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"? Commented Apr 21, 2019 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). Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 18:18
  • right, a clarification of idiomatic rather than literal meaning of the expression is required Commented Apr 21, 2019 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. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 18:28
  • 1
    should it only be about shoes or is it also used generically? Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 18:31

5 Answers 5


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. Commented Apr 21, 2019 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
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 5:49
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    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
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 16:18

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.


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.


In terms of the importance of investing in good look, there is a famous quote from the Russian movie "Главное, чтобы костюмчик сидел!". That means, no matter what, people will like you, because of the perfectly fitting suit and the fact you look good in it. As for the situation when one small flaw can ruin everything - "Паршивая овца всё стадо портит" or "Ложка дегтя в бочке меда".


Every good outfit starts with the shoes

As I know in Russian languge there is no proverb or a saying on importance of shoes for the whole outfit.

We have [во что обуешься, в том и ходить станешь] but it is not about clothing or boots itself - it is about arrangement of anything like if you arrage your life in bad way you will live in bad way, it you arrange your life in a good way, you will live in a good way.

For your exact case in contemporary Russian language instead of proverb or saying they usually use theme-joke [анекдот в тему].

Жена покупает якро-оранжевые туфли.
Муж спрашивает:
- Дорогая, но ведь эти туфли у тебя ни с чем не сочетаются?!...
- Дорогой, ты ничего не понимаешь! Это начало нового гардероба.

And than it is shortend just to

[Это начало нового гардероба.]

The meaning of this phrase is about some thing, which acts as a root for the whole system.

Using figurative tools of Russian language

[おしゃれは足元から] = [Обувь - это лицо человека!]

Direct translation of meaning is the following.

[おしゃれは足元から] = [Мудрый начинает с обуви].
[おしゃれは足元から] = [Умный начинает с обуви].

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