You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.” That’s particularly true about men’s dress shoes, which run the gamut regarding design, materials, type, and more.
A quality pair of dress shoes paired with the right outfit provides a professional look that’s hard to beat.
We want to take you through an in-depth look at the best dress shoes for men (starting with the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue Cap-Toe Oxford ), including the reviews of our favorites, some buying tips, types of dress shoes, and dress shoes vs. dress boots.
It’s always important to look your best and the right pair of dress shoes will go a long way toward “telling” some good news about you.
What’s important in a dress shoe often varies from person to person, but understanding the basics helps make your buying decision easier. Consider the following factors:
Leather is the go-to option for dress shoes. You’ll find dress shoes made from other materials, including suede, but leather is the standard for men’s dress shoes. There are several types of leather, including full-grain, top-grain, patent, and pebble grain.
Full-grain leather is the best of the best and is very durable, moisture-resistant, and wears well. Top-grain is just a step below full-grain while patent leather (distinctive by its shiny look) is best for formal events, such as a wedding. Pebble-grain leather features a grainy surface that resembles a pattern of pebbles.
We’ll go into men’s dress shoe styles and types in greater detail later in the article, but you have many options to choose from – wingtips, brogues, and even loafers. Also, make sure to always wear a proper dress shirt with your dress shoes.
Don’t compromise when it comes to fit. You want your dress shoes to last and you’ll soon tire of those that have all the comfortability of wearing plywood on your feet. Consider the following suggestions when finding the best-fitting shoes for your feet:
- It’s wise to try on shoes in the afternoon or early evening because your feet naturally swell a bit during the day. A shoe that’s a perfect fit first thing in the morning may feel tighter as the day goes on.
- Make sure you’re wearing – or bring with you – the type of socks you wear with dress shoes. You want your shoes to have a snug fit, but trying them on with a sock that’s thinner or thicker than what you normally wear will skew the fit.
- It sounds obvious, but don’t buy a pair of shoes unless they fit from the first time you try them on. Leather dress shoes don’t have a lot of “stretch” to them and there’s isn’t the break-in period that you’ll find with shoes made of other materials.
- Don’t try on shoes without having your feet measured first. This becomes more complicated when buying dress shoes online, so make sure you read the reviews of other customers to get an idea of a shoe’s overall sizing.
4. THE HEEL
Dress shoes have varying heel heights and it’s often challenging to find the right balance between too high and just right. When in doubt, choose a 1-inch heel. Shoes with an overly-high heel will detract from their dressy appearance. Some dress shoes come without a heel but those work best in casual situations.
5. THE SOLE
A dress shoe’s sole contributes greatly to its comfort, and comfort is one of the most important factors – if not the most important – for choosing shoes. The soles of most men’s dress shoes consist of rubber, crepe, and leather.
Rubber soles have the most to offer regarding durability and grip but aren’t necessarily the best option for shoes worn during formal occasions. Crepe is a type of textured rubber (and of cheaper quality) that doesn’t last as long as other sole materials.
Leather soles represent the pinnacle of dress shoe sole design and often feel fantastic on your feet. The main downfall of leather soles is that they don’t provide a great deal of traction on floors in which moisture is frequently prevalent.
A shoe’s brogue refers to its decorative patterns and perforations. The original purpose of brogueing was to provide perforations that let water escape (always helpful when walking during or after a rainstorm) but it’s now as much about style as it is anything else. Let’s take a quick look at some dress shoe brogue types:
Also known as a full-brogue, this class design extends around to the outside of the shoes and is instantly recognizable.
The semi-brogue, aka the half-brogue, features a design along the seam of the toe cap as well as decorative broguing on the center of the toe cap. It provides a more subtle look than full-brogueing.
- Quarter brogue
The most subtle form of brogueing, the quarter brogue features decorative brogueing along the seam of the cap toe.
- Longwing brogue
Derby shoes typically sport a longwing brogue. The derby shoe includes shoelace eyelets sewn on top of the vamp of the shoe, i.e., the front part of the shoe that starts behind the toe and extends around the eyelets and tongue.
7. SHAPE OF THE TOE
As a general rule, the toes of dress shoes should be rounded – especially if you plan to wear them for professional workplace or formal occasions.
The same rule applies to buying shoes as it does to any other product: you don’t always get what you pay for. You should consider your budget before purchasing dress shoes, but how much you spend will, in many cases, determine their overall quality. The highest-quality dress shoes sometimes cost as much as $300, or more, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find excellent, perfectly-functional shoes at a lower price.