That old adage about the shoes making the man? It’s true. And given the vast universe of shoes for men out there, it’s never been more difficult to decide exactly how you want to present yourself to the world. Looking to make a strong first impression? A shiny pair of dress shoes is the ticket. Trying to stunt hard while you’re strutting down the sidewalk? Sneakers are the way to go. Sudden snow squall threatening to ruin your day? Boots, my man. But the real questions still remain: What kind of dress shoes, or sneakers, or boots? And where do you even begin?
Well, gosh, you’ve come to exactly the right URL. We’re here to guide you through just about every style of shoes for men that’s relevant in 2023. Whether you’re looking to build a whole new wardrobe from the ground up, trying to find the perfect gift for that special someone, or literally just trying to put a decent outfit together right now, we’ve got all of the footwear options you could possible need. From hardy brogues to retro runners, here’s everything you need to know to build an absolute dream team of shoes.
Every Shoe You’ll Ever Need, by Category
- Dress Shoes: Oxfords, Cap Toes, Brogues
- Sneakers: Running Shoes, Basketball Shoes, Skate Shoes, Tennis Shoes
- Boots: Hiking Boots, Chukka Boots, Chelsea Boots, Work Boots, Cowboy Boots, Dress Boots
- Slip-Ons: Sandals, Loafers, Clogs, Mules
When you’re suiting up for date night, a wedding, or any other type of formal occasion, a slick and shiny pair of dress shoes is still the way to go. But don’t limit this formal footwear to buttoned-up occasions. With a little finesse, a pair of dress shoes can elevate a casual outfit without looking out of place.
The most classic form of dress shoe—also known as a balmoral—Oxfords feature a vamp (the front section of the shoe, about where the ball of the foot meets the instep) sewn on top of the eyelets (the section where the shoe laces are laced), which results in an especially sleek, formal look.
As the name suggests, cap toe shoes are capped with an extra layer of leather, which adds an extra layer of toe protection and gives them a little touch more visual interest than you standard plain toe oxford. It won’t add the same type of protection that a steel toe boot would, mind you, so don’t show up to the jobsite in one of these.
You might think of those holes as mainly decorative, but they were originally intended to keep bog water from flooding your shoes when strolling through the English countryside. As a result, brogues are generally heftier than the average dress shoe, and look especially great with thicker wool trousers. They’re also often built with more casual and slip-resistant rubber soles, making them even more versatile than the average dress shoe.
Sneakers began life in the world of athletics, but in recent decades they’ve come to dominate the footwear market well beyond any court or sports arena. Those OG sneakers wouldn’t cut the mustard on any professional sports team these days (or any amateur team, for that matter), which is why there’s a whole category just for lifestyle sneakers, the kind of kicks that illicit snaking queues and countless street style pics. But, of course, sneakers still have another foot firmly planted in performance. So, whether you’re an avid gym rat, a street style maven, or just need some comfortable shoes for your morning strolls, there’s a pair of kickass sneakers out there with your name on it.
Loaded with tech-y details and advanced cushioning, today’s raddest running shoes can hold their own on the track, the street, and the runway. The category has its mainstays that have been around for decades, and though their senior status largely falls short of modern advancements in running shoe technology, they’ve held on to their fashion bona fides well into running retirement.
From Chuck Taylors to Air Jordans, basketball has spawned some of the most recognizable and widely-worn sneakers on the planet. Today, with the NBA leading the way as the most stylish sports league around, it’s no wonder that basketball shoes continue to dominate the conversation when it comes to fashion-forward kicks.
From the canvas-and-rubber numbers that flooded the Venice Beach boardwalk in the ‘60s, to the puffy-tongued behemoths worn by mall kids in the ’90s, to the hybridized sneakers worn at the Olympics today, skate shoes have come a very long way—and stayed plenty stylish along the way. They’re the perfect vehicle for that carefree skate rat style with a pair of baggy pants.
