Your Guide to Men's Formal Shoes

Your Guide to Men's Formal Shoes
There are endless options when you’re deciding what formal shoes to invest your money on. In this style guide, we break down men’s formal shoes and show you our top picks here at The Idle Man. Here’s everything you need to know about formal shoes. Read more Men's Style Guide features. shopthelook Men’s formal shoes have been around for over 100 years; there's no doubt that, even to this day, a pair of oxfords or the likes are a staple piece in every man’s wardrobe - or at least they should be. In history, formal shoes were commonly worn among the upper class men as a sign of status and wealth. Later on, the formal shoe became every man’s go-to shoe for most office and work related occasions. A formal shoe is seen as the classic piece that ties the whole outfit together. Before we get into the thick of things, take a look at this handy video that shows you which pairs of shoes every man should have in his wardrobe.

Top Men’s Formal Shoes

Classic formal shoes originate from all over the world, with alterations and practical changes occurring over time to leave us with the designs we know and love. Whether they're from the emerald isle or the rainy hills of the English countryside, each of these formal shoes has a history and a unique look that makes them the perfect accompaniment for your formal wear.
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man | Rob Crawford

The Brogue

The brogue style is the most flexible design because it is made from multiple pieces of leather. This allows different leather and fabric combinations, known as the two-tone shoes to be created. One of the most famous wearer of the brogue was Edward the Prince of Wales in the 1930’s. However, more recently there have been some famous brogue wearers such as Jack Nicholson, Robbie Williams and Jude Law rocking the classically cool shoes. These shoes are often seen worn with a suit, to achieve a polished, smart look. Brogues are now seen as an acceptable business shoe in black, a smart, yet relaxed option in brown or an edgy alternative with two tone coloured leathers. You can get brogues in a hobnail boot design, with the extra grip providing a perfect base if you're trekking through cobbles or uneven ground. The best brogues are the ones that can be mixed with smart and casual outfits to create a clean, sophisticated finish. toppicks

The Oxford

The Oxford shoe, a traditional formal shoe that for years has been associated with the English aristocracy. However, the original design actually originated from Ireland and had a completely different name, 'The Balmoral'. Depending on where you come from, the oxford shoe continues to have different names, with the U.S calling them Bal-types and the French referring to them as Richelieus. Regardless of what name you use though, these are the epitome of elegant formal shoes, and with the amount of designs available from a wide range of retailers these really are the perfect affordable dress shoes. The Oxford shoe is the ideal style for every formal situation. Due to the sleek shoe design, many businessmen wear a black oxford to go with their suit. The Oxford shoe is perfect to be worn at weddings, christenings, job interviews and basically any formal event. If a shoe has a simple slit in the top of the shoe, with eyelets either side that pull together with laces, then you can call it an Oxford. The Oxford come in different styles, which means that you can have Oxford toe-caps, Oxford brogues and Oxford semi-brogues. toppicks


The loafers are the original slip-on shoes, loafers are the perfect balance between smart and casual footwear. From suede, leather, velvet or patent finishes design, loafers will add that preppy look to your outfit. Loafers are lightweight shoes, sometimes of moccasin construction making them perfect for the warm months. They often have stitched or cemented soles, making them suitable for more everyday work shoes as they tend to be quite durable. The name loafer relates to the action relaxing or loafing around in them. Both derivations are to do with the very relaxed nature of the shoe which is a result of the way they are made. toppicks

Chelsea Boots

The Chelsea boot is a perfect option for those days that you don’t feel like dressing up, but don’t want to look too causal with some trainers. For this reason, it’s become a contemporary favourite for many guys today. It's a style that’s over 150 years old, however, in that time it's appearance has dramatically changed and adapted with the going trends. If you look at the current way of wearing the Chelsea boot, it is very much in keeping with the origins of the shoe. It’s the ideal balance of being more dressed up than a trainer, but not quite as proper as a pair of Oxfords. Being incredibly adaptable, it suits both a businessman wanting a sturdy yet refined shoe and the casual wearer wanting a shoe that will cope with most conditions on a weekend. It works well paired with a crisp shirt, your everyday t-shirt or a cable knitted jumper. A solid wardrobe staple that every man should own a pair of. toppicks


The monk shoe or monk strap has been around for a long time. It has a history dating back to the footwear worn by monks hence the name of the shoe, usually a sandal but fastened with a buckle. This design allows for the top of the shoe to have a simple buckle closing which some people prefer to having laces flapping around. The closed, smooth nature of the design give it a relatively formal look. The double monk with two buckles is a little more fashionable at the moment. The Monk is also a shoe that looks really good in suede because of its mix between formal and casual.


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