Black shoes and evolution of style choices

Posted by Atte Rytkönen on 13.3.2017 in General

It is essential to dress yourself according the situation and environment. And it is even more essential that you do that with simplicity, adaptability and personality. That same naturally applies to shoes. Most men tend to wear black dress shoes as they have learned they need to do so. But what happens after you realize that you don’t always need to wear black shoes?

I have four pairs of black dress shoes in my rotation at the moment. During the last couple of years I have started to wear them more often than before. I thought I might come up with a few thoughts why that has happened and why I need a couple of new black pairs in the near future.

DLA Black shoes guide - every man needs a pair of black cap-toe oxfords.
A pair of classic black cap-toe oxfords. Every man needs a pair.

Evolution of style choices – from black shoes to brown and back

Most of the dress shoes you see in department stores are usually black. The same applies to shoe stores with lower quality footwear. Stores like Vagabond, Nilsson, Aldo etc. Also if you take a look at the dress shoes men wear at your office, I  bet most of them wear black shoes. Because black is the most formal color in terms of footwear, most men think that if they wear a suit they need to wear black shoes. And as black shoes are the most common option they see in stores, it is no surprise that offices around the world are full of black dress shoes. And the color is no problem. I just wish the shoes most men wear were better in quality. And that they would look better.

Are brown shoes a sign of menswear knowledge?

I think one of the first things that happen when you start to pay more attention to what you wear, is this: You start to pay more attention to your shoes. You understand that you need shoes with better quality. You realize that you don’t need to always wear black dress shoes. And that there are other options such as brown or burgundy. And that those have a lot more shades than black. Then you learn that the rule “no brown in town” does not really apply anymore. At some point you notice that you have much more brown than black shoes in your wardrobe. I have been there myself. I have gone through all these phases. But do you know what is the next phase?

DLA Black shoes guide - My black tassel loafers getting treatment at the Boot Black booth at Pitti Uomo.
At the booth of Japanese brand Boot Black – they gave my black tassel loafers a little treatment and polishing.

The next step is to get back on track with black. After buying multiple pairs of brown, burgundy or even dark blue shoes, you notice that you need some more black in your rotation. During the last couple of years I have noticed it myself. At the moment I have basically four pairs of black shoes. And I have started to wear them much more often than I used to do at some point. At the moment I am planning of acquiring a couple of new pairs into my rotation, in black.

Choose your shoes according the purpose

One reason for the popularity of brown dress shoes is probably that they are in general more versatile than black shoes. Especially if you work in casual environment or if you are a student for example, it might feel more appropriate to wear brown shoes. For example brown suede oxfords you can wear not only with your flannel suit but also with cotton slacks or even jeans and a sport coat. You can’t really do that with black calf leather oxford shoes. And if you don’t wear a suit every day at work, I understand that it might be a better idea to invest your money in those brown shoes. But I recommend to keep in mind that even black shoes can be versatile. You just need to choose the right pair of shoes for the right occasions.

DLA Black shoes guide - my tassel loafers after shoecare and polishing
And the result – after 10 minutes of moisturizing and polishing,

I have always been more fond of suits than odd sport coats and odd trousers. Still a couple of years back there was a period when I acquired quite a few more casual kind of blazers. And those kind of sport coats are easier as well as more appropriate to pair with more casual shoes. That was one of the reasons why I ended up buying more brown than black shoes. But as nowadays I mostly wear suits for my work, I have started to wear more and more black shoes again. Not because I would feel that I need to. But because I like the feel and aesthetics they brings into your look. And next I will take a brief look on the pairs I wear myself as well as some ideas on how to incorporate more black color into your wardrobe.

DLA Black shoes guide - Tassel loafers with gray business suit at Pitti Uomo.
And after that little shoecare moment I got on my feet again.

Black shoes are not only for the formal occasions

Many men also think that black shoes are directly a very formal and rigid alternative. And certainly there is no doubt that black is the most formal color in terms of footwear. In my opinion all men should have at least a pair of black dress shoes in their closet. It is basically just like the dark blue or gray suit. It is something that you might not use every day but that will greatly benefit you when it comes to weddings, funerals or festive occasions. But that does not mean that all the black shoes are formal just because they happen to be black in color. You can also benefit from black shoes in many other ways.

DLA black shoes guide - navy blue suit with burgundy striped tie and black tassel loafers
Navy blue suit with burgundy striped tie and black tassel loafers.

Four pair of black shoes – my current rotation

I have personally three different models in black in my current rotation. I have two pairs of black oxfords, one pair of double monks and one pair of tassel loafers. And I actually think that these are the pairs or models that are the most appropriate to begin with. But that’s just a matter of taste. And there are naturally many other options on the market. For formal or business wear you can go for wholecuts, austerity brogues or dress boots for example. If you look something more casual, you can try derby boots, plain toe bluchers or chelsea boots.

