The 20 Best Dress Shoes Under $200 of 2013
NOTE: Looking for an update? See the new list from 2015 here.
Paying for quality is smart, but not everyone can (or wants to) spend over two hundred bucks on a pair of dress shoes. Sometimes you need something to get you from point A to point B, and only then when you reach point B does it become possible to drop a couple C-notes on lace-ups. Plus, an inexpensive pair of shoes means you’re not married to them for the next decade. Most of us will rent a few places before we ever consider buying a house, right?
Sure, the leather might not be the best quality and those soles might be glued on, but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to shoe hell. No matter how loud the shoe snobs squawk about sole-blow-outs, plenty of us have never had major quality issues with cheaper shoes. Feel free to add your favorite sub $200 shoes in the comments. In no particular order, here are this year’s best for under $200:
A sleek, mean looking, Italian made dress shoe. The genius is in the simplicity. Not just suit worthy, tux-worthy. Ships free, returns free. Would’ve been incredible if they would have ended up in the Anniversary sale. Sold only in black. Would love to see a dark brown option in the future.
You’ve got to be okay with a bit of a chisel toe, but if you’re good with that, then these are outstanding for the money. Especially if you sit tight and use one of those $15 – $25 off codes that roll around every so often. The leather is decent (although it does crease pretty easily), the soles are glued but strong, and they’re shockingly comfortable. Wore a pair of Merc. true oxfords for almost four days straight in Las Vegas, and they treated me extremely well. They’re also real receptive to shoe creme and polish (some cheap leathers seem to fight off leather treatments), so when they start to look a little dull, they can be cleaned up easily.
Summer stunners. Yowza. Now hugely marked down being that we’re sneaking up on August. Handmade in Italy. Goodyear Welt. Not something you’ll wear year round, but if you’re in a warmer climate, might be real nice to have on hand.
Ciro Lendini is to Yoox as Mercanti Fiorentini is to DSW. Made in Italy, reasonable quality leather, and updated shapes. Super comfortable as well. Got a couple pairs of Ciro Lendini Shoes in the rotation and they’ve held up well. Don’t like the brogue-style perforations? There’s these from the brand “Thompson”, which also seems to be a Yoox exclusive made-in-Italy brand. Much more expensive, but expect that price to come down.
Banana Republic Troy Oxford – $94.80 w/ BRTREAT ($158)
Way, WAY better looking in person than in the pics on the BR website. While not mind-blowing, the leather quality seems to be a step up from their non-suede shoes of the past. Closed lacing give this slightly burnished true-oxford a nice and sleek look. One drawback (or advantage, if your commute can get slick) is the sole. It has a bit of traction to it. But that might make these a pair you reach for when the weather turns nasty. A real nice starter shoe for the entry level professional. Made in China. Code is good for 40% off full priced styles through 7/30 with the usual exclusions (suit jackets, blazers, etc)… but it looks like it’s one of those “select customers” sales. So, check the top bar of the Banana Republic site when you go. Some get 30%, some get 35%, some get 40%.
These are a shameless, but pretty well executed “homage” to the To Boot New York “Aaron” oxford. Right down to the bubble traction rubber sole. Leather quality is decent, and Aston Grey continues to be one of the best budget brands out there. Available through DSW and also comes in black.
Speaking of. Same shoe, right? Made in Italy, sleek and lightweight. Now just barely under the self-imposed $200 threshold during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. Not as round through the toe as an AE Strand, which honestly… if you’re going this high… spend the extra thirty bucks and snag yourself some strands (now $230 during the Anniv. sale). Just wish they’d have those strands down to $230 in something a little more versatile than the lighter Walnut shade.
Banana Republic Adrian Monk Strap – $94.80 w/ BRTREAT ($158)
Uh oh. Does the Mercanti Fiorentini Double Monk Strap have competition? Looks like the toes on these might not have that slight chisel that the Mercs do. Just released. Looks like the buckles aren’t too shined up either.
