A good pair of men’s leather shoes can really set the tone for your entire outfit. Think of brown lace-up dress shoes under a sharp suit. Or chunky military boots with slim-fit jeans. Or leather boat shoes with navy shorts and a polo. Each of these shoes sends a certain message. You can picture them in your mind, right? They kind of go together. That’s because certain leather shoes work better for certain occasions. There’s no wrong way to wear men’s leather shoes, exactly, but there are plenty of right ones.
This is our ultimate guide to leather shoes for any occasion. Lace up, and let’s get started.
First things first: a few quick notes on leather care. Men’s leather shoes, even casual leather shoes, are pricey for a reason. If you look after them, and treat them gently, there’s no reason they can’t last for most of your natural life. We’ve written an entire guide to leather polishing, but here are the basics. You should polish your leather shoes every few months or so, depending on wear. Just grab a clean cloth, a 100% horsehair brush, and some good quality leather polish, and start buffing. The more often you do this, the longer your shoes will last.
Suede vs Leather
You might have read about the whole ‘leather vs suede’ debate, but this is a bit misleading. Suede is a type of leather. It’s just got a soft ‘napped’ finish—that raised, slightly fuzzy feeling. Suede is made by sanding the underside of the animal hide, which is softer and more flexible than the outer layer, but way less durable. This is why suede maintenance is so important. All you really need to know is this: polished leather is generally more fancy, and suede is generally more casual.
Let’s start with the easy one – leather shoes in the office. This is what most guys picture when they think of men’s leather shoes: some high-shine Oxfords underneath a three-piece suit. And this is definitely one way to go. Our WOODLEY Oxford shoes are no-brainers for office-wear. But don’t be afraid to get creative either. A well-healed leather Chelsea boot, like the WARNOCK, is a great alternative to traditional Brogues or dress shoes. Just make sure to keep it black, or dark brown, with a slim line and chiseled toe.
Weddings and leather shoes go together like open bars and bad dance moves. There are plenty of options here, depending on your suit and the overall wedding vibe. At the top of the range, we have the MOTLEY leather dress shoe, hand-made in Tuscany, which is obviously going to complement pretty much anything. But you don’t necessarily have to with go lace-ups. A smart loafer like the ASCOTT or CAVARRA would work nicely, too. Generally with weddings, you want to avoid anything that looks too corporate – whether that’s your 9–5 work suit, or your standard black Oxfords. A little extra effort, and a big scoop of personality, goes a long way. (Hello, DUBLIN monk straps…)
We’re getting into casual men’s leather shoe territory now. For a day at the beach, you want something light, breathable and easy to slip on and off. That probably means no Chukka boots, no Chelsea boots, and definitely no derby shoes. There are two ways we like to go here. You can either whack one some very comfy espadrilles, with their light woven soles, or you can wear leather boat shoes. Boat shoes, like the MANLY, are going to look slightly more formal, while espadrilles with some cuffed jeans and a linen shirt are your classic, laid-back beach look.
Let’s be honest, your mates aren’t going to care what’s on your feet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look good on a road trip. For summer drives down the coast, we recommend something light and relaxed, like leather driving shoes or moccasins. For those winter trips into the mountains, you’re going to need something more sturdy. Leather military boots, like the INGRAM, can survive a quick jog across lava (don’t test us on that, just a figure of speech), or you can go with something slightly more snazzy, like sharp leather Chelsea boots or suede Chukkas. Just throw on some dark denim and a big jacket, and you’re ready to roll.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to leather pub shoes. One is substance, the other is style. It sort of depends what pub vibes you’re aiming for. Sticky floor and a cold pint of XXXX? Go with some no-nonsense CAIRO sand military boots and slim-fit jeans. You’ll blend right in. Gastro pub with chargrilled octopus on the bar menu? You want a smart leather ankle boot or high-topped suede Chelsea. Outdoor beer garden with the tunes pumping? Maybe a sharp leather sneaker, like the DECO. If in doubt, check everyone else’s ankles and go from there.