Never mind his great line, his loving looks, his lingering lovemaking. If you want to know your man's soul before getting too involved, check out his shoes.

If they're scuffed, he's absent-minded. If unshined, could be either low self-esteem or depression. If he's into "grandfather shoes" (they've got elastic bands), he's not much of a sport.

These are obvious deductions. Others take more study.

My interest was piqued some years ago when in a political science class we were shown a famous photograph of the shanks of brainy, well-heeled Adlai Stevenson. There was a big hole in the sole.

Then I began watching men at the communion rail. There were holes and half-soles; elevator lifts; wisps of gum and who knows what. I moved into "uppers" the day I told my psychiatrist (in buckled-over brown brogans--an insecure smoothie): "I'm done with men who shine their shoes so much you can see your face in them."

Their missteps? Picking lint off my clothes and glasses, clues that I was due for the repair shop. Behind any military shine is the kind who whines for others to prop up his rotten self-image.

So while my sisters have been looking over prospects from head to toe, I've gone from toe to head. And the footnotes, believe me, have taught the difference between substance and Shinola.

For example, men who wear half boots with inside zippers generally are paranoid, obsessive compulsives. You're not only going to have to take the first step, but the second, the third and all the subsequent ones. Once he allows you into his self-centered kingdom, you'll spend the rest of your life being his arch supporter.

The Nazis taught us about the arrogance and hostility of jackboots, now banned. But variations still keep showing up. Indeed, hikers and loggers feel emasculated without those protective, tough sheaths. Those who fancy expensive cowboy boots tend either to be macho exhibitionists or explosive personalities, both wearisome sorts.

Sandals, shoes with tassels and penny loafers make a statement of independence all right--possibly that the wearers are not partial to women. As to those who persist in wearing white bucks beyond college, summer, or the operating room, there's a giveaway about Mr. Clean.

One durable style is the wing-tip shoe. It will be fashionable as long as there are strait-laced conservatives around. In grade school, variations on the wing tip were worn by people-pleasers who spent recess writing extra-credit book reports while the fun types--in well-worn saddles or boots with jacknife pockets--were bashing baseballs or being bashful around girls at the bus stop. Laces, after all, spell security, logic and rigidity, probably why most wearers are small businessmen, doctors, lawyers and insurance agents in advanced markets. Now the laid-back or adventurous prefer their laces in suedes or other soft materials.

Don't be fooled by the variety of jogging shoes around these days. The man who has a closetful of the same brand is working hard at convincing himself that he's a rich, successful and famous jock. A real jock never has to put his best instep forward; he can go barefoot. The man who wears the same pair of shoes, however, to work, on a date, everywhere, is not casual; he's a tightwad with latent skid-road tendencies.

I like the unpretentious lads who stride along in old-fashioned, low-cut "tennies." The best relationships, I've now decided, are with teddy bears in suede loafers or desert boots. No matter that their Golden Years may be spent in slippers or in a variety bought for a quarter at Goodwill. They're usually cuddly, comfortable folk, free of complexes. They're men who enjoy life, especially the company of women. They don't use shoes as a means of proving anything or protecting anything--except the feet.

And what do women's shoes say about them? That's another story.