world of men's style / fashion / grooming

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On the Question of Brightly Colored Soles...

  • Najib Benouar


Here at Kempt HQ, we often receive letters from our readers—most of it adoring fan mail, but every so often we get a nude photo. Also, every so often we get an inquiry from a wayward soul who we feel compelled to answer...

“I’ve been looking to buy a new pair of shoes and I keep seeing these classic styles with absurdly colorful soles. I like them, but I wonder in what situations they are acceptable? For instance, could I wear neon-orange-soled brogues with a suit to work and still look professional? Or are they strictly casual? I’m not looking to buy something that I can only wear in the most specific of situations.”

While we’ve noticed more and more neon soles pop up over the past few seasons, there’s no guarantee this look will still be in favor five years from now, or even next summer, so if you’re planning on spending the few hundred bucks on a pair of shoes that are classic in every sense other than the sole, you’re taking a serious risk.

So we’ll start with this, dear reader: if you’re looking for your first pair of dress shoes, these are not them—if that’s the case, you should be taking the standard navy blazer approach: find a pair of shoes that will go with everything else in your wardrobe, from gray flannel to twill, like these cap toes from Allen Edmonds.

But the renewed excitement in menswear across the board does bode well for a louder and brighter future of dressing. In other words, if you’re interested in dipping your toes into the neon, we’ve got some guidance for you.

When it comes to dandyish flourishes—especially those involving neon—it should go without saying that you’re making a statement.

With regard to their NSFW-ness, you’re probably going to want to relegate these to the weekend if you’re a lawyer, in finance or otherwise employed in an office that doesn’t embrace the “creative class.” But if you’ve got the leeway and you’re feeling particularly bold, there’s no reason you can’t pull them off with a suit, though we’d lean toward keeping them on the casual side.

The bright colors will work best in spring and summer—think: a weekend of aggressive outdoor brunching or a midsummer rooftop garden party. Come to think of it, you could consider these as a natural extension of the red-brick-soled bucks that have been favored by Southern gents for decades—as perhaps, their Northern, citified equivalents.

But with an even shorter shelf life.