Types of Dress Shoes for Men

Shoes are men's wardrobe staples and an essential part of our everyday attire. No matter what the occasion, weather, or dress code, shoes are something we'll all wear every day of our lives. The type of footwear we select is usually determined by the style of clothes and the circumstances we're dressing for.

The most popular men’s shoe is the dress shoe. The dress shoe is designed and intended to be worn for smart-casual, business-formal, formal, and special events. But as the times and trends change, classic men’s dress shoes have found their way into everyday outfit combinations and styles.

What are dress shoes?

No matter the style, all shoes have similar parts: The upper part consisting of a vamp, the front part of the shoe, and the quarters that cover the back side of the foot. The bottom part is called the sole and may consist of one or several layers of leather, natural rubber, or some artificial material.

Dress shoes definition

The first thing that defines a good dress shoe is the material from which it's made. The most common material for making men’s dress shoes is leather, but there are also non-leather men’s dress shoes available. Some of the more expensive ones even have leather soles. A more sensible choice for durability are soles made from natural or artificial rubber.

The classic dress shoe is made from several pieces of leather carefully stitched together that may or may not have some brogue details on them like punched patterns along with the stitching. Now, not all leather shoes are considered to be dress shoes. Every modern man should know the difference and get the appropriate pair for the occasion.

Types of Men’s Dress Shoes

There are several types of dress shoes, and we'll explain them each in reverse order of “dressiness.” From the most formal to the most casual men’s dress shoes.

The primary feature that distinguishes men’s dress shoe types is their manner of fastening. We should mention that these aren't the only styles of men’s dress shoes, but they're the most popular ones worn by men around the world.

Oxfords

The most formal men’s dress shoe is the classic Oxford shoe. This design is characterized by subtle lines and a closed lace-up system. The classic Oxford style dress shoe has a low heel and no details or decorations. The more high-end or bespoke Oxford dress shoes have leather soles.

The Oxford dress shoe doesn’t have much decoration and has a simple polished glossy or matte finish. While they come in several colors, the most formal Oxford dress shoes are usually in a black, highly polished (patent) leather finish with no embellishments.

While in most cases, these kinds of black dress shoes are pretty mellow in their design, you can find some that are a little brighter and livelier. In some cases, they can have more of a shine, come in unique colors or feature styles that appear more like alligator skin.

Depending on your tastes, there can be a large variety of choices out there that should provide something for everyone. Just make sure you have the perfect outfit to match the shoes you select!

Derbies

This type of dress shoe is similar to the Oxford but is considered less formal. While Oxford dress shoes have closed lacing, Derbies have the eyelets on the top of the vamp, giving them an open-lacing system. Standard Derbies usually come in black or brown.

When you don't need to take your formal dressing to the max, Derbies can be a great option. They allow you to look classy while offering some of the comfort features you might find in a pair of tennis shoes. They can be an ideal option for events and at work where a full suit isn't required.

You can also find these shoes in more basic designs, as well as those that feature the addition of a brogue texture. This can allow for a few more options, allowing people with different tastes to find what they need.

Wingtips

Another style of shoe, based on the classic Oxford men’s dress shoe, the brogue shoe, or wingtip shoe, is considered a business-appropriate dress shoe. The top cap distinguishes the brogue shoe. While they come in many shoe colors, the most popular ones are black and several shades of brown. They're less formal than the Oxfords or Derbies and are usually worn in a business environment.

There's a decent variety to the kinds of wingtip shoes you can find, from those with just a small touch of the brogue design to some with more elaborate decoration. If you're looking into this style of shoe, then it's important to keep in mind where you plan on wearing them and what you'll want to wear them with. It's a good idea not to go too over the top with the decoration.

Monks

Another style of men’s dress shoes, monks don’t have laces and are closed by a single or double strap with a buckle. The classic monk dress shoe is considered as formal business attire due to its wider heel and buckle. Today the monk dress shoe is usually worn by more stylishly daring people.

As the name dictates, these shoes did begin with olden-day monks who wanted to find an alternative to the traditional sandals. They can often be an excellent choice for those who are keen on avoiding shoelaces that may need to be retied multiple times throughout the day. You can also find these shoes in the brogue style, much like many other options out there.

Loafers

The classic loafer dress shoe is one of the least formal and most laid-back styles of footwear. These are put on by simply slipping them on your feet, as they don't have laces or buckles. Loafers are considered more business formal rather than fully formal attire.

If you don't want shoelaces and aren't a fan of the buckled look, these are a great way to go. They offer an easy, great-looking style that you can easily put on or take off. They also come in a pretty decent variety of designs to ensure that everyone gets what they're looking for. If you have an event that doesn't require the most formal option, this style of shoe can be a fantastic way to go!

Chelsea boots

The classic men’s boot, the Chelsea boot is another trendy design. Chelsea boots come in a variety of colors and with many possible details. However, the classic formal Chelsea dress boot is usually without any decorations or brogue details and is generally in the black leather finish.

These are a great option for those looking for a little more coverage. They travel further up the ankle, offering a bit more stability than other types of shoes. They're sometimes also offered in some more durable designs for those who require a little more foot safety without having to sacrifice a classy look. There are also laced and slip-on options to fit the needs of just about everyone.

Colors of men’s dress shoes

Men’s dress shoes are usually in colors such as black, dark brown, brown, burgundy, chestnut, cordovan, or white. While dress shoes come in many different colors, those mentioned above are the most recognized and most worn by men across the world.

Considering that the dress shoe is usually combined with a suit, dress slacks, or a tuxedo, the black or brown shoe are most likely to be chosen for this type of wear.  Be careful while you're shopping for your dress shoes to ensure you select a color that will work well with the clothing options you'll be wearing.

The meaning of dress shoes

Back in the day,  a gentleman needed to be dressed appropriately for every occasion, and it was rare to see someone break the style rules. In the 1800s in Scotland, the classic men’s boot was slowly replaced by lower-cut shoes, and the Oxfords were born. Classic attire was fashionably paired with shoes and other details, and this gave way to a trend, and that trend has continued until today.

Advice on Choosing the Right Dress Shoes

When selecting men's formal attire, remember to prioritize simplicity and elegance and choose accordingly. You can confidently wear any of the dress shoes mentioned above around the office. However, when faced with a formal event like the opera or a wedding, you can't go wrong with the classic Oxford dress shoe in black patent leather.

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  65. Thanks for the great content here! I like the bit of insight regarding styling these. Would love to see a follow up post about ways to go a little bit deeper and styling dress shoes in a way that can stand out and showcase personality.

    You have really strong information on lacing styles/systems as well which is appreciated!

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