You’ve got the suit, but to make your look really pop, you need to be sure your footwear matches the statement you’re trying to make. The shoes you wear can make or break a look; that’s why it’s so important to select the right footwear for it. We’re going to talk about different footwear styles for men, and what looks they most complement.
Loafers: Penny, Bit, and Tassel
Loafers are among the more casual shoes on this list. They do not have any sort of lacing or fastening system. Instead, they are designed to be slipped on. They are therefore not quite suited for evening wear. Let’s discuss the wide variety of loafer styles, including the penny, the bit, and the tassel.
Penny loafers rose to prominence in the 1950s. The name comes from the strap of leather that runs across the forefoot. Specifically, the leather strap leaves a small diamond cut-out that has just enough room for a penny. In the early days of loafers, many men did in fact keep a penny in that slot. Some theories exist about why they kept a penny. One or two pennies could, for instance, buy a call in a phone booth. So obviously you’d be smart to keep some pennies handy!
Compared to penny loafers, tassel loafers are a bit flashier. In addition to the pair of tassels, they also have more decorative lacing across the top. To leave room for the tassels, these loafers typically have lower vamps. The vamp is the piece of leather that covers the space between your toe and ankle. A low vamp is one that ends closer to the toe. A high vamp, on the other hand, ends back towards the ankle, and closer to the middle of the foot. Many people typically consider low vamps as more suitable for those who are up there in years. But really, a man of any age can rock them. Just promise to avoid wearing them with full business suits. You can get away with darker denim or mismatched suit combos.
Bit loafers have a bar of metal that runs over the top of the shoe. You may also know them as Gucci Loafers, because Gucci developed the design first. Gucci put the loafers on the market to strike a balance between comfort and style. Specifically, the bit style allows men to wear laid-back footwear to dressier events. If you tend to dress on the more conservative side, you may want to forgo bit loafers when wearing your finest suits. Instead, you can wear bit loafers with dark denim or interesting suit and trouser combos. If you want to make a statement, however, wear them to business meetings. As a general rule, though, bit loafers are not a good match for tuxedos or black-tie events.
Derbies – or Bluchers, if you prefer – are lace-up shoes, typically lower-cut. They have an open-throat lacing system. The lacing system on a shoe depends on two elements: the vamp, which we mentioned above, and the quarters. The vamp is the piece of leather that sits over the middle portion of the top of the foot. The quarters are the two sides of leather that wrap around the heel and meet at the front of the ankle. In addition, you will see the eyelets located on the front of the quarters.
Open-throat lacing means that the quarters are on top of the vamp, which leaves the edges of the quarters exposed. Closed-throat lacing, which you will find on Oxfords, means that the quarters are stitched under the vamp. In this case, the edge is not exposed like it is with open-throat lacing. We will explore more about Oxfords next.
Having the edge of the quarters exposed provides more give and stretch. For that reason, Derbies are great for guys with feet that are on the larger side. As a result of the lacing, however, they are a bit bulkier. As a rule, formal shoes should be more streamlined, so the open-throat lacing is better suited to more casual looks.
Most people know Oxford as the quintessential business shoe. Oxfords are similar in construction to a Derby shoe, in that they are lower-cut and lace up. But the key difference is that Oxfords have a closed-throat lacing system. As you can see in the above picture, they tend to look a bit neater. Since they are more streamlined, they are well-suited to business looks. This style goes best with matching suits and evening wear. They do, however, have a less forgiving fit. That is due to the lack of give that comes with the closed-throat lacing. Despite that, the Oxfords are the most essential dress shoe to have in your wardrobe.
Monk Straps: Single or Double
Monk straps, by definition, are any shoes that use a buckle closure rather than laces. They come in a variety of styles, but the core concept remains the same. Monks are definitely on the flashier side compared to the other styles we listed. They are less formal than a closed-throat lacing system, but you can dress them up if done properly. For instance, you could wear a pair of black patent leather monk straps with your suit. Essentially any other color or material besides that is better suited to a mismatched suit combo or darker denim. The welt style you choose also affects the look of the shoe.
When to wear single vs. double monk
The double monk strap, then, is a monk strap shoe with two buckles instead of one. Compared to the single, the double gives a contemporary, bold look. Some of the more conservative among us say it’s too flashy. But it’s not too flashy if you’re all about edge and setting yourself apart. If that’s what you want, then the double monk strap is the perfect fit for you.
Let’s consider the formality of both styles. Generally, the more ornamentation a shoe has, the less formal it is. As such, most consider the single to be a touch more formal than the double. Experts do not typically advise wearing them to a black-tie event. And you should especially not wear them with a tuxedo. But really it all depends on your level of daring and the message you want to send with your look.
A brogue is any shoe that has decorative perforations in the leather. Contrary to the rule that more ornamentation means less formality, Brogues are more formal than Derbies. However, they are definitely less formal than an Oxford. Instead, brogues occupy the sweet-spot between the two.
Perforations, Pinking, and Medallions
There are a few different aesthetic elements of brogues: perforations, pinking, and medallions. Perforations are punch-out holes in the shoe leather in a decorative pattern. Pinking is a decorative edge created by pinking shears. In the end, the edge looks like a series of triangles. Medallions are similar to perforations, in that they are also punch-out holes in a decorative pattern. The difference is that you will find medallions specifically on the toe of a shoe.
Wingtips vs. Longwings
Brogues, as a style, also include wingtips. Specifically, wingtips are a style in which perforations are on the vamp. They are called wingtips because the decorative perforation is shaped like bird wings. A variation on wingtips is longwings. Compared to wingtips, the ‘wings’ in longwings stretch all the way around the collar of the shoe. All longwings are wingtips, but not all wingtips are longwings.
When to wear them
There’s a Shoe for Every Look
We’ve discussed a number of popular footwear styles for men in this article. However, the honest truth is that there are so many more styles out there. The shoes we selected to highlight today were picked because they are most commonly worn with suits. Common footwear styles as these are essential to have in your closet for all the different events you dress up for. One thing is certain: just like suits, there is no one style that is appropriate for every occasion you may find yourself at. Therefore, we’ve gone over these to allow you to build a basic footwear collection. In addition, that footwear collection will complement a wide variety of styles. Check out what is available in the HARTTER MANLY Leather Shop. After all, a look isn’t complete when you put on a suit. It’s complete when you dress yourself up head-to-toe.