Your choice of footwear says a lot about you. Even if your wardrobe is stellar, it’s impossible to nail the look without the perfect pair of shoes to match.
From sporty to formal, every gentleman should own at least five unique pairs of shoes. After all, the kicks you wear camping and at the office are going to be vastly different in both form and function. Elevate your shoe game by adding these five essential styles to your collection.
You might not realize it, but loafers are incredibly versatile. Since hitting the scene in 1930, the classic loafer style has evolved significantly over the years.
Today, you have your choice of penny loafers, tassel loafers, apron loafers, and countless others—from flashy to classy. Simultaneously casual and formal, loafers are an ideal choice for men whose lifestyles demand a seamless transition between elegant and relaxed.
It’s hard to define loafers, as there are so many different types. The easiest way to recognize them is that they’re typically made from leather or suede, and they feature a laceless, slip-on design. Styling loafers is a breeze—you can wear them with a suit, chinos, jeans, or even shorts under the right circumstances. That said, they typically work best with men’s casual wear.
Follow these tips to make your loafers pop:
- Keep it simple. Sure, there are occasions when a flashy pair of loafers will absolutely make an ensemble, but if you’re only shopping for five pairs of essentials, your best bet is to opt for the most versatile option, and that usually means black or brown.
- Wear the right pants. Avoid pants that sag over your loafers. Instead, opt for tapered or cuffed trousers that give the loafers a little room. Don’t be afraid to show a little ankle.
- Consider no-show socks. No socks with loafers is a classic look, especially in the summer, but that can become uncomfortable quickly. If you want to rock that style, wear some no-show socks.
2. Walking Shoes
If you’re an athlete, you already have specialized shoes for your preferred sport, so we’re going to leave those shoes out of the top five essential shoe list. However, a solid pair of walking shoes is a solid investment that often goes overlooked.
Are running shoes good for walking? While you can use running shoes for your walking needs, you’re better off getting real walking shoes.
Even if you don’t go on walks regularly, there are plenty of occasions when a quality pair of walking shoes will come in handy. Traveling?
Walking shoes are so comfortable—perfect for strolling the airport and relaxing on the plane. Spending the day exploring the city? Your feet will thank you later. Style is important but focus on finding a pair that really feels amazing. Think pillows for your feet with ample support.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain or snow, be sure to look into wet weather walking shoes. In order to protect your other shoes, it’s always nice to have some beaters ready to go. Walking shoes may not be the most elegant shoes in your collection, but it’s important to have a go-to pair for everyday wear. Once you have them, you’ll wonder how you got by without them!
3. Dress Boots
All too often, men skip dress boots assuming they won’t be able to pull them off.
It’s understandable—it’s a bold look, but the risk is worth the reward. When you wear them right, men’s dress boots are undeniably at the top of the style food chain. Maybe you’re not ready for combat boots, but a simple pair of ankle boots can really add the finishing touch to a look.
So, where to begin? If this is your first foray into the world of dress boots, chukkas are a safe bet. For something a little more on the edgy side, consider Chelsea boots or equestrian lacers. If you’re only going to own one pair of dress boots, brown or black leather is always a safe bet, or you could even opt for some grey boots, especially if they’re made out of suede.
Here are some tips to help you rock your new look:
- Own it. If you’re going to wear dress boots, go all-in. Don’t try to hide them with long, sagging pants. Let your boots stand on their own, and don’t be afraid to cuff. Try to cover ½ to ¾ inch of the top of the boot, max.
- Take care of them. There’s a time and place for worn boots, but if you’re just going to own one pair, take care of them. That means brushing them with a horsehair brush every so often, conditioning them, and even polishing them once in a while. You may also want to apply a product to protect leather if you’re worried about water damage.
- Choose the right jacket. Dress boots pair amazingly with a cool jacket. A peacoat or topcoat can be a fashionable, elegant choice, or a flight or bomber jacket can work great for more casual styles.
4. Simple Sneakers
Every man should own at least one pair of understated, minimal sneakers.
Solid white shoes are a great choice because they’re so versatile, but they do get dirty very easily. If you can avoid staining them, a crisp pair of white kicks will work with virtually any outfit out there. You could also get a similar look with grey or beige shoes without worrying as much about dirt.
As you choose your minimalist sneakers, think about materials.
You can’t go wrong with classic canvas sneakers — Chucks, Vans, and Keds are all solid choices. Versatility is the key here, so find something that you’ll be able to wear with shorts, jeans, and chinos. These shoes aren’t going to be the focal point of your outfit, and that’s okay.
5. Oxfords or Derbys
Finally, you should have at least one pair of really nice formal dress shoes that you only dust off for special occasions.
Oxfords and Derbys are quite similar, with the difference being that Derbys have open lacing and Oxfords have closed lacing.
Both are worn with similar outfits, so it’s really just a matter of preference. If you can only own one pair, go for black. It’s the most formal option, and you’ll be grateful to have them for certain events.
Trust Your Instincts
While these five shoe styles should cover all of your basic needs, don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Creating your own personal style is rewarding, so feel free to break the rules if it feels right.
At the end of the day, the best shoes are the ones that make you feel good. Eventually, you’ll get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Above all, have fun with it.
Confidence looks better than any shoe style out there.
I love hiking with my family and taking in the cool air in the hills around where I live up in Ithaca.
Most of the time we take rather shorter walks out for a bit of exercise since there are so many things in life that we also want to do – and especially the kids.
Life is a balance but one where you should never take the beauty of nature for granted. I also enjoy writing about my experiences and helping others with the things I learn about shoes from using them, from friends and the family.