Explore where to buy the best men’s dress shoes for weddings, work, working-from-home or anytime you’d like to class up your outfit, whether your looking for affordable or affordable luxury, in this guide to direct-to-consumer footwear brands.
The importance of stylish and comfortable dress shoes
Dress shoes shouldn’t be an afterthought for men.
In my view, these innovative direct-to-consumer (DTC) menswear brands sell some of the best men’s dress shoes online. These entrepreneurs are making it easier and more affordable for guys to nab super-comfortable and in many cases affordable dress shoes for working from home or the office or wherever life takes you these days.
Men have tons of options these days to look good. Scores of innovative men’s fashion brands are making everything from unique hats to affordable chinos. (You can keep track of the best online men’s clothing sales and discounts though this standalone post.)
If you’re looking for some unique and colorful socks to pair with your new dress shoes, see Modern Fellows’ guide to where to buy colorful socks for men.
Wolf and Shepherd
Wolf and Shepherd founder Justin Schneider began testing the concept for Wolf and Shepherd by gluing sneaker insoles to dress shoes after hearing friends complain that their dress shoes were uncomfortable. “This seemed to be a consistent problem among my peers,” Schneider told Modern Fellows. By the end of 2014, he had a prototype and found a factory in Portugal to make his shoes.
The company launched a pre-sale in July 2015 and has been refining its technology and expanding its selection, which now includes boots, loafers, driving shoes and monk straps, ever since. Also, runner Juris Silenieks set a record by running the Atlanta half marathon in the company’s shoes.
I reviewed the Wolf and Shepherd’s Closer cap-toe lace-up oxfords (disclosure: I received them for free), and found them to be lightweight, structurally sound, classic-with-a-little-bit-of-flair, and supremely comfortable. If I ever had to run a marathon in dress shoes, I’d pick these. (I also subsequently reviewed Wolf and Shepherd’s Bannister Derby shoes.)
Wolf and Shepherd also makes a range of cross-over, hybrid dress shoes with a casual flair. Check out my review of the Longwing Crossover, a truly unique hybrid dress shoe-sneaker, and separate review of the SwiftKnit Derby, for more on Wolf and Shepherd.
Andrés Niño and Nick Hurtado founded Beckett Simonon in Bogotá, Colombia in 2012 to offer a unique shopping experience that requires a bit of patience. Their pitch? “You pre-order, we manufacture, you enjoy.”
The upshot from this Warby Parker of Shoes is you get high-quality, Blake-stitched shoes manufactured in Colombia or Portugal at an incredible price point. The catch? You have to wait up to 6-8 for the shoes to arrive. I reviewed their Durant oxfords, pictured below, and think Beckett Simonon shoes are extremely comfortable and definitely worth waiting for. (After more than a year of wear, they are still going strong and looking good.) Their gorgeous Valencia Wholecut Calfskin Leather shoes are available for pre-order now for the low price of $199 with free shipping. Beckett Simonon also makes great-looking minimalist leather sneakers for men.
Entrepreneur Paul Farago was tired of overpaying for Italian dress shoes, so he set out to create a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand that delivered affordable luxury. Paul started his journey with Ace Marks in 2012. On the strength of three extraordinarily successful Kickstarter campaigns, has positioned Ace Marks as an intriguing option for luxurious, and often unique, Italian dress shoes without the mark-up.
I had a chance to review Ace Marks’ unique and comfortable wingtip dress shoes. Find out why I think Ace Marks’ affordable luxury shoes are worth the splurge.
I had a chance to interview Paul about what makes Ace Marks shoes unique. He told me that, “we set out to make real luxury affordable for everyone, so we work on slim margins and sell at attainable prices.”
Ace Marks’ shoes are anything but boring. They incorporate features such as contrasting suede details, rich patinas and unusual colors into truly gorgeous footwear. All of their shoes are burnished and dyed by hand, making each one truly unique and allowing for micro-detailing that sets their shoes apart from every other company on this list.
