Imagine this scenario: You’re going out for an office party, smartly dressed with a crisp suit and your favourite tie. You are ready to be the centre of attention. Now pause this scene and look down. What do you see yourself wearing?
Formal dress shoes have been an essential element of men’s wardrobes for centuries. These dress shoes—like the original leader of formal footwear: the oxford design—continue to uphold the mantel of excellence when it comes to making the wearer look dapper.
But what really makes these shoes special for events such as parties or weddings? How does a formal pair of shoes completely transform your look?
Let’s take a deep dive into the formal dress shoe category, and rediscover what three distinct styles (from the annals of history) have in store for us, and how these shoes elevate our personality.
Talking about elevation, we will also focus on the JENNEN Shoes Special: hidden insole lifts—these sneaky little surprises can change others’ perspective towards you in any formal setting.
A Little Anatomy
Before we begin, let’s put the four key identifying features into place. A typical dress shoe consists of:
A dress shoe’s character comes from a combination of the above four parts. Let’s explore how they integrate in each design.
1 – Oxford: The Undisputed Monarch
Simple, minimal and timeless – these formal dress shoes serve as the bedrock of many other designs. Also known as ‘balmoral’, the characteristic feature of an oxford is the closed lacing: the facing (with the eyelets) is attached to the vamp, thus giving the shoe a sleek, form-fitting appearance.
Oxfords were originally derived from a kind of half-boot design known as Oxonian. These shoes became quite popular with students of the Oxford University in the 1800s – hence the name.
With a multitude of colours and materials dialling your style quotient up, oxford shoes are a must-have in your wardrobe. It’s the bare minimum in formal dress shoes, but a much-loved style that still rules many people’s hearts.
This evergreen design bring elegance in:
And if you are a lucky man, a pair of sharp, black oxfords is all you need to up your wedding shoes game.
Style tip: You can add a new dimension to your styling by deciding on the toe-type. Cap toes and plain toes are always a welcome, but don’t hold back if you like wingtips.
Recommendation: The all-winning Mr. Gershwin Black from our formal dress shoe range brings everyday flexibility, along with a total height increase of 7cm. Walk tall and confidently; let others always see you in the limelight.
2 – Derby: Mixing Casuals with Formals
The Derby is a ‘cousin’ of the oxford shoe, and the two are often mistaken for their similar design. What separates it from the oxford is a simple design difference: the open lacing structure, with the facing attached over the vamp.
Although these shoes tone down the formal flair through this design difference, giving a more open and casual look to the wearer, these shoes still hold a coveted spot in the formal dress shoe hall-of-fame.
In the 1850s, the derby style had entered common use as sporting shoes, and was popular with hunters. And by the dawn of the 20th century, you could see people flocking the streets with these shoes gracing their feet.
Whether it is patent leather or casual suedes, these shoes are your perfect everyday-pair. The versatility of derby shoes brings you the freedom of launching yourself wherever you want.
In fact, a single, well-selected pair can take you through the whole day, packed with different scenarios, without having to worry about rushing to make a change.
Style tip: If you really want to take the casual approach seriously, without giving up on the formal façade, opt for a plain toe styling.
Recommendation: We love browns, and Mr. Dragonetti has the killer looks that—we believe—definitely belong in your wardrobe. A textured shoe upper and cap toes give this pair an edge wherever you walk. Boost your confidence further with these wedding elevator shoes, thanks to a 7cm increase in your height.
Bonus: If you really want to outshine everyone in your vicinity, opt for a brogue style shoe—either an oxford or a derby. Our favourite is Mr. Aristotle – a hearty mix of style, drama and 7cm lift to your height.
3 – Loafer: Easy Does It
We’re not particularly uptight about formal dress shoes. In fact, the easier (and breezier, for that matter) it is for you to get into a pair, the better it is.
Loafers are the kind of shoes that walk this line perfectly. Originally designed as a house slipper for King George VI of England, these shoes hit popularity when introduced to the US market in 1930s.
By 60s, loafers had entered the business language of America, paired with suits and applauded for their slip-on design.
Today, loafers enjoy love for their unique elevated seams—which run along the toe—and the signature decorative bit: single straps, tassels or metal ornaments which hang from the ‘saddle’ (the place where you’d expect shoelaces to be).
Loafers might look like they only belong in the casual line-up, but these shoes can easily be your ‘groom’s shoes’—ready to elevate your wedding day.
Style tip: For your formal settings, opt for clear, minimalist loafers. Go for tans and browns if you plan to wear a dark suit—make your eyes light up with a beautiful contrast.
Recommendation: With a 6cm boost to your height, a sleek strap that graces the saddle and an all-black finish, Mr. Adendorff is a masterful choice to grace both, casual as well as formal settings.
These three distinct designs are all you need to start an enviable formal dress shoe collection. As with every JENNEN Shoes pair, you will always find comfort and confidence of looking taller, without any compromise on style.
Looking for more formal shoes? Bring home a pair from JENNEN Shoes—designed by Melbourne’s finest—and stand tall with over 200,000 men across the globe.