Men's shoe styles

In this article, we will tell you about various shoe styles — from opera pumps to sneakers and slides. You will get basic information about each style. Of course, descriptions will be quite short, but that's the nature of this format: otherwise, our guide would be enormous.

Laced shoes: oxfords, derbys, bluchers

Shoe lacing can be open or closed. Shoes with open lacing are characterised by quarters sewn on top of the vamp, while shoes with closed lacing usually feature quarters attached under the vamp (however, sometimes their quarters and vamp are made of the same piece of leather; very rarely both quarters are made of the same piece of leather and attached on top of the vamp). If you take the laces out of shoes with open lacing, you can bend shoe quarters back nearly 180 degrees. If you take the laces out of shoes with closed lacing, you won't be able to bend shoe quarters as much — you can bend them back just a little bit.

Shoes with closed lacing are usually called oxfords (oxford shoes). Americans also use term 'balmorals' ('bals'), but the English think that balmorals are just a type of oxfords (characterised by very long straight side seams). The French refer to oxfords as 'Richelieu'.

Shoes with open lacing are often called derbys (derbies, derby shoes, derby). Americans also use term 'bluchers', but the English are more precise: they think there is a difference between bluchers and derbys. According to the traditional terminology, bluchers are characterised by eyelets located on small pieces of leather that are sewn on top of the quarters and the vamp; these quarters and the vamp are made of the same large piece of leather. Derbys are characterised by eyelets located on the quarters, which are sewn on top of the vamp.

It must be noted that all these terms — derbys, oxfords, bluchers, balmorals, Richelieu — are used only in relation to classic shoes with heels. Sneakers are a completely different story.

Oxford shoe styles

There are many oxford shoe models differentiated by colour, material, design and construction. We have prepared a list of oxford shoe designs; it is presented below.

  • Plain toe oxford — without toe seams.
  • Cap toe oxford — with a transverse seam on the forepart (between the toe and the vamp).
  • Adelaide — without side seams and with a U-shaped seam around the laces area.
  • Balmoral — with long (and straight) side seams.
  • Saddle — with a saddle-shaped panel located in the middle part of the shoe.
  • Wholecut — made of a single piece of leather. There are only two seams on the upper: one of them goes along the topline of the upper, and the other seam is located in the heel area (sometimes there is only one seam — along the topline of the upper, of course).

Oxford shoes are generally more formal than derbys and bluchers, but their formality level varies greatly from one model to another. The most formal style is a plain toe oxford made of black patent leather; you can combine it only with tuxedos and tailcoats. The most informal oxfords can be made of light brown suede, and they can feature lots of brogueing; these models are perfect companions for informal suits, jeans and chinos.

Of course, there are lots of 'intermediate' models — for example, business oxford shoes, which are made of black, dark brown and burgundy calf leather or cordovan. They can be paired with many suits and dress trousers.

Derby shoe styles

Let's move on to derby shoe models. Of course, they are also differentiated by design, colour, material and construction. Here is a list of derby shoe designs.

  • Plain toe derby — without toe seams.
  • Cap toe derby — with a transverse seam on the forepart (between the toe and the vamp).
  • Stitch cap derby — with two rows of stitching between the toe and the vamp.
  • Moc toe derby — with a raised (moccasin-like) seam on the forepart.
  • Split toe derby — with a raised (moccasin-like) seam on the forepart and an additional short seam on the toe (this additional seam 'splits' the toe).
  • Norwegian toe derby — a variety of split toe derby; the aforementioned short seam on the toe is puckered / raised.
  • Algonquin — another variety of split toe derby; the aforementioned short seam on the toe is flat.

The term 'bluchers' deserves special attention. Americans often refer to derbys as 'bluchers', but purists think there is a difference between bluchers and derbys. Like derbys, bluchers feature open lacing; however, their eyelets are located on very small pieces of leather. These pieces are called eyelet facings, and they are sewn on top of the quarters, which are inseparable from the vamp (i.e. the vamp and the quarters are made of the same large piece of leather). Derbys' eyelets are located on the quarters, which are sewn on top of the vamp.

Derbys and bluchers are generally less formal than oxford shoes, but some of them can be paired with business suits. Besides, you can combine most derbys and bluchers with various informal garments: jeans, chinos, cardigans, rollnecks, etc. However, they are too informal for tuxedos and tailcoats — and too formal for shorts, sweatshirts, swimming trunks, track-suits.

Brogueing and brogues

Both oxfords and derbys can feature brogueing — decorative perforations. Moreover, at times you will see decorative perforations on other shoe types — for example, on some monks and chelsea boots, which will be described later. It must be highlighted that these perforations are purely decorative, so they don't leak in the rain. The formality level of brogues varies from extremely low to moderately high. The more decorative perforations, the lower the level of formality.

Here is a list of brogue shoe styles.

  • Punch cap — with brogueing only along the transverse toe seam.
  • Quarter brogues — the same or models with brogueing along several other seams (there is no universally accepted definition).
  • Half brogues — with decorative perforations along several seams and — sometimes — on the toes (there is no universally accepted definition).
  • Full brogues (wingtips) — with decorative perforations along most seams and on the toes (besides, the toes of full brogues always feature W-shaped seams).
  • Blind brogues — full brogues without decorative perforations on the toes.
  • Austerity brogues — with W-shaped seams on the toes but without any decorative perforations.
  • Faux brogues / imitation brogues — with brogueing in those places of the upper where one piece of leather does not overlap another piece of leather (it is worth noting that other brogue styles feature brogueing in those places where one piece of leather slightly overlaps another).

Quarter brogues and punch caps often look good with business suits, so you can wear some of them in the office or at some business negotiations (especially if these shoes are made of smooth dark leather). Half brogues are an 'intermediate' model. Many of them can be paired with various suits and jeans, but please note that they are considered informal shoes. Full brogues can be worn with chinos, corduroy or flannel odd trousers, informal suits and other garments with a relatively low formality level. However, we don't recommend wearing them with shorts, Bermudas, sweatpants.

Spectators (spectator shoes)

Some shoes and boots are made of two different materials (or the material is the same, but colours or shades are different). These models are called spectators (spectator shoes, co-respondent shoes). They look informal and quite loud. As a rule, spectators look best with flannel or cotton odd trousers and with informal suits. There are different opinions on spectators+jeans combinations. We dare say that such combinations may be coherent at least in some cases, but it is better to choose minimalist jeans (without holes and decorations).

Loafers

Loafers are low, laceless shoes with heels and a raised (moccasin-like) seam on the forepart. These shoes are a great choice for summer and warm or hot leather; however, they are not suitable for frosty weather. Most loafers can be worn both with and without socks. Their formality level varies from very low to above average. Here is a list of loafer shoe styles.

  • Penny loafers — with a strip of leather located on the vamp and decorated with a diamond-shaped slit.
  • Tassel loafers — with two leather tassels.
  • Horsebit loafers — with two small buckles / horse bits.
  • Butterfly loafers — with two interwoven leather strips on the vamp; these strips slightly resemble a butterfly.
  • Venetian loafers — without any decorations (so it is a very simple design).
  • Belgian loafers — with a very small bow and/or with contrast piping along the raised seam and the topline (the top edge of the shoe upper).
  • Kiltie loafers — with a fringed leather panel on the vamp (and sometimes also with tassels or other decorations).

Some loafers are moderately formal; some are absolutely informal. If you want to wear loafers in a business environment, the best choice is probably a black model with tassels, but please bear in mind that even such loafers are significantly less formal than black oxfords without brogueing. On the other hand, they can be combined not only with business suits and dress trousers but also with minimalist jeans (without decorations and holes). Less formal loafers can be paired with jeans, chinos and other odd trousers — and often with some suits as well. The most informal models may look good even with shorts.

Moccasins

Moccasins resemble loafers because they also feature a raised seam on the forepart and don't feature lacing (however, it must be noted that moccasins with short laces do exist, but they are very different from oxfords and derbys). Unlike loafers, moccasins don't have heels, so the formality level of this footwear is very low. On the other hand, moccasins are very light and flexible. It is important to remember that sometimes the term 'moccasins' is used to refer to loafers, which are generally more formal than moccasins without heels.

Like loafers, moccasins can be decorated with tassels, buckles / horse bits, bows, strips of leather. There are models without any decorations, too. The range of colours is broad; various shades of brown and blue are the most popular. Moccasins can look good with jeans, linen trousers, chinos and even shorts / Bermudas. We don't recommend pairing them with suits.

Monk strap shoes (monks)

Monk straps (or simply monks) are shoes or boots without lacing but with heels, straps and buckles. They are loved by people who don't like tying shoelaces. The best monk strap models are very versatile, so they can look great both in a business and in a completely informal setting. Unlike loafers, they are suitable even for very cold days because their uppers cover a bigger part of your feet. Here is a list of monk strap shoe styles.

  • Single monk straps — with one buckle and one strap.
  • Double monk straps — with two buckles and two straps (on each shoe).
  • Cutaway monk straps — with one or two straps and one or two buckles; straps are located on the side and 'look' not so much down as back.

Like loafers, monks can be moderately formal, but even black calf models are significantly less formal than black oxfords without brogueing. Many monks can be paired with suits, chinos and jeans, so this shoe style is versatile. It is also very handy because you need very little time to put monks on your feet and fasten the buckles. Moreover, monks can be worn both with and without socks (however, we recommend wearing the most formal monk straps with socks; the most formal models are made of smooth dark leather and equipped with leather soles).

Jodhpur boots

Similar to monk strap boots, Jodhpur boots are equipped with straps and buckles, but their straps are much longer. Moreover, their quarters are attached under the vamp (monk strap boots are constructed differently: their quarters are sewn on top of the vamp). Jodhpur boots are relatively low; they have neither lacing nor zippers. Their formality level is rarely above average; that's why we recommend wearing Jodhpur boots with informal suits, chinos, jeans, flannel and corduroy odd trousers. Please don't tuck trousers / jeans into these boots.

Chelsea boots

Chelsea boots resemble Jodhpur boots, but they are not equipped with buckles and straps. Instead, they feature elastic inserts on both sides. Most chelsea boots look clean and minimalist, but some models are decorated with brogueing and sometimes even look quite loud (the formality level is lower in these cases, of course).

Chelsea boots are praised for their comfort and versatility. Models made of smooth dark leather can look good with jeans, odd trousers and many suits (including business ones). The formality level of chelsea boots varies; it can be quite high, but black oxfords without brogueing are always more formal.

Chukka and desert boots

These are low boots with open lacing, rounded toes and two or three pairs of eyelets. They are often made of suede, but you can also find some other models. Dark chukka boots with leather soles look nice both with jeans and suits (sometimes even business suits). Besides, they can be paired with various odd trousers. However, you should remember that the formality level of chukka boots is relatively low. That's why we don't recommend wearing them at business negotiations or formal events (well, to be precise, chukka boots can be appropriate at some business negotiations, but if your business partners are conservative and you want to play it safe, it is better to choose more formal shoes).

Strictly speaking, desert boots are just a sort of chukka boots. They are characterised by crepe soles with a rough surface. Besides, their shape is usually far less elegant than the shape of classic chukka boots, and their construction is simpler and lighter. Desert boots rarely look good with suits (even with informal suits like tweed ones), but you can combine them with lots of jeans, non-pleated chinos and some other odd pants.

Furthermore, there is one more sort of chukka boots — playboy chukka. These boots are characterised by very thick crepe soles and very low heels (heels and soles make up a single whole). You can wear playboy chukka boots in the same environment and with the same clothes as desert boots. Of course, their formality level is very low.

Button boots

This style was very popular in the first quarter of the XX century. Nowadays it is very rarely seen. Button boots usually feature long straight side seams, leather soles and a button closure. These boots are almost always two-tone; besides, the lower part of their uppers is usually made of smooth leather, while the top part is made of suede or fabrics. The formality level of button boots is relatively high, but we don't recommend wearing them at formal events or negotiations with conservative business partners. As for outfit combinations, buttons boots look best with various suits and dress trousers. Some people combine them even with jeans and very informal chinos, but these combinations are questionable and definitely not traditional.

Balmoral boots

These boots are characterised by elegant lines, closed lacing, long straight side seams and relatively thin soles. Their formality level can be quite high (but not the highest). You can wear balmoral boots in the same environment and with the same clothes as similar oxfords (however, we don't recommend pairing balmoral boots with tuxedos and tailcoats). Balmoral boots made of smooth dark leather often look good with business suits. Informal balmoral boots with lots of brogueing can be combined with some jeans, informal suits and odd trousers made of tweed, flannel, corduroy or cotton twill.

Duck boots

These boots look funny and completely informal. The lower part of their upper is made of rubber, so it is very practical and waterproof; the top part is made of sturdy leather or waterproof fabrics. The shape of duck boots is quite bulky and definitely not elegant. Soles are made of rubber / synthetic materials. All duck boots feature open lacing.

Due to their informal nature, duck boots can be worn with jeans, non-dress pants, sweaters and other knitwear. The American company L.L. Bean was the first firm to launch duck boots (back in 1912); today it is the most famous producer of this footwear.

Monkey boots

This style is characterised by moderately thick synthetic / rubber soles, open lacing and big quarters which reach to the toes. The uppers of monkey boots are usually made of smooth cow or calf leather. These boots were popular among mods, skinheads and punks, but they are also worn by people who are far away from any subcultures and countercultures.

Monkey boots are usually quite practical and always informal. The perfect companions for them are jeans and non-dress pants made of more or less thick fabrics. The most famous brands of monkey boots are Dr. Martens and Solovair.

Work boots

As opposed to elegant dress boots, work boots are characterised by rough and bulky shapes. Besides, they are made of different materials. As a rule, they are equipped with strong, sturdy soles; their uppers are composed of thick cow leather (often waxed or oiled). All work boots feature open lacing. They should be paired with informal clothes — for example, with jeans and more or less thick non-dress pants (without pleats, of course).

Hiking boots, Hiker boots

These sturdy boots with open lacing are engineered specially for hiking and long excursions. Hiker boots are usually made of thick, durable leather, and they feature rugged rubber / synthetic soles with a good grip.

Nowadays hiking boots are sometimes worn even in the city. Moreover, there are some designer / fashion models, which are rarely used for hiking. The formality level of hiker boots is minimal, so we recommend wearing them with jeans and informal pants (without pleats, of course).

Purpose-built boots (trekking boots, mountaineering boots, etc)

These models have a limited use. They are ill-suited for casual wear in the city (particularly in the office), but they can prove useful for a hike or an expedition. Most of these boots are neither elegant nor stylish. Therefore, they should be combined with purpose-built clothes (for example, with hiking / trekking / mountaineering pants and jackets). Besides, they can look good with jeans or very informal chinos.

Wellington boots, Wellies

It is another example of purpose-built footwear. Wellingtons boots are made of rubber, so they are waterproof and very informal. We recommend wearing them in the countryside. However, sometimes they may look appropriate even in the city — for example, during heavy rains / on streets with lots of puddles / at some factories. Of course, wellington boots should only be worn with very informal clothes.

Boat shoes (deck shoes)

These shoes are characterised by more or less waterproof uppers with open lacing, two or three pairs of eyelets and a raised (moccasin-like) seam on the forepart. Besides, boat shoes feature moderately thick rubber soles with anti-slip properties and subtle zig-zag patterns (siping). There are lots of unlined deck shoes, but you can also find models with leather or textile linings. Laces are usually made of leather, and they run along the topline of the upper.

It must be noted that boat shoes are informal. They are particularly well suited for yachting, cruises and strolls along promenades. However, nowadays these shoes can also be worn far off water. They are usually paired with jeans, shorts, chinos and other odd trousers made of lightweight / summery materials (for example, linen pants are appropriate). Boat shoes are often worn without socks or with invisible socks. However, there are no universally accepted rules regarding combinations with socks; some people pair deck shoes with mid-calf socks.

Espadrilles

Espadrilles are very light summer shoes. They feature rope (jute) soles and textile or suede uppers (however, you can also find some espadrilles made of smooth leather). Most espadrilles don't have any lining; buckles and laces are also absent. Rope soles are often supplemented with rubber overlays — for durability and water-resistance.

All espadrilles are very informal. They can be paired with summer non-dress pants, light jeans, shorts. You can wear espadrilles without socks or — sometimes — with invisible socks (but bear in mind that some espadrilles don't fully conceal even invisible socks).

Opera pumps, evening pumps

These are the most formal men's shoes... and the most feminine! Their uppers are made exclusively of black patent leather; besides, these shoes are decorated with black silk bows. Their soles are very thin. There are neither buckles nor laces. Opera pumps / evening pumps can only be combined with tuxedos and tailcoats.

Sneakers

This term is used to refer to a quite wide range of informal shoe models. Some of them are casual and suitable for daily wear; others are designed for a specific sport activity (or several sport activities). Of course, purpose-built models should only be worn during training, contests and games, but nowadays there are plenty of casual / lifestyle sneakers, which may look appropriate far away from stadiums and gyms. They can be paired with jeans, shorts, informal pants — and sometimes even with suits, but this combination is very questionable and disputable, and some people hate it.

