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.

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    There is no such saying in French. Others have given great approximations or translations of the expression, but if you're looking for a idiom you won't find it. – Teleporting Goat Apr 23 '19 at 8:45

I don't know the origins or level of solemnity of the original Japanese expression, but it seems that at least some of the YouTube titles linked in your question are using it to attempt to influence people to consider [trying/buying] various footwear "looks," so maybe it wouldn't be totally inappropriate or overly crass to consider expressions/slogans/quotes used in the fashion industry to convey similar notions [solely/primarily] in order to sell footwear to the public, such as:

On n’accorde jamais trop d’importance au choix de ses chaussures. ... [second sentence of the full quote, attributed here to Christian Dior, omitted to attempt to render it more gender-neutral and less stereotypically offensive] ... .
(via chausseurdepuis1885.fr)


Les chaussures peuvent faire ou défaire une tenue entière.
(from 1001chaussures.com)

As accurately noted by the OP in comments below this answer:

"[T]he phrase '(quelque chose) peut faire ou défaire une tenue' ... is just as likely to be used to point out the risk associated with adding an item seen as somewhat extra / secondary such as an accessory [like jewelry] to your already sufficiently balanced look ...[as it is likely to be used to refer to] something fundamentally important like shoes."

With that good point in mind, I'm thinking that perhaps the focus of the phrase at issue could be slightly (and hopefully sufficiently) narrowed to something fundamentally important like shoes by:
(1) personalizing the phrase with the use of possessive articles instead of definite and indefinite ones and/or
(2) using forms of the verbs "faire" and "défaire" that do not include or require the verb "pouvoir" and the hedging/indefinite/"less-than-fundamental" notion that that verb might imply:

(1) Vos chaussures peuvent faire ou défaire votre tenue.
(from karlandmax.com, first sentence)

(2)Les/Vos chaussures font ou défont une/votre tenue.
(from chamaripaelevatorshoes.com, first sentence)

Les/Vos chaussures ... sont le détail ...qui complète une/votre tenue et qui fait ou défait un/votre look.
(from scenoscope.fr, first sentence)

(Please note that this "make or break" sense of "faire ou défaire" could possibly be calqued from English [as in "Shoes (can) make or break an outfit"], but to the extent that such a thing would matter, this 1791 use of the French version makes me think that, if anything, it's just the opposite [from L' Ami des patriotes ou le défenseur de la révolution, Volume 1, Issues 1-16, via GoogleBooks].)

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    Belles recherches qui invitent à plus-soie-Hiééé! – Personne Apr 22 '19 at 19:10
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    I think your 2nd suggestion is actually great. Now you mention it, I seem to distantly recall seeing the phrase "(quelque chose) peut faire ou défaire une tenue" pop up in fashion articles on more than one occasion. But then again, it could equally be said that this phrase is just as likely to be used to point out the risk associated with adding an item seen as somewhat extra / secondary such as an accessory to your already sufficiently balanced look. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Apr 22 '19 at 21:22
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    In saying "Les bijoux peuvent faire ou défaire une tenue", for instance, jewellery is considered something difficult to handle and therefore secondary (Like: "Stay away from it if you don't know what you're doing!!") rather than something fundamentally important like shoes. – Con-gras-tue-les-chiens Apr 22 '19 at 21:26

C’est à ses chaussures que l’on reconnaît l’homme / la femme de goût.


En fonction de l'explication davantage que de l'expression, sur le modèle de « l'habit ne fait pas le moine », influencé peut-être aussi par l'idée de « make or break (the outfit) », je dirais :

Les souliers (chaussures) font l'habit.

  • Je crois que cela est outré : le japonais ne mentionne qu'un commencement, pas une fin à l'habillement. ce que c'est, réellement; il n'y aurait peut être qu'une touche d'humour en cela qu'il s'agit d'une extrémité du corps, un bout, ce qui est souvent considéré comme un début. – LPH Apr 21 '19 at 21:57
  • @LPH Comme j'ai expliqué, je me suis fié davantage à l'explication, entre autres « first and foremost », « shoes generally make the loudest statement », « they can all too easily ruin your otherwise perfect look ». Donc leur choix est déterminant et pas accessoire. Dans tous les cas ça me semble meilleur qu'une traduction mot à mot... Par ailleurs je trouve la réponse qui réfère au bon goût meilleure et plus équilibrée, quoique différente, dans le sens où des souliers pourraient être affreux mais harmonieux considérant le tout. – user19187 Apr 22 '19 at 0:25
  • Je ne croirai jamais que les chaussures en crocodile du premier farfelu venu, mises avec son petit short de plage et sa T-shirt à étoile, en font quelqu'un à l'habillement qui inspire le confort et la normalité; en ce qui concerne le gout, j'aurais pu faire un commentaire si la question n'était pas si épineuse; je ne crois pas que le gout soit l'idée et je pense qu'il faille insister d'avantage sur l'idée du confort et du convenable. Le gout après tout, c'est une affaire de temps et d'argent; n'importe quel grand couturier vous habillera avec gout, ça ne veut pas dire que vous en avez. – LPH Apr 22 '19 at 4:40
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    @LPH À mon avis ton analyse du vêtement est tout aussi prétentieuse et rigide que celle de la langue. Normal, convenable, une affaire d'argent, n'importe quel grand couturier, meh. Quand je dis des souliers qu'ils font l'habit je n'entends pas qu'ils le remplacent... – user19187 Apr 23 '19 at 0:15

There does not seem to be a widely known precept for this idea in French; it has to be translated more or less literally. The following way to put it appears to fulfil the need for a basic, faithful rendering.

  • Une bonne tenue vestimentaire commence par les chaussures.

The only one I have on the top of my mind is "Se mettre sur son trente-et-un." or "Être sur son trente-et-un"

Which mean

Mettre ses plus beaux habits. Être très bien habillé.

note: I will update it later if I think about anything else.

  • That does not apply: the matter has nothing to do with dressing up or with an unusual way of dressing so as to appear exceptionally neat; it has to do with a basic principle in normal dressing, the principle that you should have an overall neatness in your appearance and that the shoes play an essential role in this appearance; their aspect is not as negligible as one might think. – LPH Apr 21 '19 at 19:58

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