Ever since I could remember, my father would sit near the front door every month and thoroughly clean and shine his dress shoes. He is a meticulous man, and I assume he didn’t trust the local shoe shine boys to do an adequate job. I also think that this task of polishing a valuable item had a soothing quality to it, much like ironing does for me. Wanting to be like him, I sat by him and did the same with my pair of Doc Marten’s. They were cool back then, and I had the shiniest Docs on the block. I lacked the discipline he had (he would’ve been great for the military), so seeing him sitting with his shoes became a reminder to polish my own. After graduating from high school, I bought my own shoe-shining kit to bring with me to college, where I made it a habit to clean and shine my leather shoes to protect them against the wet snow and destructive salt of Massachusetts winters.
My father taught me that not only was it crucial to own a nice pair of shoes, but caring for them was an absolute necessity. No one will respect you if you have dirty shoes, he said. I also learned that a worn-down heel spoke as loudly of a person’s character as a scuffed pair of shoes. As if speaking to a son, he told me to never wear black shoes with a navy suit, and ensuring your socks went with your shoes was almost as important as what shoes you were wearing. When I got old enough to find my own style, I expanded on the advice he had given me over the years and developed my own dos and don’ts for men’s fashion (I had and still have no interest in women’s fashion). The only problem was, as a petite girl who has an andogynous style, I can’t just shop in the men’s section. Most often, I end up having to scrounge around for a masculine version of something I’ve seen in a magazine or online.
While coming across the right clothing often ends up feeling like an exhausting journey, finding a pair of shoes is like a search for the Fountain of Youth. I’ve had some close calls in the past. I was elated when I found out that Tod’s had smaller men’s shoes that might fit me. They didn’t. Then it was Allen Edmonds. Nope. Then Ferragamo. Better luck next time. I ran to Church’s when I came across their shoes online, but was crushed when I realized that the shape of the women’s shoes was well, …still too feminine.
Then came a breakthrough. Years back, I chanced upon my first pair of shoes from N.D.C. Made by Hand on a small online boutique specializing in unique American and European brands. Despite my attempt to keep my expectations low, I eagerly awaited the day they arrived. When they finally did, I anxiously opened the box and my heart leapt into my throat and if I might have swooned a little.
I can’t say enough good things about these shoes. They are perfect. The brown shoes I purchased weren’t too dressy to wear with the right pair of jeans (don’t get me started on how often men mistakenly assume that they can wear any dress shoes with any kind of jeans). I loved the slim-but-not-too-slim look to them, as is often the case with women’s oxfords, which I guess is their way of trying to make the masculine shoes look feminine. They fit as snug as a glove right out of the box to the point where they almost feel like an extension of my feet. The signature worn-in look to N.D.C. shoes make them look like you’ve lovingly owned the shoes for 5+ years. Both men and women shower my shoes with compliments whenever I wear them. Yes, they are the best.
I recently got another pair of N.D.C.s through an online sale (the only way I can justify buying them). They’re a beautiful pair of monk strap shoes in a dark green. I plan on conditioning and shining them with my arsenal of shoe care products before wearing them outside. My father would be proud.
P.S. – I’m still looking for a dressier equivalent to N.D.C. for formal occasions, so let me know if you have any suggestions!