MEN TAKE their shoe business seriously -- too seriously. Shoes have too long been considered by men to be unimportant fashionwise. The center stage for a man's personal clothing statement has long been reserved for the tie. After a clever pattern or daring color choice has been made, the male shopper feels let off the hook. He has dared to be original.

No more. The basic oxfords and wing tips that roam the floors of every downtown office are an inexcusable bore. A well-heeled man might reconsider his classic tastes for footwear when he takes a close look at how these outdated designs look with the looser cut of newer suits.

Fine shoes are addicting, a fact that women have been aware of for years. The more shoes to choose from at the start of a day, the easier the task of dressing becomes. More delicate shoes can be worn becaue no pair of shoes is worn every day. Shoe salesmen suggest rotating even the most durable shoes for a longer shoe life.

Men often use the excuse that all they need in a shoe is comfort and durability. But that's just an easy route around making an independent, personal decision.

The men's dress shoe market has adjusted to the changes in cut and fabrics seen recently in men's clothing. Three shoe styles -- for dress, sport and casual wear -- no longer mean just three pairs of shoes: oxfords, boat moccasins and penny loafers.

The American eye has become used to the less structured, loose Armani-style suit. For fall, men's clothes will be dominated by nubby textures and patterns. Hosiery too will have design in the weave or directly printed on the fabric.

Pattern against pattern shows

up in men's footwear for the

upcoming year: leather and suede

will be mixed on shoes. The vamp

(the part of the shoe that covers

the toe) will be shorter to expose

the socks. The new American shoe

for men combines a fast, thin-

soled Italian look and a bit of

traditional English heaviness that

tones the shoe down for

conservative tastes. For spring,

linen and leather will be

combined on shoes.

Browns and olives are the

predominant fashion colors in

men's fall clothes. Mahogany

shoes are being brought out in

force as the color to best play

against these newer colors as well

as with the traditional suit tones

of blue and gray.

Many men are afraid of fashion, fearing it a new unchartered territory. They feel comforted when they choose wing tips or cap-toe shoes. Both styles have been around for roughly 100 years, and they outsell the more trendy, daring shoe 40 to 1 in one established shoe store.

Specifics for fall: The shoe for dress and business should be leather. Yet this year, shoes are available in many exotic leathers, which have a a richer more glossy finish -- from high-priced ostrich skin, at $400 a pair, to the lower-priced buffalo calfskin at $95.

Sperry Topsider, the company of boat moccasin fame has an updated version of that shoe interestingly called the "Country Sider." This once tradition-obsessed line now includes the TS 50, a boat moccasin with a new wider tread, in a lighter, softer leather complete with gray shoelaces. The fashion-shy man can use a structural excuse to experiment with a new shoe.