There’s 8 types of shoes that’s considered to be the best alternative shoes for men.
In addition to your dress shoes and sneakers, here’s why you should consider getting one of them:
Our dress shoes should have a day’s rest after each wear …
… and we canʼt wear sneakers all the time.
In other words, sometimes we need a third alternative pair of shoes on standby.
Hereʼs the good news:
Alternative shoes are cool and easy to get right. You just have to know what options you’ve got and when to wear them.
In the video and post below, I’ve listed the eight best alternative shoes for men, presented in order from the dressiest to the most casual.
Alternative #1: Closed-Lacing Shoes
These lace-up shoes have the eyelet tabs sewn underneath the vamp of the shoe. When buying them, follow the same guidelines we covered in the post about the best dress shoes for men.
Wear closed-lacing shoes to formal events only and with pressed trousers or a suit. Wearing oxfords and other closed-lacing shoes with jeans is like wearing a suit on a fishing trip.
Related: check out which 10 shoes to wear with jeans in this post.
Alternative #2: Leather Loafers
These slip-on shoes have a leather or rubber sole, much like Derby dress shoes – which are awesome!
Today, most manufacturers refer to loafers as both “loafers” and “moccasins”. True moccasins are a bit different in construction, but they look pretty much the same as apron loafers.
There are three classic types of loafers:
Which you choose depends mainly on personal preference. Penny loafers are good for casual occasions, and tassel loafers can double as both casual and business shoes.
While the horsebit loafer is, in many people’s eyes, the dressiest option.
If you see a man at a black-tie event in loafers, they’re almost certainly horsebit loafers – or patent leather pumps (but let’s not go there).
Wear leather loafers instead of dress shoes, with a suit or jeans, to both dressy and casual events.
Loafers are the rich man’s sandals, so always wear them without socks. Otherwise, youʼll look like a middle-aged dad in posh sandals and socks, lost at Disneyworld.
Alternative #3: Other Dress Shoes Colours and Materials
Dress shoes come in classic colours other than black, such as navy, burgundy, and brown.
Brown is the most popular colour after black, which makes sense. Brown shoes look good with navy and grey suits, jeans, and lighter colours with a warm undertone.
Suede is a popular alternative to regular leather for two reasons:
Suede requires less care (which is very good).
Suede looks warm and sophisticated (which is also very good).
Wear suede or alternatively coloured dress shoes the same way you’d wear your black leather dress shoes. But not on formal occasions – unless you want to look like Jim Carrey wearing that orange tux in “Dumb and Dumber” …
… which you donʼt want, by the way.
Alternative #4: Monkstraps
If you donʼt like lace-ups or loafers, this is the shoe for you.
Monkstraps close with a wide, buckled leather strap instead of laces, which looks much better than it sounds on paper. I promise
Besides the straps, look for the same features you’d want in dress shoes. If you’d like to know what those features are, check out this post about quality dress shoes.
You can wear monkstraps to both semi-dressy and casual events. To prevent the buckles on the shoes from snagging your pants hems, wear high-hemmed, slim-fit jeans or trousers that barely rest on your shoes.
Alternative #5: Brogues
Brogues are shoes with perforated embellishments of various degrees. Irish peasants originally wore these shoes when working in the fields, because the perforations allowed water to drain out.
Quarter-brogue shoes are the least decorated, with a small band of perforated leather on the toecap only. They sort of remind me of a full-spec factory car. Extravagant, but not over the top.
Full-brogue shoes, on the other hand, go the whole nine yards. These are decorated along the entire length of the shoe, from toe to heel. If full brogues were a car, they’d be the modified Toyota HiLux truck that the Top Gear guys drove to the North Pole. A great workhorse, but not the thing youʼd take to a fancy party.
To sum up:
Brogue shoes look good paired with jeans or trousers, and they’re great for everyday and semi-dressy events. However, due to their rugged look, never wear them with a suit.
Alternative #6: Canvas Loafers
The canvas loafer is the canvas sneaker’s little brother. For those who read my post about the best sneakers for men, you already know how much I love canvas material.
The canvas loafer’s slip-on design looks neat and clean with shorts or slim-fit, lighter-coloured denims. You’d typically only wear this shoe on casual weekend occasions.
Alternative #7: Driving Moccasins
On a true driving moccasin, the sole extends up onto the back of the heel, an area that rubs against the floor of your car.
The sole is also very flexible, enabling you to feel the car’s pedals better.
Driving moccasins are as casual as a Sunday afternoon, and you should never wear them other than on weekends, on holidays, or when driving.
These shoes come in both smooth and suede leather. If you ask me which type of leather to choose, I say:
“Choose the material that matches your carʼs interior.”
It’s usual to pair driving mocs with comfortable light denims, chinos, or shorts. Never wear moccasins with socks.
Alternative #8: Boat Shoes
As the name implies, these shoes were originally designed for boating.
Boat shoes consist of a water-repellent leather upper and a non-slip, non-marking sole, so they’re safe and practical to wear on deck.
But this classic footwear is a smart-looking choice on land too. Letʼs face it: most men who wear boat shoes donʼt own a boat. However, if you do both, kudos to you.
While wearing boat shoes, though, don’t stray too far from the pier. Wear this laid-back footwear to casual events on holidays and weekends only.
Also, as you might imagine, boat shoes look best with shorts, chinos, or light-coloured denims. I don’t know why Iʼm writing this, as nobody I know would wear a suit or pressed trousers while sailing.
Final Thoughts on the Best Alternative Shoes for Men
And that’s it: my list of the eight best alternative shoes for men. Use this list to expand your wardrobe. Now you can give your hardworking dress shoes a well-deserved day off while looking better than ever.
A note of caution: if you’re buying any type of shoe, be sure the shoe is mostly true to its origin. Too often, I see hybrid shoes that are a haphazard mix of two, or sometimes even three, different styles.
A good example of this is a boat shoe with a thick boot-style sole. It’s the same as adding ice spikes to a pair of flip-flops. No matter what, you’ve still got a summer shoe.