Shoes are one of the most important parts of a man’s wardrobe. Not just because they protect our feet or because it’s literally the last thing you put on.
They are the finishing touch that can make or break your whole outfit.
Done right, it looks dapper.
Done wrong, it can look… well, pretty strange. I’ll show you what I mean.
Some Do’s and Don’ts of Men’s Footwear
First off, running shoes with jeans isn’t a great look. In fact, please wear your running shoes for running, and no other time.
Switch instead to boots, chukkas, or monotone sneakers and you’ll adult up by 100%. You might even receive some compliments.
Then there’s the importance of matching your kicks to your socks and your pants. Done right this looks suave, but done wrong it just looks off.
Notice these are brown dress shoes with black socks and grey shorts. Not exactly matching.
If you insist on wearing dress shoes with shorts, lose the socks or go with no-show socks.
If you switch to pants (smart move) then the secret is to match the socks to the shoes or to the pants. In this case, grey or brown socks would look a whole lot better than black.
The next question I hear a lot is do I need a closet full of shoes? You absolutely don’t need shoes in every color of the rainbow.
And for the love of decent style, please stop matching your shoes to your t-shirt.
While technically this is a form of matching, it isn’t how grown men match their clothes.
No offense, but this look signals to the world that your grown man body is secretly being controlled by a 7-year-old boy who’s at home with a joy stick in his hand and VR goggles. And to that 7-year-old boy this outfit does look pretty cool.
Now if you struggle with any of this I have great news for you. Shoes are pretty simple and we’re about to break it down into some easy to follow tips so you can look dapper and move on with your day.
Let’s start with the shoes you do need.
Your Essential Ethical Shoe Collection
Truth be told, you only really need 5 pairs of shoes to crush your wardrobe day in and day out. Spoken like a true minimalist.
We’ll explore which 5 shoes are optimal, in which colors, and how to wear them. You’ll also get shopping suggestions from high quality ethical shoe brands that put social practices and sustainability first.
You’ll look great and be making a positive impact. Sounds like the consummate gentleman to me.
Let’s dive in to the five shoes you need in your wardrobe, and how you can wear them.
1. Ethical Monotone Man Sneakers
Sneakers are a staple on any man’s shoe rack. They’re comfortable, good for casual outfits, and great for city walks.
They can also be a whole lot more. With a good pair of monotone kicks, you can look like an adult and dress them up or down for a cool look that’s comfortable as hell.
Let’s dive into a couple examples of outfits with sneakers. First there’s the dressed down look.
How to dress down those slick kicks.
Sneakers look great with a casual outfit like a pair of jeans and matching socks. You can also wear them with shorts and no socks or no-show socks for a look that’s equally golden.
How to dress up those slick kicks.
The great thing about single color sneakers is you can actually dress them up too. Here you see some khakis with a long sleeve shirt and some sneakers, and it looks fantastic.
You could also wear this with a button up shirt, or even jeans, a button up, and a blazer. Bet you didn’t know your sneaks had so much potential.
Now where are you going to find ethical and sustainable sneakers that look this good? I’m glad you asked.
Here’s 3 options you’ll absolutely love.
- Diego Low Top Sneakers by Nisolo
These kicks come in this nice tobacco color and look great with jeans, shorts, or khakis. They look especially slick with white, blue, or grey pants.
Why trust Nisolo?
Nisolo handmakes these in an ethical factory in León, Mexico. They pay producers on average 27% above Fair-Trade requirements and are a certified B Corporation (a certification given to social good companies).
- Esplar Leather Sneakers by Veja
The Veja Esplars go great with black pants, jeans, white pants, or shorts. Heck, black shoes look good with most colors.
Just be a little more cautious with brown pants, khaki color, or colors like blue or red. Those colors tend to look better with white or brown shoes.
And speaking of white, the Esplar also comes in an all white version that looks really sharp.
Why trust Veja?
Veja stands for transparency, organic materials, and fair trade. They have numerous initiatives from launching vegan shoes to making a shoe fabric entirely from plastic bottles.
- Tree Runners by Allbirds
Tree runners are a sustainable shoe with minimalist design and extreme comfort. Designed to be worn sock-less, these will make you look good with shorts or pants.
If you don’t love the white ones, they also come in a nice dark grey color.
Why trust Allbirds?
Tree runners are made from eucalyptus trees which only use 5% of the water, 1/3 of the land, and half the carbon footprint compared to conventional shoe materials. They also don’t have to be knocked down to harvest the material and grow back like weeds, requiring very little water.
For Allbirds sustainability doesn’t stop at the shoes. The laces are made from one recycled plastic bottle, and the packaging is made from 90% recycled cardboard.
Allbird’s goal is to create “the world’s most sustainable shoes using innovative new materials”. They’re also a certified B Corporation.
2. Classy Sustainable Loafers
Loafers are comfortable, stylish, and classy. Perfect for going out on the weekends, the more relaxed business meeting, or the ambitious entrepreneur.
They look great with khakis and can be suitable for anything from business casual to full professional. Slide into a pair and give off the air of a true gentleman.
How to dress up your loafers.
Look how nice loafers look with dress pants and a dress shirt. Wear them with socks for a more professional look, or without socks for a more stylish and slightly more casual look.
How to dress down your loafers.
And speaking of versatility, look how the loafers dressed up this semi-casual look of jeans with a button up. With the loafers he looks ready for a date, and if you switched to sneakers he’d look ready for a nice walk by the lake.
Here’s two ethical loafers you’ll love.
- The Chamberlain Penny Loafer by Nisolo
These loafers come in brandy, oak, or black. Pick the color that matches what you’ll wear them with most.
