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Hanging 10

This season's sandals can go just about anywhere. But tread carefully.

May 01, 1997|William Kissel | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Pressed-leather slides with a sharkskin suit. Leather thongs with plaid pants and a three-button sport coat. Leather slip-ons with a trench coat.

As menswear designers see it, the sandal can go anywhere this season.

"They're just exploding the trend this year," says Stan Tucker, men's fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, where virtually all of the designer shoe collections feature a huarache, flip-flop or gladiator.

They're popular now, but sandals (woven from papyrus) appear in centuries-old paintings on tomb walls. And King Tutankhamen's tomb contained a pair of bejeweled leather sandals, circa 1325 BC. "In ancient Egypt, the more exotic the footwear, the higher the rank of the wearer," explains Meg Rottman, author of "Shoe Times" (Arbor House, 1985).

Today, simplicity rules, particularly in the form of this season's hot "slide" style, a flat-soled shoe with a wide, unembellished band of leather, fabric or rubber.

"I think sandals should be worn with shorts, jeans and probably cotton chinos or cotton pants. And they should probably be slides," says Tommy Hilfiger, who in his spring runway show paired rubber slides with burnt-orange suede reefer coats and heavy denim sailor pants. "But not with dress pants. And certainly not with socks."

"This season it's all about slides, slides, slides," agrees Durand Guion, men's fashion director at Macy's West, where styles include everything from $29 rubber slip-ons by Hilfiger to $250 leather slides by Donna Karan.

Although some designers and shoemakers believe this all-purpose sandal looks swell with suits and even formal wear, menswear experts urge caution. "I certainly don't see anyone wearing flip-flops in a business environment," says Guion, who advocates sandals as accessories for relaxed clothes, preferably shorts, or plain-front cotton or linen trousers.

"Even in a more casual city like Los Angeles, it takes a person who is really into style and fashion to wear sandals with a suit and pull it off successfully," Tucker adds.

In his book "Man Alive" (Simon & Schuster, 1984), fashion writer Charles Hix points out another common pitfall: "Rubber thongs worn with long pants arouse images of celibate religious leaders tending their flocks."

But the most lethal combination is socks and sandals. Almost no one can carry it off, yet many try. "If you've got a hot-looking guy wearing socks with sandals [and] a slim-fitting Gene Meyer suit or John Bartlett outfit, it might look great," Tucker concedes. "But, generally, I wouldn't suggest wearing them with socks. And certainly never with dress hosiery."

One more thing: A modicum of foot care is mandatory.

Says Guion: "There is nothing worse than unkempt feet and toes hanging out of a pair of sandals."

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