Sunday, April 16, 2006

More men getting into shoes as fashion

By Samantha Critchell

NEW YORK - Women aren't the only ones who get into shoe fashion. Shoe designer Donald J. Pliner says men increasingly are aware of what's on their feet, and Stride Rite reports that sandals are the leading category for the children's chain.

Men seem to be more concerned with comfort than women, but they're now seeking shoes that both feel and look good, Pliner says.

"Men don't change their weekday dress. It's usually a uniform: suit and oxfords or wingtips. The change to a slip-on is from the desire to be relaxed, and it's a substitution to become more convenient," Pliner says.

Men are more daring in their footwear when they're "off-duty," and they're conscious of the choices they never knew they had because they see photos of celebrities wearing white shoes or blue shoes, he says.

And many shoes go with jeans, the weekend "uniform."

"With jeans, men will wear loafers, or in the spring and summer, even sandals, and in the winter and fall, boots. There are topsiders, sneakers -- and not just the Nike. There are also sneakers that aren't active but are fashion."

For little girls, sandals with novelty or whimsical touches, such as colored flowers, strawberries or butterflies, are particularly strong, says Jennifer Kretchmar, a Stride Rite vice president. Heavily embellished styles, including metallic thongs with beaded trim, are another favorite.

"Little girls love the sparkle and rhinestones, while moms enjoy the 'mini-me' appeal," Kretchmar says.

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