For the staid among us, it’s too showy and uncommon. For the streetwear enthusiast, it’s too dressy and not loud enough.
For those willing to give it a try, though, this shoe occupies a sweet spot in our wardrobes. Its stylishness is a function of its rich history and mild eccentricity. Few shoe styles are so rakish, yet still office-appropriate.
The double monk’s versatility is formidable, as it’s available in a wide range of colors and materials. They can be found in leather, suede, and exotic skins in a myriad of colors. They’re available in ankle boot versions. You can find buckles in various shapes and metals. Plenty of makers produce new versions every year, and you can go the custom route if your budget permits.
The world is your oyster in a double monk.
History Of The Double Monkstrap
The first monkstrap shoes were worn in -you guessed it- monasteries. Back in 15th century Europe, monks would wear shoes with buckles on them. This was to offer their feet more protection from the outside world than their sandals would. Legend has it that an Englishman saw the style while abroad and took home a pair. They became the talk of the town, so to speak, and thus the monkstrap style was born.
The double monk was created later as an aesthetic update.
How Do You Wear Double Monks?
Double monks are much more versatile than we give them credit for. Typically you can wear them with anything from jeans to a dark suit, but times are changing and footwear makers are getting creative. There are double monk sneakers that are casual enough even for shorts, and there are black patent leather versions that are formal enough for a tuxedo.
To Buckle Or Not To Buckle?
There was a period about six or seven years ago when the double monk came roaring back into style, and men were wearing them with one buckle undone, typically the top one. While it’s up to the individual wearer to decide if this is sprezzatura or just an affected attempt at such, we advise that you only do this with your more casual trousers, like dark denim.
Most monkstrap buckles are square or rectangular, but they’re theoretically available in more shapes like hexagons and octagons as well. More often than not, you’ll have to have a pair custom made to get this detail. If you’re in a position to do so, more power to you!
Formality, Or “Can I Wear Double Monks With Jeans?”
Double monkstraps occupy a formality level in between that of an oxford and a loafer. Using the logic that less ornamentation lends formality, you can make the argument that it’s slightly less formal than a single monkstrap due to the additional hardware.
So, what can you wear them with?
- Sneaker: Shorts, jeans in any wash
- Light-colored suede (beige, tan, and tobacco): Jeans, chinos, tweed trousers or cords
- Black or dark brown leather: Dark, slim jeans, navy and charcoal suits
- Black patent leather: Tuxedos in black or midnight blue
Traditionally, double monkstraps have been too informal for dinner clothes and too formal for shorts and light wash jeans. Only in recent years have makers started expanding their offerings to cover more sartorial ground. Frye, for example, makes a cool double monk sneaker you could wear with shorts and no-show socks.
On the other end of the spectrum, there is a healthy debate to be had about whether or not a black patent double monkstrap is, in fact, appropriate for a tuxedo. Can it really take the place of a patent leather balmoral or opera pump? Suitsupply seems to think so.
As with anything, we recommend that you keep time and place in mind when making this decision. If you’re attending a state dinner with the Prime Minister, we’d go traditional. If you’re a guest at a formal wedding and want to have some fun, we see no issue in bending the rules in a tasteful way.
The beauty of the double monk is that it can be worn all year round. Just be sure to keep color and material in mind.
- Winter: Dark brown or black leather or suede, possibly with lug soles and nickel hardware.
- Spring: Medium-to-light brown suede or leather with brass hardware.
- Summer: Light brown leather or suede, perhaps even beige.
- Autumn: Tobacco brown or burgundy leather or suede.
As with all things seasonal, lines get blurred when you live in a temperate climate like the Northeastern United States. Use your best judgement during the change of seasons. It’s ok to wear a tan leather double monk on a 60-degree October day, and it’s fine to wear a chocolate brown leather one on a 55-degree day in April.
Who Makes The Best Pair?
This is a tough question to answer. You may find a budget brand that makes a gorgeous one for $100, or you can go full Marie Antoinette and spend $2500 on a fully bespoke pair with solid gold buckles. you know, whatever floats your boat.
As with anything in life, you get what you pay for, but there’s also a point of diminishing returns. Generally a $100 shoe won’t wear as well or last as long as a pair four times its price. If that $2500 bespoke shoe includes solid gold buckles, though, then you’re not paying for longevity or comfort anymore. You’re paying for opulence.
It’s always a balancing act. Take care of your shoes no matter what you pay for them, and they’ll pay you back in dividends.
Many brands make double monks and an exhaustive list of them is beyond the scope of this article. With that said, what follows is a short list that covers prices from entry level to full-blown luxury.
Price points will vary based on material and construction, but the ranges offered here are generally accurate.
Final Thoughts On The Double Monk
It’s important for a guy to have a well-rounded shoe collection, and the double monkstrap has a rightful place in any such collection.
Should you start a collection with double monks? No. We advise that you cover your basics first: get a good pair of oxfords, bluchers, and loafers to start. Without these, you’ll be building a house without a solid foundation, and houses without foundations fall down easily.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fourth or fifth pair of shoes to grow your wardrobe, the double monk is a great way to do it with style.