The best men's dress shoes cost hundreds of dollars, right?
Gents, I thought so too. When it comes to shoes, a higher cost usually means a superior construction.
So where does that leave guys who can't splash out $300 on a new pair of shoes for work? Are these men doomed to wear cheap, faux leather shoes for the rest of their lives?
Of course not.
Guys, I'm here to offer you some advice. Believe it or not, it's actually very possible to find a great pair of quality dress shoes for less than $100. You've just got to know what you're looking for.
As I've always said, there are sure-fire signs of quality when it comes to any garment. If you're in the know about these quality indicators, then you're going to be far better equipped at knowing the difference between a great deal and a straight-up con when it comes to buying the best dress shoes for men.
Fear not, gentlemen – I'm here to help. Today I'm going to be taking you through the need-to-know basics on buying the best men's dress shoes at an affordable price.
Let's get to it.
What Qualifies As A Best Men's Dress Shoe?
Before we jump into the specifics, I think it's important first to understand what a quality shoe actually is.
It sounds simple, but understanding a quality shoe's defining traits is something every man should know when shopping for his next pair.
So let's start with the obvious: a quality pair of shoes make you feel like a million bucks when you wear them.
That's a pretty broad statement, I know. But before any other sign of quality, if a shoe doesn't make you feel like the boss when you wear them, then that shoe isn't the shoe for you.
I'm talking instant satisfaction straight out of the box. A quality pair of shoes is comfortable, fits like a dream, and makes you feel like you never want to take them off.
Where does that feeling of shoe contentment usually come from? That's right, gents: a timeless style.
I know I'm always going back to the idea of timeless and classic style, but there's an excellent reason for that. Timeless means longevity and versatility – two defining features you'll find in the best dress shoes for men.
A quality pair of men's shoes need to last a lifetime and should be interchangeable with the multiple different outfits in your closet. For that level of quality, I would always advise you to opt for a traditional style of shoe that you know is never going to go out of style.
Consider a pair of brown Wing-Tips or Derby shoes. You can wear these shoes with a work suit, a sports coat and pants, and even a jeans-blazer combo.
Dress them up or dress them down – a quality pair of men's dress shoes guarantees you longevity of use by leveraging the power of timeless style.
Check Out The Upper
Okay, this is where we're going to get a bit more technical, guys.
When you're looking to buy a pair of the best dress shoes for men at an affordable price, it's a good idea to check out the shoe's upper.
The Upper Material
The mark of a quality shoe is its ability to look better and better the more you wear it. As such, you want to be looking out for an upper made of good quality leather.
Now, I know what you're gonna say. ‘Antonio, I've only got $100 to spend on these shoes. That's not enough cash to buy high-grade leather.'
I hear you – and until recently, I'd have agreed with you.
Imagine my surprise when I found out Scarpazzo's shoes are made from full-grain calfskin leather. That's the type of leather $300, $400, and even $500 shoes are made from. The only difference? Scarpazzo shoes come in at under $100.
Gents, the fact is for under $100 there's gonna be a lot of faux leather shoes out there. That's fake leather, in case you were wondering.
If you intend to find the best men's dress shoes that will last you a good few years, then I'd really advise against purchasing shoes made from faux leather. In lamen's terms, faux leather is basically just plastic – it isn't durable, won't shine well, and certainly doesn't look like quality material.
It's simple – if you aim to buy a great pair of shoes at an even greater price, make sure you look for shoes made from real leather. Don't sacrifice quality for the sake of saving a few extra bucks.
The Upper Construction Of A Best Men's Dress Shoe
What's the first telltale sign of a cheap upper? Weird design features.
Picture a classic dress shoe. Let's be honest; only a few designs come to mind – smooth leather and lace, brogued leather and lace, or Monk Strap.
If a shoe has a unique looking design with different textures and levels, chances are it's made of cheap material.
