Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Clint Black, “The Shoes You’re Wearing”

“The Shoes You’re Wearing”

Clint Black

Written by Clint Black and Hayden Nicholas


#1 (1 week)

July 11, 1998

Clint Black completes one of the most impressive chart runs of the nineties.

The Road to No. 1

This is the third consecutive No. 1 single from Nothin’ But the Taillights, following “Something That We Do” and the title track.

The No. 1

Clint Black had released so many songs about the meaning of life by this point.  Most of them could be reduced to one of two concepts: love is needed to complete your life, and time is borrowed, so use it well.

“The Shoes You’re Wearing” goes deeper, reflecting on what we place value on in our society.  It’s a bit of admonishment mixed in with a larger appeal to our better angels.  The metaphor works quite well, too: “The shoes you’re wearing don’t make the man.”

My only mild criticism is one typical of late nineties Clint Black.  He got his groove back, with increasingly creative productions, but lost his melodies somewhere along the line.  Maybe he was just better at crafting a melody to go with a Haggard-style production.  As his work got more electric guitar-driven, it felt like we didn’t get to hear him sing as expressively as he used to, which is a shame, because he’s one of the all-time greats in that regard.

The lyric is still so strong and his sincerity so apparent that I can’t ding it much for that one shortcoming.  It’s one of his better records from the tail end of his RCA run.

The Road From No. 1

“The Shoes You’re Wearing” completed an incredible chart run for Clint Black, dating back to his very first single in 1989.  From “A Better Man” through “Shoes,” all 27 of his solo singles went top ten on the Billboard chart.  The final two singles from Nothin’ But the Taillights fell short of that mark:  “Loosen Up My Strings” went top fifteen and “You Don’t Need Me Now” went top thirty.  He’d return to the top with his final No. 1 single of the decade – and to date – toward the end of 1999.

“The Shoes You’re Wearing” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Terri Clark, “Now That I Found You”


  1. Love this song, and it’s another one of my personal favorites of the Nothin’ But The Taillights singles. It’s a shame it’s not as well known today, but it sure did get tons of airplay in the Summer of ’98!

    I absolutely love the muscular production style of this record, and it has aged extremely well. It’s held up way better than much of Clint’s mid 90’s music, imo. The punchy drums and guitar work especially sound great, and I even love the background vocals in the end that echo “shooooooes.” The mesmerizing guitars give the song a bit of a sunny vibe, and I even like the beat which makes it a great one to listen to while taking a walk. The thing I love most about this song though is Clint Black himself and his performance. After many singles of using his upper range, he finally sounds more like he did in his earlier singles here with his more comfortable “Haggard” like range. His signature badass growl is put to great use here, as well. I also love how he sings every single word with conviction, as if he knows for himself what it’s like to be judged by the shoes (and clothes) he wore in his more humble beginnings, and is here now, with all of his success as a country superstar, to tell us that the shoes don’t make the man after all. I especially love how he grows out the final line with total certainty: “It WON’T make the man.” Overall, it’s a great way of saying that it’s what’s on the inside of a person that matters most, and that one’s current situation doesn’t have to define or brand them for life.

    I do agree with you that much of Clint’s late 90’s (and mid 90’s and early 00’s) stuff is lacking in a stronger melody, but this one has always been catchy enough for me, personally. It does seem like it was easier for him to come up with more memorable melodies when he was channeling Haggard more often in his earlier career, though.

    This a song that actually reminds me of BOTH of the trips to Lancaster, Pennsylvania that my parents and I took during the Summer of 1998. The first one we took was with my mom and dad not long after Summer break started, and this song especially reminds me of the times when we went to Park City Mall and when we went to the K-Mart in Fruitville Pike where Dad bought my then favorite Goosebumps book, I Am Your Evil Twin, which I read over and over all summer long. During that trip, I was also occasionally listening to an old cassette recording of Earl Thomas Conley’s Too Many Times album on my Walkman, which was instrumental in staring my fascination with 80’s country.

    On the second trip to Lancaster, PA later in the summer with my mom and step dad, besides hearing it a lot on the radio, I particularly remember hearing “The Shoes You’re Wearing” coming out of the speakers at the Rockvale Outlets, which is where Mom’s favorite store, QVC Outlet, was and is still located. I could hear Clint’s song playing all the way from the speakers right above the shops while my step dad and I were crossing the parking lot during the hot summer afternoon, making our way towards the food court building. I especially remember hearing the ending of the song during that time with the background vocals going “shooooooes” which somehow matched the hot, sunny weather very well. At that moment, I was also still thinking about this hilarious Doom wad I had recently downloaded called Simpsons Doom, which replaced all the monsters in the game with Simpsons characters and the main player with Homer Simpson, lol. To this day, I still picture the Rockvale Outlets on a hot and sunny summer day whenever I hear this song, especially the “shooooooes” part at the end, lol.

    And like Collin Raye’s “I Can Still Feel You,” this is another song that brings to mind when my parents and I saw the movie Small Soldiers. :)

    Unfortunately, “The Shoes You’re Wearing” became yet another great late 90’s song that was hardly ever heard on the radio for us again after the turn of the century, especially after 2002.

  2. I also miss the vocal range and dynamics Black brought to his earlier material. As great as it was to see him engaged again as a lyricist as of his past two hits, I was still waiting for a true return to his sonic form.

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