Need advice wrt mens dress shoes.
December 18, 2012 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Please help us find some appropriate men's shoes for a fancy wedding. Or talk me out of my search.

We've been invited to my husband's cousin's wedding, which will be a formal affair on the East Coast next summer. My husband does not own a single formal article of clothing. After 10 years of marriage I really don't care that he doesn't dress up -- we live in Alaska and "dressing up" means wearing something without holes or stains. I like to dress up and have plenty of options, and I feel somewhat responsible for making sure that my husband is appropriately attired. I'm starting with the shoes, since he is hard to fit and somewhat picky. He thinks he can just buy a pair of new shoes that he likes and since they are new they will be fancy enough. I'm not so sure. He likes these, which I think are too casual. I like these, which I'm pretty sure he wouldn't wear more than once. Is there a style that is a happy medium between "woodcutter" and "lawyer"?

I could go for cheaper dress shoes since he won't get much use out of them, but I hate the idea of buying cheap shoes. Maybe it's worth it for him to have one pair of nice dress shoes. Or maybe I should back off and let him wear whatever he wants to this wedding?
posted by stinker to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm having difficulty thinking of brown Bluchers as "formal" shoes. Honestly, at a wedding I wear a black or charcoal suit and black shoes. I know that dress standards differ, but I live in silicon valley where execs don't wear ties and I still wear a suit for weddings. I have a vague impression that the East Coast is more formal than the West Coast, so there's that too.

As for the first link... nice shoes, but not even remotely formal on any planet of which I'm aware. The only way I'd wear them to a wedding is if the wedding were on a beach in Hawaii.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 3:20 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

If he's really going to wear them once -- or once every couple years, there is no reason at all to not do Payless Shoes-style/quality dress shoes. $240 dress shoes is fine if you wear them every day, but sort of crazy if you don't wear them ever -- even the Red Wing ones... will he actually wear those? No one will care too much if he is wearing the best dress shoes in the world, just buy $30 ones and call it a day.
posted by brainmouse at 3:20 PM on December 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Those first shoes are work shoes, and would look ridiculous at any wedding on the East Coast that wasn't held outdoors, in jeans.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:21 PM on December 18, 2012 [4 favorites]

The most versatile pair of dress shoes a man can wear is the closed-toe Oxford, in black. The shoes you picked out are bluchers, and are close enough to a closed-toe Oxford that no one other than the fuss budgets will ever notice (though, as brands go, I'd encourage you to look at Allen Edmonds, which are durable as all get out and American made (you can get them resoled), and you can often get for a decent steal on clearance).

If it's a formal affair, your husband will probably look out of place in the work shoes he picked out - they're called "work shoes," after all, because they're built for work - the soles are thicker, the laces are thicker, everything's made for being outside and at work. Not to say those aren't nice shoes, they're great ones - for a different purpose.

If your husband's looking to express a little bit more, he could probably get away with shoes that have brouging on them. In general, though, you should emphasize to your husband that the point of dress at a wedding is to a) show respect to the bride and groom, and b) not stand out. A navy or black suit, simple grey or black-based tie, and simple black shoes will just do that. And he'll look good.
posted by Apropos of Something at 3:26 PM on December 18, 2012

For a traditional wedding, they need to be shiny and black.
That is what everyone will be wearing.
If he wants to not stand out, he should get some cheap-ish shiny black oxfords and call it a day.
Here are some for $85
These are the least formal he can get away with, IMO.
posted by rmless at 3:29 PM on December 18, 2012

First option you linked: no. Super casual and not going to fly at a "formal" wedding on the formal East Coast.

Second option: yes, he should get something like this.

He needs to get something that would look appropriate with a suit, which is what he should wear to a "formal" wedding. I can think of shoes that look slightly less formal or maybe just funkier than the J. Crew pair you linked, but which would look good with a suit.

Is there a DSW near you? I find that they are a good happy medium between Payless quality and full retail price, often for very good quality name brand shoes.

Something like this could work, if he wants to look less corporate.

My dad wears shoes a lot like this with chinos, a button down, and a tie, for work. I think they're a little casual for a suit, but if this is "jacket and tie" affair rather than straight up formal suit thing, it could work and do double duty as "dressy" in Alaska.
posted by Sara C. at 3:32 PM on December 18, 2012

Also, re "shiny and black", this is going to depend on his suit color and probably what time of year the wedding is. Fall or winter and worn with a dark suit, yeah, black shoes. If it's a summer wedding, though, brown ones might be perfectly fine.

If he is going to be renting a tuxedo, though, he will need shiny black shoes for sure.

On the off chance that your next step is suit shopping, don't pick a black suit. (Again, unless this is a tuxedo type situation.)
posted by Sara C. at 3:36 PM on December 18, 2012

If it's truly formal he needs black oxfords and he can get shiny black oxfords from Payless and then Goodwill them.

If it's only formal in that he has to wear a suit, he could probably find some cool shoes in a cool tan or brown or blood shade that he could wear again in that they would look cool with jeans, too, but I'm not sure if that's part of the picture. Something kinda cool and patina-y like this image. The summer wedding might give some more leeway but I don't know enough to know either way; mine was actually outside so lots of things changed.

But this is coming from a region/circle where regardless of what you put on the invitation, somebody's gonna show up in khakis, or if you ask for khakis somebody's gonna show up in cargo shorts - so your mileage will definitely vary.
posted by ftm at 3:36 PM on December 18, 2012

which will be a formal affair on the East Coast next summer.

Can you please provide more details about this event and the invitation? Because there is a very very very real planet on which formal means black tie, in which case you can rent the shoes with the tux.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:37 PM on December 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Neither pair is formal enough for an evening wedding on the East Coast. You can get a decent pair of black dress shoes from Florsheim starting at $90. Even those Dexters from Payless, however, are a better option than the work shoes.

Is the wedding black tie? If it is, you could possibly just rent shoes along with a tux.
posted by brina at 3:37 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there a style that is a happy medium between "woodcutter" and "lawyer"?

Yes. Those shoes from j.crew are the happy medium. If you want to get your husband a pair of nice shoes, then a man should have a pair of black cap toe oxford shoes as "dress shoes." These are your "go-to" pair of "nice" shoes when at a wedding, a job interview, or a church.
posted by deanc at 3:41 PM on December 18, 2012

Mens wearhouse/etc will rent you shoes along with a suit/tux. If he won't ever wear the suit/shoes again it might make more sense to rent.
posted by TheAdamist at 3:44 PM on December 18, 2012

Response by poster: Right. The shoes I picked were an attempt to come closer to what I think he wants, but I still don't think he'll wear them very much. I don't mean "formal" as in tuxedo-formal, just "very nice". I suppose I could go cheap and buy him shoes from Payless, even if I wouldn't buy a pair of bedroom slippers there for myself. I value good shoes, but I'm not sure it's worth the expense in this case.
posted by stinker at 3:46 PM on December 18, 2012

Neither pair is formal enough for an evening wedding on the East Coast.

I have been to many "evening weddings on the East Coast", and I think the latter pair would be fine worn with a light grey summer suit. Considering that he's a guest at the wedding and not the groom, nobody is really going to care that much. As long as it's not workboots or those chukkas originally linked, and looks vaguely like a dress shoe.
posted by Sara C. at 3:46 PM on December 18, 2012

Obviously that's not going to fly if it's a truly formal, as in black-tie, event, though. In which case, tux and rented tux shoes or uber-formal black and shiny leather.
posted by Sara C. at 3:49 PM on December 18, 2012

Don't stress it too much. My dad went to two fancy East Coast weddings in the past year and he wore a white shirt, navy blazer, tie, grey slacks and brown shoes. No one cared.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:53 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't mean "formal" as in tuxedo-formal, just "very nice".

Even on the east coast, unless you are going to a black-tie wedding at the Plaza, style standards are relatively loose for a "nice wedding" as long as you show up in a suit, tie, and leather dress shoes of some kind. Echoing Sara C., that J.Crew pair looks "vaguely like a dress shoe" and will be perfectly in line with what people are generally wearing even though it's technically less formal. A pair of loafers would not be out of place, either. However, if you're going to have one pair of dress shoes, ever, in your entire life, you should have a pair of black oxford shoes.
posted by deanc at 3:54 PM on December 18, 2012

Take him to payless, find something comfortable that goes with his suit, something he might even wear again, and relax about this. Nobody is going to look at his shoes, and, if they do, who cares... the only person that needs to be OK about what he's wearing is him.....

I once stressed out about what to wear to a big time movie premier, I was going with the director and a producer... I worried about it for weeks...bought a new suit, expensive shoes, the whole nine all dressed up, and arrived to find the key people wearing jeans and old blazers..... I no longer worry about what to wear to events....
posted by HuronBob at 3:58 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

The J. Crew shoes would be a little informal, but not ridiculously so. The Red Wings would be ridiculously informal, as informal as wearing jeans or Carhartt work pants would be.

I feel your pain, stinker--my husband wears Ecco workboots and jeans every day. With his suit (he has one suit) or dress pants (he has one pair of dress pants) he wears all-black Western boots. I hate that he will not wear real shoes. On the other hand, the Western boots really don't stand out, and maybe come off more as a fun affectation than a jerkish disregard for other people's wish to have a formal event. Could you talk your husband into Western boots?
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:02 PM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you going to buy a suit? Because you could just rent one. And you could rent shoes as well. They could measure him up, everything would fit great, he'd look great, and then you don't even have to worry about things getting wrinkled on the flight home.
posted by PercussivePaul at 4:05 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Nothing wrong with nice loafers, even at a preppy wedding.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:09 PM on December 18, 2012

One thing to keep in mind - the difference in quality between payless dress shoes and $150 dollar pair of dress shoes is not worth the price premium. Either go as cheap as possible or step up into a pair of allen-edmonds or Aldens - which with a proper pair of trees and some leather conditioner should literally last you a life time.

I think style wise the J Crew one is fine for almost any non-black tie wedding
posted by JPD at 4:26 PM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

The J Crew selection is definitely closer to the shape you want, but that looks to me like fashionably distressed leather it's made of. If you could come across something that isn't already weathered, that would be better. And yeah, brown bluchers like that plus a light gray suit, white shirt, belt to match the shoes, and lighter-colored tie should be fine.
posted by carsonb at 4:53 PM on December 18, 2012

As a note, my husband bought a pair of black Allen Edmonds shoes at least 13 years ago, wears them 4-6 times a year at most, and they look almost brand new. If you get him to buy one very good pair of shoes, you may avoid ever having this issue arise again.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 9:38 PM on December 18, 2012

I agree that the J Crew in black would be fine. Make sure to have a nice matching black belt to go with it. And as for the suit, when you get to that point: every men's suit must be tailored to fit the wearer correctly, almost without exception. I find that many wives who've been burdened with shopping for their husbands' menswear don't know this.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:04 AM on December 19, 2012

The Payless Website has a lot of very nice dress shoes for men and at $30 a pair, you can feel pretty good about them.

The brand is Dexter, which back in the day, made a perfectly cromulent loafer.

Remember the dress socks (white socks will not cut it.) The belt to match and for Fuck's Sake, get the suit tailored and CUT THE DAMN TAG OFF OF THE SLEEVE! I saw a guy at a wedding sporting the stitched on label on the sleeve. All you can think of when you see that is Felon (You know, guys who have that suit for court) or Rube.

Now, we got Husbunny a pair of Cole-Haan black loafers about 11 years ago. They look as good today as they did the day we bought them. They get worn a couple times a year, but that's just fine.

So you can spend $200 or $30, either way, you'll be fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:25 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where in the east coast will the wedding be? You don't have to buy something you may never wear again. In NY, you can rent a suit, shirt, tie and shoes. How formal is the wedding? I like the J Crew shoes you have selected! It's nice to dress up, but it is also very acceptable if you wear really stylish sneakers too. Here are some that are nice and not crazy expensive if it's a swanky wedding.
posted by Yellow at 8:02 AM on December 19, 2012

I would like to follow up to JPDs comment. I speculate that one reason your husband may not like dress shoes is they often feel thin and flimsy to a man used to work boots. If you can invest in some quality shoes such as the Alden shell cordovan shoes it will be drastically different than the dress shoes you'll find on the lower end. They have thick leather soles and thick cordovan walls that make you feel like you actually have something on your feet. The style is timeless and they will last forever, especially if worn infrequently. They are pricy but consider the cost of a single, one-time purchase vs. another $90 to $200 every few years when something like this comes up and styles have changed.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:37 AM on December 19, 2012

I was able to get a pair of factory second Allen Edmonds Park Avenue shoes for $199 shipped from the AE seconds store. Email with your size.
posted by BostonEnginerd at 10:27 AM on December 19, 2012

I'd recommend Clarks. You can get ones that are nice enough for a wedding to be worn with chinos, a dress shirt and a jacket (he doesn't necessarily need a tie, but he does need a jacket) but not so fancy that he'll be uncomfortable. When dressing for a wedding you want to make sure that you're being respectful of the bride and groom, but you also don't want to be absolutely uncomfortable with what you're wearing.

I also find that Clarks are tough and will last a good long time. I wear them on casual Fridays and I work in quite a professional setting.
posted by fso at 12:18 PM on December 19, 2012

The work shoes would look out of place. Black loafers are the preppy version of an informal shoe. They're very comfortable. I like the penny loafer over the tassel, and that price at Nordstrom's that Ideefixe linked is very good. Or look at Zappos, in the comfort section, and see if you can find a pair of black shoes with a black sole, that you like. Something like Sara C's dad's shoes, in black. Gray flannel pants, blue blazer and loafers will go pretty much anywhere, esp. on the East Coast.
posted by theora55 at 1:35 AM on December 20, 2012

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