All In The Details is a new series of punctual articles targeted at the distinct, often overlooked details of a particular article of clothing.

Expect each one to be quick yet ultra informative regarding the details you should look for (and the ones you should avoid) in the items you buy and how you wear them. The littlest things can make the biggest difference.

Some of these may be refreshers to you, some may be totally new. Just think of All In The Details as your style CliffsNotes when you need quick clarification.

Seems like some of you still aren’t hearing me out. Not all leather shoes are the same. Just because they’re brown (or black) and leather (or made in a material that resembles leather), doesn’t mean you’re buying the right shoe.

In order of importance when buying a new pair:

  1. Shape and silhouette
  2. Price
  3. Brand

Here’s what I mean. You can buy a pair of black, square-toed, thick-soled “leather” shoes for $150. I’ve seen ’em. They exist! You paid a price where you’d think you’re getting your money’s worth, but you’re not.

On the other hand, you can get a great looking shoe (classic silhouette, slim sole, rounded toe box… see below photo) for the same price. You can even find them for less. There are deals out there, just remember that it’s first about shape and silhouette, then price, then brand.

Price and brand can go hand in hand, and often with an increase in price, youre getting an increase in quality. Not all the time, but generally speaking.

Also, the better the brand, the better the quality (typically). Brands charge what they do for a number of things, one of them being the level of quality in their items.

For more specific information on choosing, buying, and wearing dress shoes, check out these articles:


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10 Responses

  1. twills on

    Nice post! What is your recommendation on slip-ons vs. lace ups? The slip-ons appear a little longer and with tailored pants can make the line look great.

    • Rohan on

      Obviously you’re looking for Barron to weigh in here, but I figured I’d throw an opinion in too. I think it depends on the individual and there’s no hard rule. There are really elegant slip-ons (think Ferragamo) so the casual-vs-dressy variable isn’t really there. Where slip-ons really shine is the summer sockless look. Great with well-tailored pants like you mentioned. If you want the highest amount of flexibility though, go with the lace-ups. A cap-toe or a wingtip oxford can be pulled off with a suit, business casual looks, or jeans with equal style. By all means, add slip-ons to your arsenal, but you may need more than 1: driving mocks or loafers for warm weather/casual looks, dressy leather ones for suits.

    • Barron on

      Slip-ons (like loafers I assume) are generally more casual. That being said, there are some really dressy looking slip-ons, and some really casual looking lace-ups. In general I recommend the lace-ups, especially if you’re a guy who only wants to spend good money on one, at the most two, pairs of nice dress shoes.

  2. Shrike on

    How smooth should the leather look, because sometimes the shoes are pebbled by design, and sometimes its meant to be smooth be look kinda bumpy close up. Odd question because shoes are usually leg length away đŸ™‚

    • Shawn on

      as you say, some leather is intentionally pebbled, while some is smoother. then, the smooth can be flat/waxy, or more glossy…on top of that, you can also change the look with conditioner/other surface treatments (soaps, oils, protectants, etc.).

      So, there’s not really an answer to that…BUT, spend a little time with some quality leather items and you’ll be able to tell the difference almost instantaneously if you can get the shoe in your hand. Obviously, this is harder to do online, and that’s where taking a chance on a new-to-you brand is more of a risk; but there’s plenty of forums where you can get a feel for a shoe’s quality based on its brand name. Unlike Barron, I think brand names are very important, because they are a quick and easy proxy for determining quality of a particular shoe without having to delve too deeply into particulars. I’m sure he meant that as more of a “don’t sweat if you can’t afford Aldens”, though, which I definitely agree with–also, just because it is a nice brand doesn’t mean that it’s a stylish shoe; you need to rely simultaneously on shape/silhouette.

    • Barron on

      I second Shawn’s answer, and right, I’m not discounting the importance of a brand name (as they are often a quick, good gauge of quality, for the most part). I meant it, as he said, in more of a “No worries if you can’t buy the most expensive longwings out there, even if all the cool kids are wearing them.” kind of way.

  3. Caleb O on

    Hey there. I’ve been in the market for a new pair of dress shoes. I help with conferences and am much more mobile during these conferences than in the past. This means that I need a shoe that’s comfortable, and the minimalist shoe has been perfect for my knock around and exercise. Unfortunately I’ve only found a handful of minimalist dress shoes. The one that I have found that I am considering getting is an oxford, and it’s made by vivobarefoot. I think it is called the Ra. I am curious to your thoughts about the looks of the shoe, because I want to be well dressed, but I can find nothing like a minimalist shoe for comfort. I do want to say that not only am I not connected with the company, but i have never purchased anything from them.

  4. Chris Jones on

    Barron, help! I just got my first pair of “grownup shoes” aka Bostonian Andovers. HO-LY HELL did they ever hurt. Less than an hour on my feet, and I had blisters so bad they had actually ripped open.

    Is there anything I can do to work these things in? Will they even work in to the point of being wearable? Should I have just spent more money?

    Is it common for new shoes to cause blisters like this?

    • Barron on

      Did you choose the right size / width? Most shoes come in widths also, to accommodate for wider or narrower feet. Sounds like you just got the wrong size if they’re that painful; I’ve never experienced anything like that with my shoes.