There is an old saying that says you can tell a lot about a man by looking at his shoes. Quality shoes always stand out in a crowd, and when it comes to formal occasions, nothing but the very best will do. Yet, there are so many questions: what colour do I wear? What style of formal shoes? Do they need to be lace-up shoes? That’s just the start! Below, we have some great ideas as to how and when to wear formal shoes, what colour and sort, and what is and is not acceptable (see different styles here).

Some Starter Tips

If you pick a gentleman’s fashion guide, you may find it includes this advice: never wear brown in town.

There was a time when this may have been the case – brown shoes in formal business situations may have been frowned upon as being a bit too ‘country’ – but nowadays it should be ignored.

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If you want to wear brown formal shoes with a suit that matches, there is no reason why you should not as it looks very stylish indeed.

Next, you might also be told that formal shoes with a pair of jeans is a definite no; this is also nonsense. A good pair of well-fitted jeans paired with a polished pair of brogues look superb, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t be done.

On the other hand, when it comes to dressing in a suit for a formal occasion, only dress shoes will do. No trainers or sneakers, just a nice pair of quality shoes or low-cut ankle boots. It’s simply the only way to do it.

So, now we’ve covered the basics, what type of shoes are you going to buy? There are a number of different styles of formal shoes for men, so let’s look at some of the most popular.

Brown Formal Shoes

Type of Men’s Formal Shoes

The three most popular types of men’s formal shoe are Oxford’s, Derby’s and Brogues. So, what’s the difference?

It’s all in detail, but one common denominator with each of these is that they are lace-up designs. Many men will simply not wear buckled, or slip-on shoes and lace-ups remain the most popular of all. 

An Oxford style shoe is a familiar style, the simple yet stylish and sleek style of plain shoe, usually in black or brown, with a low heel and lace holes that are hidden under the section known as the ‘vamp’, this being the forward section of the shoe that extends to the toe.

This is the first port of call for a formal shoe, and should always have leather uppers. 

The Derby is similar to the Oxford but somewhat more rugged; they have more ‘open’ lace details and are great in colours such as deep red.

A touch less formal than the Oxford, the Derby is the favoured type of formal shoe for smart-casual or semi-formal wear, with a pair of jeans and your favourite jacket.

In fact, it’s becoming popular to pair them with jeans and a tweed jacket – check here for some inspiration – which is one of the in looks at the moment. 

The brogue can generally be described as an Oxford with added detailing, this being the additional patterned holes that you will also be familiar with.

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You can find them with pierced or plain toes – cap toed is the term for these – and with added detailing too, and this is very much a formal shoe for the very special occasions. 

That’s the three main types of lace-up shoe, now a little bit about some other styles. The Monk-Strap is the common type of slip-on shoe, with a bold and stylish buckle over the front.

This is not to everyone’s taste, being seen as a bit ‘old-fashioned’ by some people, but in the right setting and with a matching ensemble, it can be very impressive.

You might also want to go down the ankle boot route, in which case the best choice is the classic Chelsea boot, a style that has its roots firmly in the Victorian era where it was the boot of choice for equestrians.

Still very much a staple of the country look today, it’s also very stylish and fashionable as the country gent look is one that is very popular right now.

Men Formals

How to Choose the Best Formal Shoes

Let’s be honest here: you’re not going to get a classy, quality pair of formal men’s shoes for a rock-bottom price. Quality shoes will always demand a sensible amount of outlay, but that doesn’t mean they should cost the earth.

Be prepared to set a high budget for your shoes, and you may be surprised how much choice there is for you. Here are a few tips on choosing the right shoes.

First, decide whether you want black – the ultimate in formal wear shoes – or brown, which can be suitable in semi-formal or even smart casual outfits.

Or, are you looking for something in a different colour – perhaps a deep red – so that you stand out from the crowd? The choice is yours, so look around.


Also, look for sale and clearance offers. There is a lot to be said for shopping for shoes online – if you are not sure of your size, you can have it accurately measured at a shoe shop so you can make sure you get the best fit – as the choice is greater and prices tend to be lower.

If you’re not concerned about having ‘last season’s’ shoes, you can get some excellent bargains on top quality shoes.

Next, there is something special about Italian shoes (info here). There always has been, and they remain the leaders when it comes to style. The trick is to shop carefully, look at every possible outlet, and make a list of styles that you like.

Once you have a setlist of your desired shoes, you will be able to find something in your budget to suit, so start looking now, and get yourself a pair of formal shoes that will last a long time.


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