The Great Mandals Debate

The sight of the male foot, clad in a sandal, inspires varying levels of revulsion, while we’re barely moved — and often delighted — to see women’s bare toes peeking out of a shoe. Perhaps it’s because women’s feet are thoroughly sexualized — toe cleavage, anyone? — just one more body part called on in service of the male gaze. When you think about it, though, it’s pretty weird that shorts are now acceptable attire in a fair number of offices, but not sandals. Here’s a theory for you: Disgust is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation to keep us from harm, and a bare male foot bespeaks vulnerability. The warrior class has to be able to run on New York’s mean streets! But with men’s shoe sales in the U.S. close to outpacing women’s, men may soon be a little freer to move their toes around. There are simply more mandals to be had, and good-looking ones too.

Ancient Greek Sandals leather sandals, $295 at Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Jared McCann, 38, yoga instructor, owner of Lighthouse Yoga School

“I’m usually in sneakers because I need to be on the go. Even coming here, I was in such a rush because I was running late; I got on the wrong train. I need to be able to run if I need to. It’s purely practical.”

Marni leather sandals, $600 at Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Richard Ho, 33, chef and owner, Ho Foods

“I’m from California, and I feel like I’m at home when I’m wearing sandals. Growing up, the cool kids all had Rainbows. When I first moved to New York, I was wearing sandals on 57th Street, and some guy walked by me in a Yankees cap and said, in a heavy Bronx accent, ‘No open toes, bro.’ ”

AMI Alexandre Mattiussi neoprene sandals, $360 at Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Brett Rodger, 24, analyst, Ramirez Asset Management

“I’m from Zimbabwe, and we wear flip-flops with everything back home. I had a friend visit me when I first moved here, and we were both wearing our flip-flops. We met up with a girl who we used to go to school with — she saw our flip-flops from a mile away and said, ‘Don’t wear flip-flops in New York.’ I changed my ways after that.”

Hermès calfskin sandals, at Hermès stores nationwide. Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Curtis Ross, 41, doorman, Upper East Side

“Even when I was a kid, I never wore sandals. I don’t like my feet. I’m not ashamed, I just don’t like them. These are very cool, though. Very elegant. Now I’m starting to like it. They match my uniform!”

Raf Simons + Adidas rubber slides, $130 at Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Gilbert Butcher, 57, painter, SilverLining Inc.

“Sandals aren’t really my style — I usually wear all black. I think men should keep their toes in their shoes, I don’t really know why, but these look fantastic!”

On Kevin (left): Santoni leather sandals, $1,100 at On J.: Topman leather sandals, $60 at Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Left: Kevin Haverty, “older than J,” butcher; co-owner, Hudson & Charles

“I am a closeted sandal-wearer. I wear them only in the house. Sometimes I wear them to the grocery store, but I feel like such a 20-something Chachi when I do that. Maybe it’s because I wear Havaianas — I think I just need better sandals. These are good-looking!”

Right: J. Fox, “younger than Kevin,” butcher; co-owner, Hudson & Charles

“I wear Birkenstocks. They actually have a work line that no one knows about — they’re all-leather with tire treads on the bottom, so you don’t slip.”

*This article appears in the June 11, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

New York Men Weigh in on the Great Mandals Debate