The company is one of a very small number of digital-native brands to handcraft their shoes entirely in Italy using Italian leathers and Italian components. Their shoes start at about $299 — and less on sale — which is a tiny fraction of the cost of luxury brands, making them a compelling choice.
Get a discount coupon for 10% off your Ace Marks shoes order with code MODERN10.
John Peters founded Amberjack during the COVID-19 pandemic in November 2020 with the goal of creating a company “for the new world we live in.” Amberjack was designed to serve the future of “increased casualization, an emphasis on comfort, and a growing importance of value.”
Amberjack promises that its shoes are “obviously” stylish with “secretly-great” comfort tech, including a dual-density athletic outsole, a thermo-activated insole that contours to your foot, and soft buck skin lining.
If you need truly formal dress shoes, look elsewhere, but Amberjack makes essential business casual shoes for the new normal. Their minimalist business casual shoes, which are available in leather or water-repellant suede, shine in smart casual and business casual settings.
At $179, Amberjack’s comfortable dress shoes are also relatively affordable.
Nisolo makes “intentionally designed, ethically made [and] fairly priced” shoes for men and women.
Zoe Cleary and Patrick Woodyard co-founded the Nashville, Tennessee-based brand, with a focus on design and social good. Nisolo is an excellent example of a sustainable fashion brand. The company strives for 100% living wages across its sustainable fashion supply chain and has pledged to be zero percent net carbon.
Nisolo makes extremely attractive shoes for men and women, including sandals, slip-ons and flats, sneakers, oxfords, Chukkas, and loafers. I particularly like the look of Nisolo’s Javier Chelsea Boots, pictured above.
The company is a Certified B Corporation, and its score places it above more than 90% of other fashion brands who have earned the certification.
Taft offers a modern and wholly-unique line of footwear that somehow also manages to feel traditional at the same time. (In my mind, Taft Clothing is the Martenero of footwear. Martenero, one of my favorite men’s microwatch brands, invented the hashtag #traditionrefreshed to describe its playful, modern takes on classic styles.)
Kory and Mallory Stevens founded Taft Clothing out of Utah in 2014 to sell socks, but pivoted soon after to address a gap in the market. Forbes named them to their 30 under 30 list for their unique brand that helps men stand out.
Taft offers a range of two-tone shoes with interesting patterns and textures that provide an amazing contrast with solid-color leathers. The outsides feature vegetable-tanned, full-grain leathers, all of which are painted, stained, and burnished by hand. Inside, all shoes are Blake-stitched, fully-lined with soft calfskin leather and feature a stacked leather sole with rubber injections. It's no wonder men from Dwayne Johnson to Tim McGraw to Dwanye Wade are fans.
Milan-based company Velasca pitches "passion and unique Italian expertise" as the defining qualities behind their affordable dress shoe brand that endeavors to make high-quality craftsmanship accessible to all.
In 2012, founder Enrico Casati was disappointed with the quality and price of dress shoes available in Singapore, where he was working in banking at the time. He teamed up with co-founder Jacopo Sebastio to identify artisans in Marche, Italy, to create their first collection under the name Velasca.
The two have grown their brand since then, branching out from lace ups and loafers to monk straps, boots and sneakers. At $195, their Imprenditor shoes strike an amazing balance of affordability and quality, featuring luxurious full grain leather and an intricate design that adds a unique flare. Shipping is free.
Launched in 2017, Moral Code features a slick range of visually-stunning, Goodyear-welted business casual and dress shoes, many with beautiful burnished finishes and patinas. The company urges men to "look formal even in informal settings." Their Scrupulous wingtips are constructed on an elongated last for a modern look. The site also carries a range of attractive leather goods, including briefcases.
Get a 25% coupon off your first Moral Code purchase by signing up for emails.
Based in Portugal, Undandy co-founder Rafic Daud and his team do a spectacular job of peeling back the curtain on its journey, including addressing some of the challenges the men's shoe startup faced along the way. Undandy also does a great job spotlighting the manufacturing process and the women and men who are responsible for crafting and hand-painting their visually stunning dress shoes with such glorious patinas. As for those shoes, they start at under $200, are fully customizable, hand-crafted and delivered to your door in two weeks. You'll pay a little more for unique hand-patinas.
