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In Japanese, there's a well-known saying that goes: おしゃれは足元から (oshare wa ashimoto kara) with the literal meaning of "Every good outfit starts with the shoes" -- or as we often put it in English, "Shoes complete the outfit".

This saying drums home the importance of investing in good footwear, first and foremost: When putting together an outfit, be sure to start from the shoes up, as shoes generally make the loudest statement. You may wear a fancy suit, but if your shoes are not up to scratch or simply not polished, they can all too easily ruin your otherwise perfect look.

Even a cursory glance at all these titles showing up on YouTube will tell you how commonly the saying is used.

  • Do you mean "the thing is so important that it must be satisfied in the first order"? Or negated meaning, "the thing is so important that its spoil immediately nullifies any effort in other related parts"? – Arhad Apr 21 at 17:59
  • I asked because for the second case ("... they can all too easily ruin your otherwise perfect look") there is a saying a spoon of tar in a barrel of honey (ложка дёгтя в бочке мёда). – Arhad Apr 21 at 18:18
  • right, a clarification of idiomatic rather than literal meaning of the expression is required – Баян Купи-ка Apr 21 at 18:20
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    @Arhad Your 1st interpretation! Selecting the right pair of shoes to go with an outfit should come before all else, should be a top priority. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Apr 21 at 18:28
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    should it only be about shoes or is it also used generically? – Баян Купи-ка Apr 21 at 18:31
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To the best of my knowledge, we have no saying of the kind. Also, within the Russian culture, no special emphasis on shoes is made in the outfit.

However, there exists a similar saying addressing the quality of a theater. It parallels the Japanese saying, in the sense that a smaller detail may serve as a prologue to a bigger picture:

"Театр начинается с вешалки."

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    Does "театр начинается с вешалки" mean the attitude of visitors to a theater starts from the very beginning, from a hanger [a figurative reference to a changing room], so a hanger is a face of the whole theater? If so, it looks like a perfect analog to a saying in the original question. – Arhad Apr 21 at 21:13
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    @Arhad Yes, it is (because the saying emphasises the visitors of a theatre are expected to visit the cloakroom at the very beginning). – trolley813 Apr 22 at 5:49
  • In this avenue there is one more well-known saying: "Первое впечатление - самое сильное" - "the first impression is the strongest one". However, I do not see that Cochiens is trying to generalize the Japanese phrase he brought, to me it looks the opposite, that he is interested in the most verbatim, the most footwear-related analogue, like, for example, if he planned to open a shoe shop and was looking for a catchy motto. Then the Russian phrase may roam away in "the general idea" context, but needs to remain anchored firmly in footwear context. – Arioch Apr 23 at 16:18
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According to the Dahl's Explanatory Dictionary, there is a proverb about boots: Сапоги славные, дела справные.("Good boots, thriving business.")

Although it's not a well-known saying and it's more about boots as a symbol of success and wealth in general.

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In addition to Michael's answer I'd argue "Встречают по одёжке" (in this shortened form) can also be used.

Full phrase "Встречают по одёжке, а провожают по уму" compares how the person looks and what the person is, but the short form underlines the importance of good outfit for the first impression.

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