A while back, I found this post on Bergdorf Goodman’s editorial site called A Gentleman’s Guide to Definitive Shoes.

Sadly, that article isn’t around anymore, but luckily, I still have the shoes they featured and am using them as examples in this article.

While I do agree with their selections, I wanted to come up with some alternatives to the shoes they presented.

Why? Because while the individual shoe styles they present are great, they feature really, really expensive versions. Naturally, of course, since it’s Bergdorf. I don’t blame ’em.

Alternatives to Bergdorf Goodman’s suggestions

If you check out their suggestions and like what you see, but can’t stomach the steep prices, here are some alternatives.

The Rugged Wingtip Brogue

brogue Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Bergdorf Goodman house brand, left ($525, unavailable, other options)
Vince Camuto Corten, right ($225)

Aesthetically, the major differences are the brogue styling and the soles.

The Bergdorf version has that really heavy broguing and lug rubber sole. The pair from Vince Camuto also has a rubber sole, though they’re not lugged. Tricker’s is another brand to consider for their heavy broguing style.

The Suede Chukka

chukka Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Brunello Cucinelli Aged Leather Chukka, left ($890, unavailable, other options)
Clarks Desert Boot, right ($100)

Brunello is like the Rolls Royce of casual luxury clothing. The materials are top notch, and it’s reflected in the price.

The Bushacre II from Clarks is the everyman’s alternative. The main difference between the Bushacre model and the original Clarks Desert Boot is that the Bushacre has a rubber outsole instead of the crepe sole.

Not quite the nice lug sole the Cucinelli model has. But as of this writing, I didn’t see any affordable alternatives with a lug sole.

The Black Leather Cap-Toe

black cap toe Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Church’s Consul Cap-Toe Oxford, left ($650, unavailable, other options)
Johnston & Murphy Melton Cap Toe, right ($179)

The Church’s brand has to be one of the oldest shoemakers in the world. They’re known for using top quality materials and the best craftsmanship. Again, it’s reflected in the price.

You’d be just fine wearing the Johnston & Murphy version, for a fraction of the price. They can’t compare in quality, but aesthetically, they’re very similar.

Both of these are considered oxfords, while bluchers are similar, yet different. More about the differences here.

The Double Monk-Strap

double monkstrap Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

John Lobb Chapel, left ($1685, unavailable, other options)
Massimo Matteo Double Monk PT, right ($159)

You may not have even heard of John Lobb. That’s because you can’t afford him. If you regularly wear and buy John Lobb shoes, you probably manage a couple hedge funds, sell human organs on the black market, or have had a few successful exits as a venture capitalist.

If you like the double monk-strap style, check out Massimo Matteo’s slightly more affordable version. If you hunt regularly enough — especially on the flash sale sites I’ve told you about — you can find similar dub monks for a really good price.

The Zip Boot

black zip boot Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Tom Ford Edward, left ($1790, unavailable, other options)
Florsheim Midtown Plain Toe Zip Boot, right ($120)

I think Tom Ford is a bad ass. I’ve always been a big fan, and maybe one day, I’ll be able to afford his $5000 suits. Or in this case, his $1800 zip boots.

Until then, check out the version Florsheim has for $120.

They’re probably not hand-polished in Italy with unicorn tears like Tom Ford’s are (maybe), but they also have one less zero at the end of their price tag.

The Work Boot

work boot Six Affordable Alternatives to “Definitive” Shoes

Red Wing Beckman, left ($320, unavailable, other options)
Ben Sherman Great End Chukka, right ($120, unavailable, similar)

The Red Wings actually aren’t that much, relatively speaking. They’re a great shoe, made in the USA, and super quality for the price. The Ben Sherman model is a decent alternative (stylistically), however.

Another boot I really like is the Alden Indy, a more refined moc toe boot with a leather sole, which happen to be more expensive than the Red Wings.

On a budget? Looks > Quality

In Smart Sharp Style, I explain the importance of the Fit > Quality > Brand hierarchy, especially when shopping on a budget.

When it comes to shoes—again, if you’re on a budget—focus on how a shoe looks before you worry about its quality.

To be honest, it’s hard to find top notch quality in a sub-$200 retail shoe. The best value (around $200) is probably the Florsheim Kenmoor or the Heritage Wingtip Oxford. After that, you’ll be venturing into Allen Edmonds territory ($300+).

So basically, if you’re still building your initial shoe collection, find shoes that look good. Don’t fret too much about quality or brand. You can always upgrade later.

And if it’s not already clear, you don’t even have to choose the alternatives I found for you. I’m just showing you what’s possible.

Oh, and are you not sure what looks good? Check out these articles:

Which pair is your favorite?

Consider yourself even more knowledge-equipped.

Of the above, which pair is your favorite? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

Want to get to the nitty gritty of personal style? Check out our course, Smart Sharp Style and our guide to matching, Match Clothes Like A Pro.


