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. That said, with costs of leather and labor going up, this is getting harder and harder every year we do this. But there’s still plenty of good looking, well wearing dress shoes on the market for under two hundred bucks. In no particular order, here are this year’s best…
The JM Melton is known as one of the better entry-level Goodyear Welted dress shoes. But up until recently, it was the leather that was really a main drawback. Smooth and shined up to the point of looking plasticky, the black and Bordeaux options didn’t do the classic shape, cap toe, and solid construction any favors. But now there’s this lighter tan Italian Calfskin, which actually has some depth and marbling to the leather. It’s a huge improvement. A conservative toe + overall silhouette won’t ruffle any feathers, but some more adventurous types might find em’ a tad boring. Made in India. Solid feeling and comfortable out of the box. Made in India.
JCP Stafford Logan Wingtip Blucher – $67.50 w/ BIGSAVE7 ($90)
Still kickin’. Just make sure you get these, and not the new “Nolan” Oxford winger, which has inferior leather. Always on sale. Great leather for the price. Not a true oxford, and bluchers are more casual than Oxfords, and furthermore, a wingtip will make a shoe even more casual at that. So probably not suit worthy, but with a blazer and some chinos? Sure. Usually these things run between $50 – $60 depending on codes. At post time, they’re full price, and there’s a 25% off deal running. So, not the best price and worth waiting for them to drop. Full review here.
B.R. “Shaw” Italian Leather Lace-Up – $88.80 w/ BRTAKE40 ($148)
A basic blucher. Plain toe. No cap, no wing, notta. Italian leather is good, not great. Not as supple as their oft-mentioned briefcase. $148 asking price might be a bit much when compared to the competition (as seen below), but BR is always, ALWAYS on sale. And with 30% – 40% off? Then yes, a really nice value. All rubber sole is slim but still provides grip. Brown option is a perfect, middle-of-the road, do anything shade. A nice shoe for guys who don’t wear dress shoes that often. Sizing might run a half size small.
Massimo Matteo is to Zappos as Mercanti Fiorentini is to DSW. Both brands are made in Italy, both use surprisingly nice leather, both are almost certainly cemented instead of stitched, and both appear to be brands that are exclusive to their particular vendor. These true oxford wingtips are sleek and dressed up enough for a suit, thanks to the closed lacing. Available in tan (which really jumps against navy suit pants) or black. No wide sizes here. Just the standard D widths. Leather is nicely marbled and feels thicker compared to other mid-$100s shoes. Sole feels solid enough that they might even be stitched (probably not, but still). Toe shape is perfect. And since they’re sold by Zappos, shipping is fast and free. Sizing feels close to true. Maybe a little small since they’re on the trim side.
Speaking of Mercanti Fiorentini… these are basically a not-as-fortunate-man’s Allen Edmonds Carlyle. Dead simple. Lots of leather to look at that doesn’t have stitching or broguing. And what a shade of leather it is. A beautiful burgundy, which a lot of guys prefer over the lighter tan/cognac leathers lots of shoemakers seem to favor. BUT… be warned that in some light it leans pretty close to a wine shade of red. Not everyone’s tastes. But to others, they’ll stand out in a good way, and a deep burgundy can be worn with a darker grey suit (as long as it’s not almost black), and looks really good with navy, light grey, even a traditional seersucker. Surprisingly comfy out of the box for looking as trim as they do. I’ve got borderline wide feet and they still felt great. That leather is gonna wrinkle, but all leather does.
Runs a little narrow and the toe does have a bit of a chisel to it, but these aren’t as extreme as, say, many a model that Magnnani makes. Made in Italy for Nordstrom, and since it is Nordstrom, they ship and return for free. Available in only the cognac, burnished toe finish seen above. UPDATE: Holy crud, those dropped like a rock overnight. These just went on sale for 40% off, and thus, sizes got scattered quick. But since it’s Nordstrom, shipping and returns are free. So, if they don’t have your size? Keep an eye on em’. Stock might come back in.
Banana Republic Wyatt Single Monk – $88.80 w/ BRTAKE40 ($148)
Yes, monk straps count as dress shoes on this list. Single monks, especially, are dressy enough to wear with a suit and tie. And there’s hardly a better bang for the buck single monk on the market than Banana Republic’s Wyatt. Available in multiple shades, and the burgundy shown here is really impressive in person. BR makes a point to suggest sizing up, but for whatever reason, these monks at 10.5 D fit my usually 10.5 D feet just fine. Full review here.
