When it comes to completing a polished ensemble, there is no denying the importance of a great pair of formal shoes for men. From traditional monk straps to bold derby shoes, there are endless options to choose from. Whether you're attending a cocktail party or simply want to elevate your everyday style, finding the perfect pair is essential. In this article, we will explore the 21 best dress shoes for men, delving into the key styles and showcasing the ultimate investment pieces that are sure to make a statement. Get ready to step up your shoe game and achieve the perfect finishing touch to any outfit.
Exquisite Traditional Monk Straps
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When it comes to formal shoes, Jim O’Brien, co-founder of Cleobella based in Huntington Beach, Calif., values versatility above all. He appreciates the adaptability of the single monk strap style, which can serve different purposes, from weddings to dinners out. O’Brien also praises the remarkable comfort that these shoes offer, especially considering their firm construction.
Durable Double Buckles for Lasting Appeal
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For individuals seeking longevity and sturdiness in their footwear, double-strap shoes with antiqued leather treatment are an excellent choice. These shoes are designed to withstand the rigors of time, with deliberate darker dye deposits at areas like the toe and heel which tend to show signs of aging early. The varying shades of brown make them suitable for any occasion, creating a fashion statement that exudes both timeless elegance and durability.
The Stylish Allure of Bold Derby Shoes
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Wes Sharpton, lead brand educator and stylist at Hairstory, residing between Catskill, N.Y. and New York City, appreciates classic shoes with a unique twist. The visually captivating leather lug sole style offers a tasteful and attractive design without being overly ostentatious. The added height from the 1.75-inch rubber soles elevates the overall aesthetics of the shoes.
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Looking for a shoe that combines functionality with style? This under-$100 find from Rockport, a renowned brand recognized for its comfort-focused designs, features slightly subtler lug soles compared to other options. The classic lace-up design, typical of traditional men's dress shoes, is complemented by rugged rubber soles, making a bold statement regardless of the formal outfit.
Elegance and Quality Come Together
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For individuals who appreciate a traditional style, investing in this high-end footwear is the perfect choice. Celebrated antiques dealer Cole Myers, who operates Myers & Monroe in Kansas City, Mo., believes that when it comes to leather shoes, it is best not to compromise on quality. He recommends investing in the "pair of a decade" offered by this well-established English brand, which has earned prestigious accolades such as a Royal Warrant of Appointment in 2017. The Highbury Plain-Toe Shoe, which is also worn by Daniel Craig's James Bond, epitomizes timeless elegance. With proper care, these shoes will continue to captivate attention for years to come.
Vegan Minimalism for Ethical Style
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Nolan Beck-Rivera, an interior designer based in Richmond, Va., and owner of the home goods shop Jolene, is an advocate for ethical fashion. He recommends these vegan Oxford shoes, which are crafted without using any animal products. These timeless shoes effortlessly complement any ensemble. In addition, they offer exceptional comfort and boast the fact that no animals were harmed in their production. The Montreal-based brand Matt & Nat is known for utilizing eco-friendly materials, including biodegradable polyurethane, to create their products.
Stylish Leather Chukka Boots
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Cole Myers also highly recommends chukka boots, a stylish alternative to derby shoes. These boots offer a higher rise at the ankle, creating a visually captivating silhouette. Even when you're running short on time and have thrown together a quick outfit, wearing a pair of chukka boots will make you stand out effortlessly. This particular pair, with its sleek leather uppers and cushioned insoles, combines both elegance and comfort.
"One of my clients refers to me as 'Boots'," says Beck-Rivera, expressing his passion for these designer ankle boots by Saint Laurent. He explains that these boots make him feel like Johnny Cash and he has worn them almost every day. These boots feature an almond-shaped toe and are made of smooth black leather, giving them a formal appearance. The stacked heel adds a touch of rockstar style, while the interior zipper makes them easy to slip on and off.
O'Brien, a satisfied customer, considers these boots his go-to option for various occasions, whether he needs a dressier look or a casual outfit. These boots from Thursday Boot Company are known for their durability and versatility. Featuring rubber outsoles, steel shank construction, and treated leather that ages beautifully, they can be dressed up or down. With 13 colors and finishes to choose from, these boots can easily adapt to different wardrobe styles. O'Brien prefers the matte black option for a more formal look, while options like Dark Charcoal and Olive are perfect for casual attire.
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Sharpton, known for his work in the beauty industry, appreciates shoes that have personality and are easy to slip on. He highly recommends these Jil Sander leather Chelsea boots, describing them as amazing and comfortable. The rubber Vibram soles provide extra comfort, while the white hue adds attitude to any outfit. These boots are also available in black.
