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Mens Dress Shoe Guide

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.


Two classic examples of men’s oxfords. The one on the left is a captor style. Its black calfskin leather and overall simplistic design makes it a perfect formal pair for suits and even black tie events. The brown color, more rugged construction, as well as its brogue wingtip makes the left pair much more casual in comparison.

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.

Two very unique pair of Blüchers. The pair on the left is decorated with a brogue wingtip. It is a classic pair that suits casual business attire with slacks and sports coat as much as with dark wash jeans and cardigan sweater. The pair on the right stands out because of the dark blue color and different leather combinations (suede and calf skin).

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).


That most loafers are more casual can be seen here. The Hugo Boss pair on the left is a bit more formal compared to the suede pair on the left thanks to color, type of leather, and minimalistic design. The pair on the right (sometimes also called driving shoes) are much more casual. The blue color, the suede leather, and the thin rubber sole are all indicative of a casual pair.

Cap Toes
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.


Two classic Allen Edmonds captoes. The oxford style pair on the left is elegant yet not overly dressy thanks to the decorated brogues. The Derby pair on the right is another perfect casual dress shoe that would look excellent with sports coats, blazers, and even suits.

Monk Straps
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).


Two elegant pairs of monkstrap dress shoes. The pair on the left uses a double clasp giving the shoe a more trendy/fashion-forward look, while the pair on the right keeps the style classic/timeless with its single strap. Note the captoe construction on the left and the brogue wingtip on the right.

Dress Boots
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.

Two completely different types of dress boots. The chelsea boot on the left is a classic accessory dating back to the Victorian era. The laced up pair on the right is perfect for smart-casual wear and great for jeans and slacks but not suits.

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.

Wingtips are a popular shoe style that comes in any color and style. The brown brogue pair on the left is a bit more elegant compared to the grayish-blue brogue pair on the right. Designers like Cole Hahn especially has played with lots of colors on their assortment of wingtip shoes offering bright colored soles and two tone upper leather.

Formal Pumps
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.

Who said loafers are casual? The so called Opera Pumps are one of the most formal type of footwear in a man’s wardrobe. The patent leather on the left is the classic style decorated with a grosgrain ribbon. The suede pair on the left is a bit more fashion-forward but an excellent choice for those opting to wear a tux with suede lapels.

Thanks for Visiting my Site.


44 thoughts on “Mens Dress Shoe Guide”

  1. Michelle says:

    very good and cool,thank you for your sharing.

  2. RAY JONES says:

    I would like to know what is the brand on the Midnight blue suede and calf derby shoe. That is a very nice shoe and I really would like to find it. My feet are desperate for it! If you know, please respond back.

    1. hendrik says:

      HI Ray, thanks for leaving a note here on my blog. I agree with you. These shoes are very nice! I found the picture but it didn’t say who designed/made them. I will keep looking for them, and if I do find out, I will update the blog post.



  3. Jimmy Winfield says:

    Hello can you tell me where I can purchase those kind of dress shoes for my store

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Jimmy,
      Thanks for the comment. Not sure which shoes exactly you are referring to?

  4. jimmy d cole says:

    Looking for. Black. And White Shoes(2 tone).

  5. bethany says:

    Love this article….

  6. Paul says:

    Great shoe guide. I just shared via my facebook and twitter. Thanks for putting this together.

  7. Naveen says:

    Most contemporary shoe guide for men. Please add a section about boat shoes and sportswear.

  8. Larry says:

    This site brought back memories of the ’50s when I worked my way through college as a “shoe dog” in a men’s clothing store. But I recall different names for oxfords/balmorals (closed vamp); brogues were thick-soled bluchers, rarely a closed vamp(thick soles were not dressy enough; wingtips were indeed classy dress shoes, but rarely with a blucher instep,which weren’t classy enough for formal wear (closed vamps were tighter across the instep and if you had a high instep, a blucher could better accommodate the height; I always thought a black and white wingtip had a special name, such as Alligator, but now that only refers to the leather. And finally, there was the black or brown and white saddle shoes; and “tassel” loafers which were much dressier than “penny” loafers and are still worn today.

    1. Tyler says:

      You are well informed, sir! You should write a style guide as well!

  9. Ted H. Jacobsen says:

    More info regarding purchasing of Men’s Formal Pumps, pictures above. Are there others?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Ted, yes there are some differences between formal pumps. Most common are pumps made from shiny patent leather decorated with grosgrain ribbon on the toe-cap. Another popular style are pumps made from velvet (no grosgrain bow). Hope this helps.

    2. Peter Marshall says:

      True pumps have very short vamps that only cover about half of the top of the foot. The “pumps” shown here are actually formal loafers (left) and formal slippers (right).

      1. hendrik says:

        Hi Peter, thanks for the input. Much appreciate the expert input from the infamous blacktieguide founder. Thank you.

