The man who takes the initiative to hunt down the best pair of dress shoes is all too familiar with the popular saying about judging a man by his shoes. Following this mantra, we’d argue that having the right dress shoes for formal occasions is even more critical.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of brands out there, and finding the best dress shoes among the sea of options is more complicated than ever.

After trying them ourselves and considering versatility, shoe quality, and overall value, we’ve compiled a well-rounded list of the best dress shoes for men. Conveniently, all of them are available for purchase online.

We’ve also laid down some guidelines on exactly what characteristics are desirable in a pair of dress shoes. This includes the most appropriate shoe types, ideal materials, the best colors for dress shoes, and more.

Whether you aim to find your first pair of distinguished dress shoes or simply looking to fill a void in your collection, this guide is tailored just for you.

Beckett Simonon Shoe Brand Review

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1. Beckett Simonon Durant Quarter Brogue

Beckett Simonon Durant Quarter Brogue Shoe

* With “BU20” Discount Code

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From all of the dress shoes we’ve worn through, it’s become clear that Beckett Simonon’s overall value proposition is tough to beat.

Their shoes are ethically crafted in a small Colombian workshop. Their uppers are crafted from Italian leather sourced from the celebrated Mastrotto tannery and the interior of their dress shoes is lined in smooth Vachetta leather for ultimate comfort and breathability.

While connoisseurs will often have a preference for Goodyear welted shoes, Beckett Simonon uses a Blake stitch construction that offers a quicker breaking-in period, a slimmer profile, and is often cheaper.

When it comes to design, the Quarter Brogues are exquisitely crafted with unique decorations throughout the cap toe and the quarters. They’re elegant enough for an office setting and exude an understated flair that makes them an ideal pair for a suit.

"We have yet to find a shoemaker that offers better value for money than Beckett Simonon!"
Bespoke Unit Rating: ★★★★★

2. Ace Marks Griffin Cap Toe Oxford Shoes

Ace Marks Griffin Cap Toe Oxford
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Ace Marks is a new challenger to Beckett Simonon’s title for the best dress shoes for men.

Although their shoes are indeed more expensive, they don’t use a made-to-order business model. Consequently, Ace Marks’ shoes arrive within days as opposed to weeks.

Ace Marks’ dress shoes are benchmade in Italy by expert artisans. They employ 100% premium calfskin leather and a Blake Flex construction. The result are exquisite dress shoes with a shining Italian design influence that demonstrate exactly why the Mediterranean country has garnered so much esteem within the world of men’s footwear.

We find that their black Griffin cap-toe Oxford shoes are an excellent example of Ace Marks’ craftsmanship and style. However, there is a rich selection on the website that you may find more appropriate.

3. Idrese Custom Shoes

Idrese Custom Dress Shoes For Men
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When Jawad Malik founded Idrese, he aimed to make beautiful Goodyear-welted dress shoes accessible at competitive prices. Furthermore, he wanted to ensure that Idrese’s shoes were made with nothing less than full-grain Italian leather.

His ambitious project came to fruition in 2019, with their collection being manufactured in Almansa, Spain, a highly-regarded shoemaking region.

With Idrese, the sky’s the limit, as you can design your own custom pair of dress oxfords, derbies, loafers, boots, and more, starting around $335. They also have established collections you can shop from or use for inspiration when designing your unique pair.

If you have issues with properly-fitting dress shoes, they’re also a great option as they offer a wide selection of sizes and widths to match every foot shape.

4. Amberjack The Original

Amberjack The Original Shoe Sole Detail
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John Peters created Amberjack intending to provide young professionals with comfortable and contemporary footwear that would break away from typically conservative dress shoes.

Teaming up with designer John Kraljevich, who had worked with brands like Allen Edmonds and Coach, they developed The Original. This hybrid dress shoe blends traditional craftsmanship with the latest athletic footwear technology.

Its stylish Derby design is ideal for business casual wear thanks to its full-grain leather uppers. At the same time, The Original features subtle hints that are reminiscent of athletic shoes. Finally, the removable footbed offers heat-activated arch support and is thick enough to provide extensive cushioning, ensuring cushy wear the entire day.

5. Allen Edmonds Strandmok Brogue

Allen Edmonds Strandmok Brogues
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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!

Strandmoks have been around for a while, and they continue to be crafted with a 360° Goodyear welt. This makes for robust and hard-wearing dress shoes with excellent water resistance.

AE’s Strandmoks are available in several different leather uppers, from Chromexcel to Nubuck and suede, allowing you to pick the level of formality that best fits your needs. Nevertheless, you can rest assured you’ll wear a dapper pair of dress shoes regardless of choice. Meanwhile, the striking Dainite rubber soles offer comfort and shock absorption.

Although a little more casual as dress shoes go, these Strandmoks are surprisingly versatile and can be worn for various occasions.

6. Wolf & Shepherd Crossover Styles

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We were somewhat skeptical when we first heard Wolf & Shepherd’s claims that they produced the world’s most comfortable dress shoes. However, we have now tried a number of different models and realize that they were quite close to the truth!

Wolf & Shepherd’s Crossover styles employ traditionally crafted calfskin uppers that are further augmented by design techniques inspired by athletic footwear. Accordingly, their soles are composed of EVA heels, memory foam cushioning, and lightweight rubber.

Their design isn’t absolutely true to classic dress shoe norms, but trends are shifting, and hybrid shoes such as these Crossovers are becoming accepted in more formal settings. Furthermore, if you need to wear dress shoes during long periods spent on your feet, they’re an excellent choice.

7. Velasca Cadregatt

Velasca Cadregatt Dressy Tassel Loafers For Men
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Velasca’s founding mission was to bring excellent Italian footwear design and quality to the masses at accessible prices. Looking at their Cadregatt loafers, and judging by the $350 price tag, we’d argue they’ve succeeded.

Velasca has carefully selected the Italian artisan workshops that they work with, resulting in beautifully crafted loafers on which no detail has been overlooked. And while these may not be suitable for every formal occasion, they’re unquestionably a breathtaking specimen of craftsmanship.

The Cadegratt loafer has an elegant look thanks to a brushed calfskin upper and stacked leather heel. Moreover, they’re available in a number of colors and with a leather or Vibram sole, so you’re sure to find your preferred desired style.

8. Maglieriapelle Pamukkale

Maglieriapelle handmade & Painted Pamukkale Brogue Shoes
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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.

9. Taft The Grail Shoe

Taft Clothing Grail Shoes
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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!

10. Trickers Stow Boot

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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.

Practicality

Black Opera Pumps With Brick BackgroundFirstly, 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

black patent leather tux shoesRegardless 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.

Shoe Color

Tan-Shoe-Being-Machine-BuffedFinally, 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:

  1. Tuxedo Slipper & Opera Pumps
  2. Oxford Shoes
  3. Wholecut Shoes
  4. Monk Strap Shoes
  5. Chelseas & Other Boots
  6. Brogues & Long Wings
  7. Derby Shoes

Simply use the links above to jump to a particular shoe style and learn more about it.

Tuxedo Slippers & Opera Pumps

Navy Blue Velvet Tuxedo SlippersAlthough 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.

Oxford Shoes

Black Cap Toe Oxfords On BrickA 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.

Wholecut Shoes

brown wholecut shoes on concreteTechnically 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

Brown Monkstraps With Olive TrousersFeaturing 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

Allen Edmonds Strandmok Brogues On Fire EscapeAn 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.

If you want to learn more about either shoe style, you can read either our guides on Wingtip shoes as well as Brogues.

Derby Shoes

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.

What Next?

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:

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