As more and more events that require in-person attendance start creeping onto your calendar, from corporate shindigs to wedding parties, don’t be caught off guard when your trusty sneakers no longer fit the bill. (Or maybe you’re so jaded by #remotelife that you’ve forgotten about shoes altogether.) Hear us out: Dress codes matter! And when you’re expected to roll up looking a helluva lot more polished than your Zoom self, putting a little extra effort into your choice of kicks will go a long way. If you’re looking for the best dress shoes for men, you’ll find them here.
Fortunately, there are loads of options that fit every occasion and budget when you need formal, semi-formal, or business casual footwear. The trick is to start by learning the nuances of different styles, and when and where it’s okay to wear them, before narrowing down your favorite picks from there. We’re never ones to point you to a purchase “just cus.” We want you to love ‘em and wear ‘em for years and years to come—or until we all exist as virtual holograms. To get you started, here’s a basic primer on the six different types of shoes that suit a range of buttoned-up affairs followed by recommended pairs by our favorite brands.
Most guys will default to an Oxford as their go-to dress shoe—and with good reason. Since it was first invented in 19th-century Scotland, the Oxford (a.k.a. the balmoral) has been considered the definitive formal lace-up to complete any outfit, from a smart-casual look to preppy school uniforms. To spot an Oxford, look for three defining features: a low heel, a silhouette that cuts under the ankle, and a closed lacing system stitched at the bottom, which gives the shoe a sleeker, more streamlined appearance.
Cole Haan Grand Ambition Postman Oxford[$180; colehaan.com]
Frye Paul Bal Oxford[$278; thefryecompany.com]
Bruno Magli Maioco Leather Oxford[$395; brunomagli.com]
To Boot New York Aiden Brown[$395; toboot.com]
George Cleverley Merlin Whole-Cut Leather Oxford Shoes[$855; mrporter.com]
More casual and free-spirited, Derbies can still sub in for Oxfords at most formal events. Whether you’re donning off-duty chinos or a three-piece suit, you’ll be golden if you throw a pair of Derbies into the mix. Also nicknamed “bluchers,” these dress shoes are multifunctional by nature, characterized by open laces and eyelets attached to the top of the vamp. They also tend to come in more color and material variations than the other styles on this list, so feel free to grow a whole family of fun derbies in your closet.
Hugo Boss Lisbon Leather Derby Shoes[$315; modesens.com]
PS by Paul Smith Men’s Black Leather ‘Daniel’ Derby Shoes[$325; paulsmith.com]
Mr P. Andrew Split-Toe Suede Derby Shoes[$375; mrporter.com]
Grenson Joel Grained-Leather Derby Shoes[$460; matchesfashion.com]
Salvatore Ferragamo Derby[$660; ferragamo.com]
“Broguing” technically refers to the perforated embellishments on a shoe, but they’re more than just decorative. The sturdy original was designed to allow water to drain from the feet of bog-tromping Irishmen. Because a brogue skews less formal than a plain Oxford and still lives on a spectrum, from semi to quarter to full-on Brogue, we’re putting them in a separate category. Even so, generally the more ornate and obvious the broguing, the less formal the shoe, with subcategories like cap-toes that have perforations contouring the edge of the cap and wingtips, which have a decorative W-shaped leather piece that extends all the way to the heel.
Dr. Martens 3989 Yellow Stitch Smooth Leather Brogue Shoes[$130; drmartens.com]
Allen Edmonds Strandmok Suede Cap-Toe Oxford[$365; allenedmonds.com]
Grenson Stanley Wingtip[$445; grenson.com]
Adieu Black Type 158 Brogues[$675; ssense.com]
Church’s Chetwynd Calf Leather Oxford Brogue Black[$995; church-footwear.com]
The lace-free loafer may have been created for “loafing around,” but it’s totally an acceptable dress shoe. It’s all about picking the sleekest version of this slip-on style that you can find. An understated penny. A loafer with a showy horsebit accessory. Or even one with a collapsible heel that hints at your sartorial edginess. At the end of the day, shoemakers are upping the cool factor of loafers, and impressing upon us their versatility in even formal settings.
G.H. Bass & Co. Logan Flat Strap Weejuns[$135; ghbass.com]
Vinny’s Grand Townee Suede Penny Loafers[$235; mrporter.com]
Sebago Dan Lug Loafer[$250; sebago-usa.com]
Bally Planker Leather Loafer[$640; bally.com]
Gucci Men’s Loafer with Horsebit[$850; gucci.com]
5. Monk Strap
Nestled between the derby and the Oxford in the context of formality, the monk strap eschews laces in favor of an alternative method of securing itself on your feet: a strap and buckle. Go for a single monk for a more timeless look. Or if you’re feeling really pious to the elegant style (it was invented by monks who needed a practical shoe that wasn’t a sandal), double up with a double monk.
Johnston & Murphy Mcclain Monk Strap[$169; johnstonmurphy.com]
Magnanni Lennon Monkstraps[$395; magnanni.com]
Ermenegildo Zegna Siena Flex Single Monk Strap Shoes[$695; saksfifthavenue.com]
Santoni Leather Double-Buckle Shoes[$880; santonishoes.com]
Christian Louboutin Black John Monkstraps[$995; ssense.com]
For menswear purists, patent leather shoes are reserved for the ultimate special occasion, one that requires a full tuxedo suit and tuxedo shoes to match. But rules are meant to be broken, no? So it’s not uncommon these days that they appear paired with jeans, or even white athletic socks and shorts. Traditionally the “patent” look was achieved with a linseed oil lacquer finish, but the bulk of today’s supply instead features a synthetic coating. In either case, because of the super shiny exterior of the shoe, every little crease or scratch becomes unsightly. So if there’s one reason to wear patent leather shoes sparingly, that’d be it.
Magnanni Dante Patent Leather Derby[$299; nordstrom.com]
Suitsupply Black Tuxedo Shoe[$299; suitsupply.com]
To Boot New York Perry Venetian Loafer[$395; saksfifthavenue.com]
Allen Edmonds La Scala Italian Oxford[$395; allenedmonds.com]
Manolo Blahnik Mario Grosgrain-Trimmed Patent-Leather Loafers[$795; mrporter.com]
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