Every self-respecting man needs a pair of quality dress shoes to ensure that he’s prepared for a formal occasion or needs to wear a suit. Whether you wear them regularly or just once in a blue moon, it is a crucial component of your wardrobe and shouldn’t be overlooked.
In this guide, you’ll discover the Top 10 Best Men’s Dress Shoes that you can buy online:
- Beckett Simonon Dean Oxford Shoes
- Ace Marks Griffin Oxford Shoes
- Wolf & Shepherd Closer Cap Toe
- Allen Edmonds Strandmok Brogue
- Beckett Simonon Valencia Wholecut Shoes
- Santoni Darian Cap Toe Oxford
- Maglieriapelle Pamukkale
- Salvatore Ferragamo Seattle Loafer
- Taft The Grail Shoe
- Trickers Stow Boot
Interested in a particular pair? Just click on the link above to jump right to it! Afterwards, we’ll also take a look at the criteria that define dress shoes and what will increase or lower their level of formality.
See Our Dress Shoe Reviews
Beckett Simonon’s overall value proposition is very hard to beat! Their shoes are ethically crafted in a small Colombian workshop from Argentinian calfskin leather using a Blake stitch construction as well as a vachette leather lining.
While connoisseurs will often have a preference for Goodyear welted shoes, there is a lot to be said for the Blake stitch. Not only is it an older shoemaker technique but it offers a quicker breaking in period, a slimmer profile, and is often cheaper.
On the flip side, it’s not quite as water-resistant but it can still be resoled a number of times so a pair of Beckett Simonon shoes will offer long-term value.
"We have yet to find a shoemaker that offers better value for money than Beckett Simonon!"
Ace Marks is a new challenger to Beckett Simonon’s title for the best dress shoes that you can buy online. Although their shoes are indeed a little more expensive, they don’t use a made-to-order business model.
Consequently, your shoes will arrive within days as opposed to weeks. Furthermore, they’re benchmade in Italy by expert artisans from 100% premium calfskin leather using a Blake Flex construction.
We find that their black Griffin cap toe Oxford shoes are an excellent example of their craftsmanship. However, there is a rich selection on the website that you can browse too.
When we first heard Wolf & Shepherd’s claims that they produced the world’s most comfortable dress shoes, we admit that we were somewhat sceptical! However, we have now tried a number of different models to realise that they were quite close to the truth!
On the outside, Wolf & Shepherd shoes look like traditionally-crafted calfskin footwear for formal occasions. However, they’re designed using techniques inspired by athletic footwear.
Consequently, they’re made with EVA heels, memory phone cushioning, lightweight PhoenixTECH rubber soles, and engineering support. If you need something for long periods spent on your feet, they’re an excellent choice.
The Strandmok is one of the first pairs of shoes that we reviewed on Bespoke Unit and it still carries a lot of weight today! Crafted with a 360° Goodyear welt, they’re robust and hard-wearing with excellent water resistance.
Meanwhile, the striking Dainite rubber soles offer comfort and shock absorption. Although a little more casual as dress shoes go, they’re surprisingly versatile and can be worn for a variety of occasions.
Another offering from Beckett Simonon, the “Valencia” is probably one of our favourite models. People who are particularly fond of wholecut style shoes will realise that they’re costly and hard to produce on a budget.
Their typically premium pricing is usually because you have to find a single piece of leather for the whole shoe that has no blemishes or marks. Meanwhile, other shoes will find good-looking pieces and patchwork them together so nobody notices.
Nevertheless, Beckett Simonon’s wholecuts are sold at the same price, which comes to only $170 if you use our exclusive “BU20” discount code! We find that this is utterly unbelievable given the quality craftsmanship you receive in return.
If you’re looking for Italian prestige and a truly luxurious pair of shoes, Santoni is a brand certainly worth considering. Crafted with full-grain leather using a Blake stitch construction, we admit that they’re a little pricey.
However, they’re beautifully designed and are created by a true Italian pedigree manufacturer.
Although similarly priced than a pair of Santoni shoes, Maglieriapelle’s brogues are 100% handmade! These stunning artisanal dress shoes are handcrafted just outside of Istanbul in Turkey.
Furthermore, their rich hand patina produces mesmerising deep colours and a vibrant finish, which will be unique given that every brush stroke is different.
Another celebrated Italian brand, Salvatore Ferragamo arguably introduced his country’s reputation for quality to the USA. These beautiful bit loafers may not be suitable for every formal occasion but they’re a breathtaking specimen of craftsmanship.
The Seattle loafer has an elegant shape thanks to a slim silhouette and low profile heel. Meanwhile, the mod-toe finish is stitched by hand while the metal hardware glistens just under the hem of your trouser.
If you’re looking to exude Italian elegance, Ferragamo’s loafer is an excellent option.
Taft Clothing is a celebrated shoe brand that’s cherished for its bold and unapologetically rebellious designs. The Grail shoe is an excellent example of its craft and daring creativity.
An otherwise classic brogue shoe made from vegetable-tanned box-calf leather, it features a distinctive chain across the cap toe. Furthermore, it’s crafted using a Goodyear welt to ensure longevity and robust quality.
Indeed, it’s a little different compared to most shoes and may not suit everyone. However, it’s guaranteed to turn heads!
Given that this is a list dedicated to shoes and not dress boots, we refrain from adding more than one pair. However, if we were to add one, it would certainly be the Stow from the English heritage brand, Trickers.
Trickers has been operating in Northampton since 1829 and was visited by Prince Charles on its 160th anniversary so he could award the brand with a Royal Warrant.
Trickers’ heritage as the first manufacturer of country boots lives on today. Their boots continue to be produced in England using a quality Goodyear storm welt as well as supple yet robust Dainite rubber soles.
What Defines Formal Dress Shoes?
Dress shoes aren’t simply defined by a single characteristic but a multitude of various considerations. Below, we’ll take a look at the contributing factors that render a shoe dressy or not.
You can use the guide below for dress shoes but for a general overview, you can refer to our full shoe formality guide.
Firstly, the extent of which a shoe can be considered “dressy” is by how functional it would be in everyday life. In short, the least versatile shoes that fulfil no practical role are considered the most formal.
Meanwhile, shoes with an utility function such as most types of boots and shoes that can be worn outdoors are the most casual. For instance, sneakers are for athletes, boots are for workers and so on.
However, there are exceptions to this rule. Take the example of Brogue shoes that were originally designed with perforations that improved drainage when walking through marches. This style has been largely appropriated by the ruling class and today is relatively dressy.
Nevertheless, it has retained its outdoor connotations and is therefore one of the least formal dress shoes.
Conversely, delicate opera pumps and tuxedo slippers are wildly impractical for wearing outdoors. They are therefore restricted to the city and indoors and would be unimaginably useless in a more rustic environment.
As such, they are considered more formal because their use can only be reserved for special occasions that expect the wear of exceptional garments.
Leathers & Materials
Regardless of style, the leather and material used to make a shoe will play a very significant role in its formality. In many ways, this ties to the previous consideration as the most rugged and resilient materials are considered the least formal.
Meanwhile, delicate and pristine materials such as patent leather and velvet are the most formal. These are usually reserved for the most exceptional dress codes and will be rarely worn on a daily basis.
For example, it would look particularly odd to see a regular business suit paired with patent leather Oxford shoes. However, you can go with smooth calf skin shoes for them to be considered dressy depending on the circumstances.
As a general rule, the rougher the material, the less formal it becomes. Once you begin wearing anything that isn’t smooth leather such as pebbled leathers, canvas and suede, things can become very casual indeed.
The same can even be said for soles. As rubber soles are cheaper and more practical on a daily basis, they’re considered much less formal. When dressing up for formal occasions, it may be expected that the soles are leather instead.
In fact, the choice of leather can have a profound impact on the shoe’s formality and even override the style’s initial level of dress. For instance, suede Oxfords (if such a thing exists) become much less formal than calfskin Derby shoes.
Finally, shoe colour is another factor that we delve into in great detail on our shoe formality guide.
In short, the darker the colour, the more formal it is. With black being at the top as the most formal colour choice, you can work your way down to dark brown and cordovan as mildly less formal options.
As you begin to find yourself in medium browns and tans, the colours are considerably less dressy and begin to become quite casual. Once into typically non-leather colours, such as white, red and greens, you’re immediately in a decidedly casual dress code.
