The Only Six Pairs Of Shoes You’ll Ever Need

April 3, 2014 · 58 comments

in Lean Wardrobe, Shoes

Hey Gents,

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The following article is from Brock McGoff of The Modest Man. Take it away, Brock!

six pairs shoesIf you’re reading this article, it means you’re interested in improving your style.

Maybe you’re a style expert looking for new tips, or maybe you’re a total noob.

Either way, the amount of information and advice available can be overwhelming, and it’s easy to start feeling like you need to buy a bunch of new clothes all at once.

I’m a style blogger, but I’m not immune to this either.

Just the other day, I was browsing through the threads on a popular men’s style forum, researching a new pair of shoes, and I stumbled onto a thread about people’s closets.

Forum members were posting pictures of their wardrobes, and I was in awe of the sheer volume of clothing some people have.

I’m talking racks of clothes, and what shocked me most was how many pairs of shoes some of these guys have. Stacked in boxes from floor to ceiling, many of these men had accumulated 20, 30 or 40 pairs of shoes!

Don’t get me wrong, I love shoes. They’re one of the best parts of a man’s wardrobe. If I had the closet space and the budget for it, I’d probably have stacks of shoes too. But this seems excessive.

The truth is, no man needs 20 pairs of shoes. Hell, most men could get away with much less. And if you’re interested in creating a lean wardrobe, stocked with versatile, interchangeable pieces, you should strive for less choices, not more.

In fact, you only need six pairs of shoes, but a very specific set of six.

Check out the list, then leave a comment telling us which shoes you’re missing, what shoes you own that aren’t totally necessary, and what others (if any) you would add to this collection.

Note: These shoes are listed in order from most casual to most dressy, with a more pricey and a more affordable option. Athletic or activity-specific shoes are excluded… When it comes to finding the best tap dancing/climbing/boxing shoes, you’re on your own.

White Canvas Sneakers

The perfect casual shoes, these can be worn with or without socks and are great for casual, warm weather situations. Think weekend errands, poolside days, beach trips, barbecues and good old fashioned chilling.

Oh, and these make a great substitute for your brown leather flip flops.

canvas shoes

top: Converse Chuck Taylor, bottom: Lands’ End Canvas Oxford

Light Brown Boat Shoes

A step up from white canvas shoes but still casual, boat shoes should usually be worn without socks. You can wear them with shorts, chinos or casual jeans. You can’t go wrong with tan or brown, but feel free to get creative with colors and styles.

boat shoes

top: Gold Cup Original Boat Shoe, bottom: Sperry Top-Sider Original Boat Shoe

Medium Brown Ankle Boots

The desert boot (or chukka) might just be the most versatile men’s shoe on earth. You can wear a brown ankle boot with jeans, chinos, cords or trousers. You can dress them up, down and everything in between.

My Cole Haan Glens are probably my favorite pair of shoes, but you can’t go wrong with the trendy-yet-timeless Clarks Desert Boot (especially in Beeswax).

boots

top: Cole Haan Glen Chukka, bottom: Clarks Desert Boot

Rich Brown Loafers

Boat shoes are great, but you really shouldn’t wear them with trousers or in business casual environments. Loafers, on the other hand, are perfect for those situations. They’re easy to slip on and off, which is nice when you’re running late (or trying to get through airport security). They’re dressy enough for almost any professional setting, but they’re still one click below Oxfords

Don’t just reserve loafers for work, though. You can upgrade your warm weather casual looks by swapping out those boat shoes or sneakers for a pair of leather loafers. Bonus points if you ditch the socks. Just make sure to do it right.

loafers

top: Johnston & Murphy Ainsworth, bottom: Sebago Grant

Brown Wingtips

These are your work horses. Your go-to dress shoe. Your wingman (well, wingtips, at least). You get the point. If you work in an office, you probably wear some combination of jacket/button up shirt/trousers every day. Brown wingtips will almost always work with these outfits.

Go for something on the darker side, as opposed to a walnut or cognac color. Don’t be afraid to wear a shoe with some decoration.

If you’re going to splurge on any of your six essential shoes, you splurge on these. It will be worth it in the long run to buy resoleable shoes. That said, there are plenty of affordable options.

wing tips

top: Allen Edmonds McAllister, bottom: Johnston & Murphy Tyndall

Black Cap Toe Oxfords

If brown wingtips are the practical, fuel-efficient sedan you drive to work everyday, black Oxfords are your motorcycle that only leaves the garage on weekends. Because black shoes are less versatile (and often more boring) than brown ones, you simply won’t wear them as much.

But when you do, it very well may be a special occasion, and you want to look good. So buy nice shoes that will look great for the long haul, and make sure to keep them polished.

You can choose a plain toe or cap toe, but stay away from the broguing, or decoration. After all, these are the shoes you will wear to black tie events, funerals, etc.

black cap toes

top: Allen Edmonds Park Avenue, bottom: Johnston & Murphy Melton

Finally

Keep in mind that these colors are just guidelines. If you prefer dark brown or blue boat shoes and tan suede desert boots, knock yourself out! Just make sure to diversify your browns so you don’t end up with three different styles of shoe in the same exact shade.

If you buy smart and focus on what shoes you actually need, rather than what’s on sale and what could go with some of your outfits, you can get away only owning these six pairs of shoes.

Once you have this basic arsenal of footwear, you are free to expand and buy some work boots, monk straps, etc. But you won’t have to if you don’t want to. That’s the beauty of a lean, versatile wardrobe.

Do you have all of these shoes? Would you add anything to the list? Leave a comment below!

About

Brock is the founder of The Modest Man and the author of Short Man Style. You should Join his newsletter for more tips on how shorter gents can dress better by finding clothes that fit.

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