While we can’t ignore the cultural identity that sneakers have come to connote in contemporary times, the quintessential formal shoe still has its space and authority in places that matter. It’s not that dress shoes have been written off, but merely that the world has expanded their definition and allowed for sneakers to seep into the corporate boardroom, without generating too much of a titter.
So what are the quintessential pairs that one must possess to consider one’s formal collection complete? Here’s my list:
Oxfords, wing-tips or brogues, whatever you wish to call them, a pair of straight-laced lace-ups are the first pairs to invest in. While most will veer towards black— that is fine for the workplace— to complete a formal attire, I’d seriously advice one to hunt for a mahogany, chestnut or a similar shade as they are not only more versatile, but are also the original formal pair to pair with suits and such. From Tod’s and Berluti to John Lobb to even Hush Puppies or the more comfy Cole Haan (with their Nike soles), every brand has a take on lace-ups in a range of colours and price options.
Not all boots have to be the kind that are made for trekking. A lot of brands make formal boots which are just as much in place in a boardroom as on horseback. Balmoral is a particular style of a button-up which is cumbersome but very classy. My favourites still come from R.M. Williams.
These shoes with a strap across the front with a single or a double clasp are quite similar to lace-ups except for the alternate closure system. Most shoe brands have their own version of the monk, some with a single buckle, others with two.
Aka penny-loafers, drivers, or moccasins — many names for a generic style that entails a shoe with no laces and some form of elasticity that allows one to don and doff them without much hassle. Socks or no socks remains a point of contention and I put that down mostly to the climate where they are worn. Personally, I don’t wear socks with my loafers but there are two rules here: if I do wear socks, then I wear the no-show kinds, but even more pertinently, I never wear a pair of loafers two days in a row as they need time to auto-sanitise. Tod’s remains a favourite as also the horse-bit ones by Gucci. And, when they put out one minus a gaudy shiny metal logo plate up top, LV too.
From cycling shoes to urban sneakers, beachside to boat shoes, clogs to espadrilles, there are shoes that have cultural or functional aesthetic that appeals to people who prescribe to that specific genre or activity. Sure, you can rock them even if you aren’t an enthusiast — not all people who wear diving watches, dive, or pilot watches, fly — but the idea of clubbing them here is to let you decide how you make your collection yours. Any die-hard shoe lover knows there is simply no completing a shoe collection. You can acquire every style and colour and yet there will be something that eludes you. Think of shoes not merely as a functional aspect in your wardrobe but a hobby, maybe even an endeavour at amassing an artistic collection. Convinced? Good. Now go and hope that your cohabiting partner sees things the same way.