If you’re a fan of black or grey dress pants, black is a safe bet. If khaki, blue, and white are more your thing, pick a shade of brown instead.
- The Belgrano by Adelante Shoe Company
These high quality handmade shoes have a more contemporary look to the loafer. They come in almost the same 3 colors as the first pair, so pick the color to suit your wardrobe.
Why trust Adelante?
Not only do these shoes look fantastic, they’re handmade in Guatemala by craftsman who are paid an actual living wage, measured based on the country where the manufacturing is done. Adelante shoe company puts people first and is an industry leader when it comes to living wages.
3. Socially Conscious Oxfords
It goes without saying that every man needs a great pair of dress shoes, and that means oxfords. Versatile for weddings, fancy dates, or board meetings, this staple tells your peers that you’re dapper and you know how to dress for the occasion.
While these are mostly for dressing it up, you can dress these down too, almost exactly like the loafers.
How to dress down your oxfords.
Oxfords can give a classier look to an outfit that otherwise teeters on business casual or even casual. Khakis or jeans with a button up becomes a whole lot more sophisticated when finished with the oxfords.
How to dress up your oxfords.
Dressing up oxfords needs no explanation. It’s the go to scenario for these classy kicks.
They look great with suits or tuxedos, just make sure they match!
We recommend getting these in brown or black, depending on your suit color. This is the one shoe where you may need both colors if you have a variety of suits that you wear often.
The safer bet is of course black, which goes great with black suits, grey suits, white suits, and matches many occasions. Brown oxfords look fantastic with blue suits, and also work great with grey or white suits.
Pro tip: your socks should match either your shoes or your pants. If they match neither you are in trouble.
Here’s 3 ethical dress shoes for you to ponder.
- The Clásico by Adelante Shoe Company
The clasico comes in 3 colors, only one of which is two-toned. You’re sure to look sharp as the wing tip design gives it a classy edge.
These shoes are ethically handmade in Guatemala by Adelante.
- The Calano Oxford by Nisolo
This simple classic design is perfect for the black on black look and minimalist aesthetic. Comes in 4 neutral tones.
These kicks are ethically handmade in Peru by Nisolo.
- The Illinois Monk Strap by Ecco
The straps give this one a slightly more daring look for the adventurous type. You can bet it still looks amazing with a suit.
Why trust Ecco?
Ecco is a family-owned Danish shoemaker who owns their entire supply chain and ensures quality, as well as the well-being of all its employees. They have anti-slavery policies that they take seriously and get involved in positive initiatives in the local communities around the world where they do business.
4. Chukkas for the Change Maker
Chukkas are a must have for those in between outfits. You can wear them out on weekends and look dapper, or impress all your coworkers when the dress code is business casual. Great for preppy and hip looks, these will show people you mean business.
Clean, youthful, and elegant, these will polish the right outfit. Not good with shorts, but these kicks look awesome with jeans or khakis.
Here’s 3 ethical chukkas for your consideration.
- The Emilio Chukka Boot by Nisolo
These stylish chukkas come in five neutral colors and will compliment your jeans perfectly.
Handmade in an ethical factory in Peru by Nisolo.
- The Santiago by Adelante
The Santiago comes in 3 neutral tones and looks classy as hell. You’ll be sure to get compliments with these kicks.
Ethically handmade in Guatemala by Adelante.
- The Chukka in Weatherproof Chocolate Suede by Taylor Stitch
The only weatherproof pair in this lot, they’re made of waterproof suede. Comes in just one color but looks really sharp with jeans and khakis alike.
Why trust Taylor Stitch?
Taylor stitch makes quality men’s staples that look great and are built to last. With a focus on sourcing, you can trust these are ethically made. These particular shoes are handmade in Leon, Mexico.
5. Boots for the Man Who Gives a Damn
Boots are fantastic for the casual grown up look. Show your peers that you know better than to wear running shoes with everything.
You’ll look sharp, taller, and ready for whatever comes your way. Amazing with jeans, these look tough, quality, and worthy of a statement.
In fall and winter months, these could be your go-to shoes.
Here’s 2 ethical boots that look awesome and stand the test of time.
- The Havana by Adelante
These ethically handmade boots are made to order in Guatemala. Look great with boots that are true to your size.
The quality of construction ensures they will last for years and you can resole them when the time comes so they last even longer!
- Andres All Weather Boot by Nisolo
Ethically handmade in Leon, Mexico, these boots are water resistant and have a Vibram sole. You can look great and be ready for any occasion.
Thanks for joining me on this exploration of stylish and ethical men’s shoes. Here’s a quick recap of our journey.
You only need 5 pairs of shoes to look great all the time and match a wide variety of outfits.
Neutral colors like brown, black, white, and grey are safer and more versatile than bright colors like red and blue. They also look better in virtually every scenario, unless you’re a real fashionista.
You’ve also found ethical and sustainable options for these shoes from top notch quality brands that put people and planet first. By purchasing from these brands you are supporting fair wages for the people who make your shoes as well as companies that take sustainability, equity, and social good seriously.
Share the Love
Know a man who could benefit from some better style? Please share this article with 3 guys you know and you’ll be helping make the world a more stylish and ethical place.
As always, if you have questions about style, matching, or any of it, drop me a comment or reach out to me directly.
*Note: all of the ethical shoe brands listed in this article are Eco-Stylist approved brands. This means they underwent a process of research and scrutiny for social and environmental performance before being listed as a recommended brand on our platform. Expect more details about how we vet our brands in the coming weeks!
**Featured Image from @hisootd.
Garik Himebaugh is the founder of Eco-Stylist, a stylishly curated collection of eco-conscious menswear. He provides personal style consultations including custom look book creation, wardrobe renovation, and special event styling, both remotely and locally from Iowa City, Iowa.