While we’ve got no problem with stepping into a different pair of shoes every day of the year, there are a few styles that should anchor any modern man’s footwear collection. Read on to make sure you’ve got the basics covered.
The classic lace-up Oxford leather shoe is the single most important dress shoe a man can own. Equally adept for work and play, it’s the sort of shoe you can spend a little more on without guilt, because it won’t date: it’s been the dress shoe of choice since the late 1800s, when it’s rumoured a group of students got sick of lacing their high-top boots each day.
The old saying goes that you shouldn’t wear brown in town, but we think it’s time to loosen the rules up a bit and let you figure out your own sartorial compass. As a guiding principle, stick with black shoes for black suits (especially black tie) and brown shoes for denim or chinos. Grey and navy suits offer a little more freedom: a conservative workplace or dress code will appreciate the more formal black, while brown is perfect for casual Fridays or weekend hijinks.
I’ve got them. What next?
While Oxfords are the most classic example of a dress shoe, there an array of more playful and fashion-forward styles. We suggest investing in a pair of Brogues (‘broguing’ is the craft of perforating leather and channels a more relaxed, European vibe) for smart-casual events and relaxed weddings, and a more modern dress shoe, such as those with a single or double ‘Monk Strap’.
The loafer, a symbol of Italy’s more laid-back tailoring landscape, has enjoyed a welcomed resurgence in recent years. The most common incarnations are the traditional penny loafer and the tasseled loafer, though more casual styles (for summer wearing with shorts) are also available.
Most of your wear will be party-based, so we think it’s a good shoe to have some fun with, by opting for brown, navy or something more unique, like taupe or burgundy. In terms of the material, tradition suggests leather for summer and suede for winter, but we don’t think you should get too hung up on it.
I’ve got some loafers but now what?
The easiest way to wear a loafer will be with a pair of chinos or tailored cotton pants, paired with a statement blazer, but it doesn’t need to stop there. A quick browse of social media and you’ll find that it’s perfectly acceptable to wear your loafers with a suit (just be wary that your boss mightn’t be on board with the modern Italian fashion scene).
If you’re going down this route, ensure the hem of your trouser is tapered and cropped high above the ankle with “no break” (a tailoring term which means there is no crease in the trouser): nothing ruins the style more than a pair of flappy pants ending loose and covering some of the shoe. This is particularly important if you’re wearing your loafers without socks and pretending you’re on the Amalfi Coast.
- Chelsea Boot
When you’re looking for a shoe that you can get a lot of wear out of, it’s difficult to look past the versatile Chelsea boot. Pair it with blue denim and a tee for a stylish trip to the local watering hole, or wear it with cream chinos and a navy blazer for a garden wedding. It’s one of the few shoes that you can, hypothetically, wear just about every day (save for a black tie event).
The best part is that a quality pair of Chelsea boots will last you a lifetime. With a bit of polish and care, they’ll get even better with age, as the leather wears in and a few scuffs add to the personality of the shoes.
I wear my Chelsea Boots to dinner every Saturday night. What’s new?
Next time you’re wearing a suit, try and substitute a pair of Chelsea Boots in for your Oxfords. It’s a look favoured by politicians (don’t hold that against it) and we think it’s a uniquely Australian riff on modern European style. Just remember that colour coordination is still essential: brown Chelsea boots will never work with a black suit.