Broke with expensive taste? You’re not alone, but don’t fret — there’s still a way for men to get luxe-looking shoes for less. Boldface name shoes might be out of reach, but by honing in on classic and trendy styles that have a long shelf life, it’s possible to look like a million bucks without breaking the bank.
Fast-fashion retailers are good starting points for footwear that has been translated from styles by heritage brands, but at an affordable price.
We spoke to fashion experts with credentials in high-end men’s shoes to share their shopping advice.
“Zara is a one-stop shop; they are always up to date with the latest trends as well as simple timeless looks,” shared Talia Coles, a celebrity stylist who counts rapper Rick Ross among her clients. “The quality is great for the price point.”
Perhaps you’re not the dressy type and prefer sneakers to formal styles, but special occasions do pop up, so it’s important to have the right shoes in your arsenal.
“I have had clients I dressed before who only needed shoes for a wedding and never plan on wearing again; I have gotten great classic velvet smoking loafer from Aldo’s for like $100,” said Alicia Sereno, who has styled racing champ Lewis Hamilton, and musicians Swizz Beatz and Future.
Below, more tips from the pros.
What Makes Shoes Look Expensive?
“The texture — matte finishes are always great, like faux suede; you can’t tell the difference,” explained Cole. “Matte leather finishes are better. Anything too shiny can appear plastic-looking or has a blatant pleather look. Last is the structure and detail of the shoe. When it has a little extra seam shaped nicely on it and the shape of the sole is structured, it automatically screams expensive.” Cole recommends spending no more than $150.
“A nice leather or exotic skin looks more luxurious, but it doesn’t mean comfort. It’s no different from a woman wearing a heel from the car to the event,” said Cameron Silver, “king of vintage” and fashion director for the H by Halston and H Halston brands. “Swarovski crystals or something embellished — they are luxury flourishes in a shoe,” added Silver. “I have some that are over the top, but less is more I’ve learned.”
What’s the Top Shoe Silhouette That Screams Luxury?
“Penny loafer — it’s very preppy Southern gentleman,” Silver advised. “A Chelsea boot never goes out of style, but not pointy. A beautiful lace-up loafer is elegant and sophisticated.”
“An embroidered loafer can look very high end. It’s classic, it can be worn dressed up or casual, and a Chelsea boots is super sexy,” Cole said. “No socks on a loafer and perfectly tailored pants is so high fashion.”
What Makes a Shoe Look Cheap?
“Stay away from shinty materials (shiny pleather), glitter canvas, especially on an expensive shoe it screams cheapy, cheapy,” Cole advised. Only high-end quality monkstraps look amazing. When they attempt to make them at low cost they look cheap.”
Silver added that you should stay away from “ridiculous materials like metallic glitter or colors that are extremely disposable in trend. It’s about careful curation of materials.”
How Much Should You Spend on Investment Luxury Shoes?
“If you are someone who is going to be attending a lot of cocktail or black tie events, I would say it’s wise to invest in a good classic black smoking loafer or black leather Chelsea boot which can range from $300-$900,” said Sereno.
“Classic Gucci loafers will retain their value through many decades, not necessarily one season,” Silver shared. “I remember when they were $200 to $300. No they are $600, but that’s a safe investment. Louboutin also has a good resale value but they are expensive to begin with.”
What Are Some Sneaker Styles That Look Elevated and Are Versatile?
“Adidas is a classic, versatile brand. They have comfort running sneakers, fashion sneakers and clean, simple styles like Stan Smiths that can be worn as street style or corporate,” Cole recommended.
“I am really loving the statement socks trend which pairs perfectly back to any shoe silhouette a man chooses,” said Sereno. “It’s a perfect way to dress up a casual look and make it a bit more special.”
What Are Trends to Stay Away From?
“The dad shoe trend. I don’t think it works on everyone. I’ve seen some men wear it and really pull it off, but on others it’s exaggerated size just looks too big and chunky and to be quiet honest, ridiculous,” Sereno said.
“Trendy synthetic or of-the-moment colors might look luxurious for a week, but it’s very much disposable in the long run,” Silver added. “I’ve bought trendy shoes in the last decade, but the core is pretty classic.”