Shoes as sensory experience, reason four I love mens shoes

Shoes as sensory experience

This post is part four in a series of why I love men’s shoes.

Sensory experience is the fourth reason I love men’s shoes, and it’s definitely the hardest to write about (and illustrate).

So what exactly do I mean by the sensory experience of men’s shoes? Exactly what you might think: look, feel, sound, smell, and taste.

Pause. I’m all about researching my content, but taste will just have to remain a mystery. This germphobe has absolutely NO intention of licking any shoes.

I’ve already covered the senses of look and feel (and safety) in my earlier posts, so this post is devoted to smell and sound.


To be clear, it’s not like I would ever buy a pair of shoes – men’s or women’s – for the smell. Unless their smell was warm apple pie, honeysuckle, or chocolate.Shoes as sensory experience, the fourth reason I love mens shoes

But that said, that whiff of new shoe smell is one of the things I appreciate most about a new purchase. If I close my eyes, I am transported back to childhood and the smell of my father’s wingtips, briefcase, and British Sterling aftershave.

To me, shoe leather has such a lovely earthy, organic smell: part beast, part woodsmoke, with notes of beeswax and turpentine from whatever polish was applied.

Unfortunately, the new shoe smell diminishes quickly. I just sniffed all the leather shoes in my closet (which sounds way weirder than it actually was) and only my very newest ones – a pair of Allen Edmonds McAllisters I’ve had for only a couple of months – have any smell left.

I feel conflicted about loving the smell of new shoes. Tanning, the process of turning an organic material (animal hide) into an inorganic material (leather), involves a lot of nasty chemicals that can harm workers and the environment. It’s one of the reasons that some makers, like Stephanie Nicora of Nicora Shoes, have opted to make vegan footwear. I admire Stephanie, but am not ready to swear off leather shoes just yet.


My mother used to chide my sister and me on a daily basis for “clomping down the stairs” like a herd of buffalo. Young ladies were supposed to silently and gently float down the staircase, like snow falling in a pine forest.

While I no longer clomp, I do pay attention to the noise I make when I walk. High heels that emit a meager, polite clippity-clippity-clippity remind me of little yappy Chihuahuas or Yorkies. I scoff in their general direction. I want important-sounding shoes that announce “I’m coming!” with every step and make a confident click-THUNK. Sorry, mom.

That wraps it up for sensory experience. Stay tuned for my fifth and final post on why I love men’s shoes, image. Coming soon!

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