If you want to buy casual sneakers, it is better to choose a more or less minimalist model with a simple design and a slender shape. These days white sneakers are considered fashionable, but brown, blue and some other models can look good, too. The formality level is low in all cases.

Slippers and slip-on shoes

Slippers are shoes without lacing, buckles and zippers; in other words, they can be put on or taken off quickly and easily. Dress shoe brands often use the term 'slippers' to refer to very elegant house shoes with thin leather soles and low leather heels. These house slippers usually feature velvet uppers, but sometimes other materials are used (for example, suede, smooth leather, linen and cashmere fabrics). The toes of traditional house slippers are often decorated with monograms or some intricate / fancy embroidering (skulls, lions, etc). The formality level of slippers can be high only within one's home. These shoes are suitable neither for business negotiations nor for offices with a dress code.

Let's move on to slip-on shoes (slip-ons). This term is quite vague because it can be used to refer to almost any laceless shoes, including aforementioned house slippers, loafers and moccasins. Many people use this term to denote informal shoes without laces and heels. These shoes can resemble loafers, sneakers or espadrilles, but they are still different. Their uppers are often made of fabrics or suede; soles are usually made of rubber or synthetic materials. In most cases, the formality level is very low; that's why these slip-ons are most often combined with jeans, shorts, chinos and some linen pants (informal ones).

However, sometimes the term 'slip-on shoes' is used to refer to much more formal shoes. They have heels but differ significantly from loafers: their uppers are a bit higher, and there is no moccasin-like seam. Besides, these shoes feature small elastic inserts on both sides; that's why they are also called elastic sided shoes or side gusset shoes. Another name for this style is lazyman shoes. Sometimes these shoes are equipped with lacing, which can be functional or purely decorative. If lazyman shoes are made of smooth dark leather, you can pair them with business suits and various odd trousers. They are less formal than oxfords without brogueing (all else being equal), but they can be appropriate in the office or at business negotiations.

Furthermore, the term 'slippers' is often used to refer to much simpler shoes best-suited for wearing at home. They can be made of various materials — from cheap synthetics to high-grade leather. Their design is a lot less elegant than the design of traditional house slippers (described above). Some models even don't feature counters (i.e. they have open backs; these slippers are often called mules). Certainly, the formality level is minimal, so this footwear should only be worn at home or hotels.

Finally, there are hybrids of house slippers and moccasins, and these shoes are also called slippers (at least sometimes). They are very light and flexible — you can even fold them in half! Their toes and the vamp feature a raised (moccasin-like) seam. Soles are made of leather, and they are very thin. There is usually no lining. These foldable slippers are suitable for wearing at home and hotels.

Flip-flops

Like many slippers, flip-flops are completely informal and best-suited for wearing at home, beaches and other places where open shoes are acceptable. Flip-flops are usually made entirely of synthetic materials, and their uppers consist of just two straps. Soles are always flat. Bear in mind that your toes are exposed due to the 'open nature' of flip-flops. If they are not in good condition, it is better to refrain from wearing flip-flops in public.

It must be added that expensive flip-flops are sometimes made primarily of genuine leather, but they are still very informal and inappropriate to lots of occasions.

Slides

Slides resemble flip-flops, but they have a bit different appearance. Their uppers are created from one wide strap of material — not from two narrow straps. Most slides are made of rubber or synthetic materials; however, some models feature genuine leather uppers. Soles are always flat. Of course, the level of formality is minimal, and your toes are exposed.

Slides (and flip-flops) can be worn with swimming trunks, shorts, light jeans and some non-dress pants made of lightweight fabrics.

Sandals

Finally, a few words should be said about sandals. This footwear style is also characterised by open uppers, flat soles and the lowest formality level. Sandals slightly resemble flip-flops, and some people think that flip-flops (and slides) are just a sort of sandals. However, classic sandals feature wider / bigger straps, and these straps differ considerably from flip-flops' straps. Many sandals have buckles or velcro fasteners, while flip-flops and slides lack any fasteners.

Sandals can be worn in the same situations / environment and with the same clothes as slides and flip-flops. Most people don't recommend wearing this kind of footwear with socks. However, some men ignore this rule — and sometimes deliberately: out of convenience or, perhaps, because of not the best condition of their toes / feet.

Go up