Building a Formal Shoe Collection: What Does a Man Need?

There is a commonly held view among men that we only need 2 pairs of shoes, a smart one and a casual one.  I can’t say that I have ever shared that view. But how many pairs does a man need? Obviously, that depends on the nature and needs of your wardrobe.  However, here are some suggestions for your formal collection:

Graziano Girling Oxford GG06

Black shoes

These are the staple formal shoes. The Oxford is the most formal.  In less uptight environments you might consider a derby, brogue or Chelsea boot. Leather uppers and soles are the most formal but rubber soles are more comfortable and less susceptible to water damage.  2 pairs of black shoes in different styles will probably suffice.

Polo, Graziano Girling


Brown shoes are slightly less formal than black. However, they are more versatile and work better with certain colours. A navy suit works better with dark brown shoes than black, for example. I suggest that you may want to have a few brown shoes, perhaps in different shades and styles.

Grenson Stanley Brogue


Tan shoes, especially brogues, are great for the summer and for the semiformal occasion. Great with a blazer and jeans or ‘In Between’ Trousers whether in polished leather or suede.

Walter Ankle Boot, Melvin & Hamilton
Fred Brogue Boot, Grenson


For the winter months or when it’s rainy you will want to have some boots in your collection.  Ideally they will have a gripped sole to help in slippery conditions.  Comfort will be the priority but they should still be stylish. A pair each in black and brown would cover most eventualities.In more extensive formal shoe collections tans, olives and even reds may feature.

George Dunhill


Monks are fastened with a buckle rather than laces and fall somewhere between oxfords and brogues in formality. Perhaps just one pair would suffice unless you are a big fan of the monk strap.  If only having a single pair, have them in any colour but black.

Other colours

Shoe aficionados may well want to push the boat out with shoe colours that are beyond the black and brown palette.  Navy is the trending colour at the moment. However, you might also try olive, red, or grey.  A couple of shoes in this category in polished leather or suede really opens up possibilities.

Melvin & Hamilton Navy Brogue
Neumok Red, Allen Edmonds
Air Colton Saddle, Pistachio-Croc, Cole Haan

How many pairs?

By my reckoning this list would bring you to a minimum of about 10 pairs. Gotta say, that feels about right to me.

What do you think?


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