We know that when it comes to buying formal shoes, it can be a bit of minefield. Choosing the right style and colour without proper guidance can result in a serious faux pas both in terms of what you wear them with and where you wear them.
Our men’s formal shoes guide offers you the complete lowdown on choosing, buying, fitting and caring for your brogues, loafers or bluchers. However, if you’re in a rush and need to know if the shoes you’re looking to buy are better for a black-tie event or a laidback get together with some friends, we’ve got the guide for you.
This is a simple, easy to follow guide which lets you gauge the formality of any pair of men's dress shoes. Naturally, there will always outliers and anomalies, but using this guide you can quickly gain a comprehensive view of what social situation the shoes you’re looking at would be best for.
To figure out whether the shoes you’re considering are best suited to weddings or winding down, simply find which toe cap they have, the colour they are, the material from which the upper is constructed, and the style of the shoe. We’ve included a guide to the toe caps, and the five styles are as follows:
Loafer - A laceless slip-on style shoe.
Derby - A brogue with an open-toed lace structure, meaning the pieces of leather at the back of the shoe (the quarters) overlap the bit from the front (the vamp) to form eye stays that can be pulled apart.
Monk strap - A brogue that features one, two or even three buckled straps rather than laces.
Oxford - Effectively the opposite of the Derby, Oxford brogues have a closed lace structure, where the vamp overlaps the quarters. In this case, the eye stays have the impression of being cut into the leather rather than being a part that’s been added on top.
Blucher - Distinguished by the fact that they are constructed using one single piece of leather, unlike brogues which use multiple pieces.
Then add up their relative scores and cross reference them with the “Score Band” chart at the bottom of the infographic. So, for example, if you had a pair of plain toe, black patent leather bluchers, you’d have a score of 38 - making them best suited to black tie events. If you picked out a pair of medium brown wingtip Derby brogues made with pebble grain leather, your score would be 18 - perfect casual brogues.
The only exceptions to this rule are if the shoes feature a combination of colours or materials. If it’s the former, deduct 10 points; if it’s the latter, deduct 5 points.
As we said above, this infographic is intended as a guideline, rather than the final word on a shoe’s formality; obviously, there will be exceptions. However, if you’re in need for a general overview, you won’t go far wrong!
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