There’s a reason you often hear people simply call all sneakers “tennis shoes”: the most iconic versions, like the Adidas Stan Smith and Converse Jack Purcell, are about as classic and essential as sneakers can get. They might no longer have the juice to keep up on the hardcourt, but these old-school styles will serve up an ace with just about everything in your wardrobe.
When you’re facing a tough situation—be it bad weather or a long day of hard work—you need a sturdy pair of boots at the ready. If you haven’t gotten the gist of this article by now, there are several types of boots, each with their own unique purpose and design. Tough-as-nails work boots, sleek and sexy Chelsea boots, trail-conquering hiking boots—whether you need a proper pair for your occupation or for a fancy date, these are the year-round versions that matter most.
You don’t need to be scaling actual mountains to understand the appeal of hiking boots. Old-school versions are built heavy and hardy with plenty of rugged appeal, while modern versions are designed using advanced lightweight materials like Gore-Tex. Either way, you’re scoring plenty of rock-solid support and weather protection in a boot that’ll look great with everything from swishy cargo pants and flannel shirts to blue jeans and hoodies.
Originally designed as a rugged and lightweight boot for British troops stationed in desert locales, the chukka boot has since become a casual footwear icon—the perfect ‘tweener option for throwing on with jeans or khakis just about anytime you’re going anywhere not quite formal.
Purportedly invented by Queen Victoria’s shoemaker in the 1830s, Chelsea boots are distinguished by their elastic side panels, allowing the wearer to slip the ankle-high silhouette on securely without the aid of laces. Made famous by the Beatles in the 1960s, Chelsea boots generally cut a sleek and dressy figure—perfect for trim, tailored pants. But shoemakers like Blundstone and Dr. Martens also make Chelseas with some extra heft to them, which pair well with wide-leg bottoms like canvas painters pants.
Built for surviving day after day of hard labor, it doesn’t get any tougher than a pair of real-deal work boots. Think chunky soles, thick leather, protective steel toes, and waterproof materials. They’ll blend well with any pair of jeans and a waxed jacket, of course, but don’t be afraid to try them with some chinos and a button-up shirt.
Picture your favorite dress shoes. Now, imagine them taller. Those are dress boots. They’ll take to a bespoke suit just as well as any glossy pair of brogues, but with an added ruggedness and propensity for taking on less-than-ideal weather.
Yee—and I cannot stress this enough—haw. Cowboy boots are flashy, rugged, and elegant all at the same time. And while they’re an obvious fit for some bootcut jeans and a western shirt, they’re way more versatile than you think. Use ’em to subvert your sharpest suit, or try a grunge-inspired look with some thrashed jeans and a fuzzy cardigan.
No laces, no problem. These low-profile, low-stress styles are perfect for the warmer months. These laceless low tops are more likely the type of shoes you’d wear to more relaxed environs like a sunny beach with open-toe sandals or your own humble abode with a pair of fuzzy slippers, but mules and loafers have proven themselves to be the shoe du jour for most fashion-conscious dudes.
Whether you’re more of a strappy open-toe guy, a woven leather closed-toe fella, or a staunch slides-over-everything supporter, you absolutely need a pair of great sandals (or three!) in your life. Oh, and socks with sandals? Very fly at the moment, we kid you not.
Dress shoe construction meets slip-on sneaker casualness. There are a near endless array of loafers out there—from fancier bit loafers to classic penny loafers to heavyweight versions with big lug soles—but all of them dress up and down with absolute ease. They’re the perfect way to bring an air of nonchalance to a summer suit, or give a laidback polo and shorts look some extra classiness.
Watch The GQ Recommends Show: The Best Loafers for Every Budget
Clogs and Mules
Ever wish you could rock your house shoes in public? Clogs and mules are the answer, pairing all the comfort of those bedtime slippers with the sole support you need for everyday life. They also happen to deliver exactly the type of funky, good-weird energy all great fits require.