New dress code, new shoes!
August 19, 2021 6:17 AM   Subscribe

As I said in my comment here, my company is transitioning to a more relaxed dress code post-COVID. I'm mostly comfortable with the new standards, but need some help finding good men's shoe brands.

I am a man who has worked for about twenty years in a profession where formal business attire has historically been the norm. Pre-COVID, I wore a suit every day (and until about 2015 or so, a tie too). As a result, my wardrobe was pretty strongly divided between work clothes (ties, dress shirts, belts, suits etc) and ultra-casual clothes (sportswear, Tshirts, shorts, sweats, etc). I had very little need for business casual outfits since I could easily dress down by skipping the jacket and tie when I needed to. Then COVID hit, and the company rightly decided we had bigger issues then checking to see if someone was wearing a tie or not at home.

While my company is still uncertain as to what our jobs will look like post-pandemic, it's clear virtual meetings and remote work will form a much larger part of our jobs, and making employees dress like the early seasons of Mad Men is no longer realistic. Officially we are transitioning to a "dress as you deem appropriate" dress code, which seems to mean the formal end of business casual - which for the men means optional sports coats, dress shirts and slacks. All of that is fine, but I am at a bit of a loss as to what the best brands of shoes are, since my default until COVID was traditional dress shoes.

I am looking for men's shoe brands that can be paired with a sport coat/dress shirt/slacks combo (pants would be beige, gray, navy blue), but in a pinch could be worn with jeans and a buttoned shirt or with a suit. NOT sneakers. I don't mind a rubber sole but wouldn't want it to be very obvious (I have seen a lot of brown-ish casual shoes with bright white soles and that's a little too casual for me). As well, I would love to find a brand that is reasonably rugged and does not have to be polished or cleaned on a very regular basis (a lot of guys complain about ties, but I will take a tie any day over shoes that have to be kept polished!)

I have asked our HR rep about it, and unfortunately they weren't able to provide me with any help beyond "visit some shoe stores to figure it out", which is a little tonedeaf considering I am trying to avoid unnecessary groups of people. That's a separate issue!
posted by fortitude25 to Work & Money (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Check out the dressier SAS shoes. Comfortable and long wearing.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:47 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Shoes suck.

When I managed this transition (due to moving from the UK to Aus) I went to black workboots. I don't think anyone cares too much about my footwear, and steel-capped shit-kickers look much like black shoes once you've got the rest of the work kit on.

I started with Docs, but the quality has fallen a lot, and they'd last about a year. I like Redbacks. They're close to indestructible. My current pair has a few nicks in the leather over the steel, so I'd replace them (for purely cosmetic purposes) if I were allowed outside my house, but I've had them for longer than I can remember (maybe four or five years?), wearing them almost every day.

I do have polish for these boots, but I have never actually used it.
posted by pompomtom at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Some sort of loafer could work. Traditionally, pairing loafers with a suit is a fashion no-no, but in my experience is pretty common in office settings.
posted by AndrewInDC at 6:54 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Most traditional dress shoe brands also offer casual models, e.g. this driving moc from Allen Edmonds. If you have a brand of dress shoes you like, check out their website and see what they offer.

LL Bean is an easy go-to option because they offer a pretty wide selection and great customer service. Something like this would work really well for most of the situations you'd need it for. Maybe not with a suit, but it's probably not idea to have a separate pair of dress shoes for those instances.

For most of the last decade, I've been wearing either Doc Martens or Merrells. Neither are "dress shoe" brands, so they don't require a lot of upkeep. The Docs might be a little too much sole for you, and the Merrells might be a hair too casual, but they're both rugged and made to be walked in. Very comfortable.

Depending on your age, a pair of loafers, like a Bass Weejun, might work. I think loafers are kind of an affect on younger people, but people over 40 or people whose "casual" clothes are still ironed shirts and slacks can pull them off nicely. For younger people, boat shoes, although really on the casual end of things, are filling this role. I've even seen people wear boat shoes with a suit, which probably isn't a good idea, but whatever.

The white-sole thing is a trend these days. For some reason, people want dress shoes, even for suits, that look like tennis shoes. I think it goes back to the Cole Haan-Nike partnership. It looks terrible, though, so I don't blame you for wanting to avoid it. In general, my advice would be to avoid most actual shoe stores for this reason: they're loading with trendy crap. If you've got a trusted local shoe store, go there, but those are rare these days. It's a lot easier to use filters on a site like Zappos to find something you'll like.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:10 AM on August 19, 2021

Best answer: Maybe Nisolo: their boots are excellent, and they also have some loafers, oxfords, etc. Maybe not exactly rugged but I think of them as pretty versatile and easily able to be dressed up or down.
posted by stellaluna at 7:17 AM on August 19, 2021

I'm not the guy people ask for fashion advice, but I'd say any shoe with a stitched seam around the toe box, like a loafer, would be acceptable.

In choosing a shoe, after the obvious factors of fit and comfort, I would be most particular about the sole. For some reason, shoes with leather soles are still made. Here in New England, that's a really bad idea as a short walk on a slushy sidewalk will quickly reveal. I've worn some SAS shoes which are well made and comfortable, but the tread wears off completely long before the shoe is otherwise showing wear. When comparing shoes, compare tread.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:25 AM on August 19, 2021

Best answer: May be too casual, but I'm wearing a much marked down version of these shoes. They are as comfortable as sneakers, and the soles look more conventional in person.
posted by sandmanwv at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2021

Best answer: Ecco has an entire Business category of normal looking shoes. Timberland has shoes similar but a little sleeker, I just can't find them right now. If you want not black, the Bucksports are a good buy.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:45 AM on August 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I find this style of shoe quite comfortable and versatile and they're suede, so you can't polish them.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:50 AM on August 19, 2021

My wife and I (both women who wear men's clothes on the regular) love Cole Haan's lace-up suede shoes. They're dressy but look equally great with jeans. Suede means no polishing. And if you're patient, you can catch them for a steal on Poshmark (example 1, example 2). We really like the Nike soles, because middle aged knees, but you may find those too vibrant.
posted by joycehealy at 8:00 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would consider Cole Haan.
posted by AugustWest at 8:03 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just keep wearing my fancy dress shoes with my slacks. For me personally I like used Allen Edmond's from eBay. I find that fancy dress shoes work to dress up jeans / slacks and a button down shirt.
posted by bbqturtle at 8:13 AM on August 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm in a historically much more casual field. I find Lem's Nine2Five is a good compromise between a shoe I can wear for a spontaneous 20 mile walk and also not feel like a goofball while wearing a sport coat and talking to fancy people. The ends of the laces that come with them may be a bit too sporty.
posted by eotvos at 9:02 AM on August 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

I own Skechers Rilar Oxfords in both brown and black and I find them good enough to wear to work daily, a little rugged, and also not out of place with jeans. Look through Skechers other work shoes if that pattern doesn't resemble your ideal. They make a good, memory foam insole work shoe.
posted by deezil at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2021

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