Men’s Essentials: The Only 5 Pairs of Shoes You’ll Ever Need

Black shoes of the groom

Men’s footwear |

Chances are, shoe shopping isn’t your idea of a good time. It might not be as bad as accompanying your significant other while she buys her 30th pair, but you probably have better things to do. The thing is, if you make the right choices about which shoes to buy, you’ll probably spend significantly less time in DSW or the closest department store.

That’s not to say you don’t care about your style or your look, and your shoes can determine a lot of that. But you don’t need to have more than a few basic pairs of shoes. The trick is to match your budget with your shoe maintenance expectations.

If you’d rather spend $30 to $50 on a decent pair of shoes, that’s fine — but don’t expect them to last for more than a few years, FashionBeans advises. If you’re willing to shell out $250 to $300, the site suggests making your investment last by cleaning and polishing them regularly and buying a shoe tree to keep the leather in good condition.

Whatever your budget, there are five basic types of shoes that should be in your closet. You might want to throw in a pair of boat shoes or slippers if you’re feeling crazy, but these five will get you through just about every occasion. The exception? If you regularly go for a run or frequent a gym, you’ll obviously need the sneakers to match. Aside from that, here are the five pairs of shoes you should have in your closet — and as far as we’re concerned, the only ones that are truly required.

1. The loafer


Shoes |

As with most shoes on our list, the loafer you choose will need to fit your lifestyle. You can opt for a classic penny loafer or choose a pair with a tassel — the choice is yours. Purchasing a brown pair will ensure you’re ready for any setting or outfit, especially since you won’t be wearing these to super formal events. These will go great with jeans and chinos, but probably not with a suit.

If your job is less formal, you can even get away with wearing these to the office. If you like, you can get a suede pair, though leather is the traditional style. “Leather driving loafers are just as comfortable as a solid pair of boat shoes without giving off the ‘I’d-rather-be-tossing-the-lax-ball-on-the-fratcastle-lawn’ vibe,” BroBible says. In other words, these let you be a grown man while staying comfortable.

2. The brogue

the brogue

The brogue |

A step or two above loafers, a pair of brogues will guarantee you’ve got what you need to look stylish at the office. Effortless Gent suggests choosing a dark brown pair to ensure they go with any suit, jacket, or slack combination. Night or day, these shoes will get you through any business lunch or dinner date.

As with the navy wool suit, Esquire calls this shoe the “workhorse” — it’s appropriate for everything except the most formal of occasions. Pair the essential suit with the essential shoes, and you’re sure to look your best. The brown long-wing is likely the most versatile shoe in your closet, according to Dappered. If you wear them with the right jeans, you can even use this pair to jazz up a casual look for a night out.

3. The trainer

men in sneakers

Men in sneakers |

If you’d rather not spend your weekends in anything that closely resembles a work shoe, try a pair of streamlined trainers instead. Choose a simple white pair — they go with khakis and jeans and will likely be suitable for any typical weekend activity, even if your significant other is taking you to the farmer’s market and dinner in the same outing.

This pair probably won’t — and shouldn’t — resemble the Converse shoes you loved all through high school and college. If they’re slim with few details, they’ll be easy to keep clean and will go with any ensemble, FashionBeans advises. As Esquire states, “understated” is the goal here.

4.  The boot

a pair of boots

A pair of boots |

Again, the style of boot will likely depend on your preference. The Modest Man and FashionBeans both suggest a desert boot, also sometimes called a chukka. “You can wear a brown ankle boot with jeans, chinos, cords or trousers. You can dress them up, down, and everything in between,” Effortless Gent explains. If your pair happens to be suede, FashionBeans suggests rubbing one shoe against the other when you get a mark on one — it lifts right off.

Dappered suggests a dress boot, if you’d rather wear this pair in inclement weather. A higher boot is great on weekends when paired with jeans, Men’s Health suggests.

5. The derby

married couple

A couple on their wedding day |

You’ll probably wear these shoes less often than the rest in your closet, but you’ll be glad you have a solid pair when the formal occasions arise. They should always be black, and should be generally without ornamentation, unless you’d prefer to go with the cap-toe Oxford style.

Whether you’re attending a wedding, a funeral, or a job interview, these shoes will serve you well with the formalities of life. This is one of those pairs where price is negotiable, however. If you attend very few of these events, you can probably get away with spending less money, even though FashionBeans advises otherwise. If you’re going to take care of them and only break them out for a few occasions, don’t spend a paycheck on them. But if you will wear them a modest amount, it might be a smart pair to invest in.

The one thing that’s not negotiable, however: You need to keep them polished.

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