Building A Classic Wardrobe: Dress Shoes
Anchoring a thoughtfully curated wardrobe are choice shoes. A well-coordinated ensemble can be detracted from by poor footwear. The late menswear designer, Hardy Amies remarked, “it is impossible to be well dressed in cheap shoes.” Conversely, a dour outfit could be somewhat pardoned if complemented by fine shoes. Some say you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes. So for a gentleman to be judged fairly, he’s advised to be literally well heeled (pardon the pun), by investing in quality selection of footwear.
For starters, there are two most common shoe construction types: Goodyear Welted and Blake stitching. Of these, English bench-made English Goodyear Welted is arguably the most preferred, allowing for sturdy designs, while Blake is favoured by Italians makers for their elegant loafers and drivers. With the Goodyear welting, the upper can be easily stitched on and removed from the sole. The construction peculiar to Northampton, England the traditional home of shoemaking. Here, the hands of skilled artisans produce limited qualities per run. As such, a gentleman looking to invest in such quality shoes, should expect to pay a starting price of ₤300.
Here are the recommended starting five:
Plain or cap-toe Oxfords (in black calf leather)
Otherwise called Balmorals, they come with closed lacing and are the most formal and elegant men’s shoes. They can be worn to the office, formal occasions like weddings, funerals. Most business suits will go with them. As shown in the first roll, the black shoe on the left hand side.
Full-Brogue Oxford / Derbies (in brown grained leather)
Derbies also called Bluchers by Americans are open lacing shoes. They are more versatile but better paired with less formal or smart casual wear e.g. flannel, cords, sport coats, etc.
Plain or Penny Loafers (in tan/dark brown/chocolate leather)
These without lacing or strap are designed for easy slip on with or sans socks. These are less formal and go best with khakis, jeans, but could still be worn with odd jackets. They also work with native dress. Keep it plain and simple for now; buy snaffle bits and tassel loafers later.
Single Monkstraps (either in copper or brown suede or leather)
So named for its semblance to the buckle fastening on sandals worn by Orthodox monks. So, for a gentleman looking for shoes that comfortably straddle the divide between formal oxfords and casual loafers; the monkstraps are the go-to pair!
Lace-up boots or Chukka (in nubuck or snuff suede)
These are hard wearing boots meant for both casual or dress down days or when you are travelling as they offer more comfort due to design and soft lining materials. They often come with vibram or rubber soles. You can easily wear them with chinos, heavy cotton trousers.
- Avoid odd shapes like square toe or too pointy toe shoe…remember you’re building a classic wardrobe not pantomime costume!
- Stick with natural and earthy colours and tones. Experiment after sorting the basics
- Don’t wear the same pair two days in a row; rotate for even wear and recovery.
- Use shoe trees to help retain the shoe shape and absorb moisture.
- Wear socks, especially with formal pairs; you can go sockless with loafers
- Take care of them by investing in quality shoe care products like Saphir
- Serious about your shoe game? Look for English bench-made brands e.g. Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, George Cleverley, John Lobb, Cheaney, Loake. Other European continental brands like Vass, Corthay, Berluti, Bontoni can come later.
- Consider these good investments. With good care, expect to get 10-15 years of solid service from each pair.
Now you’re ready to step out in style.
Keep upping the style ante!
Segun Obagbemi has a keen and studied interest in classic menswear and personal style. He runs an image consulting company, The Sensebox Nigeria.You can view his Instagram page, @metamorphostyle