To achieve a dressed-up look with sneakers, it's important to choose a leather pair without excessive accents or logos. Rayne Parvis, a personal stylist based in Los Angeles, recommends ECCO's Soft 7 City Sneaker. These sneakers can be worn with dress clothes as a more stylish alternative to brown lace-up shoes. Clients praise their comfort and suggest removing the insert cushioning and adding custom orthotics for a better dancing experience.
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Parvis, along with other stylists and clients, highly recommends the Common Projects Original Achilles Leather Low-Top Sneakers. These sneakers have a subtle and elegant design, featuring a string of numbers on the side that has become a signature detail of the brand. With their versatile style, these sneakers can be paired with wool tailored trousers or pleated cotton trousers for a sophisticated look.
The Oxford shoe is considered the epitome of dress shoes, known for its sleek and polished appearance. While there may be variations like opera pumps, the Oxford is regarded as the smartest choice. Typically black in color, Oxfords have a closed lacing construction, distinguishing them from the more casual Derby shoe.
The most common style of Oxford is the cap toe, which features a capped toe and can be worn for various formal occasions, including business suits and black-tie events.
Another notable variation is the wholecut Oxford, crafted from a single piece of leather. While it showcases the quality of leather and the shoemaker's expertise, it maintains a similar level of formality to the cap-toe style. The wholecut Oxford often allows for unique patina techniques, resulting in a visually striking appearance.
The Derby shoe, also known as the Blucher in the United States, is often confused with Oxfords but is distinguished by its open lacing construction. Unlike the closed lacing of Oxfords, the Derby features flaps that house the eyelets and are sewn directly onto the upper, creating a more relaxed and comfortable fit.
While the Derby is considered less formal than the Oxford due to its construction, it can still be worn with suits, especially unstructured blazers and tailored trousers.
An offshoot of the Derby style is the suede buck, known for its plain toe and nubuck construction. This variation adds a touch of versatility to the Derby shoe, offering a more relaxed and casual look.
The Monk Strap
Monk strap shoes have gained popularity in recent years, often seen in well-dressed street style features. Instead of traditional laces, monk straps feature a buckle and strap closure system, adding a touch of elegance and uniqueness. There are two main variations: the single buckle and the double buckle, with the single buckle style considered the more formal option.
Usually taking the form of a cap-toe Derby, monk strap shoes provide a stylish alternative to traditional lace-up shoes. They come in various styles, from formal single-buckle designs with developed patinas to more relaxed double-buckle styles with thin soles. Monk strap shoes pair well with wool tailored trousers or pleated cotton trousers, creating a sophisticated look.
While loafers are commonly associated with casual footwear, they deserve a place on the list of dress shoes. Loafers, also known as slip-ons, have a rich history and are believed to have originated from the moccasins worn by Norwegian fishermen. G.H. Bass introduced loafers to the American market in the 1930s, popularizing them as a versatile and comfortable option.
Loafers come in various styles, including penny, tassel, horsebit, and Belgian. The slipper-like Belgian loafer is gaining popularity among those with a keen fashion sense. Loafers can be worn with more relaxed tailored attire, making them an excellent choice for summer outfits paired with light-colored suits and separates.
The term "brogue" refers to the decorative punched leather pattern applied to dress shoes. Broguing was initially intended to help water drain from outdoor shoes but is now purely ornamental. Brogues can be found in both Oxford and Derby styles, and the amount of brogueing indicates the shoe's formality.
There are various types of brogue styles to be familiar with, including the wingtip brogue with its characteristic 'M'-shaped pattern and the semi-brogue with brogueing along the toe cap seam. The longwing brogue features perforated detailing that extends to the heel.
The presence of brogueing typically indicates a less formal shoe, though more rugged outdoor boots may showcase extensive brogueing. Smarter Oxfords often have subtle brogueing details limited to the toe cap. The level of brogueing allows for a range of formality, making brogues suitable for various occasions.
If you're going to have only one pair of dress shoes in your closet, the oxford should be your top choice. This style is versatile and can complement even the most formal outfits, ensuring that you are always prepared for important work events or even a black-tie affair. The oxford's "closed-throat" construction, where the leather around the laces meets at the base and is sewn into the vamp, provides a sleek and pulled-together silhouette.
But you don't need to get caught up in the terminology. To identify an oxford, simply look at the top of the shoe near the eyelets. If it forms a "V" shape instead of parallel lines, you have an oxford that will give you a properly polished appearance for any dressed-up occasion.
