Dress shoes are an essential part of any man wardrobe. If you do it right dress shoes can be worn with almost anything in your closet; dark wash jeans, chinos, or wool pants. There are a wide range of dress shoes out there and picking out the right pair of dress shoes can get overwhelming. I’ve put together this guide to provide you with all the style and terminology you need to make a proper decision. By the end of this guide you’ll know the difference between a Derby and an Oxford dress; a Wingtip a Longwing; and a Chelsea boot and a Chukka. But first, let’s start with some basic terminology.
The outsole of a shoe is basically what hits the pavement as you walk. Materials for this part of a dress shoe will be traditionally leather, but synthetic materials, rubber, and crepe are options as well. This is what will determine the profile of the entire shoe, so it has got to be right.
This is the part of the shoe that most people know. Basically, this area determines how tall the shoe will make the wearer. Rubber, synthetic materials, or even layered leather can make up the heel. It can also be called a heel block or just the heel.
Various fillers are used within a dress shoe and the footbed filler is where you will find them. Top quality shoes utilize cork in this area as it naturally forms to the individual’s foot for a truly customized fit. This is a crucial part of the shoe so always inquire as to what material the footbed filler maintains.
A shoe would be nothing without providing proper support and the shank is the main support structure of a men’s dress shoe. It is located between the insole and outsole just in front of the heel.
Another area in which most people are accustomed to understanding is the insole. This is what is seen on the inside of a shoe where the footrests. High-quality dress shoes use leather in this area where lower quality and activewear shoes provide a textile layer. The insole acts as a cover for the interior area of the shoe.
An uncommon term in average shoe talk is the welt. This is actually the piece of material that bonds the outsole to the insole and binds the shoe together. The best-made dress shoes offer proper stitching for this area and Goodyear welts are the most common type as they are more durable and waterproof. A Blake welt is popular as well for its beautifully streamlined appearance. Should you encounter a shoe without stitching, it is likely glued and will not be as durable as a standard stitched welt.
The upper is an easy term to understand. It is actually everything above the sole that encases a foot in the shoe. The rest of this article encompasses every part that is considered in the upper category.
Most of the shoe is referred to as quarters. This is the material that runs from the laces under your ankle bone and all the way back to the heel of the shoe. Some quarters are located under the vamp and therefore referred to as closed lacing shoes.
Secured under the quarters is the vamp. This portion covers the shoe’s instep. The very top of this area is known as the shoe’s throat.
Not every shoe will have a toe cap. This is an option that provides a bit more strength at the toes. It can be added to the outside of the shoe or more commonly, stitched into the inside. Inside toe caps are referred to as a puff.
The portion of a men’s dress shoe that connects each side of the quarters is referred to as the backstay. It is most often the same color as the rest of the shoe, but some styles actually change the color of the backstay for a unique appearance.
Like the backstay, the saddle can be made of a contrasting color or remain the same as the rest of the shoe. This portion is located on the sides of the shoe reaching into the insoles.
Eyelets are very easy to understand. They are merely the holes place in the shoe for lacing up the laces.
A shoe’s lining is an essential piece for comfort. Shoemakers traditionally place a softer piece of leather or other material to line the inside of the shoe to ensure pure comfort. The material must also be pliable and durable as this portion of the shoe will take on a lot of abuse.
Wingtips and brogues utilize foxing. It is optional for men’s dress shoes and is simply trimming that runs along the ankle at the opening of the shoe.
Closed Lacing System VS Open Lacing System
There are three kinds of lace dress shoes. They utilize two kinds of lacing systems. The Oxford uses a closing lacing system and the Blucher and Derby Used a closed system.
Closed Lacing System: The quarters and facing are secured under the vamp. This would be your most formal shoe.
The Derby Open Lacing System: The quarters are sewn on top of the vamp and the facing is open. This type of shoe is less formal and goes great with casual clothing items like chinos and jeans.
The Blucher Opening Lacing System: The blucher has small pieces of leather sewn onto the vamp creating the lacing system. This type of shoe looks great with longwing brogueging
Dress Shoe Styles
There are numerous dress shoe styles, but the ones I’ve listed below are the most common and would great additions to any wardrobe capsule. All of the dress shoes pictures below can be found on the Allen Edmonds Website. They sell some of the best mens dress shoes available.
The Oxford (Balmoral)
The Monk Strap
Buying the right dress shoe is an essential part of looking your best. Hopefully this guide will help you along the way to developing a great dress shoe aresenal.