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18 Responses

  1. Bo on

    Of the above, I’m very partial to the Church’s cap-toe and the suede chukkas-I happen to own a pair of Clark’s in a similar shade to that one, and they get a ton of mileage. And while we’re on the topic of affordable shoes, have you seen this crazy Allen Edmonds sale going on through JAB?!


    Just picked up a pair in Walnut…for $58 shipped…regular price well north of $300-let’s see how long it lasts!

  2. William on

    I have always had a satisfactory experience with Cole Haan for my dress shoes. There is an outlet near me and I usually pay no more than $100 for a pair. I now have four pairs I have bought over the years, and all have held up beautifully. I know some people, particuarly those who regularly buy more expensive shoes do not like them, but for the money they are quite nice.

  3. Dan J. on

    I can’t get on board with the Bostonian Dennison’s. The description says “Polished and tumbled leather upper for a deep, rich finish that is sure to turn some heads.” That’s market speak for “We took cheap, crappy-looking leather, sanded all the blemishes off and put a thin layer of plastic on top so they look really clean and shiny.” I’ve lived on a budget and I certainly understand that sometimes you don’t have a choice but to buy cheap stuff. You do what you have to do. But that’s a “If you have no other choice, these’ll do,” not a “I recommend you go out and buy these.”

    • Barron on

      You don’t like your leather topped off with a little plastic now and again? 🙂

      Yeah, perhaps that wasn’t the optimal “alternative”. Hopefully readers can do a bit more searching and find something that is better quality and still at the same price point (or shop a sale somewhere).

  4. GLR on

    No matter how tight a budget is, I’m still partial to thinking quality first and looks later. It’s tough to do but it feels much better to hold out for a winner than to cheap out on shoes of all things!
    Your suggestions still aren’t super cheap so if you’re willing to pay 200$ for not perfect shoes, why not wait to buy the perfect ones for 300$? You’ll ultimately spend less and feel better each time you put them on!

    • Barron on

      In comparison to the ones from Bergdorf, they’re pretty “affordable”. The comparison is more Bergdorf –> alternatives, not AE –> alternatives to Bergdorf, which I’m assuming you’re alluding to? Or maybe I’m just reading into your comment, can’t tell.

      • GLR on

        I don’t think I’ve explained myself well. The thing is if you want a certain look of shoe and don’t want to shell out 1000$+ for them, you don’t have to “settle” for low quality and better looks (200$-ish) when you can save a little and get shoes that are good looking and good quality for 300$-ish, which is what I keep seeing in men’s style blogs.

        Personally I spend ~150$ on shoes during sale season to find the quality I want at the budget I can manage but my only experience with men’s shoes is from my dad and his brand loyalty has stood the test of time. He buys one pair at a time, infrequently, fromt he same store, for the same price for years

        • Geno Erickson on

          I agree with what GLR is saying. I’d rather save up and pay $300-500 for AEs or Aldens that will last for 20 years than throw out a $150 shoe every two because the quality isn’t there. If I’m on that tight a budget, I’d rather get the nicest shoe at Payless for $30 and save up for the quality.

        • Barron on

          I see what you’re saying. I definitely agree, it’s always worth it to wait a little bit longer and save a bit more money to get the good looking, good quality shoe.

          At the same time, I’ve been in a position (especially when I was in high school and college) when even $150 was an exorbitant amount to spend on one pair of shoes. I know there are EG readers who feel that way, and they may need an alternative right now. They may not have the extra 2-3 months to save more money.

          So I guess the moral of the story is, wait to save more (if you have time), get good at shopping end-of-season sales (exactly what I do), or simply settle for good looking, but slightly sub-par quality. If the cash-strapped young man goes for the last option, he can still get a lot of wear out of the sub-par quality shoe, so long as he takes good care of it.

  5. Geno Erickson on

    Go to the Allen Edmonds Shoe Bank- you can get quality seconds for way less than $300 and the imperfections are unnoticeable without a magnifying glass. You get style and quality for the same price as those crappy Florsheims, Bostonians and Cole Haans.

      • Geno Erickson on

        You can call them @ (262) 785-6666 or email [email protected] and they will email you a list of what they have in stock. I got my last pair of Park Avenues at just over $240 with trees and bags.

        Or, if you ever feel the need to visit Wisconsin, they’re in a really nice part of town.

  6. Bryant on

    Pro tip: many, many times if you keep checking, Amazon has Clarks for around $70. I swear the price is down there 3 out of 4 times that I check back.

  7. Adam on

    I know I’m way late to the party, but the best value -$200 would be the Mercanti Fiorentini cap toe brogues from DSW. Sure, they’re made in China from Italian leather, and are probably glued. But for under $140? Solid choice for those of us on a tight budget.

  8. Ari on

    My foot size is 39 but I feel that size 39 boots are a bit longer than other casual shoes that I’m used to.. Should I search for a smaller pair or go for the same size? Are boots supposed to be long like that?


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