Derbies, while slightly less formal than oxfords, are still a great option for a variety of suits and occasions. They may not be suitable for a traditional black-tie event, but they can effortlessly transition from jeans to tweed trousers. The open-throat silhouette of derbies, where the leather around the laces runs parallel and over the vamp, makes them versatile and practical for both formal and casual settings. If you're a guy who frequents suit-wearing occasions but also needs a pair of shoes that can work for date nights, derbies are a reliable choice.
When we refer to brogues, we are actually referring to the intricate detailing on top of the shoe, rather than a specific silhouette. Originally designed to let water drain out of shoes worn in muddy Irish bogs, the signature perforations on brogues are now purely decorative but remain a classic feature of modern dress shoes. Brogues are often also referred to as wingtips, with some styles featuring decorative "wings" that extend from the toe of the shoe. Longwings wrap all the way around to the back of the shoe, while shortwings wrap to about mid-foot. Brogueing can also be found on other design elements, such as cap-toes, and can be seen on various shoe types, including derbies, oxfords, monkstraps, and ankle boots. Ultimately, the choice of brogues depends on personal taste and preference.
Loafers were once considered too casual for pairing with suits, but those days are long gone. Now, slip-on loafers come in sleek and stylish designs that are perfectly suitable even for sharp two-button suits. Penny loafers and bit loafers are the most commonly seen iterations. Penny loafers feature a strap across the shoe with a cutout that, according to loafer lore, was intended for holding a penny (although this is likely just a fun story). Bit loafers, on the other hand, have a metal piece across the foot purely for decorative purposes but add a cool touch to the overall look.
Chukkas can be unpredictable in terms of formality. Some chukkas lean more towards a rugged aesthetic suitable for construction sites, while others can be as refined as the other styles mentioned. The key is to focus on a streamlined silhouette and high-quality construction. Typically shorter than average boots, chukkas have a narrow toe and clean lines that seamlessly blend with suit trousers. Look for chukkas with a not-too-chunky sole, and you'll have a versatile option that can be dressed up or down.
From Queen Victoria to Mods to Daniel Craig, the Chelsea boot has been embraced by British trendsetters throughout history. Although initially associated with the affluent Chelsea neighborhood in London, Chelsea boots have become a global and democratic style. These ankle-height boots, made of leather or suede, can be worn year-round and for both professional and casual occasions. They pair exceptionally well with fitted suits featuring tapered trousers, capturing the timeless appeal of iconic figures like the Beatles in the 1960s.
The 21 best dress shoes for men
To find the perfect dress shoes for you, refer to our comprehensive buying guide after reviewing the list.
AmberJack: Best overall dress shoes for men
AmberJack's shoes have garnered significant attention, with a 10,000 person waiting list due to their outstanding qualities. Being awarded the title of best men's dress shoe is no easy feat, and AmberJack's "The Original" lives up to the high standards. Crafted from premium hides sourced directly from American steer, these dress shoes offer buttery-soft sheepskin lining, heat-activated arch support, and an impressive level of quality. AmberJack proves that top-tier dress shoes can be accessible without unnecessary price tags.
Shoe style: Derby
Colors: A range including chestnut, honey & obsidian
Materials: Leather or suede
Hugo Boss: Best high-end dress shoes for men
Hugo Boss stands out as a leader in the world of high-end dress shoes, exemplified by their Italian-made vegetable-tanned calf leather Derby shoes. Combining suave style with impeccably soft leather and fine tailoring, Hugo Boss dress shoes elevate any look to the next level. Available in black and dark blue, these shoes add a touch of understated elegance to the most sophisticated outfits. Their natural patina only enhances their beauty with age.
Shoe style: Derby
Colors: Black, dark blue
Allen Edmonds: Best value men's dress shoes
Allen Edmonds offers dress shoes that represent excellent value for money. These shoes prove that quality doesn't have to come at a high price. Their Oxford dress shoes come in a wide range of colors, making it easy to find the perfect match for your outfit. The timeless cap-toe design with subtle seam details adds a touch of elegance, while the cork footbed molds to your feet over time for a personalized fit.
Shoe style: Oxford
Colors: Black, oxblood, walnut
Axel Arigato: Most comfortable dress shoes for men
Axel Arigato is renowned for its comfortable footwear, and their dress shoes are no exception. These stylish dress shoes are perfect for smart-casual occasions when you want something sleeker than traditional trainers. Made from smooth leather and featuring a cushioned footbed, they provide maximum comfort without compromising on style. The minimalist silhouette and subtle logo stamp make Axel Arigato dress shoes a top-tier option suitable for any occasion.
