The leather and buckle duet dates back to antiquity, if not earlier. Leather when used to enhance human capability takes on a spiritual element, whether we take it for granted or not.
A living being gave up its life so we can use its skin for our own benefit. That benefit can include armor like in the earlier days of combat, clothing, storage, shelter and for the sake of this conversation, footwear.
Leather coupled with a buckle was at one point a technological achievement thousands of years ago and to this day it is used in the most expensive luxury items from purses to storage chests to watches.
And of course shoes…
Shoe fans around the world take great pride in their footwear and if you are like me, then you have a specific affinity for the monk strap.
The monk strap evolved at some point during the Renaissance, 14th – 17th century A.D. Christian monks wore strapped sandals with an open toe. Over time they must have realized that God’s work could be done in comfort just as effectively.
Traversing great distances by foot, the traditional open toed sandals these holy men wore left their feet vulnerable to treacherous terrain and hide chapping elements untenable for open toed wandering.
From that point forward monks modified their sandals with a cap to protect their toe; with little else changed. The duty of God was now being done in style and practicality.
As the monks modified footwear continued to evolve, cobblers must have seen the financial opportunity to capitalize on the venerable design of their ascetic customers footwear.
Cobblers started utilizing finer grained leather, shinier buckles and an overall more refined silhouette to not only support God’s work, but that of secular society too. Now you could meander the streets of Europe in a drunken haze well into the dead of night; then casually stroll right into church and no one would blink an eye.
No longer the holy mans shoe, the monk strap is a cross between formal and less formal depending on the style, material and color of the shoe. It’s definitely more formal than a loafer, but is it as formal as the traditional Oxford?
I guess that depends on context. Modern society continues to deconstruct the restrictive social norms of the past, particularly those tied to imperial European standards.
Athletes wear tennis shoes with suits at $10,000 a plate galas, billionaires wear casual pants to board meetings and POTUS grabs women by the pu**y, so why shouldn’t you do what the hell you want? Everyone else seems to be…
Having said that, the monk strap shoe has evolved to the point where it can be worn in a formal setting if it compliments your entire ensemble correctly. Let that sink in for a moment…
Do not wear the monk strap to make a statement simply for the sake of it. Unless your goal is to roll a la Kanye West when he roasted Taylor Swift, keep your outfit cohesive.
Kanye’s statement netted both artists millions of dollars and national attention; I’m unsure what wearing out of context shoes will do for you.
But like the saying goes, “if the shoe fits” then go for it.
If you want my advice, an ill-matched monk strapped shoe can look bulky on your feet and ruin an otherwise dapper outfit. If you want to wear it for a formal event, then get yourself a single monk strap with a sleek and clean silhouette.
When you are going less formal or want to focus more on style, then mix and match your outfit as you see fit.
With proper execution, the monk strap can elevate your style as it mixes old world sensibilities with modern fashion sense.