Quality men’s footwear has traditionally been crafted from one material; leather. While the majority of men’s dress shoes and boots are still made from leather, there are a variety of different materials that have become increasingly popular in shoemaking. Knowing how and when to wear shoes made from different materials is key to maintaining a stylish look for every event. This guide will help you do just that.

Calfskin

Calfskin is the most commonly used leather in premium men’s dress shoe and boot making. A pair of high-end shoes in traditional styles such as the Beaverbrook oxfords or Westmorland derbies are crafted from the finest vegetable tanned calfskin. Its soft yet durable qualities make for a comfortable shoe that can last for years if cared for properly. Calfskin shoes and boots are incredibly versatile and are appropriate for all occasions from the most formal to the most casual. Darker colours such as black and burgundy are your best formal options, while lighter colours such as brown and tan are better suited to semi-formal and casual occasions. 

Shoe Styles

Calfskin dress shoes are made with a variety of different toe styles ranging from a traditional toe cap to more intricate styles such as brogues and wingtips. The simple and traditional toe cap found on Hartt’s Director oxfords makes them a perfect choice for formal occasions. Brogues and wingtips are also popular toe styles for quality calfskin shoes. The intricate brogueing on the Brunswick oxford and the wingtip toe box on the York oxford offer a stylish alternative while making the shoes a touch less formal. 

There’s a reason that calfskin is the most common and traditional material used in men’s shoemaking. It’s a classic and timeless material that is uniquely suited to creating beautiful and long-lasting shoes and boots. If there’s any pair of shoes that every gentleman should have in his collection, a classic pair of calfskin dress shoes would be it.

Cordovan

Cordovan, while similar in appearance to leather, is actually a fibrous membrane sourced from horsehide. It offers unique properties making it exceptionally durable and allowing it to easily achieve a high gloss finish coveted by many shoe aficionados. A well-cared-for pair of cordovans can last a lifetime. Cordovan dress shoes only come in darker browns, black, and burgundies making them a good choice for more formal wear. In addition, a mirror gloss shine is easily achieved on cordovans, a popular look for formal footwear. Cordovan shoes can also work well in casual settings, with loafers and boots being two styles commonly made from Cordovan. 

Exotics

Exotic leathers such as crocodile, snakeskin, and ostrich leathers all feature in men’s shoemaking. Due to the difficulty of sourcing these leathers, exotic leathers are often expensive and used to create more luxury shoes. We take care to ensure that all of our exotic skins are compliant with CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).

Incorporating these into your wardrobe is a great way to add some edge and personality to your style. However, exotic leathers are best reserved for formal and important occasions. When paired with a tuxedo or suit, Hartt’s Black Python loafers bring a sense of luxury and confidence to your style. Exotic leather shoes are the last word in luxury and the perfect choice for a dashing formal look.

Suede/Nubuck

Suede and nubuck finishes make great additions to any gentleman’s casual footwear wardrobe. Their soft textured surface adds a touch of casual style to any outfit. Due to their more relaxed look, suede and nubuck shoes are best avoided in more formal outfits. Their unique textured surface should be kept away from moisture, making them more suitable for summer wearing. The Aberdeen loafer in chocolate is an excellent summer shoe that is sure to bring an element of class to any warmer weather outfits.

Textiles 

Textiles are another material being incorporated into men’s footwear designs with increasing regularity and style. Flannels and wools add an interesting element to men’s shoes and boots, giving them a distinctive look. Their inclusion reduces the formality of the shoe, making them excellent pairings in smart casual, and relaxed looks. The Fred boot incorporates a flannel accent piece, giving them a stylish look. They pair brilliantly with jeans or chinos for a sophisticated casual outfit. 


Great style doesn’t always have to be traditional, and the variety of different leathers and materials used in gentleman's shoe making offers some great options to change things up. Learning a few tips and tricks on how and when to wear different styles, will keep you confident in your choices. Now don’t be afraid to go and experiment!

November 25, 2020 — Adriana Spragg