Dress Shoe Scale Of Formality
As mentioned above, the formality of a shoe greatly depends on its materials and finer details. However, a general rule of thumb is to refer to the following scale:
- Tuxedo Slipper & Opera Pumps
- Oxford Shoes
- Wholecut Shoes
- Monk Strap Shoes
- Chelseas & Other Boots
- Brogues & Long Wings
- Derby Shoes
Tuxedo Slippers & Opera Pumps
Although several different styles, the most formal shoes are the least practical as explored above. Made from either patent leather or velvet, tuxedo shoes are sleek and elegant with a delicate touch.
Some tuxedo shoes, known as Opera Pumps, even feature a decorative bow across the top. Meanwhile, tuxedo slippers are simply velvet slippers with a leather sole.
You can learn more about the different types of tuxedo shoes with our dedicated guide.
A staple shoe style reminiscent of Wall Street and the City of London, Oxfords are a classic and one of the most formal styles out there. Although mostly defined by their closed-laced throats, they will often feature a cap toe.
The cap toe is an extra piece of leather that’s stitched over the toe area, which is often buffed into a fine sheen. Sometimes, they can even be given a mirror shine.
Also known as Balmoral shoes, they can be worn for just about anything including and above business professional. For instance, a patent leather Oxford is ideal for particularly formal events including White Tie.
Learn more about this shoe style with our guide to Oxford shoes.
Technically a type of Oxford shoe because of its closed-lace throat, a Wholecut is considered a debonair and elegant style. They’re often quite formal as they’re made from a single piece of leather, which must be of premium quality in order to work.
Overall, wholecut shoes are quite expensive as despite using less leather, the craftsmanship is very demanding. Therefore, they’re also quite rare to find.
Reminiscent of Italian styles, they’re a relaxed alternative to Oxfords and somewhat flashier. You can learn more about this particular style with our dedicated wholecut shoe guide.
Monk Strap Shoes
Featuring either one or two buckles, monk strap shoes are a firm favourite among the most style conscious men. Today, double monk straps are the most popular. However, both are influential shoe styles.
Monk strap shoes can greatly vary in appearance with different areas for placing the buckle as well as the materials used. More rustic styles will be inherently more casual. Meanwhile, you can find black monk straps with very fine straps that are more elegant and thus more formal.
You can learn everything about this shoe style through our detailed monk strap guide.
Chelseas & Other Boots
By definition, boots are a type of utilitarian footwear. Therefore, they’re considered generally less ornamental and more casual because of their practicality. However, as we’ve said, you can render a style of shoe dressier depending on its construction and choice of leather.
Typically the most formal boot style are Chelseas, which are a recent style popularised by The Beatles in the 1960s. However, we’ve instead featured lace-up dress boots above because their construction is reminiscent of Brogues with their detailed ornamentation.
Wingtips & Brogues
An old Scottish classic, Brogues are highly-decorative shoes that feature ornamentation known as pinking and perfing. When speaking generally, these terms fall under “broguing” as they’re so intertwined with the shoe style itself.
Originally, brogues were peasant shoes and the perforations were functional in that they helped water drain off the shoe rather than soak into the leather. Therefore, they’ll always be more casual than formal dress shoes.
Nevertheless, their level of formality can largely depend on the leather and lacing system. For instance, you can find open-throat Derby-style brogues in suede, which are decidedly laid-back. Another well-known style of brogue is the Longwing.
Meanwhile, wingtips are shoes which feature additional stitching across the toe that look like a bird’s wings. A largely American term sometimes used for brogues, wingtips are a more urbanised style that feature no perforations or pinking. They’re also associated with the early 20th Century.
A common style of wingtip is the Spectator, which is a two-tone shoe. This can be very formal when made from monochrome patent leather. However, it can also be very casual if made from pebbled or suede leather.
Finally, the antithesis of the Oxford is the Derby or Blucher shoe. Unlike the Oxford, which features a closed-lace system, Derbies have open laces. This means that the eyelets are found on an extra piece of leather that is fixed on either side of the throat.
Because of this more primitive and rugged design, Derby shoes are inherently less formal and more casual. However, when worn properly, they can be relatively dressy and certainly usable in most business professional settings.
If you want to learn more, head to our Derby & Blucher shoe guide.
Now that you have learned about the best dress shoes that you can buy, have you considered other situations where you may need to build out your wardrobe? Check out some of our guides below to learn more: