If you've been paying attention, you would have noticed a significant easing of dress codes in recent times. However, there are still many social and professional obligations that require you to step up your footwear game. Regardless of the situation, it is evident that shoes are a must-have.
We reached out to fashion insiders and professional stylists to get their recommendations on the best shoes to don for formal occasions. These are the pairs they suggest you get your feet into.
The classic monk straps
When it comes to formal shoes, Jim O’Brien, co-founder of Cleobella in Huntington Beach, California, keeps versatility in mind. He appreciates the flexibility of this single monk strap look, which can be dressed up or down for any event - from weddings to dinners out. Plus, they are exceedingly comfortable, particularly for a stiff shoe.
Durable double buckle shoes
These double-strap shoes have the same antiqued leather treatment that O'Brien favors, with darker dye deposits at the toe and heel to provide more longevity. The blend of light and dark brown makes them great for all occasions, according to O'Brien.
Daring Derby Shoes
Lead brand educator and stylist at Hairstory, Wes Sharpton, who divides his time between Catskill, NY, and New York City, expresses his adoration for a traditional shoe with a twist. He describes this leather lug sole style as being visually intriguing but not too overpowering. The 1.75-inch rubber soles provide additional height, which he finds attractive.
Water-Resistant Lug Soles
For a reasonable price of , these waterproof lug soles are a must-have. Available on Amazon, the Rockport Men's Northfield Oxford Black 8W are engineered to keep your feet dry even in the rainiest of days, with no mud or puddles penetrating through.
Looking for comfortable and versatile men's dress shoes that don't break the bank? Check out this under-$100 find from a popular brand. With a lug sole that's less chunky than other styles, these shoes offer a subtle touch of ruggedness without sacrificing traditional dress shoe aesthetics. The rubber soles make a statement while still remaining appropriate for formal occasions. Don't miss out on this opportunity to snag a great deal on a quality pair of shoes that will take you from the office to happy hour and beyond.
An Investment in Elegance
If traditional style is what you seek, then this upscale option is perfect for you. Antiques dealer Cole Myers, who divides his time between Paris and Kansas City, Mo., recommends this made-in-England favorite as "the pair of a decade" for those who don't want to compromise on quality. Cutting corners on leather shoes is never a smart move, and this brand has received a Royal Warrant of Appointment in 2017 and is the style of dress shoes worn by James Bond himself. Investing in quality over quantity is always a wise choice, regardless of budget. Polish them a few times a year, and you'll still turn heads five or 10 years after purchase.
These vegan dress shoes from Matt & Nat are perfect for the minimalist who prefers a cruelty-free option. At only , they offer a budget-friendly alternative to traditional leather options.
Step into sophistication with these vegan dress shoes that embody both style and sustainability. The Itoki Men's Vegan Dress Shoes from Matt and Nat, available for $145 (a $51 savings), are the epitome of timeless design. Without using any animal products, the clean-lined lace-up oxfords are not only fashionable but also comfortable. Richmond-based interior designer Nolan Beck-Rivera, owner of Jolene home goods shop, recommends them for their cruelty-free craftsmanship. He notes that the biodegradable polyurethane used in their construction makes them an earth-friendly choice.
For an alternative, consider these Wenge Suede Goodyear Welt Derbys from Heschung, available for $595 at Saks Fifth Avenue. The craftsmanship and quality of these suede shoes are unparalleled.
Myers perceives Heschung as a hidden gem amongst the array of leather shoe brands available to American shoppers. The boutique French label produces each pair of shoes with exceptional craftsmanship, using a reverse-welt construction technique that involves diligent stitching as opposed to gluing. The outcome is a stunningly beautiful shoe, with replaceable leather soles to guarantee longevity and offer an added touch of extravagance. Myers highlights the artistic appeal of such a shoe, asserting that "There’s an artistic side to wearing shoes that are that beautiful."
For those looking to make a statement, Myers recommends the dress boots with a higher ankle rise, which he claims to be his personal favorite amongst the varying leather shoe silhouettes. This style is essentially a derby shoe with an elevated ankle, providing a sleek and professional look that demands attention. Myers suggests that such a shoe is a style hack for the busy and harried, noting that these shoes make it possible to "look remarkable even if you’ve just thrown something on and darted out the door." The cushioned insoles ensure comfort, while the premium leather uppers deliver a chic and polished finish that makes them the perfect partner for any outfit.
Lastly, the Leather Chukka Boots designed by Gordon Rush stand out as a go-to item for those who desire stylish yet practical footwear. Priced at $265, these boots are available at Saks Fifth Avenue and feature a timeless design that ensures they will never go out of style. The boots boast leather uppers and a comfortable yet sturdy sole, offering versatility and durability for daily wear.
Beck-Rivera's clients fondly call him "Boots," and these designer boots explain it all. These Saint Laurent boots with a sleek almond toe and smooth black leather exude formal sophistication, while the stacked heels add a rebellious twist. "Wearing these boots is like a Johnny Cash tribute," says Beck-Rivera, "I've walked miles in them, and they're as comfortable as ever, thanks to their interior zipper."
Beck-Rivera's pointed-toe Chelsea boots with block heels are a fantastic alternative to his Saint Laurent favorites. The black leather finish and pointed toe combine formal and casual elements for a versatile look, while the side zippers add an edgy touch. "If you're not ready to drop a bomb on designer boots, these Chelsea boots are an excellent start," he says. "They're affordable, stylish and serve the purpose without compromising design and quality."
Multi-functional FootwearO’Brien has relied on these boots as a versatile footwear option that fits any occasion, from dressing up to casual wear. The treated leather is designed to improve aesthetically with aging, while the rubber outsoles and steel shank construction offer durability that can withstand work environments. With 13 colors and finishes, it’s easy to match different wardrobe styles, as exemplified by O’Brien choosing a matte black finish for more formal occasions, while Dark Charcoal and Olive go well with casual clothes.
Stylish and Practical Slip-ons3 at MyTheresa
These slip-ons make a statement while also being practical. With its sleek design, it’s easy to match different wardrobe styles, making it a versatile option for work or leisure. It’s made of durable leather, ensuring quality and fashionability for years to come. Perfect for those who want to blend style and substance.
Check out these stylish shoes that will elevate your footwear game:
For a pair of boots that are equal parts chic and comfortable, look no further than Jil Sander's leather Chelsea boots. These boots, which feature rubber Vibram soles and a sleek white hue, are a favorite of beauty industry insider Sharpton. He loves their unique flair and insists they're a must-have for anyone who wants to make a statement with their footwear.
If you're in the market for a pair of dressed-up sneakers, go for a leather pair that's minimalist and free of logos, such as ECCO's soft 7 city sneaker. According to personal stylist Rayne Parvis, these sneakers are ideal for formal occasions and even better when you replace the insert cushioning with your own orthotics. Clients rave about their comfort and stylish appearance.
Looking for luxe lace-ups that will add sophistication to any outfit? Consider the Common Projects original Achilles leather low-top sneakers, which feature a subtle numbering system rather than a flashy logo. These understated sneakers are a favorite of Parvis and other fashion-forward stylists, thanks to their dapper appearance and ability to add a touch of refinement to any ensemble.
For more laid-back gatherings, opt for dressy sandals like a pair of handcrafted huaraches. Beck-Rivera, for example, loves his handmade huaraches from Mexico, which he says are perfect for all sorts of formal events. The Nisolo men's leather huarache sandal in a charming tobacco color is a great choice for pairing with light-colored clothing like cream-colored linen.
Upgrade your shoe collection with these fashion-forward finds and step up your style game today!