Men's Shoes 101 – What type of Shoes to Wear with your Suit

We’ve talked about shoes before at SuitUpp. It’s important that your shoes and belt go together; but, is that all you need to know about shoes? As you might’ve guessed, there are a few more things that need to be considered. In this post, we’ll talk about different types of men’s shoes and what to wear when you are wearing a suit.

Some General Tips To Consider when choosing your Shoes:

Color:

Depending on the color of your suit, you will want to wear different color shoes. Specifically, if you are wearing a black, navy, or gray suit, black shoes are the way to go. Brown shoes go well with tan suits and some shades of navy. In general, black shoes do go with more suit colors and appear more formal than their brown counterparts.

Laces:

For more formal occasions, go for lace-up shoes rather than slip ons. Closed laced shoes are also preferred over open laced shoes.If you’re wondering what the difference is, closed laces are what you call shoes that have a V shape where they get tied together. Open lace shoes have more of a parallel shape where they are tied together.

Remember that when you are wearing dressy shoes, the laces should be tied horizontally as opposed to the criss-cross pattern most commonly associated with athletic shoes.

Texture:

Try to choose smooth and shiny leather shoes over Suede and nubuck. The latter type is considered to be less formal.

Soles:

Leather soled shoes are always preferred over rubber soled shoes. Remember, you can always repair the soles of your shoes if they need it.

Socks:

Try to wear thin socks that match the color of your trousers. If you are wearing a tan suit, your socks should match the color of your shoes.

So what type of shoes are there?

The Oxford Dress Shoe:
The gold standard of dress shoes, the Oxford features round toes, usually with a cap, and closed lacing. Plain cap-toe Oxfords are the most formal option for business wear, and can do double-duty as formal shoes.  Oxfords with broguing along the cap’s edge, or trimming the uppers, are still formal enough for a worsted wool suit; ‘full brogues’ are more appropriate with tweed or flannel. If you own one pair of dress shoes, they should be black Oxfords; Allen-Edmonds Park Avenue’s, made in the United States, are an irreproachable selection and well worth their price.
The Wingtip Dress Shoe
The wing-tip, with a brogued cap coming to a point at the center of the top curving back and down along the sides, is suit-level in black and business casual in brown. In the United States, it is associated by many with Ronald Reagan and the eighties in general, and in any country it is going to draw some attention to itself. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but it does reduce the shoe’s potential for frequent wear: while you might wear the same pair of brown Oxford’s three days a week without anyone noticing, the man who wears wing-tips more than weekly risks having them integrated into his reputation.
The Derby and Blucher
The derby is similar in shape to the Oxford, but bears open lacing. It is still appropriate for wear with a suit, and supports a khakis-and-blazer look more naturally than the Oxford. The blucher is a slightly sleeker open-laced shoe of similar versatility. Plain or with a brogued cap, these dress shoes will match a suit in formality; with more decoration they carry a blazer well. In suede, rather than smooth leather, these are among the best shoes to wear with jeans or khakis.
Boots
Dress boots bring some ruggedness to dress footwear, making them a worthy option in the winter. In addition, their slip on and off feature along with superior comfort make them a favorite among travelers and those not requiring the formality of the oxford. In the same family, but of a more regional nature, is the cowboy boot. Although men like former Texas congressional representative Charlie Wilson could pull this off, most men might want to skip on this unless they are an oil magnate.
Loafer and Monkstrap
Slip-on shoes are casual by nature. Those appropriate for business casual wear include bit loafers, with a mettle link across the middle; monkstraps, with a buckle closure; and penny loafers, with a slotted leather band across the top. Tassel loafers, which are exactly what they sound like, are accepted as business formal in some circles while relegated to weekend wear in others.
White Bucks
White bucks are Oxfords made of white buckskin, a rough leather than in reality is not exactly white. They are the traditional companion to the seersucker suit, and equally complement such summer fabrics as tan gabardine and white linen. Thus, they could be called professional between Memorial Day and Labor Day, or during whatever one considers summer.
Black Tie Dress Shoes
Patent leather Oxfords are the most formal of men’s shoes; they are standard with a tuxedo, and clash with most everything else. Opera pumps, shiny black slippers with a bow on top, are another option for formal wear.

The Oxford Dress Shoe

Oxford shoes are probably the most popular type of dress shoes. Any man should have at least one pair of black Oxfords. Round toes, a cap, and closed lacing are the characterizing elements of this type of shoe.

The Wingtip Dress Shoe

Wingtips are generally known for the W that is formed at the tip of the shoe. This type of shoe also comes with a brogued cap.

The Derby and Blucher

The Derby and the Oxford are similar. The main difference is that the Oxford is closed-laced whereas the Derby is open-laced. This type of shoe goes really well with a blazer.

Boots

If you live in a cold climate or see snow often, you’ll want to invest in a pair of dress boots. Boots generally do give you a more rugged look.

Loafer and Monkstrap

Loafers and slip ons are more casual dress shoes. They are generally acceptable attire for business; however, they are not the best choice for a formal event.

White Bucks

White Bucks are like Oxfords – except that they are made of white buckskin. These shoes are generally flashy and are more commonly worn during the summer months.

7 Comments

  1. 1

    praveen negi

    September 6, 2009

    11:27 am

    pls give me tips .

    which type of shoes wear?

  2. 2

    Jordan

    September 28, 2010

    6:20 am

    Mens health this month has an excellent in depth seciton on fashion, which includes a section on matching shoes with colors.

  3. 3

    Bernie

    June 23, 2011

    8:58 am

    What color shoes should be used with a brown tux?

  4. 4

    Matthew

    September 17, 2011

    7:06 am

    Question: With a slim fitted, subtle grey pinstripe suit (flat front, tailored/athletic pants/coat), I have to choose between my J&M Waverly wingtip balmorals or my Cole Haan Air Carter split toe blucher/derby (both black high shine) for a business meeting in NYC. I can’t find a dress captoe balmoral in time – and have to make a choice. Thoughts? Thanks!

  5. 5

    pete smith

    October 2, 2011

    1:59 pm

    with regard to wearing brown shoes with a brown tux, that would be OK if the shoes are dark brown. But, I would never wear a brown tux!!

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  7. 7

    Adam

    April 14, 2012

    12:01 pm

    I laught at all these rules. Some person one day came up with an idea and made it a rule since then: suit has to be worn with X type of shoes. More so, Y color has to be worn with Z color shoes. I say, who care? You got eyes, wear whatever the hell looks good to you…
    Personally I wear even skate or sport shoes with suit, haven’t died or get prisoned for this…

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