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 continuously rising, 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…
Remember the Allen Edmonds Flatiron? That’s kind of what these are. A hybrid of sorts. Some broguing, a medallion, but no cap toe or wingtip or anything like that. Blucher style here, but the sleekness of the profile and those extra details absolutely make it suit worthy. A little on the long and lean side. Might run a touch long for some foot shapes. Nice, soft, sheepskin padded lining. Made in India.
Massimo Matteo is to Zappos as Mercanti Fiorentini is to DSW. Both brands are made in Italy, both use pretty good 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 cap toes are conservative, but still interesting. Basically, you’re looking at a more affordable, Italian made version of the Allen Edmonds Fifth Avenue (minus the much thicker, full grain calfskin uppers and Goodyear welt of course). Fit is awfully similar to the Fifth Ave (and Park Ave) as well. Super comfortable. A 10.5D fit my 10.5D perfectly out of the box. A fine value for what you get in terms of looks, materials, and versatility. Available in tan (which really jumps against navy suit pants), a conservative brown, or black. Since they’re sold by Zappos, shipping is fast and free. Like, next business day fast, and still very much free.
Jack Erwin knows what they’re doing, and they’re about as good as it gets when it comes to reliable, great looking dress shoes around $200. The “Joe” is their most basic/minimalist model. A closed lacing, true oxford, with a sleek Blake-stitched welt and cut from full-grain calfskin. Conservative, but not clunky. Designed in New York and made in Spain. Available in full grain Espresso (seen above) or black. Ships and returns for free. Review here.
Dirt cheap. Perhaps not suit-worthy (a longwing blucher usually isn’t), but still worth putting on the list. Usually these things run between $50 – $60 depending on codes. Not quite sure if these have suffered from the same switch in leather quality as the popular Stafford Deacon boot has? But for sixty bucks, it’s hard to go too terribly wrong. Full review here.
Limited sizes at post time. From their in-house, higher end, “JWN” line. Made in Italy. Open lacing, blucher style shoes. Plenty sleek. Just be aware that a lot of JWN dress shoes can be built around a chisel-toed last, so know that going in if you’re the more conservative type.
Yes, CT carries some Made in England shoes that are well north of $200, but many of their Goodyear welted shoes check in at $199. Even less when they’re on sale. Leather is thick (maybe a little stiff,) construction is solid, and the designs are nice. 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. Full review of the above single monks can be found here.
Speaking of Mercanti Fiorentini… these are basically a not-as-fortunate-man’s Allen Edmonds Strand. Available exclusively through DSW, and about as cheap as Italian shoes get. Do know that they use some lasts that are pretty long and lean, and have a bit of a chisel toe to em’. And these are part of that group. A brand that’s been a favorite for years, and for good reason. Will go on sale with codes and promos.
The not quite as fortunate man’s Park Avenues. The JM Melton has long been consider to be one of the better entry-level Goodyear Welted dress shoes, yet there have been some concerns when it comes to overall quality in the last couple of years. Also, you have to be careful which color of leather you go with. The black and burgundy options are so smooth and shined up that they look like plastic. This lighter tan Italian Calfskin? Looks pretty darn good, since it actually has some depth and marbling to the leather. A conservative toe + overall silhouette won’t ruffle any feathers, but some more adventurous types might find em’ a tad boring. Solid feeling and comfortable out of the box.
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. Does go on sale from time to time.
No, the above loafers don’t count as dress shoes (although they’d look great with a summer suit). They’re nice, and they’re dressy-ish, but they’re still penny loafers. This is a fingers-crossed situation. A hope and keep an eye out pick. It was quite the surprise when Banana Republic introduced some Spanish made, Goodyear welted footwear a few weeks back. Nothing too dressy to start, but, perhaps in the months to come they’ll release a true oxford or cap toe or something? For the record I have zero inside info. Just hoping on this one. Prices above reflect the rare 50% off discount, or, the more usual 40% off deals that run quite often.
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. Last year, GILT was 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.
To repeat an oft used theory when it comes to cheap shoes… cheap suede almost always trumps cheap smooth leather. A lot can go wrong with smooth leather, and while I haven’t seen any New Republic smooth leather shoes in person, their suede was plenty fine for the price. Suede isn’t nearly as formal as calfskin, but it can earn some time with smart casual to slightly dressed up gear. Full review of those suede wingtips can be found here.
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 fine to wear with suits. Oversized toe medallion adds interest. Made in Italy. Pretty similar in style to the J&M Boydstun.
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 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.
About as good as it gets for a price to quality ratio, but you have to jump through a few hoops, and you’ll almost certainly have to wait for a big holiday weekend sale. Not sure how the Factory 2nds game works? Head here for the low down. Yes, there’s some risk involved, and they do charge a restocking fee on any returns sent back through the mail, but the savings can be tangible, as long as you can put up with a minor cosmetic blemish or two.
Nordstrom Rack is sorta like Nordstrom’s own personal outlet. And it can be a great source for drastically discounted, solid 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. Antonio Maurizi is a perfect example of what you can consistently find there. Yes, they’re just north of the $200 limit, but with “clear the rack” sales, they can dip closer to $160, so, we’ll let em’ pass for this list. Made in Italy, Blake Stitched, and good quality calfskin.
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 original wearers foot over time, and if the seller and you don’t match up real well, they might feel funny or uncomfortable.
Remember, with reasonable care (get some shoe trees!) and rotation (if dress shoes are worn often), most less-expensive shoes can work just fine. For more on general shoe jargon, head here. Got a pair of dress shoes under $200 that should have made the list? Send those tips into firstname.lastname@example.org.