Whether you’re in the market for a pair of polished Oxfords for the office, a set of solid boots for outdoor pursuits or some sandals for an escapade to warmer climes, our ultimate footwear guide will ensure you are well-shod in all situations.
With their distinctive punched and wingtip detailing, the brogue is one of most traditional lace-up styles in the modern man’s shoe compilation. The decorative punched details are the key to shoe’s name: they were originally perforations to allow drainage when crossing damp bogs – ‘brogue’ is derived directly from this. Sturdy, versatile and striking the perfect balance between smart and casual, the brogue makes an easy pairing with tailored trousers, denim and chinos, making it a suitable style companion to most outfits. With a marked return to heritage dressing in menswear, the brogue has become an indispensible footwear investment.
Developed from a short boot with side slits popular at Oxford University in the 1800s, the Oxford shoe is the most formal footwear style today. Simple and clean-cut, they feature a ‘closed lace’ design, where the bottom of the lacing panel has been stitched to the front of the shoe (the vamp). Oxfords tend to be constructed from smooth leather and feature a simple toe-cap design, although variations in suede and other materials are common. The shoe of choice for city gents on office-bound days or formal functions, the classic Oxford is best styled with tailoring.
A more casual and multi-faceted take on the Oxford, Derby shoes feature an open-lace construction, (in contrast to Oxfords) where the bottom of the eyelet lace panels have not been stitched to front of the front of the shoe (the vamp). Suitable for wearing in both casual and dressier situations, the Derby shoe can be crafted from leather or suede and usually sports a simple clean-cut design, but can also feature a toe cap.
Best foot forward: Heavier-soled lace-ups tend to look better on well-built men. If you have a slimmer profile, opt for a less chunky construction. Extend the lifespan of your leather shoes by investing in a good wax-based shoe cream and giving them a good polish and buff once a fortnight. With suede shoes, use a quality suede brush and a waterproof protector spray to keep them in order.
The Hiking and Work Boot
Inspired by the footwear of explorers and working-class labourers of yesteryear, these heavy-duty designs have come to dominate the men’s boot market in recent seasons – largely due to designer’s proclivity for mountaineering gear and heritage dressing. No longer the preserve of the intrepid country rambler, this type of boot has found its way from the country to an urban setting and is ideal for tackling city pavements in challenging weather. With a lace-up front and a solid grip-sole, these study boots afford superb support for keen walkers and will also lend a rugged finish to any look. Wear them year-round with jeans and chinos, lightweight sporty jackets, textured knits and woollen peat coats.
The Chelsea Boot
Since their rise to popularity in the Sixties, Chelsea boots have earned cult status. Identified by their slip-on design featuring elasticised ankle inserts and a round or slightly pointed toe, Chelsea boots are ideal for the gent who wants to introduce a hint of rock ‘n’ roll attitude into his aesthetic. Designs are traditionally in leather or suede, with contemporary styles featuring details such as colour-pop inserts and metallic embellishments. Chelsea boots look their best when worn with slim or skinny jeans, or close-fitting trousers.
The Desert Boot
Also known as the Chukka boot, the style owes its name to the footwear worn by British troops engaged in the Western Desert Campaign during the Second World War. Typically made of suede or leather, these softly constructed boots feature a simple open-lace construction, a crepe sole and round toe. Comfortable and lightweight, Desert boots are a smart choice for the warmer months and will easily pair with all your casual apparel. Opt for a colour-pop or pastel hue to put a contemporary spin on your summer footwear.
Best foot forward: Boots are by nature are more casual than shoes, so pair them with your weekend looks unless you work in a more creative office where the dress code is more relaxed. Invest in a few pairs that will see you through the seasons: hiking and work boots will help you keep a firm footing in inclement conditions, whilst desert and Chelsea boots are an astute choice for the warmer months.
LOAFERS & MONK STRAP SHOES
The Penny Loafer
This classic style, usually crafted from leather or suede is defined by its simple slip-on design which features a cut-out detail on the front of the shoe. The smartest type of loafer, it’s easily adapted to wearing with tailored trousers and denim alike. Opt for classic tan, black and navy colours in the cooler months, swapping for jewel-tone or pastel-hued suede designs in the summer season.
The Tassel Loafer
A more casual style than the Penny loafer, this shoe is guaranteed to lend a dash of natty charm to your aesthetic. Featuring signature tassel fringing on the front, this preppy design can trace its origins to the colleges of 1950s America. Try them with lean dark-hued denim or tweed trousers for a sophisticated nod to vintage mode.
The Driving Loafer
These softly-constructed loafers feature a heelless sole, with leather lace detailing around the upper and front and a bobble-grip sole designed to provide firm traction on the pedals of a car. An easy summer style, they can be worn with almost any casual leg wear option.
The Monk Strap Shoe
A stylish alternative to lace-ups, monk straps have a decidedly elegant edge over other traditional shoes, and strike a well-executed balance between a formal Oxford and the more casual Derby. Defined by their buckle and strap fastenings (single or double straps are the norm), these shoes evolved from the footwear worn by 11th century monks, who appreciated the hard-wearing and practical design. Simply team them with a suit in the week or with your tailored chinos and knits at the weekend and they’ll earn you instant style credibility.
Best foot forward: Loafers are a superb smarter footwear option for the warmer months. Try wearing them sockless (or with invisible socks) and roll up your chinos or jeans a few centimetres for a fresh, contemporary look.
SANDALS & SLIP-ONS
The Fisherman Sandal
Fisherman-style leather sandals, which owe their origins to the ancient coastal communities of the Mediterranean, have made a big comeback in recent seasons. Designed so that water could easily drain out (essential when working on a fishing vessel), these traditional shoes will lend a dash of heritage charm to your feet. They’re versatile too, pairing equally well with both shorts and smarter trousers.
The Modern Sandal
Designed with a solid platform and an easy slip-on, slip-off design, these are ideal for wearing in exotic lands where removing your shoes before going indoors is customary. The airy open-toed construction of these styles gives your feet a chance to breathe after being incarcerated in darkness for the best part of the year.
With their jute sole, lightweight construction and breathable canvas upper, espadrilles are great for gents that want put a summery spin on their footwear, without exposing their toes. They make the perfect style partner to a striped Breton tee and tailored shorts.
Best confined to the pool, the humble flip-flop serves the wearer well in situations where water is a constant feature. Remember to pack a pair in your suitcase to wear with your favourite poolside apparel.
The Boat Shoe
This instantly recognisable style is crafted from leather or suede and sports signature lacing around the upper, and a leather lace-up front. First emerging in the 1930s with the rise of maritime pursuits amongst the leisured classes, these shoes are designed to have a firm grip on wet surfaces, making them ideal for wearing in places where water may come into the mix.
Best foot forward: Sandals were previously viewed as strictly holiday-wear only; this is no longer the case. A pair of minimalist sandals will look great worn in the city on a hot summer’s day with a pair of tailored shorts.
Words by Shane Kurup