In light of yesterday’s post about not dressing like a pompous ass, I feel like it’s time to revisit my recurring topic of men’s dress.

A while ago, someone asked me to write a post about the five shoes that every lawyer needs. But really, a lawyer needs only one style of shoe, which he ought to buy five times.

I’ve noted before that there’s an adage that a man’s shoes are the first thing a person notices when a man walks into a room. Let’s make sure that the image you convey is professional. Here’s an overview recap of the one professional shoe every lawyer ought to own.

The One Shoe Checklist

The one shoe that you ought to own has no fancy broguing, wacky colors, pointy toes, or exotic leathers. Instead, it’s simple, straightforward, and professional. Here’s a checklist of the characteristics it ought to have:

  1. black;
  2. full-grain leather;
  3. captoe;
  4. lace up; and
  5. goodyear-welted.

Let’s run through them one by one.


You’re a professional, and your professionism needs to be reflected in your wardrobe, shoes included. Black is not only the most formal color for a shoe, but also the most versatile. Whether your suit is navy, grey, charcoal, olive, or tan (the only suit colors you should be wearing) — it doesn’t matter, because they all work with black.

Furthermore, if you don’t like to spend more than 30 seconds thinking about what you want to wear in the morning, black’s the best shoe color option. And even if you do like spending more than 30 seconds on any given day thinking about what you ought to wear, black’s the best professional choice.

Full-grain leather

Make sure your one shoe is made with full-grain leather. Not top-grain, not corrected-grain, not patent. Full-grain.

Full grain leather is made from a complete hide that’s been tanned and dyed, but otherwise is minimally processed. It’s more expensive that other types of leathers because it’s not been altered in any way — whether sanding or buffing — and that showcases the unique qualities of the leather. Because the hide isn’t buffed or sanded, the leather retains its grain, and it’s stronger, more flexible, and more breathable the other types of leather. It’s used in higher quality shoes and furniture. You want to make sure your shoes are made of this type of leather.

Many cheaper shoes today are made with “corrected grain” leather. Corrected-grain leather is cheaper than full-grain leather because manufacturers sand off imperfections, then press a faux grain into it. Often, corrected-grain leather has a plastically sheen to it. It does not have the same durability as full-grain leather. It’s decent for a penny loafer or another less-formal shoe, but not for the one shoe.


A captoe shoe is the most classic, conservative, business shoe you will find. It’s called a captoe because, somewhat obviously, there’s a leather cap on the toe. Keep it simple here, and avoid decorative stitching or broguing on the cap.

Lace up

A formal business shoe laces up. Slip-ons are for slippers. You’d not go to a business meeting in fuzzy bunny slippers, would you? Listen, before all you loafer lovers start giving me a hard time, I own loafers too, but they’re meant for office hours, not court.

Goodyear welted

A quality shoe is made with a welt. No, not like what you’re left with after you’re bit by a mosquito.

Rather, a welt is a strip of leather that’s stitched to the upper of a shoe that’s used at the attach point for the shoe’s sole. The leather outsole of the shoe is then attached to the shoe by being stitched to the welt. The benefit of a Goodyear welted shoe? It can be resoled several times. If you walk as much as I do, you’ll run through a shoe’s sole every several months. In fact, I have a pair of shoes I’ve resoled 3 times now, and they look almost good as new.

Instead of tossing a pair of shoes every time you start to get holes in the sole, you can save your money and be less wasteful by simply having them resoled. Cheap shoes manufacturers simply glue the sole on, which doesn’t last as long or lend itself to resoling.

Why is it called Goodyear? You know that guy who got the patent for vulcanized rubber? His son invented the method in 1869. Pretty talented family.

Give Me a Recommendation

The best shoe for your buck is the Allen Edmonds Park Avenue. It’s a timeless design, made in America, and an excellent value at $345.00. It has all the qualities that make an excellent one shoe.

Is it more than you might spend for a department store shoe made overseas? Definitely. But they’ll last you the rest of your legal career, and there’s something to be said for that. You’re better off buying this one shoe that 4-5 cheaper, poorly made pairs.

You don’t need fifty different styles of footwear. You need a serviceable, professional, durable shoe. You can’t go wrong with the black captoe.

Don’t forget to keep them polished.

**2014-08-08.** I have added _male_ to the title. Hopefully this will help to avoid confusion. —Ed.