Your shoelaces serve more than the essential function of keeping your shoes securely fastened. They can also complete the overall look of your outfit. The style and shoe color you go for, and even how you opt to tie them shouldn’t be overlooked or considered as an after-thought. It can be every bit as noticeable as the shoe itself, especially when it comes to the elegant and stylish look of your favorite dress shoes.
Chances are you won’t have more than two pairs of expensive lace-up oxfords in your wardrobe. The good news then is that by changing the color and styling of your tie up laces, you can often create the effect of wearing an entirely new shoe. How easy and inexpensive is that? The great thing about shoelaces is they're just as easy to take out as they are to put in, so learn a few new techniques with how to fasten them.
Shoelaces have been around since time immemorial. Man has always shown his inventive and creative flair, and as early as 3000 BC, some rudimentary form of a shoelace has likely been in existence. Traditional laces have developed over time and have historically been made from all manner of natural fibers, from hemp and cotton to various forms of leather. If you could manufacture rope from it, usually it followed that there was a shoelace made of the same material.
Even when we were little boys, we had to wear formal clothes to formal events. This also meant dressing up in formal lace up dress shoes. It was usually our dad’s job to tie the laces, and I doubt there's a kid out there who actually paid attention to the process.
But as we get older and become adults, there are no excuses for not knowing how to tie our dress shoes correctly. Unless all you ever wear are sneakers, of course. To answer the fundamental question, dress shoes DO need to be tied, and there's no excuse for wearing them untied for any occasion.
Where Shoelaces Came From
Before we get started on the ins and outs of tying your dress shoes, you may be interested to know a little bit about where this idea of tying shoes came from. As far back as about 3,500 B.C, people have been using different materials such as hemp, rawhide, and other similar kinds of materials to tie shoes. There were many situations even back then in which laces were needed to help keep different types of shoes on the feet of their owners.
The kind of shoelaces used was different depending on the sort of shoe they were being used with. Not all shoelaces work well on all types of shoes. It could also often depend on the region the people lived in. Naturally, not all styles of footwear will work in all environments. Just like today, using the wrong type of shoelace on a particular kind of shoe would have been considered inappropriate.
Different Shoelace Styles
Today, there's an even wider variety of shoe styles and unique laces out there. It's important to not only know what types of laces go with each shoe but also how to tie those laces. Naturally, you don't want to go about tying a pair of Oxfords in the same way that you'd tie a pair of Vans skater-style shoes. That would be a way to get some curious looks for sure!
Luckily, when you go in to purchase a new pair of dress shoes, there will be plenty of examples on display to look at for an idea of what you need to do. Otherwise, there's no shame in asking a professional if you're new to dress shoe lacing. It's essential to keep in mind that having sloppily-tied dress shoes is even more of a faux pas than it would be with something like sneakers.
Lacing and Tying Standards for Dress Shoes
When it comes to the sophisticated and elegant nature of the dress shoe market, shoelaces do matter. The last thing that you want to do is ruin the overall aesthetics of your shoes with a pair of thin, cheap, and downright nasty laces! You need your laces to be 31.5 inches long, made of waxed cotton ideally. Preferably, especially for an Oxford-style dress shoe, round and thin as these are easier to thread and more resilient so they shouldn’t break.
The most formal dress shoes, the Oxfords, are characterized by a closed-lace system, meaning that the laces close up the shoe and keep it securely and comfortably around your foot. The usual way for lacing Oxford shoes is the straightforward bar lace or straight-laced way. This is considered the traditional, formal style and the only recommended method for tying the formal Oxford dress shoe.
The tying of the formal Oxford dress shoe also needs to be elegant and tidy. Depending on the shoelace, the top knot will look like a bow, adding to the elegance of the shoe.
Another type of dress shoe that requires lacing and tying is the Derby shoe. Derbies are considered less dressy than Oxfords but are still formal business attire and are also appropriate to wear in more laid-back combinations. The lacing of the Derby shoe is usually done in a crisscross style. This is considered to be a less formal and more laid-back style.
The crisscross style of lacing is the most secure type of lacing and has the most “holding” power. This is common with the Derby shoe. The design of the Derby shoe is an opened lace system, and the crisscross lacing style fits perfectly with the design of the shoe. There is, of course, nothing wrong with the bar lace (straight lacing) system for lacing and tying them.
