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Our Guide to Men's Driving Shoes

Our Guide to Men's Driving Shoes

12 Nov 2020

Our Guide to Men's Driving Shoes

By James Shackell

Men’s driving shoes are a bit misleading, really. You don’t have to wear them while zooming along in a 1963 Aston Martin DB5, your off-white driving scarf flapping in the breeze. This is the real world, not The Italian Job. However, they are quite comfortable driving shoes, and they are steadily making a comeback. Guys are starting to appreciate a good-quality leather shoe, with a sturdy grip, that you can slip-on and slip-off whenever you get the urge. Driving shoes are like socially acceptable bedroom slippers.

What are driving shoes and where did they come from? What counts as a driving shoe and what can you wear with them?

We’ve got all the answers below. This is our ultimate men’s guide to driving shoes.

What are driving shoes?

As you might have guessed, driving shoes were created to be the best shoes for driving. Technically, they are considered driving moccasins or driving loafers that are leather, suede or nubuck, with a grippy, rubber grommet (which usually extends all the way up the back of the heel). They fall somewhere under the broad umbrella of slip-on shoes, with their laceless design and relaxed, flexible fit. A good pair of comfortable driving shoes should feel like foot gloves: so comfortable you almost forget you’re wearing them.

Balfort 2.0 Driving Shoes in Lizard Brown

The Origins of Driving Shoes

Driving shoes can be traced back to 1963, when Italian footwear company, Car Shoe, patented the first shoe specifically designed for driving. Wealthy, Ferrari-owning gentlemen didn’t want to dirty their pristine dress shoes while driving, and they needed more ‘touch’ over the peddles while still wearing stylish leather or suede shoes for driving. Driving shoes filled the void: sturdy enough for road-trips, with a thin rubber sole for maximum tactile control. Slip-on driving shoes went in and out of fashion over the next fifty-odd years, and they’ve always been more of a European style statement, but they've always been fashionable, while being the best shoes for driving, as they were intended to be.

Leather, Suede and Nubuck

Driving shoes come in three speeds: leather, suede or Nubuck. On the formal-to-relaxed spectrum, leather will be at the dressy end, with Nubuck in the middle and suede firmly set to the ‘casual’ end of driving shoe outfits. Which one you pick will probably depend on context. Driving to a fancy winery lunch? Go for our DAYTONA brandy loafers, with their embossed leather upper, or the lizard brown BALFORT driving moccasins. Weekend brunch with the guys? Maybe some suede driving shoes, such as the CALIFORNIA slip-ons. Dress for the occasion and you’ll be fine.

When To Wear Driving Shoes

Generally speaking, driving shoes are leisure shoes. That means movie dates, casual brunches, grabbing a coffee, or (yep) setting out on a roadtrip. It doesn’t mean corporate office, your best mate’s wedding, or steak dinner on your anniversary. Men’s driving shoes are meant to have a little personality, too. A bit of oomph. Don’t be afraid of jewel tones, interesting textures or even tassels. Anyone can wear Chukka boots under some chinos, but it takes some swagger to pull off an outfit with driving shoes. Lean into it.  

How To Style Driving Shoes

This is the big question, what do you wear with driving shoes? A lot of guys hear the word ‘moccasins’ and panic. But here’s a good general rule of thumb: think breezy. Driving shoes are all about comfort, effortless style, going with the flow. Think simple clean colours, for an outfit with driving shoes. Simply pair them with some slim-fit jeans (not painted-on skinny), or high-cuffed tan chinos and a crew-neck tee. Casual cotton shorts also work well. Avoid formal suits or anything too starchy, but summer linen suits can work in a pinch. You can even wear men’s driving shoes in winter: just match them with grey denim and an earthy knit jumper.

Socks or no socks?

As a rule, when deciding what socks to wear with driving shoes, we say you shouldn’t. Or at least not socks that anyone can see. Some invisible SETH socks are totally fine, especially if you’re worried about sweating straight into the leather, but steer clear of anything too high. You want those ankles on display. Another good tip is to take care of your driving shoes. They’re meant to look sharp and clean, not scuffed around the toes. Invest in some good quality shoe cream, and don’t forget to waterproof your slip-ons with protector spray. Take care of your driving shoes and they’ll take care of you.