Curious about which shoes to pair with business casual outfits? Look no further than this comprehensive guide.
Business casual has been the favored dress code for over twenty years, and this trend is not likely to change anytime soon. Although offices may have adopted a more casual approach to dress recently, business casual still holds its position as the official dress code.
In our guide to business casual, we delved into the history of this iconic dress code and its present-day interpretation in the workplace. We also provided outfit ideas and highlighted appropriate footwear for the office.
In this article, we further explore the subject of footwear selection for business casual attire. Your shoes are a crucial aspect of your outfit, capable of enhancing or detracting from your overall aesthetic, particularly in the office environment.
Is Business Casual Footwear Necessary?
If you work in a casual work environment where jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers are acceptable, you likely only need one or two pairs of dress shoes. These shoes can be reserved for formal occasions, such as interviews, weddings, and funerals.
However, if your job calls for business casual attire, it's best to have a rotating selection of three or four pairs of business casual shoes, at minimum.
We recommend that every man have at least one pair of shoes that are suitable for a business casual office.
What Not to Wear
Good style is like an excellent referee - it often goes unnoticed, but it rarely makes mistakes. To avoid fashion faux pas in the workplace, avoid wearing these shoe types:
- Athletic shoes, such as running shoes
- Sandals, flip flops, or espadrilles
- Work boots, unless they are dressy enough to pair with chinos or nice jeans (fitted, dark wash, and free of distressing)
- Boat shoes or patent leather shoes
- Velvet slippers, unless it is theatrically appropriate
For example, the Allen Edmond Higgins Mill Boot would work well with a business casual outfit, but the Dr. Martens 1460 boot would look out of place.
8 Suggested Business Casual Shoes
Now that we've covered what not to wear, let's explore the best business casual shoes for men.
All shoes pictured in this article are from Beckett Simonon. Keep in mind that while all of these shoes are appropriate in a business casual setting, they vary in formality.
For formal office environments, sneakers are generally not considered appropriate attire outside of casual Fridays. However, when it comes to dress shoes, there are a variety of styles and designs to choose from. Let's take a closer look at two popular options.
Option #1: The Oxford
Formality Level: Highly formal, ideal for sleek business attire and formal events such as job interviews, weddings, and funerals.
Defining Characteristics: A closed lacing system.
Oxfords are easily distinguishable by their eyelets, which are stitched beneath the vamp to create a clean and polished appearance. With the exception of velvet slippers or patent leather wholecuts, Oxfords are among the most formal "dress shoes" you can find. That being said, not all Oxfords are created equally. A plain-toe leather Oxford shoe can be worlds apart from a cap-toe suede Oxford with decorative broguing. Fortunately, nearly any style of Oxford can be suitable for business casual wear.
If you find most Oxfords to be uncomfortable for stand-up wear, you might consider selecting a "hybrid" dress shoe from a brand like Amberjack.
Option #2: Brogues & Wingtips
Formality Level: Slightly less formal but still dressy, perfect for situations that require a touch of class without appearing too austere.
Defining Characteristics: Decorative perforations on the upper or toe.
Despite being commonly referred to as a shoe type, "brogues" is actually a misnomer. Broguing or decorative perforation can be found on any shoe regardless of its design.
Because they incorporate a decorative feature, brogues and wingtips are more casual than plain dress shoes and even cap-toe dress shoes, contributing to their suitability within a dressy-but-not-too-dressy workplace. Many gentlemen prefer some ornamentation on their shoes, which means brogues and wingtip dress shoes pair well with business casual attire.
The stylish and comfortable wingtip shoes feature an additional leather piece at the toe that makes a “W” shape above the upper. They are ideal for casual dress occasions.
The derby shoes, also referred to as bluchers, have open lacing construction with eyelets sewn on top of the vamp. Compared to oxfords, derbies have a less streamlined and more casual profile. If you are feeling constricted in oxfords, you can opt for derby shoes, which are more comfortable for people with high insteps.
Loafers are slip-on shoes with no laces and a formality level ranging from formal to casual. Penny loafers are the most common type of loafer, with a classic slip-on design ideal for both casual and dressy occasions. Loafers come in all colors, sizes, and shapes and can be paired with any clothing like jeans, trousers, and chinos.
Monk strap shoes have a dressy formality level and can be worn with both smart casual and formal outfits. With less decoration than non-adorned oxfords and derbies, monk straps are the ideal shoes for a fashionable and comfortable look.
The defining characteristics of monk strap shoes include the absence of laces, with single or double buckle straps instead. These shoes have gained immense popularity over the last few years and show no signs of dwindling anytime soon.
