A man’s dress shoes is a very essential touch to any gentleman’s attire(believe it or not women do judge by them). They can make or break a fine suit or fashionable night out. Poorly chosen or cared for, they can be the quickest way to destroy an otherwise wonderfully planned and executed outfit.
When it comes to wardrobe staples, every man should have a couple pair of dress shoes in his closet. Dress shoes for men are commonly defined by leather uppers cut below the ankle with leather soles. It is not uncommon to have alternatives to leather for soles such as rubber. However, better quality will be found with leather soles. Let’s go through DRESS SHOES EDUCATION 101.
Men’s shoes typically fall into these simple categories: Lace-ups, Loafers or Slip-On and Monk Straps.
The most formal of all Lace-ups are the Oxfords(British) or Balmorals(American). The Oxfords or Balmorals have leather uppers that lace together evenly yielding no perceived flaps over the tongue. The lacing brings the shoe together perfectly. They are often found serving a well dressed man. These are shoes you should formally go for when you need to wear that ‘bad ass’ suit. The original makers of these style of shoes are Church’s English shoe, John Lobb bootmaker, Edward Green shoes, Crockett & Jones, Allen Edmonds and a few more very old shoemakers. Oxfords or Balmorals come in either plain, brogues[decorative perforations which come in half (where the captoe of the shoes are covered in the brogues design), quarter(see the tan shoes)or full also known as the wingtip (check out the shoes in brown and white)]. As years have gone by Oxfords have gotten a face lift with varied leather types and finishes e.g patents and varied colours – depends on how bold you are but generally the colours to have would be black and brown. Everyman should essentially have one of these on their shoe rack.
The other type of male lace-ups are the Bluchers(American) or Derbys/Gibsons (British). These shoes are a step down from the very formal Oxfords. The Bluchers have leather uppers that come together with laces and flaps over the tongue. You can also identify them with eyelet tabs sewn on top of the flaps or vamp. Although Bluchers informal shoes, they are often used in some casual dress manners for smart casual or business casual depending on their design and where you are going. It is however perfectly acceptable and common for Bluchers to be worn with certain business suits. Bluchers come in varied finishes – patent, suede, plain leather, fabric, skin with designs in brogues, studs(a la Christian Louboutin freddy flats).
The Slip-Ons or Loafers are simply men’s dress shoes without any lacing or fastenings . There are about 6 main styles of loafers : dress loafers, plain loafers, penny loafers, tassel loafers, kilted loafers, bit loafer also called the Gucci loafers.
The most formal of the slip-on styles would have to be the Dress Loafers. They come with side gussets (elasticated inserts on the side allow the shoe to be easily removed) which are made in almost the same shape as lace-up Oxfords but without the laces. They give the cross between quiet formal and casual. They can be worn with most suit styles as well as with casual outfits – it all depends on what you are comfortable with.
The Plain Loafer is easily recognizable by it’s plain toe & upper with very little if any seams or decor. The plain loafer is just that, plain and simple, no frills, just elegantly simple. The type of fabric used for these style of shoes determine how formal they should be.
The Penny Loafer is identified by the signature plain band of slotted leather over the instep. A “penny” has been known to find it’s way into this slot from time to time. Great with Jeans and some styles with particular style of trousers. Always a classic in the loafer world.
The Tassel Loafer are those loafers you see with tassels adorning the top. These can come pointed toe or square toed.
The Kilted Loafer is a variation of the tasseled loafer with a fringed tongue over the instep commonly accompanied by tassels as well. Some people have been known to wear these with some business suits(older people mainly) and for comfort too. Perfect with your chinos trousers for those into that sort of look. These Ralph Lauren Purple Labels are most definitely ones to have on your shoe rack.
The Bit loafer also popularly called the Gucci Loafers. These style of shoes have the have a brass or other metallic decorative piece of hardware called a bit on the shoe top. Some of these type of shoes are more formal than others. Great with Linen pants for that laissez faire attitude.
The Monk-Strap (also classed under loafers in some cases because of its slip-on style) has a leather strap over the instep, fastened with a decorative buckle. These shoes are generally more formal than the traditional loafers styles and bulchers but only a few steps away from the Oxfords. To be worn with suits and really nothing else.
With all these mens shoe styles and options it may seem a daunting task for a man to properly select his dress shoes. Don’t be intimidated, keep these simple rules in mind:
* In general you won’t go wrong wearing either a balmoral or blucher(only some particular styles that are as close to oxfords/balmorals as possible) with a business suit. Although some loafers are “suit acceptable” they do create somewhat of a more casual look for the business suit.
* For a professional and top notch look, oxfords/balmorals with suits is your best option.
* For business casual or smart casual you can’t go wrong with either a lace up or a loafer as well as monk straps.
If you follow the next two rules you should not have to worry about screwing up your business/smart casual look.
* Keep your dress shoes as dark or darker than your trousers. This is a general rule that when followed should never lead a man astray.
* Keep your shoes polished. At all times.
I need to say that some Nigerian fashion houses now make their own shoes, loafers included with really distincts styles and colors, the likes of Mai Atafo Inspired, Ouch etc..feel free to check them out!!!