How to Tie Your Shoes: See Video
Types Of Shoe Laces
Laces are supplied when you get a new pair of dress shoes, but you should not limit yourself to just the one pair of laces. You can certainly add a little “wow” effect to your old shoes by simply using new laces, even in a different color.
The best quality laces that should be used with the most formal dress shoes, like the patent leather Oxfords, should be made from waxed round cotton string. They should be thin enough to fit through the small eyelets of the formal Oxford shoes, but strong enough not to break or disintegrate when tied securely.
Another style of laces which is appropriate for lacing dress shoes is waxed flat cotton laces. These are more common for less formal events and used with shoes like the Derbies, wingtips or other styles of less formal brogues. The flat lace also needs to be thin enough to fit through the eyelets of the Derbies snugly and strong enough to withstand secure tying.
The athletic nylon lace is NEVER appropriate to use for lacing and tying dress shoes, as this is only appropriate for tying sneakers or running shoes.
Colored Shoe Laces
The easiest and least expensive way to refresh a dress shoe is to change the laces. But what colored shoelaces should you select? And at what length?
To select the length is easy, just copy the length of the existing laces. You should know that choosing the appropriate length is essential. Laces that are too short will not properly secure your shoe on your foot. Laces that are too long will interfere with walking and look inappropriate.
When it comes to selecting the color of the laces, you can choose the same as the old ones, but this can be a little boring. To refresh the look of the shoes, choose a color from laces that are closely matched in black or brown that will complement the shoe. Or go wild and pick completely different colorful shoe laces, for example wearing black shoes with dark purple or grey laces, or brown shoes with dark green shoelaces. Today you can find shoelaces in all colors, so you can go crazy and get a few different colored laces and wear them on various occasions.
We have to note here that for lacing the most formal patent leather Oxford dress shoes, you should use silk or polished waxed cotton round laces that are tied into a little bow on top of the shoes. This will give you an exquisite look to match with any tuxedo suit or similar formal outfit.
When wearing a work suit, you can use laces in plain cotton that match the color of the shoe. For more laid-back occasions, the dress shoes can be laced with some more “fun” colored laces.
Options for Tying Dress Shoes
As an alternative for a dress shoe, a thin flat lace is also appropriate. These will create a bolder and more individual aesthetic and bring some extra personality and character to your traditional styled dress shoes.
Many people don't realize there's a multitude of choices when it comes to tying dress shoes. There are different ways to tie dress shoes, and the correct method depends on the style of the shoe and the occasion you're preparing to attend.
We have mentioned straight-bar lacing and the crisscross as the most common styles of lacing dress shoes. These are among the most common options and tend to be the easiest to complete. However, there are a few more options out there as well that might spice up your look a little!
Over Under Lacing
This style of lacing is rather simple but results in an exciting look on your shoes. It creates a series of X's down the length of your shoes. There might be a couple of X’s or a more extended line depending on the shoes you wear. At the top, you'll tie them in a tight bow as you would normally. Make sure it's tight to ensure it won't come undone!
Vice Versa Lacing
In this style, you get a single line at the top going across the shoe opening, followed by the laces simply moving down vertically into the next holes, followed by another horizontal crossing. It sounds more complicated than it is, so make sure to take a look at some examples to get an idea of how to tie this one correctly!
Aside from these, there are many more options out there that you can try out to see if it suits your unique style! You may want to practice a few of them before selecting a method that fits you best.
Above we've answered the fundamental question: YES, dress shoes need to be tied. While the top knot or two-loop is the standard shoelace knot, the critical aspect that adds to the elegant or laid-back look of the dress shoes is the lacing style. Straight lacing and crisscross lacing are the most common types, but for a less formal look, you can select any other way to lace up your dress shoes.
Don’t forget that high quality shoe laces will also come in a variety of different color options too, which can also be an excellent way to inject a bit of your personality and unique style into your look. That way, you can still enjoy wearing your more formal dress shoes while making them look more contemporary and casual. You can swap out the usual formal laces for something with a splash of complementary color, perhaps to co-ordinate with a tie or shirt you're wearing.