Wall + Water is Gilt’s house brand of Italian made shoes. Since GILT is a flash sale site, you’d have to create an account and keep an eye out for a Wall + Water event, but they do run sales with some regularity. GILT was recently purchased by Sak’s, and in doing so, Sak’s changed what used to be an abhorrent return policy (used to be for store credit only). Shoes don’t always fit, so having a good return policy is key. It’s not awesome, since they’ll nail you with a steep $9.50 restocking fee, but at least you can get your cash back. Plus, you can also return stuff to Saks OFF 5TH locations if you have one near you. The materials and construction are above the price point that they usually ask for, but just know that since it’s a flash sale site, you’ve got those other hoops to jump through. Shown above is a pair of suede single monks that were purchased for a measly $119 a while back. Review of the brand can be found here.
An oddity for sure at this price, and that price of $149 is only good through today. But it’s an (admittedly extreme) example of how Allen Edmonds can be had for much, much less via Brooks Brothers. You just have to wait for a big, site-wide sale or a clearance event like this. Not really all that dressy, but would look perfect with a summer suit at a warm weather wedding. Can also pull duty with dark denim when it cools off. Made in the USA. Goodyear welted. Unlined interior so there’s less stiffness/structure. Pretty sure these are the Neumok?
Part of Amazon’s new in-house fashion brands. Strangely enough, they’ve been yanked from Amazon in the last couple of days? Wondering if they’ll make a return? And if they do, they’re a $70 shoe that feels more like a… $100 – $120 shoe. I know, not a huge compliment, but for guys who are on a super tight budget, they’re worth a look. Especially with the easy shipping and returns that Amazon offers. More on the brands (which again, seem to have disappeared for now) can be found here.
Despite often being priced above Allen Edmonds, TBNY shoes seem to be just a step below AEs. So that means when they dip under two hundred? As they often can when on sale? That means they’re at a plenty fair price. Just an open-lacing blucher/derby here, but still sleek enough to wear with suits. Oversized toe medallion adds interest. Made in Italy.
Many a man has purchased and worn to death a pair of Florsheims in his lifetime. To the average fella walking down the street, they’re decent quality. To those who spend more time than average on their style, they’re dependable. Not amazing. But Florsheim has been around for a while for a reason. Leather isn’t amazing, but the shape certainly works and they should hold up well enough. Toe looks less pointy/chiseled in person as it does online, but they are still pretty sleek and modern. From a distance, they look more expensive than they are. Up close? Maybe not. But they don’t look like junk either. Fit seems true. A 10.5 fit my feet like most 10.5 D shoes do.
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 full grain Espresso (seen above) or black. Ships and returns for free. Review here. (Also, RIP Jack Erwin’s “Jake.”)
Introduced a few years back and Nordstrom has been making them in more leather shades and suedes since. Can easily be worn with a light grey suit to a spring or summer wedding, or with a navy suit and tieless while out for drinks. Nice silhouette. Leather is above average for the price. Has a bit of a chemical stink out of the box, but it fades quickly.
Not a bad price for a sleek-looking, Goodyear Welted cap toe. Not from one of their super-high end lines, but should get the job done. Also available in wide sizes. Will take a while to get to you since all CT stuff is shipped from the UK. Also, original shipping charges don’t appear to be refundable in the case of a return, and shipping can be steep.
Shape of the shoe is great (not all Kenneth Cole’s are square-toed Frankenstein shoes). It’s not long and pointy, and the toe is nicely rounded off. 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. 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.98% of the viewing public would never notice. But still. Ships and returns free through Nordstrom. Also available in black for $100.
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. For example, the Shoebank has launched their Memorial Day sale early, and there are plenty of models under $200. Just one example is the dynamite Cornwallis medallion toe oxford shown above. Those are running $199 right now. Not sure how the Factory 2nds game works? Head here for the low down. (Meanwhile, if you don’t want to play the 2nds game, AE is offering their Cornwallis and Strand for 30% off, $275 instead of $395, for a limited time. Not under $200, but still.)
Nord. Rack Finds: AE Ft. Collins – $199.97 | Bruno Magli Catello – $199.97
Nordstrom Rack is sorta like Nordstrom’s own personal outlet. And it can be a great source for drastically discounted, high quality footwear. Not all brick and mortar Rack’s have awesome shoe selections, but many do, and are worth scouting from time to time. No Rack near you? Keep an eye on their website. Since it’s basically an outlet, size selection and brand availability can vary greatly week to week. But those two shoes shown above are good examples of what you can find. Also, unlike regular online Nordy purchases, there is a $5.95 pre-paid label fee for returns on Rack purchases (or, if you have a Rack near you, you can drop em’ off in store for free).
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.