Do Young Men NEED Black Dress Shoes?

Black Oxfords are often considered a wardrobe staple.

There is no doubting that – in the wardrobe of a regular suit wearer – the black Oxford should be.

However, many young men either are not suit wearers or they wear a suit in more casual settings. This begs a question:

Do young men really need black dress shoes? If so, how soon should they land in your wardrobe?

Reasons for having black oxfords

The oxford is a timeless dress shoe, and every man’s wardrobe should definitely have an oxford of some sort in the shoe rack. Black oxfords are considered a staple because of two things; formality, and pairings.

Black is known as the quintessential colour for formalwear. Classic tuxedos are often black, and shoes worn at black tie events are always black. If you are attending formal events from a younger age (this does not mean cocktail attire, think more formal like black tie optional etc.) , you will definitely need a pair of good black dress shoes early in your wardrobe.

Suit pairings are the other reason for having black shoes. Some shades of suiting simply suit black better than other colours; think charcoal grey for example. Black shoes are somewhat versatile in the suit context; they can be paired with all shades of grey, navy, dark brown and even seasonal colours like greens, beiges and oranges.

However, nearly all of the aforementioned colours will do just fine with a shoe in a shade of brown. If you find yourself in a situation where the most dressed up you ever get is cocktail attire or a job interview, brown shoes will cover your bases there too. Your outfit will likely look younger too.

Because of this, it could be argued that a young man does not need black dress shoes.

That being said: since when did need dictate what we want with clothing?

I just bought my first pair of black Oxfords.

I have personally never had need to dress beyond jacket and trousers. I accessorise with things like neckties purely because I want to. This puts me squarely in the camp of not needing black dress shoes.

For a couple of years, I have done fine with two pairs of brown oxfords; one full brogue, one wingtip. I had a pair of black shoes too (they were derbies though – not desirable) but only wore them on very rare occasion when I simply wanted to wear a black shoe. This changed recently.

I decided that I wanted to start wearing suits. Purely because I can. Some suit colours just look better with black shoes.

Because of that, I wanted to have a pair of proper good quality black oxfords. I bought a pair of lightly used Cheaney half brogues.

They would have cost around $500AUD new, I eBayed them for $95 all up.

These will go well with my tailoring, which is currently mostly darker greys and navies.

For me, the decision to buy black shoes was a natural progression of wanting to upgrade my stylistic choices. Which leads back to the question at hand:

Did I need them?

You will need them at some point.

I believe there comes a point in every man’s life where he will need a pair of good black dress shoes. As I approach 25, I decided the time was around now; though the need was dictated by my want of stylistic choices rather than a need to adhere to a dress code.

Which brings me to my final thoughts; a young man’s relative need for black shoes is defined by life circumstances.

If you are a young man in higher society who attends black tie events on any sort of regular basis, your need for black dress shoes will come earlier.

For the rest of us, though; it comes down to personal choice. Some men – depending on career – may go through life never needing dress shoes that are specifically black.

A few decades ago, this statement would have been decried as ridiculous. It would have been, too. These days, not so. It is a consequence of the casual age we live in. A victory for choice, but not tradition.

That’s all for today!

What are your thoughts on black dress shoes? In this age, does every man need a pair – or will brown suffice?

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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