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How to Choose the Right Men's Shoes

Whether you choose shoes as practical necessities, or have a shoe obsession, you know that having some basic pairs is essential to your wardrobe. Some men might be uncomfortable wearing a variety of styles in men's shoes. Though shoes are an essential part of your wardrobe, and can be coordinated like any garment or accessory to match the rest of your ensemble. Try to get out of your "basic" go-to pair, and wear shoes that coordinate with your attire and give you confidence.

For example, many men I've known who have had to wear work-type boots for their jobs also tended to stick with that style of footwear after work hours. Other guys I know avoid certain clothes and events because sneakers would be considered inappropriate for the outfit or occasion.

For the most part, I don't believe this is disdain for other styles of shoes, but more of a lack of confidence when it comes to choosing casual shoes. If this sounds like you or someone you know, then you'll want to keep reading for some general tips on choosing men's shoes.

There are many options that fall between utilitarian work boots and more formal wingtips. It is completely acceptable to have shoes at both ends of the spectrum, and a few pairs in between. It's actually encouraged.

General Rules for Men's Shoes

  • Try to pick a shoe that matches or is darker than your pants.
  • Although it is a safe bet, socks do not need to match your shoes. Instead, think of your socks as you would a tie - an item that can bring the whole outfit together, and possibly add a little spice to your look.

  • If wearing a belt, try to match your shoes to it, unless of course, your belt is some multi-colored striped thing.
  • Take your cue from your outfit. What level of dress is it? Casual, dressy or formal will have different requirements. Casual is the most flexible as have a whole spectrum of options while formal requires a more refined look.

Men's Shoes for Jeans

You can wear almost any color or style of shoe with jeans, but avoid very shiny shoes, such as patent leather or highly polished shoes, that were obviously intended for dressier outfits.

Boots, lug soles, sneakers, loafers and sandals all work great with jeans. You can also wear some lace-up or slip-on styles that aren't too dressy. You may find it helpful to let the style of your shirt guide you.

For example, a sporty, polo shirt might work with a loafer; t-shirts go well with sneakers or retro-style shoes; long, artsy print button-downs work well with sandals or contemporary styles like lace-ups, slip-on shoes or boots with a zipper.

Men's Shoes for Casual Pants

Whether you call them Dockers, chinos, or khakis, there are a variety of loafers, oxford and other men's shoes that work well with casual pants.

Let the ornamentation and style of the shoe guide you towards the look you're trying to achieve.

For example, a tassel or a buckle is a little more on the dressy side, while a woven pattern or heavy stitching is a little more on the casual side. You can find some very simple, clean oxfords or boots that keep things simple. A shoe with a gold or silver buckle is an attractive look that will call a certain amount of attention as the metal finding draws the eye to your shoes.

Men's Shoes for Dress Pants

With dress pants, shoot for the same type of shoe that you might wear with a suit. Shinier materials usually indicate a dressier shoe, as do less bulky heels and soles. Choose a shoe that is the same color or darker than your pants, and if wearing a belt, match your shoes to it.

Color Matching for Men's Shoes

If you're wearing a leather belt or jacket, try to match the color of your shoes to your belt. If you have a brown bomber jacket, look for shoes that have a similar, rich brown. The same goes for belts. If you buy a pair of light brown shoes, you can look for a belt to coordinate, and wear them together. This way your belt will wear at about the same rate as your shoes.

  • Black shoes work well with navy, grey or black pants.
  • Brown shoes are best suited to tan, brown, beige, greens, other darker earth tones.

  • Burgundy shoes work well with khaki, lighter browns, blue and grey.
  • Tan shoes look great with lighter earth tones, blue, beige, lighter tan or white.

Rules on the style of shoe, color and other factors are looser than they used to be. You still want your shoes to be at a similar level dress to your outfit, but you have some freedom to push the limits a little. You can wear a nice pair of boots with your more formal outfit, or work boots with jeans.

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