Thursday, 17 January 2013

The top five pairs of shoes you should own

In the style of previous posts, I thought I might share some views on a useful 'starting cupboard' of shoes. Of course, as ever, this is really just opinion and none of these are strictly required unless they happen to suit your particular style, lifestyle, and habit of dressing. I'm also not sure that I would say to anyone that five pairs of shoes is a 'starting' cupboard, so I've put these in roughly the order I would buy them if I were starting out now, and in this way they could easily be bought over a couple of years as funds allow.

Plain black oxfords
Sure, brogues are prettier, loafers are more comfortable, and brown more suitable for casual-wear, but a man with a pair of plain black oxfords can fulfil with confidence about 75% of all dress codes. Clearly, they're perfect with business suits of all shades, colours and cuts, and would only be inappropriate with very casual weekend suits. They can also, importantly, be worn with black tie (where brogues would not be suitable), white tie (patent leather is correct, but few would criticise black oxfords with a decent polish), morning dress, or just a reasonably smart blazer and flannels.

Brown Brogues
You'll need a casual pair of shoes to fill in the less frequent but more varied occasions where black shoes won't do. Weekend wear, wearing with chinos, wearing with tweed, wearing with jeans (if you must wear jeans), wearing with white cotton ducks to Henley, and so on. Of course, there are other casual shoes that could fill these gaps but few are quite so widely suitable. A pair of brown loafers are ideal with chinos, and nice with jeans, but hardly suitable to wear with a tweed suit. Polished oxblood monks might look cracking with a casual suit but are probably a bit much to wear with chinos and a blazer.

Of course, plain brown oxfords could do a similar job, but a) I love brogues (so you should too) and b) if you're going to have only one casual pair of shoes, it might as well be properly casual.

Deck Shoes
Ok, they might not be for everyone, but they do pick up the last straggling dress codes that wouldn't be covered by the two options above. Shorts, beachwear, that sort of thing. Only the most obsessive of iGent would insist on retaining suit and brogues on the beach or as he takes breakfast on his veranda on a sunny morning in August. For those of us with a pragmatic approach to dress, some kind of alternative is required. For me, at least, that alternative is deck shoes.

Loafers (black or brown)
Personally, I'd choose brown, but go for whichever you think you'll get more use from. If you wear suits Monday to Friday, then black loafers are probably more useful to break up the monotony and to give your Oxfords a rest. (Actually, if you really wear suits Monday to Friday then your second pair of shoes should probably be a second pair of black oxfords. Boring but true. Go for brogues if you want to liven them up.) If, on the other hand, your day-to-day wear is more of the chinos and jacket variety then brown loafers are more useful.

I favour a slim shape with rounded toes and the lowest-profile stitching around the toe possible and, for your first buy, a non-tasseled pair might be safest although I would be the last person to dissuade you from tassels if you're keen. For brown shoes, suede is an option, otherwise polished calf-leather is ideal.

Something fun, or practical
If you have all of the above then you're reasonably well covered, and it's time to pad out your collection. It might be that, for practical reasons, you just need another pair of plain black or brown shoes. If so, now's the time. If, on the other hand, you think you've more or less got what you need, then it might be time to stretch to something a bit different. Really love loafers? Perhaps time to get the tasseled pair. Always hankered after some monks? Buy some in black or brown, depending on your usual mode of dress. Live in a cold country and spend a lot of time wearing tweed? Perhaps go for a pair of brogued boots. Regardless, this fifth pair should give you something else to wear with many of your outfits but also something a bit special that suits your own style and that you'll take a particular pleasure in. For me, it's probably my tasseled loafers. And my brogued boots. And my patent leather evening shoes. I'm incorrigible.


  1. No room for the derby? Or a pair of versatile chelsea or chukka boots?

    It is a funny thing but, whilst I see nothing wrong with them, I am unlikely to wear deck shoes or loafers, preferring other types of casual shoe. And I'd always opt for plain unfussy shoes over a pair of brogues.

    1. Ah well, I can never please everyone with these things! Like anything on this blog, it's mostly my opinion, and with only five slots there'll always be things I miss out (especially if I don't happen to like them myself). I'd hope people have enough sense to use this as inspiration to think about and buy the shoes they like, and not to think it's in any way an objectively perfect list!

    2. Of course. Life would be much duller if we all agreed and, as I was trying to say, my personal choices might be different but not necessarily better or, I'd say, worse.

      I do think it is interesting that whilst most men might agree easily on many clothing staples (a decent grey or blue suit, pair of chinos, blazer or odd jacket and so on) there is greater room, perhaps, for individualism and expression in footwear. Some people don't like boots with anything vaguely formal, others like me would tend to brogues.

  2. It seems like the kinds of guys who want to wear monks tend not to wear derbies, and vice-versa. Granted, they aren't completely interchangeable, but having one tends to crowd out the occasions on which you might wear the other, to such an extent that most men "pick a side" and go with their preference.

  3. I've been looking for a pair of brown brogues for ages and can't find a suitable pair, any suggestions where to find some?

    Many thanks

    1. What sort of thing are you after? My ones pictured above are the Windsor brogues from Barker: they're classic round-toed, closed-lace full brogues and come in black or a fairly light brown, more of a tan, which I am less keen on and have polished darker over the years. Barker do a whole range though with various different styles and shapes, including half-brogue, the Wallace which comes in a darker brown and in burgandy, which looks very nice.

      If you're looking to spend a bit less, I'd recommend shoes from the Loake Classics collection. The Severn is a similar shoe to mine, or else there's the Braemar if you prefer open-laced (or Derby, as they're sometimes known).

    2. I to am not keen on the tan look which most of the high street shops tend to sell and not that greater quality either.

      Having looked at Loake after your suggestion I like the look of the Buckingham and Severn so will definitely look in to getting a pair of them.

      Thank you again for your help.


Feel free to disagree, feel free to do so vehemently, but try do do so interestingly. Either way, kindly be polite.

Comments on posts more than 30 days old require moderation, but don't worry your message will appear as soon as I spot and approve it.

Comments that are really advertising or SEO-bait are mostly picked up by the automated spam filter but those that aren't will be deleted as soon as I see them.