Get a coupon for 10% off your first Undandy order by signing up for emails.
Thursday Boot Company
Connor Wilson and Nolan Walsh, who met at Columbia Business School, founded The Thursday Boot Company initially to design boots that are both tough and look stylish. The two leveraged their business background and Kickstarter to get the company up and running. While Thursday is known for, well, boots, they also make a gorgeous Goodyear welted Baron wholecut lace-up. The shoes are handcrafted and full glove leather interior Full Glove Leather Interior Lining and features a cork-bed sole, a hybrid outer made of leather and rubber. They have a fantastic Instagram community.
Photo credit: M. Gemi
M. Gemi co-founder Maria Gangemi was born in Sicily and spent her whole life and career in service of the art of luxury, handcrafted shoes. Today, M. Gemi is an awesome option for men's and women's Italian-made shoes and boots. Men's shoes feature hand-brushed calfskin leather uppers, an all-leather lining and footbead and Blake-construction. M. Gemi carries a nice range of oxfords, loafers and drivers appropriate for the office, like the Esperto oxford, pictured below, which retails for $278.
After meeting in college, Marco Reiter and Moritz Offeney launched Berlin-based Italian shoe company Scarosso in 2010. The brand focuses on sleek, timeless designs at prices that won't break the bank, manufactured by artisans in Italy. Their Federigo Oxfords ($255 with free shipping), an Italian-crafted shoe featuring black calfskin with half brogue and 5 eyelets with flat wax laces.
Pair of Kings
Pair of Kings Co-Founder Jacques Messeca took the experience he gained with his women's shoe line Messeca, which he founded in 1992, and jumped into the men's shoes business in New York City with fellow entrepreneur Isaac Ariel. The company's shoes are made in Brazil, Blake-stitched, use vegetable-dyed leather, and feature modern takes on classic styles. Inside, the shoes sport the same kind of memory foam material used in mattresses for enhanced comfort. Check out their Straight Brandy Monk Strap Dress Shoes for $195 plus shipping.
Ariel Nelson and Lane Gerson began Jack Erwin in 2013 to produce quality shoes that are affordable and accessible for office-workers and creative-types. Their shoes, which start under $200, are handcrafted in Spain with a hand-stitched leather outsole.
Founded in 2016 by Roger LaGrone, Alexander Noel began in the American Midwest and established partnerships with companies in Italy, India and Spain to create small batch runs of shoes and leather bags.
The company embraces attractive "fashion forward" designs that help men stand out from the crowd. While their dress shoes start at $150, like their sleek, maple-hued single-monk derby, their double-monk tweet and leather combo, the Sunday Best ($235), is an excellent example of their willingness to push the fashion envelope.
Starting at $395, you can design your own bespoke dress shoes with rich patinas and endless combinations.
French entrepreneurs Marcos Fernandez and Mathieu Preiss founded Septieme Largeur early on in their careers in the fashion world. I fell in love with the brand on a trip to Paris. The company features a wide selection of gorgeous shoes, many of which cost around 275 Euros, and ships to the United States.
Photo credit: Paul Evans
Launched in 2013, Paul Evans established itself as destination for Italian-made dress shoes that stand out for their intricate detailing, bold colors like oxblood, and unique touches like burnished finishes.
Co-Founder Evan Fript told Modern Fellows that the brand has "certainly come a long way...Our product has improved significantly...with higher quality calfskin leather being used and closed-channel stitching being introduced this Fall."
He maintains that the focus has never strayed: "[It] has always been on producing the highest quality men’s dress shoe possible, and we’re proud to have achieved that."
Their Cagney II Stitched Cap-Toe Oxford are beautiful specimens, and the tobacco finish is hand-painted, with Blake construction, at $425.
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and/or fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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