suit sleeve usually obscures a fine dress watch, but your shoes are always out there in the open for everyone to see. 

Every photographer should have one nicely cut, navy sport coat. At least one dark gray suit. A few nicely fitted shirts. Several good, leather belts and the right shoes for each ensemble. In the long run good sartorial "hygiene" will almost surely return more profit to your business than the newest camera or the most highly populated sensor. And if you buy them intelligently (and take care of them) the shoes will last a lot longer as well. 

Oh. Also. Buy some socks. No one wants to see you actually wear your tasseled loafers without socks. It just wreaks of drunken frat boy.





10 comments:

Scott said...

"... a long tie is surely the sign of a small mind or a total lack of couth."

Definitely both.

atmtx said...

The important question is: do you tie a real Double Windsor knot?

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

I can, of course, tie a regulation Windsor knot but prefer a half Windsor or a four-in-hand knot. The Windsor is too wide to wear with a button down and (to my eye) overpowers a non-botton down collar. The full Windsor has the effect of making a nice shirt so....secondary.

Jerry said...

Thankfully as first a building contractor and then a guitar store owner I never, ever had to think about how my clients/customers would perceive me based on my clothing. Or shoes. Or length of hair for that matter. "Beware all enterprises that require new clothes" Henry David Thoreau. That's worked for me for 64 years.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what you say (and 100% with the sentiment) but even though I'm 70 I try to get a suite more like the modern short jacket and skinny leg fashion, but not all the way, I don't want to like like I'm trying to look younger (just sharper) but then I also don't want the baggy Steve Harvey look.

I don't think the type of tie knot matters as much as making it look right by tightening and pinching it to look symmetrical and not askew. My brothers and I all had to wear a suite to church when in grade school in the 1950s. Saturday night we had to get the clothes ready and polish the shoes if needed, usually with liquid polish - so much quicker.

Now, after two years as an Army MP, nothing but a true spit shine will do for me and I generally form a low first impression of someone whose shoes doe need a little polish.

David B

Anonymous said...

Amen on shoe care. If you like Allen Edmonds shoes, take a look at Alden's too.

Chip McDaniel

Edward Richards said...

Amen to long enough sport coats. I spend a lot of time standing - teaching class. I find that well made western boots provide a lot of support and worn with good support socks make a difference at the end of the day. They also look professional in all setting if you avoid the gaudy ones and stick to smooth leather. Not so great, however, if you have to walk a lot as part of the day.

What I miss are leather-soled walking/hiking shoes. Shoes that get broken in with time and fit better after they have been resoled a couple of times. (I also hate to throw away $125-200 trainers when the sole breaks down.) While you can still buy excellent leather-soled dress shoes, I have had no luck finding outdoor shoes.

DGM said...

If people are paying attention to your shoes and clothing, they might also be paying attention to how "professional" your camera gear looks as well....

People have been saying for years that the clients don't care what camera you use. I suspect that it plays a part in the overall "look and atmosphere" of the professional.

Your point about the clothing is excellent, and if that is not up to snuff, the fanciest gear in the world will not balance the scales in your favor.

crsantin said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Just post this pic every day. Skip the commentary (no offense Kirk but you pale in comparison to Noellia). I'd visit every day and be a happy man.

Anonymous said...

As a full-time thirty-year work-at-home guy, I wear jeans, trail runners and a tee-shirt in the summer; add a sweat shirt in the fall; add a Patagonia jacket or coat in the winter, and then reverse that as we come out of winter. Works for me. We're at 7,500 feet in Santa Fe, so I often wear a cowboy hat while wandering around in the summer, because of extensive experience with skin cancer from too much time in the sun. I do have a suit, appropriate for both weddings and funerals, to be worn with cap-toed dress shoes; and a couple of sport coats, Italian in nature.

I've marked you down as a person who doesn't care for artifice, but I've worked with a number of NY photographers who go for the simple all-black look, and look quite nice in it. I wouldn't do it myself, but I understand it -- it looks fashionable without costing an arm and a leg.

JC