Ask anyone what the most overlooked element of a man’s wardrobe is and they probably won’t even think to mention shoelaces. What does that tell you?
Yes, the bits of string that stop your shoes from falling off (unless you’re a 13-year-old skateboarder from 2002) may not be the most exciting part of your outfit, but you wouldn’t get very far without them. Literally. What’s more, if you know the right tricks, you can harness them as another subtle way to add a new style dimension to your look.
Because as nerdy as this surely is, how you lace your shoes should depend on which type of shoes you’re actually lacing in the first place. How you tie your smart shoes can be very different to how you lace your Vans.
Learn the different lacing methods below and find out which one is best for your favourite shoes.
5 Ways To Lace Your Shoes
According to mathematics that are impossible to understand, renowned shoelace publication New Scientist claims there are a dizzying 400-million possible ways to lace up the average seven-eyelet stomper. Thankfully, we’re not going to be looking at all of them today, but here are a few of the key lacing methods it’s well worth filling your boots with.
Look down at your trainers. The reason they’re not falling off right now is probably that they’re held in place using this type of lacing.
The most common way of fastening shoes, cross-lacing involves threading the lace through the bottom eyelets, leaving an equal length each side, and gradually crisscrossing up to each additional eyelet, one side at a time, until you reach the top.
- Both lace ends should be inserted downwards through the bottom two eyelets, leaving equal length on both.
- Take the left lace and place it downwards through the top of the second eyelet on the right. It should now be crossing over the tongue.
- Do exactly the same to the other lace and insert it downwards through the top of the next eyelet on the left.
- Continue lacing in this way, one side at a time and remember to put each lace down through the top of each eyelet.
European Straight Lacing
If you’ve ever worn a pair of closed-lace dress shoes, this is most likely how they were fastened. It’s a method well-suited to Oxford shoes and other smart styles as it looks clean and neat from the top.
The laces run straight from eyelet to eyelet across the top of the shoe, while a zig-zag pattern underneath allows them to be tightened with ease.
- Insert both lace ends downwards into each of the bottom holes.
- Take the left lace and insert it up and through the next free right eyelet.
- Take the right lace and place it up and through the third eyelet on the left, skipping out the second. There should now be an empty hole on the left hand side.
- Insert what is now the right lace downward into this free eyelet, which should be directly opposite it.
- Follow this process until completion, repeating the steps above for each lace.
Great for trainers or for adding a dash of personality to dress shoes, over-under lacing pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin.
Start off the same as you would when making a cross lace, but instead of going up to the next set of eyelets and over the top, go under. After that, go over the top up to the next set of eyelets and keep alternating in this pattern until you get to the top.
- Insert both lace ends downwards into each of the bottom holes.
- Put the left lace up and through the next free right hand eyelet.
- Do the same with the other lace – insert it up and through the first free left hand eyelet.
- Take what is now the right lace and place it downward through the next available left side eyelet.
- Do the same with the other lace and repeat this over and under technique until completion.
Straight Bar Lacing
If you like your laces neat, tidy and uncluttered then this may be the lacing method you’ve been looking for.
The laces run straight from eyelet to eyelet, horizontally across the top of the shoe. All the excess runs up and under the lace guard on each side, allowing the shoe to be tightened at the top just like normal.
- Insert both lace ends downwards through the bottom two holes, leaving equal length on both the left and right laces.
- Looking down on the shoe, insert the left lace up and through the next right hand hole, with its end pointing to the ceiling.
- Now put the right lace up and through the third eyelet on the left, skipping out the second. There should now be an empty hole on the left hand side.
- Take what is now the right lace and cross it over, inserting it downward through the empty eyelet on the left. This should create another straight bar, mirroring the first.
- Do exactly the same with the left hand lace and cross it over, inserting it downward through the empty eyelet opposite it. You should now have three bars.
- Keep lacing in this way, crossing each lace over to its opposite side to make new bars until you reach the top.
If not wearing any underpants is no longer giving you the thrill you crave then why not go even more commando by adopting this military-inspired lacing technique next time you put your boots on?
Great for fastening boots swiftly, one end of the lace is permanently anchored at the bottom eyelet, running in a linked ‘S’ shape pattern up the front of the boot and the other end is used for tying off in a slip-knot at the top.
- Tie a stopper-knot on one end of the lace, before placing the un-knotted end up and through the bottom right eyelet until the knot is taught under the vamp.
- Take the un-knotted end and run it straight through the opposite bottom eyelet.
- Now place it up and through the eyelet directly above it before crossing over again down and through the opposite eyelet.
- Repeat this step across each eyelet until you reach the top. Now tie another stopper-knot to tie it off.
Considerations When Re-lacing Shoes
Nothing’s ever simple, is it? And now you can add finding new laces for your shoes to the list. It doesn’t have to be difficult, though. Just follow these pointers and you can’t really put a foot wrong.
When re-lacing your shoes “it really depends on the type of shoe,” says Robbie Evans, men’s own-brand buying manager at Kurt Geiger. “If it’s formal then ideally you’d use a self-colour round lace or you could be braver and contrast a tan leather shoe with a navy or burgundy for example.
