By Daniel van Voorhis

 dress shoes

A shoe is not only a design, but it’s a part of your body language, the way you walk. The way you’re going to move is quite dictated by your shoes.” – Christian Louboutin

I am amongst the growing numbers of introverts. For you pastors that come to this website, can we stop the awkward mid-service handshakes? I tend to think more Lutherans are introverts (get to the coffee quickly and find your corner of the patio) than the gregarious evangelical. I’ll let the theologians figure this part out. We are embracing our inner introvert (the book to read is Susan Cain’ Quiet or listen to our podcast with psychologist Dr. Jennifer Cosgrove) and thus, this should give us all the more reason to think about our footwear. Haircuts and glasses are important, but if introversion is increasing, our line of sight is moving down, and so perhaps we might think as much about our brogues as our beards.

There are, of course, a myriad of other reasons we should take our footwear seriously. Our feet contain over 50 different bones (that’s a quarter of all the bones in our body). Mistreating our feet can lead to general discomforts from bunions to ingrown toenails as well as serious maladies from osteoarthritis to meniscal wear and chronic knee pain. Sometimes you can throw a pair of padded inserts into your worn out Chuck Taylor’s. Sometimes it is time for new shoes.


As The Man About Town, I am here to provide you a quick guide to distinguishing, and thinking about, your choice of footwear:

The Four Kinds of shoes you should own:

The Oxford

The Espadrille or “slip on”

A running shoe

Sandals (think leather rainbows, not plastic CVS throwaways)

The Oxford: this is your basic leather dress shoe.  Laces, a tongue, and small heel distinguish it.  Think of a dress shoe.  You are probably thinking of an oxford.  It may be a brogue, wingtip, or whole cut leather shoe made of various leathers or synthetics.  If you have one pair of dress shoes, it should be a pair of oxfords.  If, however, you only have one pair of dress shoes, please keep reading.

The Derby: the derby is essentially an oxford, but the quarters are sewn on top of the vamp. The quarters are the flaps with the eyelets and the vamp is that part that connects the toe to the tongue. This is referred to as “open lacing”, these are going to have a wider and less formal look. These are more sporting, and can be worn to dress up a pair of jeans or chinos. They typically will not be brogued or wing tipped.

Wing tip: the wing tip is created by sewing a piece of material over the vamp in the shape of a wing. The wing tip is not a kind of shoe, but rather a style appended to an oxford, derby, chukka, etc…

The Monk: this is a shoe named after the modified sandal a monk would wear when he would need to cover his feet for protection. One or two straps and buckles that cover the quarters (instead of laces) distinguish the monk. If the buckles stand out, extra stitching, brogueing or capping can make the shoe look too busy. The double monk strap looks like a Birkenstock crossed with a derby. Wear with caution (or with no caution and self confidence).

The Chukka: The chukka is often used as a catch all for a short boot. The chukka was originally a rugby shoe (it protected the ankles) and required laces (open, like the derby, for comfort). The chukka can be confused or conflated with the Chelsea (a slip on boot with no laces and usually a larger heel). I find low cut boots to be comfortable, supportive and rangier than most shoes. I have a few pairs in various levels of shine to distress to match the formality (or lack thereof) of my short and trousers.

Toe cap- the toe cap is the kind of “tip” of your shoe. It is usually a separate piece of material sewn on top of the vamp. The straight line across the front of the face of the shoe (about where your toes start) gives it a capped look. You can have a plain toe with no “cap” or an extended vamp (then called an “apron”).

Brogue- the brogue refers to the ornamental stitching on the shoe. A brogue, like a wingtip is a style appended to a shoe, not a kind of show. The brogue could be as simple as a small decoration on the toe cap to a stylized stitching that ties all of the parts of the shoe together.

The Espadrille: commonly referred to as a “slip on”. If you refer to your espadrilles as such, men who do not think you should be specific in your discussion of footwear will mock you. The espadrille usually does not have a heel and should have no tassels. The espadrille is a great alternative to the boat shoe or driving shoe (both of which, I only tend to like if someone is operating an expensive version of the vehicle after which the shoes are named).

The Loafer:  the loafer is an espadrille with a heel. It can have quarters and a distinguished vamp and is sometimes adorned with a leather “penny” strap or tassels. Be careful, though, they are like bolo ties in that they exist and are popular in some places, but very hard to pull off well.


The Rules?

Don’t worry about the shoes matching the belt. This is usually the first rule given. It should be the first rule broken. The shoes need to match the general color scheme. You should have some shoes with a little flair. You certainly don’t need a belt to match every color your try out. Just make sure the general tone matches.

Match your shoes to your socks. If you are wearing dark brown shoes with plain, dark brown socks it can look like you are wearing booties. Make sure there is at least a little contrast between your trousers, socks and shoes.You can decide how much contrast you want. Don’t try to stand out too much at events like weddings and funerals (these events are not about showing off your brighter slacks or bright socks), but try something new at the office.

Always have a pair of brown and black standard leather shoes, whether they are toe capped, wing tipped, or brogued.

Own multiple pairs of shoes. You will save money in the long run by rotating through your shoes and slowing down wear and tear.

Patent leather (the shiny kind) is for weddings and very formal wear. Wearing them to dinner or at the office make it look like you only own one pair of dress shoes.

All the Best,

The Man About Town

Composed while listening to:

Jazz Samba (1962) an album by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd