The tuxedo may make the man, but it’s the shoes he wears that complete the look. And if you opt for the wrong footwear, you risk destroying the carefully tailored appearance of your tux by creating a mishmash of colors and styles that clash rather than complement.
Simply put – you need to know your shoes. In this ultimate guide, you’ll discover which shoes match which type of tux, and learn about a few brands that keep your feet looking fashionable.
Before getting into the guide, we need to answer an important question – why do shoes matter when choosing a tuxedo?
After all, it’s the tux that takes center stage, and you can reasonably assume that a lot of people won’t even look further down. The problem is that some will. And even those who don’t may see you from a distance, with a mismatch of shoe and tux style being obvious. So, though your shoes don’t make the look, they complement and complete it. To make the right choice, you need to know which style of shoes go with the tux you own.
Let’s start by looking at the different types of shoes you can pair with a tuxedo. All are great options, with the caveat being that each is only suitable for certain types of tuxedos or occasions.
Patent leather shoes are likely the first thing that comes to mind when you think about footwear in the context of a tuxedo. They’re special shoes made using leather that has a glossy coating, meaning they match the sheen of the classic black tuxedo.
That reflective style obviously makes them a great choice for the traditional black tux, assuming you haven’t gone for a fabric that dulls the color, such as velvet. They work especially well for black-tie events, weddings, or if you have the classic two or three-piece black tuxedo setup.
As for choosing a pair, start with the shine. The duller the shoe, the more it looks out of place with a tuxedo because you end up clashing the suit’s shine with the matte finish of the shoes. Beyond that, try to avoid obvious stitching, especially if the stitches are a different color from the shoe, and look for thin laces.
You could argue that patent leather shoes fall into the dress shoe category, and you can certainly pull off the gentlemanly look by using them as a type of dress shoe. But this category usually covers three specific types of shoes, each with its own style:
All of these types of shoes work well with the classic style of tuxedo, though Brogues have a flash touch that lends them a more casual look. Consider Oxfords or Derbies for the sheer black tuxedo, with Brogues being a good match for a tux that has decorative lapels.
Minimalist shoes eschew the decorative features of more traditional tuxedo shoes, often doing away with patterns and line work to give you a shoe that’s basically tongue, shoe, and (occasionally) laces.
While that may not be appealing to all, there’s no denying the sleek style that comes with the move away from overt design. You’ll also often find that minimalist shoes are made for comfort, ensuring flexibility for your foot which makes them a good choice for events where you’ll spend a lot of time standing.
Versatility is also a major plus point. The lack of features creates a neutral look, meaning the shoe almost fades into the background when compared with the tuxedo. They’re also a great complement to modern tuxedo styles, especially slim-fit tuxes, and jackets with minimal accenting.
With the general styles of shoes that people tend to pair with tuxedos established, it’s time to move on to specific brands. Each shoe selected here pairs well with at least one style of tuxedo, helping you to elevate your look rather than decking your feet out with eyesores.
It’s all about the classic Oxford look with the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue shoes, which combine subtle stitching with a capped toe to create a traditional look. It’s the perfect dress shoe, and it comes in several colors that make it versatile enough to match several tux styles or belt choices.
The leather uppers are made using Horween leather, and you get six pairs of eyelets running down the shoe for your laces. You may also notice that the shoe is a little chunkier than you might expect from an Oxford, particularly one made in the U.K. or Italy, showing that it matches the general style preference of a U.S. audience.
“Quality” is the key word for these shoes, and you’ll see that quality in the density of the stitching and the feel of shoe on foot. For the traditional tuxedo ensemble, there are few better choices.
A true shoe for the minimalist, the Christian Louboutin Dandelion Flat has almost no visible stitching, barring a subtle grosgrain trim to complement the finish. But beyond that, the shoe is so devoid of features that it would almost run the risk of being boring were it not so superbly designed.
It’s a slip-on shoe (no laces required) making it a superb choice for a more casual look. You could also go down the non-traditional route of wearing it without socks, as the little cuts down the sides of the tongue accentuate your feet. But that may be a step too far for many, and the shoe pairs perfectly with most dress socks.
Interestingly, the simple black of the shoe finds a stark contrast in the sole, which features the iconic Christian Louboutin red to add a trendy style to an otherwise simple shoe.
What do you get when you combine the classic wingtip Oxford shoe with a sole that looks like it was ripped straight from a sneaker? Cole Haan’s Grand Wingtip Oxford provides the answer, and it’s a divisive shoe that merges the traditional with a new sole style.
Comfort is what Cole Haan aims for here, with the thick sole giving the shoe a nice bounce while offering a soft base for your feet. That sole obviously contributes to the shoe’s unique look, too, leaving you standing higher than you would with a normal dress shoe while drawing attention to your feet.
To be blunt, this isn’t the shoe for somebody who wants the traditional look. The sole clashes too much with a standard black tuxedo. But if you’ve already gone for a bold color or strong pattern on the tux, this shoe can emphasize your brave choices rather than looking out of place. Just be wary of wearing it for more formal events as it will look strange to those expecting a more traditional dress shoe.
Though you could argue that the Cole Haan shoe breaks the mold, it still sticks to the traditional side with its classic Oxford design. But with these shoes, you get footwear that doesn’t seem like it would mesh well with a tux, but that can work well if you prefer a less conventional look.
Suede has a few advantages over leather in the comfort department, especially given that it’s a more flexible material that often provides a more comfortable fit. They’re a good choice for summer social events thanks to the breathability of the material. Plus, the matte look of a suede shoe is a good match for a velvet tuxedo or any other tux that doesn’t have the characteristic sheen you see in classic tuxedos.
You may not go down the suede route if you’re attending an extremely formal event. But for weddings and casual dinner parties, they’ll go down a treat.
One of the more interesting things about modern tuxedos, especially those in the slim-fit style, is that the trouser often ends further up the leg than in a traditional tux. More of the ankle gets exposed, and you may want to combine the tux to leave less of your sock exposed.
Enter the Chelsea boot.
These are slip-on boots that mimic the minimalist shoe style. Laces are nowhere to be seen and you’ll usually find a triangular patch of material over each ankle that offers support and makes it easier to slip the boot on. They’re slim, too, allowing you to slide larger trousers over the top of the boot so they look like standard shoes.
Like Chelsea boots, loafers slip straight onto your feet so you can avoid dealing with the issue of which types of laces you need to match your tux.
Versatility is the main advantage of these shoes, as they’re as viable a choice for weddings as they are for business-casual functions. As for more formal events, some may frown on loafers when compared to dress shoes, though you can argue that you’re going down the more minimalist route if you’d prefer the comfort these shoes offer over Oxfords or Derbies.
Though a traditionalist may tell you that only dress shoes work with tuxedos, especially given the formality of the occasions in which you wear a tux, that’s not always accurate. Modern tuxes often move away from the classic black-and-white look, introducing patterns, bold colors, and strong trims that often make a more versatile shoe a necessity.
Finding that shoe can be a tricky task. Of course, classic dress shoes, such as Oxfords and Derbies, seldom look out of place with a tuxedo. They’re both great as safe options that complement the style of your suit. But don’t be afraid to experiment with other types of shoes, especially if you’re wearing a tux that already strays from the norm.
For instance, suede shoes are often better fits than shiny dress shoes if your tuxedo has matte colors rather than a sheen. And you may find that the slim-fit design of many modern tuxedos suits a shoe that takes a more minimalist approach to design. Whatever your choice may be, remember two things – the shoe must complement your tuxedo and the tux must match the occasion. Start by matching your tux to the occasion and work backward to select a shoe that combines well with your tux.