I admit that there are certain styles where the black shoes are easier to incorporate into your daily outfits. If you wear a suit five times a week and work with the most rigid dress code, there is no doubt that you need to wear black shoes. Or if your style is based on Scandinavian minimalism or your wear black denim with black outerwear, you will most likely wanna wear black shoes. But I repeat that even though you would not belong any of those above mentioned groups, you might find a pair of black shoes that are as appropriate to your own style than the pair of brown shoes would be.

At the moment I personally have two black pairs on my list. A third pair of cap-toe oxfords as that has become my go-to office shoe and a pair of classic wholecuts for semi-formal business occasions.

DLA black shoes guide - gray herringbone suit with black double monks
Business uniform with a casual twist. A double-breasted herringbone suit with black calf leather double monks by Alfred Sargent.

 

Black cap toe oxfords

Next I will go through a few options and I will start with the ultimate classic. Black cap toe oxfords are the most formal men’s shoes. And there is no shoe that epitomizes the traditional business shoe like black cap toe oxford. Every man should own a pair of these and as said, I personally have two at the moment. To put it shortly, in terms of dress shoes the first pair you buy should basically be a pair of black oxfords. It will take you through business-meetings, job interviews, weddings, funerals and all occasions where you need to wear a suit. After that you can go for brown or a second pair of black.

DLA black shoes guide - cap-toe oxfords with gray business suit
Black cap-toe oxfords with gray business suit and cuffed trousers.

Black double monks

I have always been a fan of double monks. This type of a shoe was trending especially during 2010-2014 when the #menswear-trend was at its highest. But despite the trends, double monks are a classic choice in terms of men’s footwear. And in my opinion it is one of the most versatile shoe types there is. And believe me when I say that the black calf leather double monk is one the most versatile options when it comes to this model. I have worn mine as well with suits as with gray flannel slacks and sport coats. I have also worn them with jeans and I have even worn them for more dressed-up occasions such as cocktail parties during summer.

In my opinion double monks are a good choice especially for students as they are easy to pair with many different kind of outfits. And they work for more formal-oriented occasions as well.

DLA black shoes guide - gray flannel slacks adn black double monks
Black calf leather double monks are a great pait for gray flannel trousers.

Black tassel loafers

Another kind of trendy model is a tassel loafer. But again it is a fact a type of a shoe which is a classic choice. If you live in United States, you know that tassel loafers are a solid part of a classic business wardrobe. Either in black or in burgundy. But even though black tassel loafers in general are a perfect choice for a classic business look, they are much more. You can wear them with a navy blue lightweight flannel suit and a tie – no doubt. But still this kind of a shoe is much more versatile than you might think in the first place.

They are an appropriate choice also for more casual combinations. In my opinion you can even wear them with jeans. And believe me, I have done so multiple times.

DLA black shoes guide - tassel loafers with denim and no socks.
Black calf leather, tassel and light colored denim.

Sum up – you can go back to black

As said in the beginning, it is essential to dress yourself according the situation and environment. And it is even more essential that you do that with simplicity, adaptability and personality. That same naturally applies to shoes. If you feel that black shoes are not your thing, don’t wear them. Except when the dress code say so. But on the other hand, don’t be afraid of black shoes. They can bring depth and versatility into your wardrobe. And especially if you use suits and sport coats at your work, well polished black calf leather shoes can be the finishing touch of your daily business outift. More about black shoes coming up as my affection towards them continues.

  • Josh

    Glad to see that you are appreciating the black shoe again. I appreciate dressing sharply, and throw on the brown suede shoes every now and then. But when it comes to serious business, black shoes are the way to go.

    I highly recommend a pair of black JM Weston moccasins.

    They are casual enough to wear with chinos, t shirt, and a cardigan but look equally appropriate with grey trousers and a blazer. (Suit with a patch pocket jacket is okay too. But the shape is too round to pull off with the suit with jetted pockets…atleast when I look in the mirror it seems that way.)

    Very versatile when going on a business trip.

    From what I’ve seen in your blog (for many years!) I think they will fit in perfectly with your style.

    Just my unsolicited two cents.

    I purchased mine at Leather Soul Hawaii during my honeymoon…which date to over 10 years now. They are still in great shape.
    Infact I would call them a bargain in the long run.

    Quality bargains are hard to come by nowadays.

    (Black Gucci horsebit loafers…the original ones…not the sleek modern ones…kind of an acquired taste, but as I get older I kind of appreciate it. Reminds me of my dad kind of thing.)

    • dresslikea

      Hey Josh,

      Thanks for the comment (and sorry for my late reply).

      I pretty much agree what you said regarding black shoes and dressing up for more formal or business-related occasions. And thanks for the recommendations, I have every now and then kept an eye on JM Weston and I think they have some nice models as well. Need take a look again at some point though.

      Best,
      Atte

  • domdoran

    Your look is sharp like knife!

    • dresslikea

      Thanks mate!