  10. valce alfred says:

    Hi,I want to know if a black rough suede goes with a black suit and gold bow tie. thanks

    1. hendrik says:

      Yes, very much so. Go for it!

  11. Jerry says:

    Larry, the black and white wingtips are actually called Spectators.

  12. Kevin says:

    Would you include Ainsworth Penny on your lost of styles .

  13. Mohd ghouse says:

    Can I wear loafer shoe on formal ? Plzzz help me im confuse.

    1. hendrik says:

      Yes you can as long as they are the right type of formal loafer. They are called “pumps” and are typically made from shiny patent leather.

  14. James F. says:

    I love this article. I am just starting my shoe collection. I have a pair of Allen Edmonds wing tips and J Adler monk straps. What should my next purchase be?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi James, those are excellent pieces that will never go out of style. If you take good care of them (shining them often, use shoe trees, and make sure not to walk to much in the wet) then these will last you a lifetime. What is your thought on some dressy boots? Those look great when paired with jeans.

      1. James F. says:

        Thank you I will check out some dress boots. Are there any special rules for wearing them?

        1. hendrik says:

          Hi James, they are great for a jeans, sport coat, dress shirt, and tie look. But they also look great with a modern cut suit. The only think I would avoid are very formal and conservative suits.

  15. Russell says:

    A word on shoe trees: wood, wood, wood…always wooden shoe trees! (Not metal) The wooden trees “take in” the warm moisture from your feet (always put them in as soon as you remove your shoes, while the leather is warm and pliable)and give it back. More expensive than metal, but worth it in the long run. –rf

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Russell, very true. Cedar wood is best b/c it takes up moisture well, has a nice scent, and is also repellant to months that might linger in your closet…

  16. daniel says:

    I’m going through informal training on shoemaking. Your writeup has been helpful. Will appreciate if anyone would advice me on books and tools for bespoke shoes

  17. MIke says:

    Brown Wing Tip Boots w/ Dark Charcoal Pants ?

    Thoughts on wingtip boots as well?


    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Mike, sure that would look nice. Wingtip boots are fantastic pieces for the Fall and winter. Just note that they are a little more casual. They look also great with jeans!

  18. rhed says:

    hi is it ok to wear loafer with a bow tie?

    1. hendrik says:

      That is a great question. Only if the bow tie is very casual. A good example is a madras plaid cotton bow tie worn in the summer. Those can be worn well with summer loafers and boat shoes.

  19. Nagle says:

    Great description of every shoe. Very short and sweet and to the point. Thanks for info and keep up the great work.

  20. RK says:

    I go on business trips often and want to limit my luggage to a single pair of shoes. I usually wear a suit on the first day, sometimes with a tie, sometimes without, then a bit more casual – slacks and a shirt. Would you say a loafer would be the one shoe of choice, or something like a captoe derby, or something else? Thanks!

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi RK, the loafer is a bit too casual for most business settings – especially when wearing a suit with a tie. Instead I would suggest dark brown oxfords of cap-toes. Brown is less formal than black but it can be worn well with suits as well as jeans. Also, the lace-up style keeps your look classic and elegant.

  21. Avinash says:

    Thanks a lot. Such a informative article.
    I just bought a brand new black Oxford shoe with brogue from Louis phillipe (India) and I think it’s perfect for my business suit and for attending business meetings and interviews.

  22. Seth says:

    Do the amount of eyes/laces make a difference on oxfords? Would a five or even 6 eye make the shoe more formal. I prefer the look of a cap toe with a suit so trying to determine a good cap toe Oxford based upon number of eye. Is my thinking correct in general with cap toe Oxford being a good choice for business suit attire?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Seth, great question. Typically the more minimalistic a shoe, the more formal it will be. That being said, typically more eyelets the shoe has, the less formal it will be. Just take a look at formal patent leather shoes. Those almost always only have 2×2 eyelets

  23. sagar rath says:

    hey i want to buy a black formal shoe for my first job interview in Hotel industry so, is it oke if their is a wing pattern in cap toe only wing pattern is their wich i want to buy but i’m don’t know whether the interviewer goona like that one or not? if not they may reject me so please tel me is wing pattern with is good for formal or not?

  24. MM says:

    Hi. My dad said blacks wore the black and white wing tips back in the 50’s. Is this true?

  25. Edward says:

    I am looking for an expensive pair of shoes that I can wear with a Navy Blue jacket and the new slim fitting white pants for a casual look, and also go with beige Ralph Lauren slacks and Navy Blue jacket for a more dressy look. Could a monk strap style shoe work for both…Thank you

  26. daniel says:

    very nice and informative. i very much prefer the monk straps

  27. Anders Jorgensen says:

    I just found this via a Google search. Great article even if its an old one.

    Thank you! I will be back soon to learn mor about dress shoes and style.

  28. Kiran Kumar says:

    I like the tan with black shoe in the top row of the first picture. May I know the brand of that shoe?

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