Take these shoes as an example. They've got a weird sneaker-shoe mix going on with odd textures and cheap stitching. The leather even looks perforated in places, which isn't a great sign.
Now I'm not saying all shoes with unique designs are cheap. But chances are if you're looking to buy a shoe for under $100, ‘unique' designs will be made of cheaper materials.
Opting instead for a timeless design will give you a bit more certainty when it comes to the quality of the material and, let's be honest, looks better than some ‘fashionable' design that will go out of style within a few years.
The Welt Of A Best Men's Dress Shoe
I'll be frank with you guys – finding best men's dress shoes for under $100 that feature either a Goodyear Welt or a Blake Stitch is gonna be pretty much impossible.
At this price point, shoes are likely to feature glued soles.
However – that isn't necessarily a terrible thing. Sure, a Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt makes it easier to replace the sole on your shoe but did you know less than 1% of men who buy shoes that can be re-soled actually end up getting a fresh sole put on them?
The fact is, guys are paying upwards of $300 for shoes that feature a Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt without ever fully utilizing the benefits of doing so.
If you're spending less on your shoes, then chances are you're going to have a cemented construction in place of the Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt construction. In short, the different layers of the sole are held together with glue instead of a stitch.
Okay, so glue isn't as lux as the more complex welting methods, but at the $100 price point, the majority of the cost should go into providing a good leather upper on a cheap glued sole instead of a cheap plastic upper on a Blake Stitch or Goodyear Welt.
Check Out The Sole
A sole is one of the most important parts of any shoe. On a day to day basis, the shoe component that takes the biggest beating from wear and tear is the sole.
The best dress shoes for men typically feature either a leather or a rubber sole. Both of these have their advantages and disadvantages – but for under $100, it's more than likely that you'll be buying a shoe with a rubber sole.
Despite a cheaper production cost, rubber soles have many advantages over leather soles:
- A greater range of different qualities when compared to leather.
- Far more traction and grip.
- The ability to offer a more lightweight feel and higher levels of breathability.
- Unlike some leathers, rubber soles are washable and can be wiped clean without fear of chemical damage.
Just make sure that you pay attention to the density and thickness of the rubber. It's an unfortunate reality that a lot of cheaper shoe manufacturers just aren't going to use high-quality material in the sole of their shoes. After all – their goal is to create a good looking shoe at a low cost.
That's why it's vital you inspect the sole of any shoe you're buying.
A low-density sole means less longevity as a result of poor durability.
Basically, gents, if you want your shoes to last a long time, it's vital you find a shoe with as dense a sole as possible.
Check Out The Heel
Another pro tip for recognizing the best men's dress shoe sole at a great price is to check out the heel of the shoe.
A cheaper shoe is likely to feature a heel made entirely of rubber. This isn't a good thing – over time, that rubber heel is gonna wear down and leave you with uncomfortable, weird feeling shoes. Sure, a hollowed-out rubber sole might be lighter than a layered wood and rubber sole, but when we're talking about quality and longevity, a stacked design can't be beaten.
A stacked heel is a mark of high quality in the best dress shoes for men. When buying shoes on a budget, check and count to see how many layers of material you can see in the heel's grain. Ideally, a shoemaker will use different rubber and wood layers along with a metal nail to secure the heel together.
Finding The Best Men's Dress Shoes For Men Under $100
Guys, I love looking at the finer details of shoemaking.
It's surprising how much a man can tell about the quality of a pair of shoes by focusing on the smaller details. Any clothing manufacturer can throw together a half-decent looking pair of shoes, but it takes a real pro to get those finer details right.
At the $100 price point, it's important you gents make looking for the telltale signs of quality shoe construction your priority.
It's going to be a challenge to find the perfect pair of well crafted, quality leather shoes at this cost. However, follow my guidance as well as your own common sense, and you could find yourself walking away with a great pair of shoes at an even greater price.
Need to know more about finding your perfect dress shoes? Check out my guide on how your dress shoes should really fit.