Women everywhere have reason to celebrate: millennial men are officially fashionable, much more so than their Baby Boomer parents. Since 2009, growth in men's ready-to-wear has outpaced that of women's wear. Wonder why you haven't heard the term "metrosexual" recently? Because a forward-thinking, well-dressed man is no longer taboo. The rapid growth of e-commerce is changing the retail experience and enlisting more men into the ranks of the truly stylish. The big-box shopping experience has never suited the average male because men buy, women shop.
That being said, most men's closets -- when it comes to suits -- still look something like this: dark navy and grey suits and jackets, crisp white and blue button downs with a few checks and stripes mixed in, and a handful of khaki and grey slacks. The tie rack is draped with stripes and prints and a few cuff links idle on the dresser. And what about the shoe rack? There's probably a go-to black oxford or derby (hopefully not square-toed) that sits next to a less-utilized deep brown pair.
Women have always known that fashion is not about "fitting in." It's about standing out and showcasing your personality. Many men are still missing the opportunity to properly market themselves in professional and social interactions which sends the message that details don't matter.
So, where to start? Easy. A stunning pair of shoes will make a simple off-the-rack suit look powerful, just as a plain pair will make a heavenly custom-tailored suit seem earthbound. Start with your shoes because they are the "coup de grace" of any outfit. Here are 3 tips for choosing great dress shoes that will make a lasting impression:
1. Understand the styles.
The three main styles of men's dress shoes are the oxford, bluchers and loafer. In oxfords the tongue is hidden by the facing which contains the laces. In bluchers the tongue runs seamlessly into the front of the shoe or upper.
Oxfords are the most classic, elegant, and dressy in this shoe family, capable of elevating any outfit. Bluchers, on the other hand, are less suited for formal wear, but their "smart-casual" appearance works well in a more social setting.
Lastly, loafers are laceless and every man's favorite because of comfort and ease of slipping shoes on and off. Loafers can run from a soft pair of driving moccasins to a dressier tassel loafer. It's important to be conscious of how your loafers react with your outfit. Too dressy a loafer in a dressed-down situation can seem forced, while a casual driver with a suit can border on sloppy.
Those three styles all have a place in your wardrobe, but don't be afraid of the dress boot. Gaining in popularity in formal settings, a dress chukka or Chelsea boot shows you mean business. It's an alternative look to the classics, while your pant leg will cover up the higher boot ankles, leaving simply the smooth, minimalist look of the boot's upper and quarter.
2. Pick quality materials.
Look for brands using calfskin leather from the southern parts of Europe, such as Italy, Spain and France. All of Paul Evans' styles, for instance, are made in a family owned factory in Naples.
Leather soles, leather lining and extra sole padding are all signs of quality. With proper care, a quality dress shoes will last you the rest of your life. It will develop its own unique patina (or skin) as you clean and shine it over time. A timely resoling is like changing the tires on your car. A cheap pair will come apart at the glued seams and will no longer be wearable after a few years.
3. Choose your color wisely.
Your standard black and deep brown will certainly get you through the workday, but shoe color is a great time to think differently than the masses. In lieu of a monotone black, look for a hand painted black. With hand painting, the depth of black pops on closer examination, revealing light and dark shades of grey. In some of our newer Paul Evans styles, you can take it a bit further, choosing a leather shoe in forest green or deep sea blue. These unique colors are actually quite easy to wear with your work suit because they are so dark and formal upon first glance.
For your browns, think beyond your standard, stale shade of brown. Add some pop by choosing an oxblood, a reddish brown, or a burgundy, a brown that skews purple. These are two amazing alternatives that you can wear every day with any color suit (other than black). On the lighter scale, cognac adds white, yellows and oranges to your brown for a perfect spring and summer color.
With these three tips in hand, go ahead and step out of the box. Find a pair of dress shoes that make you stand out and take your entire wardrobe to the next level.
Article originally posted on Huffington Post.