Men's Dress Shoes

Say all you want about the importance of the suit, the shirt, the tie. The single most scrutinized feature of a man’s appearance is his shoes.

Go ahead. Scoff. Nothing—nothing—is a bigger turnoff for men or women than bad shoes.

Why is that? Maybe it’s because men easily dismiss footwear. lf the suit, shirt. and tie are just right, who will notice the shoes?

It’s precisely this line of thinking that gets many a man in trouble. To others, the quality and care of a man’s shoes signals his inner character because they reflect his attention to all the details of his life. It has been said that if a man can’t keep his shoes in first-class condition, can he be trusted to look out for his clients.

Men’s fine dress shoes are expensive. We’ll continue to concentrate on the basics, followed by wardrobe building.


TIP: Simplicity is paramount when buying dress shoes, especially your first and perhaps only pair. No buckles or tassels or straps. No thick soles or heavy, blunt toes.



The first pair should be classic black lace-ups. These go by several names: oxford, blucher, brogue. They may or may not have a cap-toe.

The wing tip is another classic lace-up. With its stitched leather "wing" and perforated toe, it is a touch heavier and fussier than the plain lace-up. The reason we don't recommend it as a first shoe is because it looks a little clunky for weddings and other non-business occasions.



You will see some well-dressed businessmen wearing a black slip-on instead of lane-up. This is not the collegiate Weejun-type loafer, hut a slightly heavier, more polished version with understated detailing similar to the more traditional lace-up. A tasseled version is also popular, as is the brass horse bit across the top. Even though acceptable, it exposes too much sock and is not a good business look. Better to slick with lace-ups for suits until you're more sure of yourself, as they always project more authority. Leave the loafers to business casual and weekends.


Brown Shoes

When your wallet and wardrobe expand, add a brown shoe. In fact, the brown suede can-toe lace-up or brown wing tip can be quite elegant with a gray flannel, blue-gray or tan gabardine suit. It's a nice contrast to the sea of black shoes and a great way to expand your options. Just be careful not to wear brown shoes with a dressy dark blue suit, unless you really know what you‘re doing. The look can backfire big time.



This is sometimes referred to as "oxblood." It’s a dark mahogany color with just a hint of red in it that some men wear as they would black shoes. It’s available in oxfords and slip-ons.

Originally, cordovan was a specific kind oi choice tor business dress of leather naturally that color, tanned from horses in Spain. Today, it's mostly calfskin leathers dyed that color, so not all cordovans are created equally. The wide spectrum makes it, at best, uneven—not your first or second pair.


Although boots can he very masculine, they don't belong in the boardroom. Not even those short boots that look like dress shoes We love cowboy boots, too, but they look pretentious with a business suit. Unless you live in a Western state and the business is horses, cattle, oil, or ranching.


Dress Shoe Quality

Like so many other things in life, price is not necessarily the ultimate indicator of quality dress footwear. Details and construction are. But most of the time your investment in quality shoes will be returned in years of comfort and enjoyment.


Some hints:

- Good shoes are crafted entirely of quality leather, both uppers and soles. The word "man-made" should not apply. “Handmade” yes - “Man-made” no. Even the shoe lining should be leather for longer wear and comfort. Leather breathes. Synthetics do not.

- The sole should he stitched, not glued, to the shoe. The stitches should be so tiny, tight, and even that they almost disappear.


Dress Shoe Fit

Never go shoe shopping on Saturday morning. Go shoe shopping late in the day when feet swell naturally. This guards against the uncomfortable surprise of a shoe that's too narrow or ill-fitting. Try on both shoes. Feet differ, even your own.

Wear dress socks to try on shoes. Those would be the thin to medium-thin solid black variety better known as “men’s hosiery." Trying on dress shoes wearing athletic socks never works. If you find yourself without the right socks, ask the salesperson if there is a pair to borrow or be a big spender and buy a pair on the spot. They'll let you keep the socks, even if you don’t buy shoes.

Shoes should be comfortable in the store. Toes shouldn’t bunch. The back shouldn't slip up and down on your heel as you walk. Thinking a shoe is uncomfortable because it’s new is a misconception. Shoes rarely “break in,” as salespeople might suggest. If they hurt in the store, odds are very good they’ll hurt on the sidewalk, too. In most instances, the better the quality of shoes, the more comfortable they are and remain, and vice versa.


The old soft shoe

Just because you‘re pounding the pavement doesn‘t mean you can look pedestrian. it may be a sad commentary on the state of things, but wearing a pair of orthopedically sound shoes for business and dress occasions is a no-no. We‘re talking about those heavenly, cushy, rubber-soled lace-ups that are supposed to look

like expensive oxfords but rarely do. Unless you have no other choice (meaning you have serious medical problems), these shoes are not a good choice for interviews and other important impressions. They look like you couldn't quite graduate out of running shoes. If your feet hurt, see a podiatrist for a pair of custom insoles that fit inside your real dress shoes.


Tip: The same pair of leather shoes should never be worn two days in a row. They need time to dry out. Buy a minimum of two pairs of black lace-ups, Wear one and leave the other at home stuffed with cedar shoe trees. Keep shoes away from drying heat. Alternate the next day, Shoes will last much longer. The goal is at least five pairs of shoes for business. A gentleman should also have a good selection of casual shoes to be worn when off the clock.


Running out of luck

In an effort to get exercise, some men like to walk to worn. While the spirit is to be commended, the potential fashion faux pas is not. Under no circumstances should athletic shoes be worn with a suit. Should you choose to walk, do so in a high quality dress shoe that fits comfortably. If you‘ve determined no such thing exists (we can’t imagine), find another means of staying in shape that does not so compromise your professional image.


Taking care of dress shoes

lf shoes are to go the distance, you have to pamper them. We have already mentioned the best plan is to have a minimum oi two pairs so one can go while the other dries and rests. We also mentioned the cedar shoe tree, an investment of less than $20 that will save you much more in the long run. lf you can‘t afford cedar shoe trees, wads of newspaper will do. Put them inside your shoes as soon as you take them off. Shoes will regain and retain original shape. Leave your shoes out (not in a box) so air can circulate around them. They dry best this way. Just as a professional laundering is money well spent tor shirts, a professional shoe shine is also a worthy investment. Keep a soft cloth, a brush, and polish at home for emergencies, but trust major upkeep to a trained professional. The shine will look great and last longer.

How often shoes need shining depends on wear and weather. Check them out carefully each morning. Get them polished sooner rather than later.

All suede shoes need is a good brushing. A suede brush is available anywhere shoe care supplies are sold. You don't need to do this alter every wearing, unless they‘re particularly dirty, every few months is fine.