The best looking dress shoes under $200
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 actually 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?
No matter how loud the shoe snobs squawk about sole-blow-outs, plenty of us have never had major quality issues with cheaper shoes. It can be done, they can be worn, they can look good. In no particular order, here are this year’s best for under $200:
JCP Stafford Logan Wingtip Blucher – $76.50 w/ JANSALE ($90)
Always on sale. Used to be priced around $60, but recently got jacked up to $90. Certainly appears to use the same, stunningly decent for the price leather as their (sold out) Deacon Camlin boots. Bluchers are more casual than Oxfords, and a wingtip will make a shoe it even more casual at that. So probably not suit worthy, but with a blazer and some chinos? Sure. Still deserving to be on the list.
Quite possibly the best looking dress shoe in the $100 – $200 range. Has a lot going for it too. It’s a wingtip, but that closed lacing keeps em’ sleek and dressed up. And the proportions of the wing and medallion are pretty lean and mean. Pretty slick. Made in Italy. Available in black or the burgundy “Bordo” pictured here. This Massimo Matteo brand sure seems to be the Zappos version of DSW’s Mercanti Fiorentini. Perhaps the same manufacturer (Made in Italy, glued soles, nice leather and designs) and just branded slightly differently for the sellers?
An homage to the Allen Edmonds Strand. Available in black or a walnut-like cognac. Conservative toe shape. Lots of broguing, pinked edges, etc… Made in Italy. Glued soles, but solid feeling construction. Some have complained about the soles burning out too fast, yet others don’t have that problem with Mercanti Fiorenti shoes. Will go on sale with the every so often $15 or $25 off code.
A closed lacing, true oxford, with a sleek Blake-stitched welt and cut from full-grain calfskin. Designed in New York and made in Spain. Available in Espresso (seen above), Black, or Brown suede. Ships and returns free.
Magnanni (via Last Call or Nordstrom Rack) – high $100s
You have to play the sale game at Last Call, and you might have to scout for a bit at Nordstrom Rack (if you live near one), but the Spanish shoemaker Magnanni can often come in under our $200 threshold. They’re usually elongated through the toe, and sometimes almost spear like. But there are more than a few models (like this one) that lean more updated-traditional than weapon-of-war. You may have to wait for an extra 40% off sale to nab these for under two hundred.
An obvious chisel toe here, but it’s much less noticeable in person. Yet expect that chisel toe to drive plenty of people off, and maybe these’ll hit the sale section at some point? Both from the upper scale Nordstrom house brand J.W.N. and both made in Italy. Leather quality is good. They’re nice and flexible. The open-lacing Fabriano comes in black or brown, while the true Oxford Sterza has a medallion at the toe, and is only available in Cognac. Ships and returns free, so if you’re intrigued but a bit freaked out by the toe shape, at least they’re low risk.
Word is, CT outsources their shoemaking to Loake, with the shoes around $200 equivilant to loake’s Shoemaker range. Not quite Allen Edmonds, but still fine for the price. And since Charles Tyrwhitt often runs promos, it might be possible to get these to dip down closer to the mid $100s.
Johnston & Murphy Melton Oxford – $175 (but wait for a sale)
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”. Thing is, the leather is real shined up. Too shined up for many. These used to go for $120 – $140 but seem to have gotten stuck at $175 for a while now. Wait for an extra 20% off code or something.
The less fortunate man’s 5th Ave. Also available in black, and you might want to head in that direction before you grab a pair of the tan which are shown here. The tan are REALLY tan. Quite light. Can’t miss em’. Not going to blend in. So they’ll be a little too flashy for some. Conservative shape and design. And unlike the previously mentioned Massimo Mateo wingtip, these are available in both medium and wide widths. Also seems to have a more conservative toe box than the wingtips. Different lasts on these two models, or, so it appears.
Probably the cheapest you’ll find a wholecut going for. No cap toe, no wingtip, no extra stitching. Just one piece of (decent but not spectacular) leather makes up the shoe from front to back. Clean and mean. Wrinkles are more noticeable on wholecuts, but, the shoe still stands out in an incredible way. If that’s your thing. Has a bit of a chisel toe to it. Will go on sale from time to time for an extra $15 – $25 off with codes. Made in Italy.
Not all Kenneth Cole’s are square-toed Frankenstein shoes. But a $90 shoe is still a $90 shoe, and at this price, you’re gonna have to make some compromises. The leather isn’t as shiny in person as it is online, but it does have some unnatural glare out of the box. Leather is nice and pliable though, and seems to be better than most shoes that’ll run a hundred bucks. Shape of the shoe is great. It’s not long and pointy, and the toe is nicely rounded off. Simple cap toe. The big drawback, which will be a deal breaker for many, is that the “Kenneth Cole” logo is embossed above the heel on the outside edge. The hell Ken… was that really necessary? 98% of the viewing public would never notice. But still. Ships and returns free through Nordstrom. Also available in black for $100.
Another Jack Erwin on the list. A little fuller through the sole and toe compared to the “Joe”, but still plenty sleek for suits. Terrific medallion, but none of the usual broguing you’d find on other shoes. An interesting and just different enough look for sure. Full grain leather either comes in black, olive, or the burgundy shown here.
Appears to be a blucher version of the old “Aaron” cap toe oxford. TBNY shoes sure seem to be over priced, when compared to Allen Edmonds. AE’s leathers and quality seem to be a step above. But TBNY can certainly hold it’s own among the likes of, say, Magnanni. And mid $100s is a very nice price for this Italian made cap toe blucher.
The traditionalists will brush these off as anything but a “dress” shoe… but they can go well with a light grey suit to a spring or summer wedding, or a navy suit, tieless. It can be done. Sure, double monks are too flashy for some, but they can absolutely be a dress shoe for others. Nice silhouette. Leather is above average for the price. Has a bit of a chemical stink out of the box, but it fades quick. Also available in black or brown suede.
Pictured above is (one of) a pair of Allen Edmonds Fifth Street dress boots that were acquired for $149. Seems like they’ve raised the base price on their factory 2nds shoes, but still… if you wait for a big holiday weekend sale, you should be able to get a pair of 2nds quality Allen Edmonds shoes for around $200 or under. Fifth Ave. oxfords were going for $199 on Cyber Monday. More on how the 2nds game works over here.
The Reminder: eBay can be a gold mine.
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.