Shoe style: Sneaker
M.Gemi: Best slip-on men's dress shoes
Men's loafers offer a distinct style that effortlessly combines a perpetually on-trend look with comfort. The best loafers bring flair and comfort to smart-casual outfits, making them ideal for warmer months. M.Gemi stands out in this category, particularly their loafers known as "The Filare". Handmade in Toscana, Italy, these loafers are far more comfortable than they may appear at first glance. They exude Italian-style notes and are sure to impress wherever you wear them.
Shoe style: Loafers
Church's: Best Oxford shoes
Oxfords are a staple in any man's wardrobe, and Church's Pamington Oxford Shoes are among the best options available. Made from buttery soft leather and designed by a brand with nearly two centuries of expertise, these shoes offer the perfect combination of quality and style. With their attention to detail and almond toe, they are sure to impress in professional and formal settings.
Shoe style: Oxford
Colors: Black, brown
Johnson & Murphy: Best formal shoes for men
When it comes to seriously high-class events, Johnston & Murphy's Bradford Oxford stands out as the best men's formal shoe. These dress shoes are designed to impress, with a delicately patented design, subtle detailing, and a sharp toe. Made from soft leather, they are suitable for work events, luxury dinners, and other occasions where a high-key effect is desired.
Shoe style: Oxford
Oliver Cabell: Best casual dress shoes for men
For a casual dress shoe that strikes the perfect balance, Oliver Cabell offers the ideal solution. Their low-top luxury trainers, particularly the "frost" color, pair seamlessly with tailored trousers for a casual yet polished look. These shoes make a lasting impression and maintain their pristine white color. Made from Italian calfskin leather, they offer a smooth and comfortable fit.
Shoe style: Trainer
New Republic: Best smart casual dress shoes for men
New Republic's Kurt Leather Sneaker is the ideal choice when you're torn between black and white trainers. Featuring a thick white sole paired with a solid black body, these sneakers strike the perfect balance for smart casual events. A classic everyday fit, these sneakers are both comfortable and stylish. Hand-stitched leather ensures exceptional quality.
Shoe style: Trainer
Koio: Best business casual dress shoes for men
When it comes to business casual attire, a solid foundation begins with the right pair of shoes. Koio's Lucca shoe fits the bill perfectly. These desert boots can be dressed up or down, making them versatile for various occasions. Crafted from suede, they offer comfort, style, and a touch of sophistication. The hazelnut and root color options ensure a polished look.
Shoe style: Desert boot
Colors: Hazelnut, root
Santoni Polished Oxford: Best men's dress shoes for work
The best dress shoes for work should leave a lasting impression, even on days when you may not feel your best. Santoni's Polished Oxford accomplishes just that. These shoes exude polish and sophistication, with a slight heel that demands attention, a swish patent finish, and an almond toe. They elevate any business professional look, ensuring you're always on top of your game.
Shoe style: Oxford
Kingsman: The Best Dress Shoes for a Cocktail Party
When attending a cocktail party, it is important to find the perfect pair of dress shoes. These shoes must not only look good, but also provide comfort throughout the evening, allowing you to fully enjoy dancing, conversing, and whatever else the event may bring your way. In a similar way to how women's heels are designed, the best dress shoes for a cocktail party should offer a wonderful evening where your shoes become the last thing on your mind. One such option is Kingsman's George Cleverley Patent-Leather Oxford shoes. These shoes encompass all the necessary qualities, with the exception that they will never be forgotten thanks to the countless compliments you will receive.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Amberjack: The Trendiest Men's Dress Shoes
When it comes to dress shoes, there are ordinary options, and then there are Amberjack's Midnight Suede Chelsea Boots. These shoes reimagine the concept of a dress shoe by combining comfort, style, and coolness into one remarkable design. They effortlessly steal the attention of the room and allow you to tone down the rest of your outfit. Even if you pair them with your oldest dress pants and a slightly worn-out shirt, no one will notice, as long as you have these sleek and sophisticated boots on. The water-repellent suede material adds a touch of unmatchable style to this classic boot.
Shoe Style: Chelsea Boot
Colors: Midnight Suede
Scarosso: The Best Leather Dress Shoes for Men
It's easy to spot that most men's dress shoes are made from leather, but finding a pair as buttery soft as Scarosso's Jacob Brown Oxford shoes can be challenging. Crafted from calf leather, these shoes showcase a seriously soft texture and a rich chocolate brown color, instantly catching the eye from the ground up. With their almond toe, lace-up front fastening, and low heel, they encompass all the necessary features. Additionally, the smart logo of this well-established brand adds to their overall appeal.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Salvatore Ferragamo: The Most Elegant Men's Dress Shoes
When it comes to polished menswear, Salvatore Ferragamo stands out as one of the best in the industry. The brand's Gancini double-monk strap shoes exemplify this notion perfectly. Stepping away from the standard Oxford style, these Monk Strap shoes offer a stylish contrast while maintaining an impressive fusion of fashion and quality. Though these Italian-made dress shoes may carry a higher price tag, their exceptional craftsmanship ensures that one pair will last you for decades to come. You'll find countless reasons to wear them, and every time you do, you'll be met with a sense of luxury.