Although frequently deemed a formal footwear option, monk straps are, in fact, less formal than plain toe or cap toe Oxfords, making them incredibly versatile and perfect for business casual settings. They can be paired with trousers, chinos, and jeans, and are an excellent choice for those who want to stand out from the rest.
Dress boots are ideal for year-round wear, with above ankle height and an Oxford or derby construction. They tend to be less formal than dress shoes, making them appropriate for business or smart casual occasions. During fall and winter, they provide more coverage and warmth than low-cut shoes. These boots pair well with jeans, chinos, trousers, and even suits.
Similar to dress shoes from the ankle down, dress boots should be worn in formal settings only if they are dressy and not chunky or matte finish.
Chelsea boots, with above ankle height and an elastic side panel that replaces laces, come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, making them versatile enough to range from dressy to casual. They are not ideal for formal occasions but offer great practicality in their laceless construction. Pairing well with formal outfits, finding appropriate Chelsea boots is not a difficult task.
For a smart-casual to formal appearance, consider donning a sleek and polished pair of Chelsea boots with your outfit. They possess a refined style that is perfect for wearing with suits, so long as you find a pair with a smooth silhouette and a polished finish.
Another shoe to keep in mind is the chukka boot, which is similar to the Chelsea boot but with an ankle-high style and 2-5 pairs of eyelets. They are made from various materials, such as leather and suede, with some styles being too casual for formal environments – like desert boots with unstructured uppers and crepe soles. On the other hand, some chukka boots work well with dressy jeans, chinos, or slacks, and can even be paired with suits – though it's better to go with proper dress shoes for very formal settings.
Lastly, sneakers can be appropriate for smart casual to very casual outfits, depending on the occasion and environment. They might not be suitable for business casuals, but they are becoming more acceptable in modern offices, particularly in cities and coastal regions. If you choose to wear them for casual Fridays, opt for plain and minimal sneakers, such as the Koio Capri, and avoid more branded or flashy options like Stan Smiths.
Stick with high-quality leather or suede sneakers in solid colors, and pair them with tapered jeans, chinos, or wool trousers for a sleek look. Although it's possible to wear a jacket with sneakers, it's not recommended that you try an entire suit with sneakers unless you are confident in your ability to pull it off.
How Many Shoes Do You Really Need?
As with many fashion-related questions, the answer to this one is subjective. However, let's examine a hypothetical scenario.
Let's say you have the following schedule for the week:
- Monday - You have an important meeting with your boss's boss, and you need to dress up for the occasion.
- Tuesday through Thursday - You have no important meetings these days and can wear what you like.
- Friday - Casual Friday at work, followed by drinks with colleagues.
- Three pairs of shoes are enough for a week like this:
- On Monday, you may want to dress up by wearing a pair of dressy loafers and donning a jacket.
- From Tuesday through Thursday, you can change things up by wearing either Oxfords or derby shoes, depending on what you choose to wear and how you feel.
- Finally, on Friday, grab your suede Chelsea boots for a comfortable and casual look that will see you through happy hour and beyond.
- Remember that you can wear all of these shoes outside of work too, so you don't need to buy shoes specifically for work.
Some shoes, such as the chukka boot, are suitable for almost any occasion, from casual to business casual.
If you work in a business casual environment, you can keep your shoe collection streamlined.
FAQs about Business Casual Shoes
Here are some frequently asked questions about business casual shoes and their answers:
What Defines Business Casual Shoes?
- Business casual shoes are those that you wear with business casual attire, which is in between casual and formal.
Which Shoes Are Suitable for Business Casual?
- Many shoes go well with business casual attire: Oxfords, brogues, derbys, loafers, chukka boots, Chelsea boots, dress boots, and monk straps are all excellent choices.
Are Boots Appropriate for Business Casual Clothes for Men?
- Chukka boots, Chelsea boots, and dress boots are great options for business casual wear.
Are Joggers Appropriate for Business Casual Clothes for Men?
- No, joggers are too casual for a business casual outfit.
Are Vans Acceptable for Business Casual Clothing?
- Most styles of Vans are too casual for business casual outfits and are better reserved for casual Fridays.
Can I Wear White Sneakers for Business Casual Clothing?
- Although white sneakers may be acceptable for some offices, it's best to wear them to casual Friday events.
Are Lace-up Boots Suitable for Business Casual Attire?
- There are dress boots that are designed for business casual attire and look great with it.
You now have a better understanding of the appropriate footwear for business casual attire. Take a look at your current shoe collection and decide whether you need any new pairs or can do away with duplicates.
Remember that shoes are an important part of any outfit, particularly a business casual one, so choose a pair or two that fits your needs.
If you have any queries or comments in this regard, please leave them below.