Good shoe care is key – we can all agree on that. For specific instructions, check out our section about how to properly take care of your footwear. Proper care will prolong the lifespan of your shoes for decades. Moreover, the pricier options become much more appealing when approached as an investment rather than a simpler purchase. (All the same, we highly recommend this study from last year by Dappered on best shoes under $200…)
Footwear, especially in Western culture, seems to be the unwanted stepchild of man’s fashion and style. (Thank you, California…) Instead of an integral part of a gentleman’s attire, it is often demoted to a mere obligation. Instead of creating something around our shoes, we put them on last minute – something we have to do to leave the house. Looks are sacrificed for the sake of comfort (form dies to function), in the erroneous belief that they are mutually exclusive.
The following shortlist provides you with an overview of the shoe types every man should find in his closet. Again, we also encourage all Gentlemen to properly take care of their foot ware, and we are happy to provide a guide here.
Black Oxfords and Captoes
The all-rounder, which will never go out of style. Never. Oxfords are the no-frills options which – according to the Esquire Magazine Handbook of Style – will “get you through just about every family crisis and black-tie event life can throw at you.” We agree, as long as they are well taken care of. Maybe we don’t necessarily agree about the black tie event, because we actually recommend patent leather oxfords on all accounts.
Tip: Look out for a fine stitch along the edges, and make sure the sole of the shoe is stitched to the upper part as well. Some models out there are glued only, which reduces the life span of a shoe significantly.
If you had to tragically pick only ONE pair of dress shoes, go with black Oxfords. Also, make sure that the tip of your shoe is well rounded. Refrain from buying a shoe with a tip too pointy or too flat – your feet aren’t cut in a straight line either…
Captoes usually only differ from Oxfords by one simple line of stitching, about two or three inches from the tip. They already are a little less formal than plain Oxfords and I would definitely second guess your judgment, if I’d see you wearing Captoes with your tuxedo.
“No brown to town.” Or “no brown after six.” These are just two of the rules, or better two variations of the same rule: “to town” here means the same as “after six” and refers to entertainment, which again used to be synonymous for tuxedo or evening attire… Well, that of course is not entirely valid anymore, unless you are actually going to change into your tux every day after six. In this case, we salute you. And hopefully you are not wearing brown shoes with your dinner jacket…
Brown Wingtips can be worn with everything but a black suit. Especially with heavier fabrics like corduroy in earthy colors, dark brown shoes are a valid option. And please – feel free to wear them after six…
Wing-tips have a w-shaped leather decoration on the tip and are a little less formal than plain oxfords. Formal wing-tips are usually one-colored, while more casual models play with contrasted colors.
These are an American staple, with a rich history and semi-justified myths about rules of Memorial and Labor Day – sometimes Easter – or even beginning of Spring. The Gentleman’s Digest take on the old “No White before Memorial Day” rule is to make sure you are not putting yourself in an awkward position. We love to wear our white bucks, or sometimes white Saddle Bucks with light-brown leather sides, to whatever events we deem appropriate. But then, most of us live in the South of the United States where February days can show temperatures in the 70F/20C. We look out for the weather and the occasion, not the date. The same of course is true for your white suit and your white resort pants. Just be mindful that older, wiser gentlemen will nonetheless question your wearing them outside of the age-old calendar parameters.
Drivers, Loafers, and Boat Shoes
And we are casual. We strongly believe that a gentleman should have a small number of casual pairs to alternate, because just like with your suits, you want to give your shoes a little rest after a good day of wear and tear. Gentleman’s Gazette has a great guide to loafers if you want a more detailed study…
Loafers have established themselves as an alternative to laced shoes, and while we see some benefits, we would always prefer a nice pair of Oxfords with our business professional attire. Use your nice loafers to class up your smart [or business] casual look – transforming them to an upgrading feature. Drivers and Boat Shoes are great footwear for your casual looks. Important: especially drivers look better without socks, or at least without visible socks. Think about it…
Some parting thoughts on shoe care
It is simple: invest in some nice shoe trees and make sure to use them religiously. Then, always open the laces before you store your shoes. One day a week should be designated shoe care day – an effort well worth it, considering the ten years you are getting out of it. And once your shoes seem to be on their last leg (pun intended), go find a shoemaker to have a closer look at them. You would be surprised what magic some good old craftsmanship can do…
*Cover photo from Gilt.com