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Most guides on the topic of business casual attire discuss dress shirts, button down shirts, dress pants, chinos et cetera. But rarely do they discuss business casual shoes. In this guide we take a look at the best business casual shoes for men and offer some recommendations.
Unless you are men’s style expert, you should stick with 2 core colors when it comes to business casual shoes; black and brown.
Black shoes are the most formal and since black doesn’t have any shades, you really just need 1 or 2 black shoes (in different styles of course).
Brown shoes are an amazing option for business casual because they come in a multitude of different shades. It is best to stick with medium to dark brown dress shoes for business casual attire. Avoid overly light shades of brown because they come off as too casual.
Business casual these days is really hard to define. For example, one workplace may label itself as business casual but allow employees to wear sneakers while another workplace also claiming to follow business casual attire may not. So it is best to ask relevant people (i.e. human resources) or look around and see what other employees are wearing on a day to day basis to determine what is appropriate and what is not.
Now let’s get into the types of shoes you should wear for business casual attire.
Best Business Casual Shoes
Oxfords and Derbys
With respect to business casual attire both oxfords and derbys are appropriate with neither having any distinctive advantage over the other.
Personally, I prefer a derby over an oxford when I am wearing business casual attire since the open lacing system is more comfortable and because the derby is a more casual shoe.
Wingtips and Brogues
Wingtips and brogues can either be oxfords or derbys but they have the distinction of having perforations and design work on them. Simply put, if you can see an upside down ‘w’ on a dress shoe, it is referred to as a wingtip because the ‘w’ looks like a wing. If you don’t see a ‘w’, but do see small perforations around the upper of the shoe, then it is referred to as a brogue.
Note: There are multiple variations of the wingtip and brogue shoe but I am not going to get into the details because for the purpose of this article, both wingtips and brogues are perfectly appropriate business casual shoes.
Are Boots Business Casual?
With boots you have to be careful. Some boots are perfectly fine for business casual attire while others are not.
An easy way to determine if a boot is appropriate for business casual attire is to cover up the top of the boot with your dress pants. If the boot now looks like a typical black or brown dress shoe, then it is fine for business casual attire.
Take these boots for example. If I were to wear dress pants with these boots, which would cover the shaft of the boot, these would look just like a typical leather dress shoe. So these are a good option for business casual boots.
Read our in-depth guide on Business Casual Boots.
Boots are a great option during the fall and winter months. They typically come with rubber soles that provide better grip on wet and snowy surfaces and also offer more protection and warmth for your feet.
Are Chelsea Boots Business Casual?
Chelsea boots are a great option for business casual. Not only are they dressy enough to wear with a blazer, dress shirt and tie but you can also dress them down with a pair of business casual jeans.
Wondering if you can wear jeans to the office? Check out ‘Are Jeans Business Casual’?
Just make sure they are the right type of chelsea boots. You want to go for a sleeker shoe made from leather or suede. Black and brown leather chelsea boots are a great option for business casual shoes.
As for suede chelsea boots go for black, dark brown or dark gray. Stay away from lighter colors since they can come off as too casual.
Value: Thursday Boots
Are Chukka Boots Business Casual?
The right pair of Chukka boots can be considered for business casual attire. Chukka boots are similar to typical dress boots with the main difference being a shorter shaft (the portion of the boot that goes up your legs). Chukka boots can come in a variety of different materials and styles.
Chukka boots made from smooth leather are more dressy than those made from suede. Moreover, the sole of the shoe also determines its level of formality. Chukka boots that have leather soles are the most formal followed by those that have sleek rubber soles.
The least formal types of soles on a chukka boot are crepe soles and wedge soles which are quite common on the popular Clarks Desert Boot and Red Wing Classic Moc respectively. These are great for casual wear but not for business casual attire.
The same rules apply for determining if Chukka boots are appropriate for business casual attire as regular boots. Go for smooth leather in black or medium to darker shades of brown. You can also opt for suede, but either way, go for chukka boots that have either leather soles of sleek rubber soles. These will look the best with business casual attire.
Loafers are a great option for business casual because they are dressy enough to be worn with dress pants and a blazer while the style of the shoe offers greater comfort over a laced shoe such as an oxford or derby.
Split-toe dress shoes are quite rare but are a great option for business casual attire. Some come in typical smooth black or brown leather while others are made from suede. Both leather and suede split-toe dress shoes work really well with dress pants for a great business casual look.
Another great option for business casual shoes are monkstraps since they blend both style and formality. Monkstraps have 1 or 2 buckle closures instead of laces but otherwise look just like any other oxford or derby. Personally I prefer a 2 buckle monkstrap shoe since it is more classic and will offer you greater versatility.
Suede Dress Shoes
Suede is a leather material and unlike typical leather which is smooth and has shine, suede has a textured and matte look. This makes suede shoes more casual compared to smooth leather shoes. Keeping that in mind, you can find oxfords, derbys, boots, loafers, monkstraps and split-toe dress shoes made from suede. These are all appropriate as business casual shoes.
Suede shoes are a great option for business casual attire because they look unique yet are still formal enough to be worn with business casual outfits. They are also easy to maintain since suede does not require conditioning like traditional smooth leather shoes. If you get a mark or scuff on suede you can simply use a suede brush to remove its appearance.
But keep in mind that suede shoes are more casual than tradition smooth leather shoes. So it is best to wear leather shoes if you need to dress up for a more formal event such as a presentation or meeting.
Shoes That You Should Not Wear for Business Casual
Can You Wear Sneakers for Business Casual?
Sneakers are a no go. Unless your workplace explicitly allows sneakers and still considers itself business casual avoid sneakers altogether. It doesn’t matter if you paid $20 or spent $400 on a Common Projects leather sneaker; sneakers are not appropriate for business casual attire.
Some brands have invented a new type of shoe where the upper looks like a typical dress shoe, while the sole looks like it came from a sneaker or athletic shoe. Again, I would avoid such shoes because they are trendy and too casual for business casual attire.
Note: If you have foot pain or other issues whereby you cannot wear a typical dress shoe with a leather or rubber sole, then it is perfectly fine to opt for such a shoe since comfort and health are more important than strict stylistic rules. Just makes sure to clarify with your workplace.
Sandals and Athletic Shoes Are Not Business Casual Shoes
I shouldn’t even have to mention that these are inappropriate. In fact wearing such shoes against recommendation might result in you not working in that business casual workplace much longer.
You should also avoid shoes that have loud colors, weird/extravagant shapes, or are made from exotic materials since they reflect poorly when it comes to professional attire.
I hope you enjoyed and more importantly found helpful this comprehensive discussion on business casual shoes. It can be overwhelming deciding which shoes are best for business casual attire since these days there are hundreds of shoe types, colors and designs to choose from. I hope however, that following this guide will make things simpler.