From Sneakers to Stilettos:
How Shoes Shape a Look

“Shoes are a force of change, a means of shedding the past and buying into the future,” writes Linda O’Keefe in Shoes, her chronicle of women’s footwear. “For much of history women’s shoes were kept in the dark, concealed beneath a froth of petticoats or a ballooning crinoline. But while they were one of the most closeted parts of a woman’s attire, ironically they were and are one of the most revealing.”

The transformative power of a carefully chosen pair of shoes, and the revelations it holds about the wearer, become apparent against the steady sartorial backdrop of a black suit. This tailored ensemble, comprised of a minimalist take on the tuxedo jacket paired with pleated pants and a refined silk tee, can go from casual to formal and from relaxed to refined, depending solely on the choice of footwear: exuberant sandals, streamlined sneakers, sleek satin stilettos, or sculptural mules.

NewbarK Vivian Two-Tone Sandal

Sandals inject ease into a tailored look. NewbarK’s slip-ons add both texture and pattern into the mix, wrapping the foot in calf hair printed with leopard spots and snake-effect leather: an exotic combination grounded by the simplicity of black leather slides.

Sneakers add a sporty, playful edge to even the most serious suit. Woman by Common Projects elevates the classic running shoe by matching the white rubber sole with rich navy leather, Italian craftsmanship, and subtle adjustments to gym class staples. “Moving the stitching or the width even a few millimeters can make a shoe feel completely different,” says Flavio Girolami, co-founder of Common Projects. “If you know where to look, you'll see it immediately.”

Woman by Common Projects Original Vintage Low - Navy

“Moving the stitching or the width even a few millimeters can make a shoe feel completely different, if you know where to look, you'll see it immediately.”

Flavio Girolami, co-founder of Common Projects

Stilettos impart an edge and formality to an all-black outfit, but the right pair retains the same effortlessness of sandals and sneakers. Joseph Altuzarra knows the power of a fiercely feminine slingback but worked with Italian shoe designer Gianvito Rossi to also find a footwear foil to the breezy layering and ethnic detailing of his spring 2014 Altuzarra collection. He arrived at the mule. “Even though the mule is quite a graceful shoe, it is also a very monolithic shoe,” says Altuzarra. “It has more of a masculine energy to it.”