Best Foot Forward – A Guide to Men’s Formal Shoes

A good pair of shoes is a necessity for almost every man’s wardrobe. Whether he’s out at the office daily, or spends his days in sneakers and a tracksuit, sooner or later, formal shoes will be required.

With at least one formal pair a staple of the male wardrobe, there are plenty of choices in styles. Colours, perhaps not so many. Unless the shoes are making a statement, for the most part they’ll be shades of black, brown or tan. Blue and red shoes are a little more common, but are often in dark shades closer to that of black or brown.  

The most common material found in men’s formal shoes is leather. In the upper, the shoe will be made with a wholecut (one piece of leather) or with multiple pieces, sewn together, as seen in Oxfords or Loafers.

The outsoles of men’s shoes, dependent on quality, are also made using leather, layered with a cork midsole and a leather, cushioned insole. Manmade materials such as rubber are also used for outsoles and provide a little extra grip for their occupant.

So, what type of men’s formal shoes are there?

The Oxford

An Oxford shoe is characterised by its closed lacing system, which is concealed in the upper of the shoe. Originating in Britain, the shoe was originally known as the Balmoral, taking its namesake from a Scottish castle, although after being adopted and popularised by the students of Oxford University during the 1800s, it underwent a name change.

The Dress Boot

The dress boot is constructed using the same methods and style as the Oxford, only with a longer shaft.

The Loafer

The loafer was originally made as a casual house slipper for England’s King George VI. It was only in the 1960s, however, that it rose to fashion when American businessmen started wearing the shoe with suits.

Characterised by an elevated seam, much like moccasins, that runs around the toe, the saddle normally features a strap, a strap with a slit or a metal ornament.

The Chelsea Boot

Originating in Victorian England, the Chelsea Boot is an ankle length boot, with a rounded toe and commonly made using a wholecut. The shaft features elasticated gussets either side, meaning the boot can be pulled on or off without the need for laces, or compromising the silhouette of the boot.

Brogueing (Brogues)

This popular decorative technique has been used by shoemakers for many years and was originally said to have allowed water to escape the shoe. Brogues are most commonly adaptations of the Oxford style shoe, with perforated holes along the edges of the leather to create a pattern in the shoe’s uppers.

Clarks have carried on with the traditional styles of shoe but along the way, have created iconic shoes of their own, such as the Wallabee. Taking the traditional profile of a moccasin, the Wallabee has an ankle height shaft and has been part of Clarks signature collection for over 60 years.  

Of course you will find other styles, fits and specially adapted formal shoes in our Clarks formal men’s collection. You can view the full range through this link.