One of the few (only?) sub $200 boots out there that are suit worthy. True oxford closed lacing, and a slim sole. Very trim though, so if you’re borderline wide, consider going with their wide option. Not refurbishable. Leather is extremely smooth, but soft and not plastic-like. Slightly padded collar up at the top. These (either the mahogany shown or black) with jeans and a tweed blazer would look pretty sharp in the fall.
Magnanni Cap Toe – $179.40 @ extra 40% off ($299)
Hold your horses on these until LastCall runs an extra 30% off or 40% off code. When they dip under $200, then jump. Nice and lightweight. Smooth. A little too elongated for some. Made in Spain, and that slightly different swoop to the oxford stitching on the vamp is well done. Looking awfully close to a whole-cut, despite being a cap-toe.
The black cap-toe Lido’s flashier cousin. Perfect shape to the toe. Half brogue styling. Sleek and made in Italy. One of the very, very few shoes that lands in this mid to upper $100’s price range.
The budget version of the John W. Nordstrom Adrian. Up close, the leather does have a bit of that “too-smooth” look to it, but for $125? Nice and slender silhouette. One drawback: the toe does start to square off a little bit more than many would prefer, but it’s still a stunner at $125. 5/5 stars on Nordstrom after 12 reviews. Ships and returns free. Made in China.
The less-fortunate-man’s Park Ave. VERY traditional in shape, but a best seller for a reason. Nice cap toe, traditional toe shape, and best of all: A Goodyear welt. Made in Mexico if memory serves. Available in black, or a nice reddish-brown “bordeaux”. Also available in wingtip form, their Greenwich Oxford.
Along with the J&M Melton, as inexpensive as a Goodyear welted shoe will get. A new (very new) company started by a couple of brothers. Traditional shape, nice design details, but there’s one drawback: the leather is pretty stiff. They say full grain, but there’s not a lot of give out of the box. They do make a suede longwing though that might have serious potential. Return policy isn’t super clear, and it sounds like you’re on the hook for return shipping. Made in Mexico. Ships free. A company to keep an eye on for sure.
Taking less is more to the extreme. Less everything. Totally plain, derby/blucher (open lacing) style shoe. No extra stitching, nothin’. Nada. There’s even less eyelets than your usual lace up. Made in Italy, sleek, and a perfect looking toe. The proud minimalists black dress shoe.
Turning one’s nose up at Kenneth Cole Shoes is low hanging fruit. Yes, they’ve made (and continue to make) some Frankensteinish blunt square shoes that give some sartorial snobs nightmares, but they can make a reasonably suave looking, reasonably priced shoe every once in awhile. This is one of those. “BUT THE SOLE IS JUST GONNA PEEL OFF OH MY GOD WHARGGHARBL!”… I’ve owned a few KCNY shoes in my time, and never had that happen. Still, might want to wait for a sale of go with the Mercs from DSW.
The black, longwing version of the well loved (and now discontinued?) Stafford Ashton. Despite being black, the longwing + blucher/derby style (open lacing) makes them lean casual. So best to stick with jeans, dark chinos, or wool trousers with these. For those on a serious budget, try the Claiborne Wallis for a plain toe, dressier lace-up.
Dress? More like dressed up casual. But still worth a mention. Deep brown suede, super comfortable out of the box, and a nice trim shape. A home run for the JCP Claiborne line. Not going to work all that well dressed up with a suit (unless it’s maybe a cotton or linen summer suit) but should do fine with jeans and trousers. Full review here.
The Potential Gold Mine: eBay
Some guys swear by eBay for picking up high end, gently used shoes. Some haven’t had the best luck. Be smart, be careful, and know that sometimes the previous wearer has left their imprint on not just the exterior of the shoe with scuffs and wrinkles, but on the inside of the shoe as well. Footbeds can conform to the wearers foot over time, and if the seller and you don’t match up real well, they might feel funny or uncomfortable. Shown above: A pair of Allen Edmonds Park Ave’s that were sitting around $89.99 yesterday.
What was missed? Got a favorite pair of sub $200 shoes that didn’t make the list? And eBayers… feel free to leave your tips (and your best finds) on buying shoes in the comments section below. Head here for last year’s list.