When it comes to formal shoes, eachstyle of shoe serves a definite purpose. Wearing formal shoes outside their recommended purpose is fine so long as it’s appropriate. But we do not recommend taking this to an extreme such as by wearing opera pumps to work or a formal meeting.
Whether for work, meetings, weddings, social gatherings or just your local nights out, some formal footwear is a necessity for every man’s wardrobe. There are a number of formal footwear styles to be aware of and whichever you choose is entirely down to your own personal preference and the style that suits your fashion.
This guide will help you make wiser shoe purchasing decisions. Once you understand the available options, you’re already halfway there toward looking your best at any event.
However, before we step down to nuances in style, you should first understand the components that make up a shoe.
From front to back, a shoe consists of four parts: toe, vamp, facing and quarter. It’s the placement and construction of these four pieces that determine the individuality of a shoe.
There are 2 major families of laced shoes: Oxford or Balmoral (closed lacing) and Derby or Blucher (open lacing). To know the difference between closed lacing and open lacing, we need to understand the construction of laced shoes.
Oxfords are plain leather shoes with a closed lace construction, along with a low heel. These are the # 1 mandatory shoe every man must possess in their shoe collection. The shoelace eyelets are sewn under the vamp contributing to its professional look & construction. They have a closed lacing system which makes this shoe category win at formal shoe choices. A smooth leather marks the spine of an oxford shoe, oxfords may even have brouging making them an oxford brogue. It’s distinctively traditional & streamlined in its construction, allowing itself to be worn in the most formal occasions, like a black-tie event or for the opera. It also makes the best choice for extremely special & due occasions.
The Derby also known as the Gibson or the blucher are often miscategorized as Oxfords since their shapes are very similar and their differences are very subtle. The key difference between Derby’s and Oxfords is that the Derby shoe has its facing attached on top of the vamp. This is called “open lacing” and allows for a wider fit.This wider, comfortable fit winks at the Derby’s sporting roots and solidifies the Derby shoe’s positioning as more casual than the Oxford.
So if you plan to wear formal shoes over the course of a full day, and regularly, a pair of Oxford would be the ideal choice.
Slip-ons come in a huge variety of styles from smart, brogue-like slip-ons to your more casual suede boat shoes. There is no shortage of formal fashions in this department as any shoe is considered a slip on so long as the shoes don’t have laces. Slip-ons also cross categories with a lot of other styles, as you can get slip-on brogues, tassel loafers and Chelsea boots etc.
A popular classic, brogues are identified by their original stitch patterns and perforated design. There’s a huge variety of styles and shapes of brogues so there’s something to suit everyone’s style, no matter how unique. Brogues range from more casual suede shoes to formal, all-over polished black leather which is perfect for even the most formal of events. The common designs are full brogues (also known as wingtips), semi-brogues, quarter-brogues, and long wing brogues.
The loafer is a moccasin-inspired shoe that is known for its slip-on style. Loafers often have a saddle — a decoration that might be a plain strap, a strap with a slit (as with penny loafers), or a metal ornament. Tassels or a kiltie might hang from a saddle, while the minimalist loafer (the Venetian) has an exposed vamp without embellishment or ornamentation.
The Monk Strap
A Monk Strap is similar in shape and construction to an Oxford, but instead of an eyelet closure, it has a wide swath of leather fastened across the front of the shoe. This wide strap is fastened with either a single or double-buckle closure.
Mule is a style of shoe that has no back or constraint around the foot’s heel. Muleshave a history going as back as Ancient Rome, even though they were not popularly worn until sixteenth century Europe. They are no longer just boudoir shoes and are now worn any day and any occasion.
Which pair of shoes are you planning to wear for your next meeting?