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…
Still surprised these are in clearance. First quality. Not final sale. (Yet. No restocking fee if you send em’ back either since they’re first quality and NOT factory 2nds.) Available in dark brown, coffee, or the walnut shown above, although sizes have gone pretty quick in the walnut. Full review here. Drops to $167.45 (!!) if you sign up for their “collector’s club” email list and stack the 15% thanks-for-joining one time use code they send you after. Don’t want the medallion? Their super plain (but elegant) wholecut MacLennan is also down to $197.
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.
Cheeaaaaaaaaaaaaaap. Price above reflects a 40% off discount, which is pretty standard at Banana Republic. You could do a LOT worse at this under $100 price point. A lot worse. Conservative shape. Simple cap toe. Ortholite insole is pretty comfy out of the box. Fit seems true. Maybe a half size small if you don’t wear thin dress socks with them. Are they gonna last you your whole life? Nah. Will they look good with a navy suit for an interview? You bet.
Goodyear welted in Portugal. Two different levels of leather. Shipping is free both ways if it’s your first shoe, sportcoat, or suit purchase from Spier and Mackay. Full review of their upgraded Box Calf line can be found here. Sizes are currently pretty scattered being that this is the tail end of their first run from last season. Code SALE20 is good for an extra 20% off at checkout.
Massimo Matteo appears to be a Zappos exclusive (maybe?) brand that makes their shoes in Italy. Construction is almost certainly cemented instead of stitched, but with reasonable care? They should last a good while. The true oxford cap toes shown above are just one of many styles, but these are conservative, still interesting, and a more or less 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 feet perfectly out of the box. Since they’re sold by Zappos, shipping is fast and free.
Thursday Boots are a bit of a divisive brand in the menswear world. Some guys like em’ a lot. Some really don’t. A while back they introduced their dress shoes and they aren’t half bad. Made in Mexico, Goodyear welted, and the leather’s good for the price. Smooth with a nice shine but not gloss-plasticky looking. They WILL crease, of course, but leather does that. They feel nice and substantial too. Not flimsy. Sizing down half a size is suggested, and I think that’s about right. A 10 fit my normally 10.5 D feet pretty well, but I could tell a little break in time was gonna be necessary. They weren’t painful or rigid, but I’ve slipped on more comfy shoes straight from the box. Workmanship is solid, not impeccable (there was a loose rubber tag hanging off the heel that missed getting cut, but, that was easy to snip off). Subtle studs to the sole provide traction. More traditional cap toes and wingtip oxfords are also available. Just under $200 seems like the right price here. Ships and returns for free.
Not bad for $125. Sleek. Oddly comfortable. Made in China, but doesn’t look, feel, or smell cheap. A bit of subtle grip on the sole too, so you’ll stay upright on carpet/wet sidewalks. There is a chisel toe, so, traditionalists beware. A size 10.5 fit my normally 10.5D feet out of the box extremely well. Ships and returns for free since it’s Nordstrom. Prefer your shoes with laces? Looks like they have an oxford built on the same last.
Nice. Solidly nice. Sure, everyone thinks of shirts first when they think Charles Tyrwhitt, but they also excel in sportcoats, outerwear, and shoes. These are blake stitched in Portugal, suede is decent, shape is sleek, and they often drop to under $160 with 20% off codes. Full review here.
J. Crew Oar Stripe Oxfords -$298 (less when on sale)
Pleasantly surprised. I was afraid that after the recent, disappointing Oar Stripe Chelsea review, that these would also be a let down. Not so. Goodyear welted. Very soft and pliable Italian leather uppers. Conservative without being stumpy. Made in China. Color shown above is “maple,” which has a bit of a burgundy hue to it. Comfortable cushioning out of the box. Fit seems about a half size large. I’m normally a 10.5 D, and a 10.5 in these felt a tad long. You’ll have to wait for a good sale to get em’ under $200. Like, 40% off. And they’re often (but not always) excluded. So, you’ll have to be patient.
The toes put some people off. Still a chisel after all of these years and some people can’t stand chisel toes. Made in Italy, lightweight, and nicely flexible out of the box. Not gonna last a lifetime, but they can provide years worth of use as long as you take care of them and aren’t wearing them to work every day. Often on sale. Pretty sure these aren’t stitched, but glued?
TBNY shoes are awfully high priced when at full retail. Nordstrom Rack is NOT full retail. That’s where Nordstrom sends stock to be heavily marked down and moved out the door. And there’s usually a good amount of TBNY shoes kicking about on their virtual shelves. (Or, in store if you have one nearby.) Made in Italy. Pretty sure they’re Blake stitched. Leathers aren’t the thickest (think more lightweight/flexible) but still solid. Different models/designs come and go with the seasons, since that’s how Nordstrom Rack works.
Spanish designed, made in China shoes that have a tempting price but cost you more than you think at checkout. That’s due to the $15 UPS shipping charge. It used to cost a hell of a lot more, but they’ve since moved their warehouse to New Jersey. But once that outbound shipping cash is gone, it’s GONE. You don’t get it back if they don’t work out. Returns can now go to their New York store (instead of clear back to Spain). But you’re on the hook for returns too. $210 is the minimum you’ll spend. As far as the quality goes… they’re good. I’d say they’re just a step below Thursday Boot Co. quality. (I know, there are some Meermin sycophants having a fit right now.) The leathers are fine, construction is solid, but they’re not all that comfortable out of the box. They will require some break in time. Goodyear welted. Plenty of very forward/modern designs, and that’s why I think lots of guys tend to squawk positively about them. They look great. They just don’t (to me) seem as comfortable or as well made as a few alternatives.
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 than 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.
Nico Nerini Captoe Oxfords – $124.99 FINAL (when available)
Sold via Massdrop, and thus, not constantly available. Goodyear welted, Made in India, and allegedly uses Italian full grain leather. Tips about this brand from readers who have purchased via Massdrop have been promising. Final Sale is always a risk (and Massdrop’s business model), especially with shoes. So be careful. Real careful.
Not sure how the Factory 2nds game works? Head here for the low down. Yes, there’s some serious risk involved, and they do charge a steep $25 restocking fee on any returns sent back through the mail, but the savings can be tangible. Know that it seems like ever since the new owners took over, what passes as “2nds” quality has changed. As in, its degraded. As in, be prepared for some possible real duds to show up. So between that and the silly $25 restocking fee, this avenue is for the real gamblers.
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 in to firstname.lastname@example.org.