Shoe Style: Monk Strap
Clarks: The Best Black Dress Shoes for Men
When it comes to dependable dress shoes, Clarks has been a prominent brand for decades. Their range of perfectly designed shoes combines style, support, and budget-friendly prices, giving the impression of high-end footwear without breaking the bank. If you're specifically looking for black dress shoes for men, we highly recommend Clarks. The Atticus LTLace Black Leather shoes, in particular, offer a sleek and smart design in three different shades. With their lightweight and durable construction, they promise all-day comfort and effortless flair.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Colors: Black, Navy, Dark Tan
Hugo Boss: The Best Brown Dress Shoes for Men
Brown dress shoes can be a versatile addition to your wardrobe, effortlessly complementing a variety of outfits. Unlike black dress shoes that are usually paired with a black suit, brown dress shoes bridge the gap between gray and navy ensembles and can even provide a contrasting element to brighter colors. When it comes to sourcing high-quality brown dress shoes, Hugo Boss is a brand that stands out. Their stylish leather shoes feature a subtle grain effect, adding a touch of refined sophistication to an already impressive pair. These Hugo Boss dress shoes are sure to make a statement wherever you go.
Shoe Style: Derby
Dream Pairs: The Most Popular Men's Dress Shoes
Dream Pairs' Bruno Marc Moda Dress Shoes have managed to achieve the seemingly impossible in the realm of dress shoes. They combine comfort, a soft interior, a wide range of color options, and all this for under $50. While it is usually advisable to be cautious of long-lasting dress shoes within this price range, Dream Pairs has garnered a significant number of satisfied customers, reaching around 10,000. This seal of approval speaks volumes for the quality and value of these shoes. Made from vegan leather, they are not only eye-catching but also environmentally friendly. Complete with a subtle wooden heel and a classic brogue wingtip design, these dress shoes are a popular choice among discerning shoppers.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Colors: Brown, Tan, Black
Materials: Vegan Leather
Santoni Suede Oxford: The Best Modern Men's Dress Shoes
Dress shoes don't have to conform to patent leather and traditional formal styles. Modern dress shoes push the boundaries of fashion, offering designs that are more trendy and comfortable. In this regard, Santoni's Suede Oxford shoes stand out as a great option for those seeking to break away from traditional dress shoes. While these shoes lean towards a more casual style, their suede exterior and narrow toe make them suitable for certain formal occasions as well. While you may not wear them to a wedding, they would certainly make a statement at a smart dinner.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Rockport: The Best Budget Men's Dress Shoes
Rockport proves that budget-friendly dress shoes can still maintain excellent quality. With their full-grain or nubuck leather upper, the Rockport Big Bucks Margin shoes offer both affordability and durability. These are the kind of shoes that you will likely purchase once and treasure, only replacing them when they are truly worn out. The padded tongue and collar, along with the traditional lace-up closure, ensure that your feet remain blister-free throughout the day. These shoes provide all the essentials and more, making them a reliable choice for various formal occasions.
Shoe Style: Oxford
Colors: Brown, Chocolate, Black
Tom Ford: The Most Expensive Dress Shoes for Men
Tom Ford is known for producing the epitome of elegant menswear, and their shoes are no exception. The Elkan Smooth Leather Lace-Up Shoes are crafted from incredibly soft calf leather, expertly shaped into a masterpiece of a shoe. While some of the best things in life may come free, these shoes are worth the investment. Once you slip them on, you'll see how they effortlessly elevate the rest of your outfit. Walking into a room with these shoes will exude confidence, leaving a lasting impression with each step.
Shoe Style: Oxford
In conclusion, when it comes to choosing the best formal shoes for men, there is a vast array of styles to suit every taste and occasion. From the traditional elegance of monk straps to the durability of double buckles, the boldness of derby shoes, and the practicality of waterproof lug soles, there is something for everyone. Whether you prefer an elegant investment, a minimalist vegan option, a statement slip-on, or a sleek sneaker, the options are endless. Whatever your preference, investing in a quality pair of dress shoes is essential for any man's wardrobe. So, step out in style and make a statement with the perfect pair of formal shoes that will leave a lasting impression wherever you go.