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How To Choose Your Shoes According To The Dress Code

Learn the definition of the proper pair before you start lacing up
by Vincent Ong | Feb 20, 2017
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Let’s be real: Shoe styles for guys are pretty limited, especially as you go higher on the formality scale. Thus it only makes sense that color, material, and finish can make all the difference when choosing between two of the same kind. 


Sneakers, boots, and running shoes

Casual is the most relaxed among the dress codes and basically means anything you’re comfortable in. As this is the default, if you don’t know what this is by now, you probably never will.

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Business Casual

Chukka boots, penny loafers and hybrid brogues

Business casual is just a different way of wording “office-appropriate dressing.” The code is basically leather shoes for bankers and dressy sneakers for creatives—and hybrids for those who want the best of both worlds.

Smart Casual

Boat shoes, driving shoes, Chelsea boots and horsebit loafers

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Smart casual is a step above casual and it requires you to look polished and presentable. Go for styles that upgrade your look without being overly stuffy. Prime examples are brightly colored boat shoes and suede chelsea boots.



Leather derbies, patent cap-toe sneakers, tassel loafers and velvet slip-ons

Possibly the nighttime evolution of smart casual, cocktail is what you wear to grown-up parties. From here on out, the dress codes start to get stricter. This is your last chance to let your freak flag fly and wear patent cap-toe sneakers or velvet slip-ons. 

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Double monkstraps, brogues and velvet slippers

The arrival of the leather shoes: derbies, brogues, monkstraps, etc. With semi-formal, you get to pick the color of your suit, so all you have to do is match your shoes (and belt) to it. You can wear brown or oxblood (a.k.a. maroon) shoes with navy, light gray, and brown suits. For everything else, stick with black.

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Oxfords and monkstraps

Since the occasion generally calls for a black suit, it only make sense that your monkstraps or oxfords be black, too. Except when the dress code says something like “creative formal” where you’re again given more leeway for personal expression. Still, no bare ankles or gym socks please!

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Black Tie

Black patent slippers with a grosgrain ribbon a.k.a. opera slippers

Black tie is such a rare occasion in our lives and so what comes with it is a rather unique pair of shoes. Enter black patent opera slippers. They’re basically plain “slippers” except for the fact that they’re patent and have a grosgrain trim. They're basically a classier pair of leather or suede slip-ons.

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Illustrations by Jappy Agoncillo

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