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The Quick and Dirty Guide to Classic Footwear
Do you have a shoe collection you can count on one hand? Are you going to dust off and wear your scuffed favourites? Do you think no one will notice what shoes you’re wearing on your wedding day? If you’ve answered yes to these, then you need a quick and easy lesson in shoe styles. Of course there are countless variations, but this summary gives you the essentials in men’s wedding footwear.
The biggest dictator of the type of shoe you’ll be wearing is the formality of your wedding. To help you, we’ve divided your options according to four types of wedding: quirky, casual, semi-casual and formal. The shoes in each category are by no means definitive, so if the groom wants to wear smart dress shoes to a beach wedding, then that’s completely up to him (and his sweaty feet!).
The Quirky Wedding
Venues for this type of wedding are more unusual - think art gallery or museum – and the groom will likely wear folded up trousers or suspenders and a bowtie. These are the shoes to suit the unconventional wedding:
The Desert Boot
Also known as a chukka boot, this lace-up shoe has a flat sole and comes just above the ankle. It has open lacing, with two or three eyelets, and a plain toe. They’re made in suede or canvas and come in a range of colours. You can pick a neutral shade, but add a touch of individuality with bright shoe laces.
Originally made from deerskin, hence the name, they’re available in suede or nubuck - leather that’s buffed on the grain side to produce a velvet-like surface. It’s shaped like a dress shoe, but it’s a more relaxed version, which puts it somewhere between formal and casual footwear. The classic colour of this lace-up is tan, with red rubber soles, but it’s also available in white, blue, grey, and red.
With rubber soles and canvas uppers, sneakers are soft shoes that are worn on casual occasions. Converse and Vans have become popular choices for grooms, particularly in bright tones that either match the bride’s shoes, or some accessory like your suspenders.
The Casual Wedding
This relaxed wedding is frequently held outside in a forest, beach or backyard, and it’s the type of event where you can easily spot the groom donning a pair of shorts. The main consideration is that the groom follows the bride, so if she’s barefoot, so are you. These are the shoe selections for a laid-back wedding:
Sandals (and thongs for the most informal weddings!) are footwear where most of the upper foot is exposed, allowing you to feel cool in the hot weather. Simple leather sandals in tan or dark brown are a stylish option, and they make a practical groomsmen gift, which means you get to tick that off your to-do list.
The Boat Shoe
These are also known as topsiders, and they were created with rubber soles, so that the wearer didn’t slip on the deck of a boat. You don’t have to be a sailor though, to own a pair of these quintessential summer shoes. They’re made from canvas or leather, ordinarily have a white rubber sole, and traditionally come in a variety of browns.
The Semi- Casual Wedding
Venues can range from halls and churches, to barns and formal gardens, and the groom looks more comfortable in trousers and a vest, than a suit. Your shoe selections for a less structured wedding are:
This umbrella term roughly covers most slip-on footwear, and it’s the epitome of comfort and freedom. While they’re considered the least “dressy” shoe, they come in a wide array of styles, like penny, tassel and classic loafers. They also come in different fabrics and colours, which can give them a distinctly formal appearance.
The Dress Boot
These ankle-length boots have a slight heel, and are slim fitting around the foot and the bottom of the leg. They are usually the same design as an Oxford or Derby, and are polished to a high sheen.
A.k.a. the Blucher, it’s the second most popular men’s dress shoe, after the Oxford. Like most shoes it has an open-laced system, meaning that the eyelet tabs are sewn on top of the vamp (the front section of the shoe, beginning behind the toes), and the lacing system looks like an inverted V. This looks less formal, but makes it more flexible. It can also accommodate a wider foot, which generally makes it more comfortable to wear.
The Formal Wedding
Whether you’re saying I do in an elegant ballroom or on a grand estate, you’re sure to be wearing a dark, formal suit or a tuxedo. You’ll definitely need dress shoes for this smart wedding:
This classic in men’s formal footwear is also known as the Balmoral, and every man should own at least one pair. The distinguishing feature is that it has a closed lacing system, which means that the eyelet tabs are stitched underneath the vamp. This makes the shoe look more clean and sleek, but the lacing system is less flexible, and this can make it more constricting. It’s the perfect shoe for a suit and it’s an excellent choice for your wedding day.
The Monk Strap
If you’re looking for moderately formal shoe, but with a bit more character, this is the shoe for you. The style falls somewhere between the Oxford and the Derby, but the laces have been replaced by a strap that runs across the top of the foot, and it has one or two buckles. The buckles allow for a variable width of foot, and this makes very comfortable.
It's All in the Details
When it comes to dress shoes, there are certain extras that will set your shoes apart from all others, and these are caps and patterns.
The Cap: This is the front area of your shoe, where your toes are.
- Plain toe – the least ostentatious of the styles, it’s as simple as it gets, and is suitable for all occasions.
- Cap toe – this has an additional band of leather that covers the toe area of the shoe. It’s the most popular style and it’s a classic with a suit.
- Wing tips – the cap toe comes to a point in the centre – above the toes – and spreads out towards the sides of the shoe, in a W shape that looks like a pair of wings. There are different styles such as wingtips and longwings.
The Pattern: These decorative shapes allow you to show off your personality.
- Plain – the leather has no decorations but can come in a different shine
- Brogue – this refers to the perforations in the leather, and there are different distinctions such as: full brogue, longwing brogue, semi-brogue and quarter brogue.
Essentially what the cap and pattern mean, is that you can get a wingtip Oxford, a plain toe Derby or a cap toe monk strap, and so there’s a style of shoe to suit every man.
The colour shoe you choose depends on what you’re wearing, although modern weddings offer far more leeway to the adventurous groom. Shoes should normally be as dark, or darker, than your suit, but if you do pick a contrasting shade, your outfit should still be balanced. Do this by coordinating shoes with accessories, just don’t go overboard and match your shoes to your belt, watch, suspenders, tie and hat.
- Black or charcoal suit – only black shoes
- Light grey suit with no brown undertones – black shoes
- Light grey suit with brown undertones – dark brown shoes
- White suit – white shoes
- Cream or tan suit – light or medium brown shoes
- Navy blue suit –brown or black shoes
Avoiding Cold Feet
If you’re going for continuity, match your socks to your trousers, not to your shoes, and you should also opt for a pattern or texture, to make them a bit more interesting. This is the perfect opportunity to inject a bit of fun into your outfit, and you can do this with a pop of colour or a bold design. You can either coordinate your socks with your bride’s shoes, with the groomsmen’s socks or to something above your waist, like a tie or pocket square. Socks should be knee high, not ankle high, and only wear white socks if you’re wearing a white suit. Or your name is John Travolta.
- Make sure all labels are removed – no one wants to see the price sticker when you’re kneeling at the altar
- If you’ve bought new shoes, give yourself time to break them in
- Don’t leave shoe shopping to the last minute
- Express your personal style but find a balance with something timeless
- The sleeker the shoe, the more formal it’s considered to be
- Toes should be rounded – never squared
- Always choose fit over style
Good shoes are worth investing in, so take the time to find something comfortable, that will last you for many years. You’re soon going to be taking your first step as a married man, and you’ll definitely want to put your best foot forward.