5 Rules for Picking Perfect Shoes

A groom’s guide to wedding-day footwear.

Illustration by Bee Murphy

Picking out a groom’s shoes used to be simply a matter of finding the right size. If you wore a tuxedo (most often the case), you wore black tuxedo shoes. If not, you wore black lace-up Oxfords. Now, all the rules are different. Here’s a guide to making an informed footwear decision for your wedding day. 

Rule 1: Follow the Suit

Your shoes should always serve as a complement to your larger outfit. Generally, that means black shoes with a black or dark gray suit, but brown shoes are an option, too. “We’ve seen an English influence on American clothing in recent years,” says Kevin Reardon, the co-owner of Franco’s Fine Clothier in Richmond. “What is considered ‘matching’ is changing. Brown shoes are much more acceptable for weddings and are especially popular with navy or light gray suits.” 

Rule 2: Make it Personal

The less formal the suit, the more color and texture your shoes can show—think detailed broguing or other designs. This includes not just Oxfords, but more casual options like loafers, monkstraps, and derby shoes. Reardon says that high-end cowboy boots are a popular option for adding a personal flair, as are exotic leathers like alligator and ostrich. To let the wedding party shine, grooms can select a general level of formality and color palette, but then leave individual shoe choices up to each groomsman.

Rule 3: Comfort is King

You shouldn’t need to walk a mile in your shoes. There will be some softening as shoes wear, but it’s a myth that shoes should be uncomfortable at first, then “broken-in” over time. A well-made shoe, says Reardon, should feel comfortable from the very first moment.

Rule 4: Make it Last

With the right care, quality shoes will last a long time. Purchase a good polish (avoid those made with alcohol—look for bases like natural oils) and a horsehair brush (not synthetic). Shine your shoes regularly, then use a shoe tree to maintain their proper shape. Many reputable shoemakers will resole and refurbish your old shoes, even after years of wear.

Rule 5: Find the Right Store

A quality men’s shoe store will always measure your foot (“They won’t just ask your size and move on,” says Reardon), and they’ll ask questions about the specifics of your suit and ceremony—if they’re smart, they’ll even ask your partner’s opinion. Look for the store to carry quality American brands like Allen Edmonds and Alden, as well as imports like Italian brand Martegani. Other recognizable high-end brands include Ferragamo and Testoni. 

Bonus: Don’t Limit Yourself

Here’s Reardon’s one guiding principle for grooms: “You should buy the nicest shoes you can afford within your budget, then take care of them well,” says Reardon. “It’s my general style tip: Buy fewer items, but buy better quality.”

Photo courtesy of Franco’s Fine Clothier


Where to find quality wedding shoes around the state:

Davelle Clothiers, Reston, DavelleClothiers.com

Davidsons, Roanoke, DavidsonsClothing.com

Franco’s Fine Clothier, Richmond, Francos.com

R. Bryant, Ltd., Williamsburg, RBryantLtd.com

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