While I was reading through all the clothes, items and ideas that we have covered so far in the series of Fashion Basics, I was keeping my eyes open for subjects and topics that may not have been covered yet. Although I was both relieved and scared to find we’ve nailed pretty much everything, I did find a tiny area not yet exposed to write about before I start to tread the murky depths of Men’s Accessory Basics. And that is the subject of formal footwear for men.
The first thing to specify would be what I mean by formal footwear. Generally, I’m talking about shoes that are made of leather with laces and nice thick soles in colours traditionally of brown or black. But an easier way would be for me just to say shoes that aren’t going to get you kicked out of a fancy London bar/restaurant. So they could range from loafers, to Chelsea Boots all the way to Brogues. But the point I want to make is that they are your statement footwear; the shoes you put on when you mean business and want to look it as well.
There are a few basic rules that do need to be followed when you are buying formal shoes. The first is to understand why you are buying them. I tend to wear formal shoes a lot more during the colder months because they have thicker soles and better grip. This way I don’t have to worry about rain, mud or snow. I then retire them during the summer because my feet just get too sticky when wearing them.
So with that in mind I go for shoes that are more of a chunky variety such as Brogues or Chelsea boots. I also buy them in black or dark browns to make them easier to clean in the wet weather. If you aren’t buying them to coordinate with the seasons then I would suggest going for shoes made of lighter leather and preferably in loafer styles, so they go all year round with ease. You can still get Brogues and other chunky shoes in lighter styles now but my own personal preference is to avoid them.
Secondly, it is important to bear in mind what will be hanging right above your shoes, by which I mean trousers. Now whether they are jeans, chinos or plain suit pants the cut is everything here. If you are a guy who favours the skinny/slim cut for your legs then the type of formal shoes you buy is very specific; not too heavy on the sole or too high above the ankle. The reason for this is because the combination of close to the skin tailoring and big hefty shoes gives the impression of clown feet. Pure and simple. If the proportion you’re going for in an outfit is slender/skinny/indie or whatever you want to call it, you don’t need to mess it up by finishing it with a massive shoe. Stick with some slick standard lace-ups with a slight point in the toe and penny or tassel loafers to avoid this.
The same also applies vice versa. So if you have a standard cut to all your trousers then you’re fine to go with the heavier lugged-sole shoes. You might want to think twice before purchasing anything to light weight though because it could cause your standard cut to start looking like flares.
Finally, the all important question, how to wear them? Well, luckily formal shoes always go well with a suit, no matter what the occasion. So if you’re in doubt, pull on your suit and off you go. Or failing that just pull on the suit trousers and then pair with some more casual items such as a t-shirt or a jumper to create that contrast of styles. But when it comes to every other day situations try to just think of these shoes as your statement pieces. Brogues, Boots and loafers all have enough individual detail to them that you shouldn’t need to pair them with anything else ostentatious. Instead, just keep the contrast of styles in mind by keeping the rest of your outfit casual and let the shoes do all the talking.
Ways To Wear
But here are some basic ideas to help you:
- With a pair of dark brown brogues try pairing them with some dark denim jeans, a well fitting white shirt and a baseball jacket. If it’s warm out, try going sockless and rolling up the jeans to place even more emphasis on the shoes.
- Loafers are my standard choice of footwear and I always pair them with some chinos and a t-shirt.
- Chelsea Boots were popularised in the swinging sixties by people such as Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan. So with that in mind try them with a pair of black slim cut jeans (tucked in if you can) and then go for a grey t-shirt under a black waistcoat or swap it for a leather jacket.
As I said above guys, the important thing to really bear in mind is proportion and if it fits with the other styles in your wardrobe. If you have varying cuts already then good for you, you’re in the position to buy whatever you want. Just remember, if you’re wearing these shoes outside of a formal context, keep the rest your look classic, neutral and simple to avoid disappointment.