“Sports shoes give you a bit more of a licence to be creative – you can be braver with the different types of sizes and colours to create different looks.”
Length Of Lace
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That means those shoes you dropped next month’s rent on might be fancy but they’re still going to look naff if they’ve got a set of dangly, rabbit ear-looking laces flopping about every time you take a step.
To make sure you get it right, measure your old laces before you buy a new pair to make sure they’re going to be a good fit for the shoe.
Width Of Lace
Fat laces might have been cool when you were in year seven with the names of your favourite bands scribbled in biro all over your pencil case. But as a fully grown man? Not so much.
As a general rule, don’t go for anything over 1cm and you should be able to avoid looking too ridiculous.
It should go without saying, but neon shoelaces aren’t exactly the most style-savvy move you can make as a man. Or woman. Or child. Or beast. Or…you get the idea.
In general, aim for laces that either match or complement the colour of your shoes. Brown shoes = brown laces, white shoes with blue accents = white or blue laces. And so on and so forth.
You’ve probably never even thought about the composition of your shoelaces before but we are living in the future and as such, you can get laces made from some pretty special stuff.
For your winter boots, you might want to consider waxed or even Kevlar laces, while for most other situations, cotton, cord or nylon will do the trick just fine.
How To Lace Different Types Of Shoe
Not all shoes should be laced the same. Allow us to walk you through some of the most popular styles and how to lace each and every one like a pro.
When it comes to casual footwear, Vans is one of the most popular brands around. Made famous by Californian skateboarders in the 1970s, the legendary footwear brand soon stomped its way into the mainstream and became a household name.
The most popular models of Vans shoes are the Sk8-Hi, the Era, the Old Skool and the Authentic. The best method for fastening all of these is probably cross-lacing.
Flat laces should be your first port of call and white will work for most colours. However, it’s very important to buy the right length for your shoe as all of these popular models vary widely in the number of eyelets they have.
The Chuck Taylor All Star is probably the most famous sneaker of all time. In fact, it’s nothing short of iconic.
The type of laces you pick to tie your converse will be dependant on two factors: whether your shoes are low top or high top, and what colour they are.
Always opt for flat laces when it comes to Converse and white should work the best in most cases, unless your shoes are completely black. Then it’s just a case of lacing them up, which is usually done using cross-lacing, but a straight bar lace can look good too.
Your Oxford dress shoes differ from most of the other shoes in your wardrobe in that they use what’s known as ‘closed lacing’. This means the vamp of the shoe is stitched over the bottom of the lace guards, which gives a slightly less flexible fit but offers a much more formal look.
When it comes to picking laces, you’ll want them to be thin, round and the same colour as your shoes – a black-tie event is no time for risky style experiments.
To fasten them, use either a straight bar lace or a European straight lace. Both will work nicely as they leave a clean, uncluttered pattern on the top of the shoe while allowing for easy adjustment.
Bar maybe your slippers, your best sneakers are probably the most comfortable shoes in your collection and the ones that get the most wear. Because of this, it’s important to make sure they’re laced up to perfection.
Whether you opt for flat or round laces will depend entirely on the type of sneaker and on your own personal preference, but for the likes of most light coloured models, flat, white laces will do the trick.
As far as lacing methods go it’s pretty much anything goes, but cross-lacing is definitely the most popular option and always gives a clean, classic look.
The Derby is the shoe of choice for office workers and business folk all across the world. This is due in no small part to its unique blend of comfort and smart looks – a mix that no other footwear can match.
Unlike its dressier cousin, the Oxford, the Derby features an open lacing system which makes them a tad more flexible and more forgiving when worn for extended periods of time. However, it can still be laced in much the same way.
Use a thin, round lace, the same colour as the shoe and fasten using either the straight bar lacing method or the European straight method. Both will give a neat look while making adjustments nice and easy.
Aside from a pair of white trainers, footwear doesn’t come much more versatile than a pair of desert boots. These adaptable all-rounders are notable for the fact they only tend to have four eyelets in total, which means lacing them up couldn’t be simpler.
The main point to take away with you is that the laces shouldn’t be too long as they’re not going to need to stretch very far, so try to pick something pretty short.
Go for a thin, flat lace in exactly the same colour as the shoe, ensuring its short enough not to leave you with metres of excess. Then use the cross-lacing technique to fix them in place.
Whether you’re using them to scale the north face of the Matterhorn, or just for nipping out to grab a winter coffee, hiking boots are the trusty old mate who will always have your back. Return the favour and make sure they’re laced up properly to say thanks.
Both flat and round laces will work nicely here and there’s even scope to experiment with colour. A yellow, red or even a tasteful two-tone or multicoloured lace can work as long as a bit of thought has been put into it. You’ll also want to make sure the laces are long enough to reach right to the top.
Cross-lacing is the only way to get the job done here, so thread the lace through the lowest set of eyelets and do exactly what you’d do with a pair of trainers. Simple.