Recognisable due to their sleek and streamlined appearance, wholecut shoes are only made using a single piece of leather. Interestingly, wholecut shoes are actually a type of Oxford. However, this guide will show you that they’re totally unique and a breed of their own.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about wholecut shoes such as:
- Best Wholecut Shoes
- What Is A Wholecut Shoe?
- Why Are Wholecut Shoes Unique?
- How To Wear Wholecut Shoes
Either scroll down to read the guide in its entirety or use the links above to jump ahead!
Quick Buyer’s Guide
Just looking to buy some beautiful wholecut shoes? We’ve got you covered! You can scroll down to read about our top recommendations or use the Quick Guide below to head straight to the retailers.
Johnston & Murphy
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We’re extremely fond of our wholecuts by Beckett Simonon. These beautifully handcrafted wholecuts offer outstanding value for money as they’re made from Argentinian calfskin with a Blake stitch construction. Enjoy using our exclusive 20% discount with the code “BU20” during checkout.
Read More: Beckett Simonon Valencia Review
Founded in 1850, Johnston & Murphy is a reliable American brand. Imported from Italy, the Reece wholecut is from the brand’s prestigious J&M Collection. We love the attention to detail such as the longwing style perfing and toe medallion.
These utterly breathtaking wholecut shoes by Paul Parkman are a true work of art. Featuring rare side-laces, their hand-painted finish is simply mesmerising with notes of green, yellow and brown. Even if you’re not a fan of the style, you can’t help but admire the craftsmanship.
While we believe that Beckett Simonon offers better value for money (especially at only $20 more with our BU20 code), these are excellent mid-priced wholecuts indeed. Very classic and simple in design, they exude all the hallmarks of a wholecut shoe.
If you’re looking for a formal wholecut that truly stands out, check out this more understated approach by Paul Parkman. Featuring some subtle perfing around the throat and leather-wrap laces, they’re truly stunning to admire. The snipped toe adds a flare of elegance and these would work nicely with a sharply-cut tux.
If you’re on a modest budget of about $100, the Cool Breeze by Carrucci is a great choice. With detailed perfing and a toe medallion, they look far more than they cost. The burnished finish looks particularly eye-catching on the Cognac and Burgundy colours too!
What Is A Wholecut Shoe?
A wholecut shoe is defined as a shoe that uses a single piece of leather for the upper. Most commonly they are made as low-cut shoes, but there are high-end makers who craft wholecut chukkas and chelseas as well.
They’re available ready-to-wear or bespoke and in a wide variety of colors and materials, and are generally more expensive than an oxford that’s otherwise the same.
Technically, a wholecut is a style of oxford because it utilizes a closed-throat lacing system. Basically, they’re oxfords made from one piece of leather.
It’s possible to find wholecut shoes with broguing details and other decoration, though one could make the argument that this defeats the purpose of a wholecut, whose lines are supposed to be ultra-clean and sleek.
Why Are Wholecut Shoes Unique?
First, we need to quickly define the word last as we’ll use it here:
last (noun): the wooden form on which the upper of a shoe is shaped. Also refers to a shoe’s silhouette (e.g. “a sleek last”)
last (verb): to manipulate shoe leather around a last so that it can be sewn to a welt or a sole.
With that out of the way, let’s proceed.
These shoes tend to be higher quality than the average oxford (and thus more expensive) for a few reasons:
- The leather must be of higher-than-average quality because you can’t sew pieces together strategically to hide imperfections. The entire piece must be flawless or discarded.
- They’re harder to last, taking more time and requiring more shoemaking expertise.
- Because they’re harder to last, they’re more common with higher-end ready-to-wear and bespoke makers. As you can imagine, this drives the price up.
It can’t be overstated that the wholecut is the most difficult style of shoe to make. Because it’s (mostly) seamless, it doesn’t have as much give when being pulled by a last machine. It’s hard to get it to lay flat on the last itself without over-stretching the leather, and it’s easy for the shoe to lose it’s shape during the lasting process.
If you appreciate workmanship, a wholecut should be the first shoe you consider.
Seams Or Seamless?
Though they’re all made from one piece of leather on the upper, not all wholecut oxfords are alike. Some of them have vertical seams running the length of the heel counter, and some don’t. What’s the difference?
- Wholecut oxfords with seams are more common and less expensive than their seamless cousins. These can be lasted by hand or by machine, but it’s always in a larger-scale manufacturing scenario.
- Seamless wholecuts can only be lasted by hand. They are of the highest quality, quite rare, and are often found only from bespoke makers.
How Do I Wear Wholecuts?
Formality – Keep Them Formal
Many menswear and shoe bloggers will say that if you had to own just one pair of shoes (a fate worse than death, we argue), a wholecut should be it. While we get where they’re coming from, we’re not sure that we agree.
Simplicity is synonymous with formality, and wholecuts are as simple as it gets. Even in their more casual versions, they look better dressed up as opposed to dressed down. Below, we provide a few examples of how to wear them for different levels of dressiness:
- Suede (light or a non-standard color, such as blue): Casual trousers, denim
- Leather (black or brown calfskin, exotic hides, with or without broguing): Suits, business professional dress codes
- Black patent leather: Tuxedo
It’s worth mentioning that a black patent wholecut oxford with a tuxedo is rare, extremely chic, and to quote Outkast’s Big Boi, “cooler than Freddie Jackson sippin’ a milkshake in a snowstorm.”
These shoes are available in a wide range of colors and materials. As such, they can be worn any time of year. We give some of our favorite examples below.
- Spring: Light-colored suede or calfskin with lots of highs and lows in the color
- Summer: Beige or light tan calfskin
- Autumn: Black, brown, or burgundy leather
- Winter: Chocolate suede, black patent for evening
Final Thoughts On Wholecuts
If you are in the market for a unique dressy shoe that works wonderfully with fun suits, a business professional dress code, and evening wear, the wholecut is for you.
If you’re just starting your shoe collection, however, we advise you to hold off on buying a wholecut until you’re seven or eight shoes deep. A plain-toe or cap-toe oxford will be a more versatile option than a wholecut and we suggest starting there.
Now that you have learned about wholecut shoes, check out some our related footwear guides for men:
- Oxford Shoe Style Guide
- Derby & Blucher Shoe Guide
- Best Dress Shoes For Men
- Most Comfortable Shoes For Men
- Men’s Shoes Homepage
"A great guide, I appreciate the effort. Was looking for Oxfords specifically with a toe cap and this guide really helped, thanks."Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★