Men’s dress shoes: A breakdown of the classic styles

For many men, figuring out what dress shoe best matches what type of clothes on what particular occasion can be quite confusing. With the variety of dress shoes available, we can certainly understand that it can become somewhat overwhelming.

But having smart and elegant footwear can add a great amount of class and style to your wardrobe, making it an essential item to have in your closet. In this article, we give you a breakdown of the classic styles and some outfit options that they pair best with.

Oxfords

Oxfords, also known as Balmorals, are dress shoes that are either completely void or have minimal extra stitching, perforations, and other design elements. On an oxford, the eyelet flaps are stitched over so that there are no visible flaps. This is the simplest yet most dressy of all the dress shoes.

Oxfords come in either black or brown colours. Typically, the black sleeker pair is used for more formal occasions compared to its brown counterpart. It goes best with tuxedos and suits.

Derby

Derbies, also known as Blüchers, look very similar to oxfords except they have open lacing. Open lacing refers to the eyelet/lacing flaps being sewn directly to the top of the shoe, and are unrestrained by any sort of line of stitching across them. This break in silhouette gives them a rugged construction, making them less formal than the oxfords.

A derby shoe can come in many colours, styles (brogue and non-brogue, cap-toed, wing-tipped), and can be made from different types of leather and linen. You can wear them with suits that are made of more casual fabrics like tweed, linen, or cotton. Derbies also match perfectly with wool trousers, cotton trousers, and jeans.

Cap Toes

Cap toe is a design element that refers to the extra layer of leather near the front of the shoes. Oxfords and derbies can be cap toed. The sleeker the design, the more formal cap toe shoes can be. Depending on the style and formality, cap toed dress shoes can be worn with formal suits and tuxedos. Less dressy cap toes can be worn with wool trousers, cotton trousers, and jeans.

Brogues

Brogue refers to an ornamentation of shoes employing heavy perforations and pinking. It then stands that any shoe that has perforations, whether it’s an oxford or a derby, is a brogue. Brogues are very versatile shoes and come in various shapes. As a general rule, though, the following are their basic features: they have low heels, toe caps, heel caps, lace panels, and decorative perforations.

Brogues can be worn to a range of formal and casual occasions. The rule of thumb is, the heavier the broguing, the less formal the shoe is.

Monk Straps

Instead of having laces, monk straps have either a single or double buckle strap that secures the shoe onto the foot. Monk straps are surely fashion forward, perfect for those who are looking for a more unique type of shoe that will draw attention.

Monk straps are available in a range of colour, can be cap toed or wing-tipped, and can be made from a wide variety of different leathers. When wearing monk straps, make sure that the color of the clasp (typically silver, brass, or gold) matches your belt buckle, wrist watch, and cufflinks. Monk straps can be worn with some suits without a tie, wool trousers, well-pressed cotton trousers, chinos, and dark wash jeans.

Wingtips

Wingtips are a design element that refers to the shape of the cap toe that looks like wings stretching across the front of the shoe. The most popular wingtips are derby shoes with broguing. Wingtips can come in either solid colours (mostly black or brown) or in two tones. Two-toned wingtips are more suitable for smart casual occasions.

The range of styles and design elements can make choosing dress shoes a daunting task, but don’t be fazed. Start with the simpler styles and designs first and once you’ve become more comfortable, you can try to integrate bolder styles into your wardrobe.