Men’s Shoe Guide: Tips on How to Wear the 8 Most Common Men’s Dress Shoe Styles
If I would only have a dollar every-time I hear a fellow sartorialist say “The shoe makes the man”… Well, this saying is popular for a reason. Nice footwear does add a tremendous amount of style and class to your wardrobe, a fact that inspired me to write this dress shoe guide. Below are the eight most common dress shoe styles found in a man’s wardrobe, and besides just writing about what makes each style unique, I am giving you some helpful dress/style tips on each. Last but not least, because a picture is worth a thousand words, I added images of some of my favorite pieces for each category.
Oxfords (AKA Balmoral)
A classic shoe style with a formal, elegant, and dressy appeal. Oxfords come in any color although black and browns are most popular. Typically the sleeker the design (being also black in color), the more formal the shoe. Brogue oxfords and heavier construction on the other hand appear a bit less formal. Pair the oxford shoes with dress pants but not jeans.
Derby (aka Blüchers)
The Derby is a very similar to the oxford shoe but the difference is in the lacing which is sewn outside of the shoes (showing visible flaps). This more noticeable lacing style makes this shoe style less formal compared to the classic Oxford. Derby/Blüchers come in any color, brogue and non brogue, cap-toed, wing tipped, as well as many different types of leather and linen. Derby shoes are perfect for a smart-casual dress consisting of jeans, dress shorts, and sport coats. They are less suited for suits but do make a good shoe choice for business attire on rainy days due to their more rugged construction.
Loafer’s are the traveling business man’s best friend. They slip on and off easily when going through security, they are comfortable, and versatile. The sleeker and simpler the design the more formal it is. Also, darker colors are more formal (black being the most formal), and the less of your socks are visible the more formal the look. Loafers look great with jeans and dress pants, as well as with suits when not wearing a necktie. Common loafer variations are monk straps, tasseled decorations, penny loafers, and formal pumps (see below).
The term cap toe refers to the extra layer of leather near the front of the shoes. That being said, oxfords as well as Blüchers can be “Cap Toed”. Again, the sleeker the design the more formal. Heavy brogue (embossing of the leather) takes away the formality but does add a more uniqueness. Depending on the style and formality, cap toed dress shoes can be worn with suits, tuxedos, and even jeans.
The term “Monk strap” refers to the buckled strap the replaces shoe laces. Monk straps come with one, two, and even three straps, are available in any color, can be made from a wide variety of different leathers, and can be cap toed as well as wingtipped (see below). Monk strap shoes are perfect for those who seek a more unique type of shoe that will draw attention. When matching the shoes, make sure that the color of the clasp Typically silver, brass, or gold) matches your belt buckle, wrist watch, and cufflinks (should you choose to wear those).
Dress boots are a sleek and minimalistic boot style that can be worn with jeans, odd trousers, and suits (in rainy or snowy weather). Dress boots come in a wide variety of styles such as brougai, wing tip, monk strap, and cap toed.
The term “Wing Tip” refers to the shape of the cap toe that looks like wings stretching across the front of the shoe. Most wing tips are Derby shoes decorated with brogue leather. While most wing tips are solid in color (mostly back or brown), two-toned date back to the 1920s (black & white). Today two-toned wingtips are once again quite popular and perfect for a smart-casual dress.
The formal pump (aka Opera pump) is a formal type of loafer made from shiny black patent leather. Typical is a grosgrain ribbon decoration on the cap of the shoe. Formal pumps are only suited for formal black tie or white tie ensembles and do make a good alternative choice of shoe to formal patent leather oxfords which are typically worn for these two formal dress codes.
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