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Formal vs. casual shoes

The lines are becoming more blurred between formal and casual footwear, so it can be tricky to know what is appropriate and what isn't.

Casual shoes should be worn when you are out and about, and they are a great way of showing your personal style. Whereas formal shoes are to be worn at formal occasions, like a meeting or a wedding.

While the rules around formal shoes are more strict, you can still have fun with formal shoes with pops of colour or different textures. To get you started, we’ve ranked shoe styles from most formal to casual. We’ve also highlighted some occasions for casual and formal shoes, and what type of shoe to wear.

Most formal

  • Oxford - The Oxford shoe, with its closed front and neat design, is the ultimate formal dress shoe.
  • Derby - Similar to the Oxford shoe but the subtle spacing difference in the eyelets make it slightly more casual but still looks great with a three-piece suit.
  • Brogue – An Oxford or Derby with intricate brogue details make it the perfect shoe for formal occasions.

Semi-formal / smart-casual

  • Loafer - With a loafer, you can make a statement or add a timeless classic to your footwear collection.
  • Monk - Somewhere between an Oxford and a loafer, the monk shoe has the ease of a sip on and bridges the gap between casual and formal.
  • Chukka boot - Classically made from calfskin or suede, these are best worn as part of a smart casual or casual outfit.

Casual

  • Driving shoe - The Simple pleasure of driving around the countryside should be done in a pair of driving shoes.
  • Boat/ deck shoe - A versatile shoe, perfect for summer weather.
  • Sneaker - Ultimate, must have street-wear.

When to wear casual shoes

Your choice of casual shoe will largely depend on your own personal style and what kind of activities you enjoy in your spare time. For example, If you prefer spending time outdoors then your footwear of choice should definitely reflect this in both style and practical features.

Casual shoes for outdoor activities

We love a good waterproof boot for country walks, the Dubarry Meath is the perfect blend of style and practicality. These are ideal for the men who love nothing more than long walks at the weekend. Dubarry’s DryFast-DrySoft leather will ensure your feet stay dry and warm no matter what the weather.

Casual shoes for summer

For warmer weather, a pair of moccasins will see you through the summer. The Barker Horatio is a great example of a modern take on a classic. The contrasting tan oiled calf leather and the white sole is eye-catching and the perfect choice of footwear for a city break.

Casual shoes for work

A good pair of brogues will see you through many occasions. These Ticker’s Fulton brogues are extremely versatile. They look great with a suit, which is perfect for the days when you have a big client meeting. However, for everyday office-wear, they can be dressed down with jeans for a look that crosses the bridge of smart casual.

When to wear formal shoes

We believe it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. This may mean there are more opportunities to wear formal shoes that you may previously have thought. When you are looking to impress you can never go wrong with a well-tailored suit and an equally impressive pair of formal shoes.

Formal shoes for a wedding

A good dress shoe will last for a long time if you take care of them properly. There are many factors to consider when choosing a dress shoe for a wedding. Generally speaking, an Oxford, brogue or Derby will work for a wedding. When choosing the right formal dress shoe you should consider your outfit as a whole and choose shoes that compliment the colours and materials of your outfit.

Formal shoes for a job interview

The same rules apply here as when choosing shoes for a wedding. However, you should really consider the work environment, and the culture surrounding it. For example, formal attire will definitely be expected in a job interview in the financial industry. At a formal interview, choose a fitted navy or dark grey single-breasted suit with a simple muted tie. Match with black or dark brown brogues, such as the Barker Johnny.

A shoe’s formality is dictated not by just one aspect, the style, material and colour should all be considered. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. Check out our Men’s Shoes for every occasion to make sure you’re always prepared for every formal and casual setting.

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