Main Types Of Formal Shoes

When picking out footwear, consider the wedding dress code, how formal the event is, and your own style preferences. That way, you can ensure your shoes not only complete your outfit but give you an added boost of confidence during the event.

1. Patent Leather Oxfords

Patent leather Oxford shoes are a classic style of formal footwear with a tuxedo

Patent leather Oxfords are a specific type of shoe that has a low heel and closed lacing. Closed lacing essentially means that the flaps of the leather that contain the lacing eyelets are sewn under the vamp as opposed to on top of it. This is similar to what you’d see in a derby shoe.

FURTHER READING: Style Defined: The Oxford Dress Shoe

Due to the way they’re made, Oxford dress shoes almost look like they’re constructed from a single piece of leather. This gives them a sleek, elegant aesthetic, which makes them perfect for any formal occasion.

The patent leather Oxford is the most formal style of dress shoe for men. So, you should wear them with a classic two- or three-piece tuxedo or to black-tie events.

If you want to go for an even more sophisticated style, consider getting a wholecut shoe. While Oxfords have the appearance of being cut from a single piece of leather, the wholecut actually is. This results in a very clean, refined look that is both sophisticated and very stylish.

2. Plain Leather Oxfords

Black plain leather Oxfords can work as a style of formal shoes if they are polished nicely.

Plain leather Oxfords are another popular style of formal shoe, but they’re slightly less sophisticated than the previous option. This is mainly because these shoes are not as shiny. That said, you can still get wholecuts for an added layer of elegance and formality.

For more formal weddings, choose plain leather Oxford dress shoes without a cap toe or any type of broguing (perforations in the leather). These features take away from the shoes’ elegance a little bit, but they can still look great in most formal settings. Avoid wearing this style of footwear at black-tie, black tie optional, or semi-formal events.

3. Opera Pumps

Opera pumps are a very old school style of formal shoe

Opera pumps are an old-school style of formal shoe. They differ from loafers in that they have a deeper cutout, meaning they reveal more of the sock.

The classic opera pump is easily recognizable for its bow. However, there are more modern versions that feature a single strip of fabric that evokes the feeling of the bow without going all out.

These shoes are quite elegant and timeless, making them ideal for black-tie events.

4. Belgian Shoes

A pair of patent leather Belgian shoes

Originally produced by a small shop in New York City, Belgian shoes have become quite popular today. This style of formal footwear is unique in that it has a quirky aesthetic that includes a small, iconic bow.

Patent leather Belgian shoes are a great alternative to other loafers, especially if you’re planning to wear a full tuxedo. Because of how distinctive they are, these shoes are a natural choice for semi-formal, cocktail attire, black tie optional, and creative black tie dress codes. In each of these scenarios, though, opt for plain leather or suede as these are less formal than patent leather.

5. Velvet Slippers

Velvet slippers are a great way to add some personality to your tuxedo outfit

The velvet slipper is perhaps the least formal type of dress shoe out there, which is why some people suggest only wearing them at home. However, in the modern era, these shoes can add a splash of color and fun to semi-formal events.

They come in a variety of colors and often have some sort of embroidery, which can be used for a monogram or to show off your interests and personality. Since they’re rather informal, they look best when worn to cocktail attire, black tie optional, or creative black-tie weddings. Avoid wearing them with a full wedding tuxedo.

Socks And Laces

Black silk socks with a tuxedo are the most classic choice.

When it comes to socks, you can’t go wrong with black silk over the calf socks. This style is highly traditional, has a translucent appearance, and pairs well with formal footwear for an elegant aesthetic. If you don’t have these, don’t worry — most thin socks will do just as well.

Never wear white socks or sports socks with dress shoes, though. Sports socks in particular tend to be bulkier than dress socks. As a result, they often clash or bunch up around your pant legs and shoes, giving your ensemble a sloppy look.

As for the laces, they should be black. The most classic and formal laces are satin, but waxed cotton laces are also acceptable. If you do go with waxed cotton, opt for round laces as they look more formal.

Things To Avoid

Besides what’s already been mentioned, here are the biggest things to avoid when it comes to formal footwear:

Square-toed shoes, boxy shoes, or shoes with a rubber or plastic sole. These look cheap and don’t match the polish and elegance of formal attire.

Boots. Even if they’re considered dress boots, they won’t match the formality of a tuxedo or any outfit that includes a dinner jacket. This type of footwear will stand out in the worst way.

Bottom Line

Whether your preference is patent leather Oxford dress shoes or opera pumps, choose them based on the dress code and or level of formality required for the occasion. Along with this, it’s a good idea to invest in a couple of different styles that you can wear more than once and pair with different outfits. That way, you’ll be ready for anything.

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