What Do We Mean By Casual Shoes?
For our purposes, “casual” shoes refer to any shoe that you wouldn’t wear to work unless your office was so casual that it had no dress code or a shoe that’s highly ornamented or has multiple colors.
Shoes made of materials like canvas, suede, and nubuck are also typical of casual shoes, as are ones with rubber as a significant part of the construction.
For instance, you could consider Boat Shoes are listed above. Quintessential New England American style, boat shoes are simple two-eyelet shoes with siped rubber soles. Also known as “deck shoes,” these were worn by the likes of JFK and other members of the New England elite.
Alternatively, driving shoes are exceptionally comfortable, slipper-like casual loafers with rubber nubs acting as the sole. Another style that’s excellent sockless, it pairs well with casual trousers, shorts, and denim. It can also be worn in more casual business casual offices.
However, you may be more tempted by dressier options such as saddle shoes and spectators. These maintain their casual air by virtue of their color scheme. Whilst saddle shoes have contrasting leather on the throat, spectators will use two-tone broguing for a similar effect.
Nevertheless, you may consider boots instead such as the Chelsea or Chukka. Both are great with jeans or khakis and add some extra robustness whilst retaining a desired dramatic flair
When in doubt, there are always sneakers. The ones we’re talking about are not for athletics, but rather ones you’d wear to a casual brunch, out shopping, or something of that nature.
Finally, when things get warm, you can always choose between flip flops, slides or even Espadrilles, which are becoming quite common in the USA.
Best Materials For Men’s Casual Shoes
To maintain a casual air about your footwear, it’s best to avoid materials that are overly shiny. And though we are huge proponents of proper shoe care, a couple of scuff here and there on a casual shoe can add a bit of character.
Below, we go over our preferred (and not preferred) materials for casual men’s shoes.
Pebbled Leather: This is regular leather that looks like it’s covered in small pebbles of various sizes. It’s an excellent material for casual shoes. Its texture lends it visual interest while removing any stuffiness that a full dress shoe may have.
Furthermore, while still technically porous, pebbled leather tends to hold up better than other eathers if you get caught in the rain.
Suede: Suede, or reverse calf, is the underside of a cow’s skin and is known for its characteristic nap. A staple of casual men’s shoes, suede footwear looks fantastic when dressed down with jeans or casual trousers. A good rule of thumb is this: the more pronounced the suede’s nap, the more casual the shoe.
Canvas: Canvas shoes, while generally limited to spring and summer shoes, are the epitome of casual footwear. Typically seen on sneakers and espadrilles, canvas shoes are lightweight and pliable. Throw them on with shorts, jeans, or casual pants.
Calfskin: Calfskin is your standard smooth leather. While there are plenty of good-looking casual calfskin shoes on the market, we list it as “not preferred.” This isn’t a knock against calfskin, but rather to say that if you’re looking for a truly casual shoe, there are materials that do the job better than calfskin.
Patent Leather: Smooth, extremely shiny, and stiff, patent leather shoes are typically worn with tuxedos. As this is the antithesis of casual wear, it makes no sense to own a casual patent leather shoe.
Best Colors For Casual Shoes
There are a multitude of colors in which shoes are made (and you can check out our shoe & trouser coordination guide for a comprehensive list of what they are and how to best pair them), but not all of them truly work for “dress” shoes.
Below, we’ve organized them by Ideal, Acceptable, and Avoid:
Bright Colors: If you have a flair for color (and we have an entire color guide for you if you’d like to develop one), casual shoes are a great way to express that. Red, orange, yellow, purple, green, you name it – these colors all fly for casual shoes. Just be sure that you’re wearing them in an environment where it’s appropriate to do so!
If you’re curious about how to pair these colors and others with whatever trousers you own, check out our shoe & trouser coordination guide.
White: Though only for summer wear (or year-round wear if you live in a warm climate), white shoes are quintessentially casual, even when made in a dressy style. White bucks -nubuck bluchers with red EVA rubber soles- are a very popular American style.
Tan: Another typical spring and summer color, tan’s lightness of tone makes it a very casual shoe. Try a pair of tan boat shoes with shorts or tan drivers with jeans, and make sure to omit your socks when doing so.
Brown: Brown shoes are incredibly versatile and make a great choice for a casual shoe, and there are a million different shades to choose from.
Black: Yes, casual black shoes are indeed for sale on the market. You might even own a pair of black sneakers or casual boots. That said, it’s still our feeling that black is best reserved for a dressy shoe, as its formality is more in sync with such styles.
Building a collection of casual shoes is a fun project when you know what you’re looking for. Hopefully, this guide is helpful to you in that regard.
Now that you know how to begin your casual shoe collection, check out our recommendations for other situations: