A Guide to Shoes and Boots: Part 1

Part 1 of my guide to Shoes and Boots, covering dress shoes.

Parts of a Shoe

Parts

The Heel: Technically the part at the bottom of the shoe, in general, and for our purposes, the heel refers to the entire back-end of the shoe.

The Toe Box: The front part of the shoe that covers the toes.

The Vamp: The part of the shoe between the Toe Box and the Tongue area.

The Quarter: The side/back part of the shoe between the Heel and the Vamp

The Tongue: The strip of leather running under the laces.

The Upper: The top of the shoe; comprised of the above parts, not including the base of the heel.

The Sole: The base of the shoe; the part that touches the ground.

This is a generalised list, and certainly not every part of the shoe; for the purposes of this article, the definitions given will suffice.

Court Shoe

139H_BLACK

Court Shoe

The traditional option for Black Tie events, the Court Shoe dates back to the 19th century, and has remained virtually unchanged since. Also known as Opera Pumps, the shoes are typically found in patent leather, but calf skin has become more accepted since the 1950’s (so long as it is highly polished. Rarely seen on men outside of formal events, the shoes should always be highly polished, and are rare; especially in comparison to the rarity of formal events.

Wholecut

Herring-Herring Chaucer II-Black Calf-5196-2712-1

Black Wholecut

With a Wholecut shoe, the entire upper is made from a single piece of leather. This gives the shoe a streamlined appearance, with minimal stitching. In a plain black, these shoes are perfect alternatives to the Court Shoe for formal events; in a brown, or with a medallion (the perforated pattern on the front end) for more casual attire. For formal events, the leather should either be highly polished calf skin, or patent leather. As the upper is made from a single piece of leather, the shoes are typically more expensive than other shoes; a single large piece of useable leather costs more than piecing together smaller pieces.

Brown Wholecut with Medallion

Brown Wholecut with Medallion

Oxford

Herring-Herring Charles II-Black Calf-7064-3741-1

Black Oxford Cap-Toe

Perhaps the most common dress shoe, the Oxford is the perfect shoe for almost every occasion. In a highly polished black calf leather or patent leather, the Oxford is perfectly acceptable for Black Tie events, and in regular polished calf leather it is perfect for everyday business. In a brown or burgundy, the shoe is also perfect more casual events. The most formal Oxford is one with a cap toe (like the one pictured above), but it can also be found with varying degrees of broguing (pictured below).  The Oxford can be distinguished from the Derby by the closed lacing, as opposed to the open lacing on the Derby.

Herring-Herring Chamberlain-Mahogany Calf-4596-2452-1

Oxford Quarter-Brogue

Herring-Herring Lambeth (Rubber)-Conker Calf-4018-2167-1

Oxford Semi-Brogue

Oxford Full-Brogue/Wingtip

Oxford Full-Brogue/Wingtip

Derby

Cheaney-Cheaney Holcot-Black Calf-6685-3506-1

Cap-Toe Derby

Not to be worn to formal events, the Derby is less formal than the Oxford, but can still be worn to work; especially with more casual suits and business casual attire. It is distinguished from the Oxford by its open lacing, which is more noticeable, and therefore less formal, than the closed lacing of the Oxford. Like many other types of shoes, the Derby can be found with varying degrees of broguing.

Wingtip Derby

Wingtip Derby

Monk Strap

Herring-Herring Attlee-Black Calf-5354-2828-1

Two Buckle Cap-Toe Monk Strap

Underrated and underused, the Monk Strap uses a buckle instead of laces. It can be found with up to three buckles, with one buckle being the most formal. In a plain or cap toe, the single buckle Monk Strap can be worn (highly polished) to Black Tie events. More casual varieties are perfect for everyday business and casual events. Try and match the colour of the buckle with the colour of any other jewellery that you are wearing (watch, cufflinks, etc.).

Cheaney-Cheaney Humphrey-Black Calf-6675-3496-1

Single Buckle Wingtip Monk Strap

Herring-Herring Hilton-Mahogany Calf-7475-4011-1

Single Buckle Monk Strap with Medallion

Loafer

Church-Church Darwin-Black Calf-23-34-1

Penny Loafer

The Loafer is a broad category that covers the formal Court Shoe, the Monk Strap, and any slip-on shoe. Ironically, the typical Loafer is the most casual dress shoe, and is only appropriate for Business Casual attire and other less formal attire; it not to be worn with a business suit; it can, however, be worn with a more casual linen or cotton Summer suit. Loafers come in many designs, such as the Penny Loafer, pictured above, or the Tassel Loafer, pictured below.

Church-Church Keats-Walnut Calf-7443-3989-1

Tassel Loafer

Herring-Herring Matisse-Black Calf-3563-1932-1

Tassel Loafer

Keywords

Cap Toe: Referring to the cap covering the Toe Box of the shoe.

Cap Toe

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Broguing: The decorative perforations in the leather.

Quarter-Brogue: Broguing along the lines of the seams on the shoe.

Quarter-Brogue

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Semi-Brogue: Semi-Brogue with an additional decorative pattern on the Toe Box.

semi-brogue

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Full-Brogue or Wingtip: Referring to the distinctive shape of the broguing covering the shoe, resembling the spread wings and beak of a bird in flight.

Wingtip

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Medallion: The broguing limited to the toe of the shoe.

Medallion

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Open Lacing: The Leather pieces holding the laces is stitched on top of the vamp, and remains able to move open.

Open Lacing

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Closed Lacing: The leather piece holding the laces is stitched directly underneath the vamp, creating a more streamlined but rigid appearance.

Closed Lacing

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Coming soon to a web browser near you: Part 2 – Dress Boots

*Images of shoes are provided by Herring Shoes, and are for educational purposes only*

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What Should I Wear?: The Casual Office

Some businesses have uniforms, and some strictly enforce the suit and tie dress code; other businesses are a bit more relaxed, and have what is considered a ‘Business Casual’ office. The exact definition of business casual varies for each of these companies, so it can be difficult to work out exactly what is and isn’t acceptable in the modern office. As usual, this is where I come in.

Proper Business Casual

This is my prefered form of business casual, and the most casual attire that I don while doing business. It consists of a sports jacket, a dress shirt, trousers, and a pair of slightly more casual dress shoes. No jacket is complete without a pocket square, but for a more casual appearance, don’t worry about the tie. Shoes don’t need to be overly formal, and a good pair of dress boots will suffice; even loafers will work if you are feeling particularly casual. Your shirt can have a bit of a pattern, and your jacket can be a lighter colour than it would be in a formal office.

Business Casual outfit by Men's Warehouse

tall_suit

Modern Business Casual

For some reason or another, many men don’t enjoy wearing a jacket (every reason is a bad one), and so have decided to abandon them. This level of business casual is basically the same as above, except without the jacket. Adding a sweater will slightly increase the formality, especially if you are wearing a tie.

Casual Business Casual

More casual than the look above, this level will have you swapping out your dress trousers for chinos or dark jeans, and your dress shirts for more casual shirts and polos.

Casual Outfits

Things not to wear to work

  • A T-Shirt
  • Baseball Cap
  • Faded/distressed jeans
  • Sneakers
  • A Hoodie
  • Shorts
  • A Singlet
  • Sandals
  • Excessive Jewellery
  • Anything that makes you look like a tool

The only people who can get away with wearing these things are the people who own the company, and even then it still looks pretty ridiculous (I’m looking at you, Mark Zuckerberg). Remember, casual doesn’t mean sloppy or unprofessional, it just means casual; you should still look like a professional, responsible member of society, just more relaxed.

A Quick Guide to Common Collars and Cuffs

Here is a quick visual guide to the different shirt collars and cuffs.

Shirt Collars

Cutaway Collar

The Cutaway Collar

The Cutaway Collar

The widest collar shape, this style looks best on someone with a longer, thinner face. Most commonly found in English shirts, this collar looks best with a very wide tie knot; typically a full windsor knot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread Collar

Spread Collar

The Spread Collar

Not as extreme as the Cutaway Collar, the Spread Collar is still quite wide. Like the Cutaway Collar, the Spread collar looks best on someone with a longer face, and works best with a wider tie knot. Depending on the thickness of the tie, either a full or half windsor will work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Semi-Spread Collar

Semi-Spread Collar

The Semi-Spread Collar

Not as extreme as a full Spread Collar, the Semi-Spread Collar looks better on a greater variety of face shapes. It still looks good on those with longer and thinner faces, but also works well on those with slightly more rounded faces. It typically works best with a half windsor or similarly sized knot. This is the collar that I use the most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Point Collar

Point Collar

The Point Collar

The most common collar, the Point Collar works best on those with shorter, rounder faces. This collar works best with smaller knots, like the four-in-hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin Collar

Pin Collar

The Pin Collar

A similar shape to the Point Collar, the Pin Collar is a soft collar (it doesn’t have collar stays), where the two sides are held together be some form of bar or pin. This typically works best with smaller tie knots, with the bar going behind and lifting the tie; forming an arch. It is not common these days, but can be seen occasionally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tab Collar

Tab Collar

The Tab Collar

Similar to the Pin Collar, this collar has a built-in tab that connects the two sides of the collar. Like the pin collar, this tab connects behind the tie, lifting it up. It is somewhat more common than the Pin Collar, but is still fairly rare compared to the other collar styles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Club Collar

Club Collar

The Club Collar

This collar looks best on those with thin, angular faces, and can be seen in a variety of collar widths, and as a Pin Collar. It works best with smaller tie knots. It is also not as common as the other collar styles, but can be occasionally seen on certain stylish celebrities; David Beckham for instance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Button-Down Collar

Button Down Collar

The Button-Down Collar

Highly popular for business shirts in the U.S, the button down collar is the most casual collar style. Most often seen on casual and sports shirts, it works best with smaller tie knots, and with more casual ties. It should never be worn to any formal or dressy event, and in my opinion, even wearing it to work is stretching the limit; as common as it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wing Collar

Wing Collar

The Wing Collar

The most formal collar style, it should only be worn with a bow tie (self tied only), and should be highly starched. Ideally, the collar will be detachable, and have long points; unlike the small floppy points on most attached wing collars that are unfortunately common. It is only really necessary for White Tie events, with a turndown collar being better for Black Tie.

 

Band Collar

The Band Collar

The Band Collar

This collar is designed to have a Detachable Collar attached. Detachable Collars can be found in many of the same styles as those above, and in a few more. These collars are most often seen on period costumes (like those in Downton Abbey, or old Sherlock Holmes shows). They are also occasionally found on casual shirts, but they serve no purpose whatsoever, and look silly.

Shirt Cuffs

1 Button Barrel Cuff

1 Button Barrel Cuff

The most common Shirt Cuff, the button cuff is appropriate for all but most formal occasions. Perfect for everyday business shirts, and casual shirts. They can occasionally be found as a convertible cuff, which will have a buttonhole on both sides, which allows for the use of cufflinks; a nice option for around the office, but not for formal events.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Button Barrel Cuff

2 Button Barrel Cuff

Longer than the Single Button Barrel Cuff, the 2 Button Barrel Cuff suits those with longer arms; this creates the illusion of better proportion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnback Cuff

Turnback Cuff

Popularised by Sean Connery in Dr. No, the Turnback Cuff is a cuff that is quite rare, but can occasionally be found on more fashion forward individuals. More of a dandyish look, this cuff isn’t technically appropriate for more formal or dressy occasions, but can be worn to work if it is a less formal office. They are not common, and it is incredibly rare to find them on ready to wear shirts. Like the French Cuff (below), it consists of a long cuff which is then folded back on itself. Unlike the french cuff, it is held together by buttons.

 

 

 

 

French Cuff

French Cuff The most formal cuff option, and my personal favourite. This is the only cuff that should be worn to formal events, but it is completely appropriate for day-to-day business. It consists of one long cuff which is then folded back on itself, and then held together by cuff links, or silk knots, for a more casual appearance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Suit

The Black Suit

Black Lapel

Suit by Black Lapel

Black Lapel 2

Suit by Black Lapel

 

The Black Suit (yes, it deserves capitals) is a point of contention between those who have studied style. Some see it as just another suit, and others refuse to even consider owning one; some praise it for its versatility, while others would only ever consider wearing one in the most formal or dressy occasions. I have listed below some of the main arguments that I have found, both for, and against, wearing a black suit, and my thoughts on each.

Against: Black is for Formal Wear

The argument here is that the Black Suit is derived from the Dinner Suit, and is therefore too formal for everyday business wear. This is what I was taught, and while I would prefer for it to be true, this is somewhat of an old-fashioned view. If you were to take a look into most office buildings (those where a suit is required), you will find that the Black Suit is actually rather common; and if being worn for business doesn’t make it business wear, what does? Should it be? Probably not. Are there better options? Definately. Are you going to be able to convince everyone to stop wearing Black Suits to work? It doesn’t seem likely.

Fun Fact: Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t sell clothing that is black because “we are a casual lifestyle brand and feel black clothing is formal”, and while the sentiment is true, it’s ridiculous to think that anyone would consider anything from A&F to be ‘formal’.

Argument:  Somewhat outdated, but technically true.

For: Black Suits are Versatile

This argument would have you believe that a Black Suit is incredibly versatile, and can be dressed up and down, and works for almost all occasions. If you accept that a Black Suit can be worn to work, then this argument is at least somewhat true. While I wouldn’t wear a Black Suit to any daytime event, I often wear one out to dinner, or to evening parties, and even occasionally just to the movies (without a tie). A Black Suit is the best option to a Black Tie Optional event (assuming that you don’t own a dinner suit), just don’t believe anyone who says that it is an option for Black Tie Only events (A Black Suit is not the same as a Dinner Suit); and yes, if you have to go straight from work to a (reasonably)formal wedding (or a funeral), then a Black Suit is an option.

If, however, you take versatile to mean that they can be worn in many ways by a variety of people, then they really aren’t. You can pair a charcoal suit with black or burgundy shoes; or a navy suit with black, brown, red, or burgundy shoes; or a brown suit with brown, red, or burgundy shoes; but you can really only pair a Black Suit with black shoes, which, while easy to remember, is boring. And while charcoal, navy, brown, and medium grey suits can be worn well be those with a variety of complexions, a Black Suit really only works well on someone with a high-contrast between their hair and skin (Dark hair and light skin), or by someone with dark skin (see below).

I look fantastic in a Black Suit and white shirt; my brother, with his light skin and blonde hair looks washed out.

Argument: Technically true, but not compared to the alternatives

Against: They are Common

If I were to walk into any menswear store within 100km (~60 Miles) of my home (what few there are), at least 70% of the suits (if the stock any) will be black. Black Suits, as much as I wish they weren’t, are disgustingly common; if I see a man wearing a suit, the odds are pretty good that it’s black. So many men wear Black Suits that I often recommend not wearing one for no other reason than because they are so overused.

Argument: Completely True

For: They are Common

Because Black Suits are so common, they are the easiest for a man to find, and are often cheaper because of it; they are turning into the modern equivalent of the grey flannel suit. Every man and his dog owns a black suit; and, personal feelings aside, anything that gets a man wearing a suit is a good thing in my opinion (obviously not including a funeral). So if being drowned in Black Suits gets more people wearing suits, I can live with it.

Argument: It’s sad, but it’s true.

For: Black is Slimming

Although there are some who say otherwise, it is a widely held belief that black is the most slimming colour; it is dark enough that all the bumps and rolls don’t cast a noticeable shadow. However, if your suit is cut properly, this shouldn’t be an issue at all, as any properly tailored garment is automatically slimming. Some also argue that because black is such a powerful and noticeable colour, it will draw attention to the any extra weight; and because it is so well-known that black is supposed to be slimming, if you do have a few extra kilos, wearing excessive amounts of black will just draw unwanted attention.

Argument: Kinda, but not really.

So where does this leave us?

Well, the Black Suit gets a lot of hate from purists, and while it is very rare that I would actually recommend one over almost any other suit, it certainly isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. It’s not as versatile as a charcoal or navy suit, or as traditionally appropriate for work; and it is incredibly overused to the point of boring; and you can only wear it with black shoes; and some (judgemental) people may look down on you for wearing one; and they only really work for certain complexions and at night; and it can easily be replaced by a charcoal grey suit; and isn’t especially slimming; and… actually, I think I’ve made my point.

Fun Fact: My first real suit was black. The dress code for Myer is black and white, so if I wanted to wear a suit, it had to be black; regardless of the fact that I would rather have worn navy, wearing that Black Suit is probably the reason that my sales were so high compared to the other junior staff (junior in terms of not having been there for long), who didn’t wear suits.

By all means, buy and wear a Black Suit (I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise), just know that for most situations, there are far better alternatives. Save the Black Suit for your 4th or 5th purchase, and don’t trust anyone who says that you actually need one. My advice is to save the Black Suit for formal occasions (weddings and funerals), and evenings; and wear something else to work and during the day.

What Should I Wear?: Job Interview

Congratulations! Your months of hard work have paid off, and you finally have a job interview. What’s that? You don’t know what to wear? Well, I think I can help with that. Job interviews are tough, and you want to put your best foot forward; remember, first impressions are formed within seconds, and this is your chance to really impress the interviewer, even before you introduce yourself. There are a few things that you need to consider, but if you follow this guide and still don’t get the job, it probably won’t be because of your appearance.

Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

But first, just how much does your attire affect your chances? 

The appropriate attire for every white collar job is a suit. If you show up to the interview in anything less than a suit, then the person interviewing you is going to think any of the following: that you have no idea what is appropriate attire; that you are not serious about the process; that you are not professional; and, at the extreme, that you are being disrespectful. That’s not to say that they aren’t going to hire you, just that your interview skills will have to be pretty good to fight past a negative first impression.

On the other hand, opinions are divided on what is the appropriate attire for a blue collar job interview. Some, like myself, argue that the best attire is still a suit; but others feel that wearing a suit to a blue collar job interview is overly formal, or, at worst, pretentious. The same applies to those professionals who try to emulate the ‘business casual’ workplace attire of those like Mark Zuckerberg. Although the former may have some legitimate reasoning, the latter have no sense of appropriate business attire. In either case, it is best to do some research on the company to determine what they would deem the appropriate attire.

The Hair

A week before your interview, get a haircut. This will give the appearance of being well groomed, and allow the haircut to settle in (although, you should be getting a haircut often enough that no one notices the difference). Facial hair should be kept to an absolute minimum, so make sure to shave the morning of the interview (avoiding razor burn and cuts). If you insist on keeping a beard, make sure that it is neat and trimmed. If you use some sort of hair product, make sure not to overdo it. Most people have the tendency to apply more product than they need when they are nervous and trying to make their hair perfect; this will just overwork your hair, and then it will look terrible. Remember, you can always add more; taking it away will likely require another shower.

The Accessories

Keep your jewellery to a minimum; a simple watch, cuff links, and a tie clip are all you really need, and the last two are optional. If you have visible piercings, remove them. Make sure you watch is something simple; a black leather (to match your shoes) or metal band, with a understated face; no flashy jewels embedded in the watch. You should be carrying two pens; one in your jacket pocket, and a backup in your briefcase. Also in your briefcase should be a notepad, business cards, and your mobile phone. Storing your mobile in your briefcase will free your pockets of clutter, and ensures that you aren’t tempted to start texting during the interview (you’d be surprised how often that happens). If you have one, a tablet pc of some kind is also an option.

The Shoes

Stick with plain black, highly shined Oxfords when you are wearing a suit. If you are feeling daring, a pair of quarter-brogues will also work. No slip-ons of any sort, and avoid brown; slip-ons are fine for business casual, and brown should be fine when you have the job, but neither are ideal for a job interview. If you need instructions on how to shine your shoes, I have an article for that here.

The Suit

The best options for an interview suit are Charcoal Grey, or Navy Blue, with two buttons, and notch lapels. Charcoal is a darker and more serious colour, while the colour blue represents knowledge, and can make a man look younger.

As a general guide, your suit should have the following characteristics:

  • Charcoal, Grey, or Navy
  • Solid worsted wool fabric (no pinstripes or checks)
  • Double vent
  • Two buttons
  • Flap pockets
  • Peak Lapel
  • Medium break in the trousers
  • Pleats if necessary
  • No cuffs on the trousers

Below are some examples of suits that are perfect for interviews:

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Indochino

Suit by Black Lapel

Suit by Black Lapel

If you are looking for a more in-depth guide, check out my article on buying your first suit.

The Casual Interview

Slightly More Casual Than a Suit: A sport jacket and dress trousers, with a button down shirt and tie. For a more relaxed look, remove the tie. Make sure to keep the colours conservative; this is still an interview, and you still want to present a professional appearance. At the most casual end of this look, a pair of chinos will work well.

More Casual: Lose the the jacket, and put on a nice sweater. This will work better with a tie to contrast with the less formal nature of the outfit.

The Most Casual: The most casual outfit that I would recommend is a well fitted button down shirt, and dress trousers or, at the extreme, chinos. As I’ve said before, I don’t think you should wear a tie without a jacket (or sweater), but if you really want to, then go for it, but add a tie clip to keep things neat.

People often confuse casual with sloppy; you are still trying to present a professional image, just a less formal one. Make sure all your clothes fit you properly, and are clean and pressed. When in doubt, look in the mirror and ask yourself “Would I hire me if I looked like this?”; if the answer is “no”, then maybe a change of clothes is in order.

The Shirt

The two best (and really, only) options for your shirt colour are white, and light blue.  Solids are the best option, but a small and subtle pattern can also work well.

ME00140_WHITE ME00142_LIGHT-BLUE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wear french cuffs at your own discretion, and try and avoid button-down collars. While button-down collars are a business staple in the U.S, they are traditionally a more casual, sporty look, and you would be better off without them for an interview. (Shirts pictured are by Brooks Brothers)

The Tie

Stick with darker, more conservative colours for your tie. Red is an excellent colour for an interview tie, as is navy blue. Red is the colour of passion and confidence; two things which a potential staff member should have, while blue is the colour of loyalty, authority, and knowledge; also characteristics that may describe the perfect applicant. As with shirts, stick with solids and subtle patterns. Below are some examples of ties that would work well for a job interview (images from www.ties-necktie.com).

Blue Shirt Red Tie CS0501_md_TNT CS0507_md_TNT CS0528_md_TNT

Putting it all together

My go-to interview attire is a navy suit, red tie, and white shirt. Theoretically, the colours represent the idea that I am passionate, knowledgeable, powerful, and confident; practically, the contrast between the colours creates a visually striking and memorable image, one that is often referred to as the ‘power look’, demonstrated here by US President Obama:

red 4

Perfect for addressing the press, meeting with foreign dignitaries, and interviewing for a job.

Whatever you wear, make sure that you are comfortable in it, and that you look professional, because if you aren’t comfortable people will be able to tell; and you are going to be nervous enough already, why add to your stress? Look the best that you can, so that you have one less thing to worry about during the interview; and remember, even if there are a dozen other applicants lined up for an interview,  sometimes you don’t have to be better than your competition, you just have to dress better.