You are likely on this page because the shoelaces your dress shoes came with snapped, and you’ve just realized that you’d never figured out how to lace your own shoes. However, the function of shoelaces (also known as “shoestrings“) extend far beyond keeping your footwear secure, they’re also one of the quickest, easiest, and economical way of change the look and feel of your shoes (and outfit)! Lacing your own shoes is definitely a skill worth learning.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- How to lace different styles of dress shoes.
- Identifying quality shoelaces (so they don’t snap again!).
- Introducing versatility into your outfit with shoelaces.
How to lace oxford shoes (straight lacing)
There are 2 main categories of shoes – oxfords and derbies, which are differentiated by their lacing systems. The oxford shoe, or blucher, is the more formal of the two. It utilizes a closed lacing system, which is when the vamp of the shoe is sewn to the quarters so that the entire shoe upper feels like one continuous piece, such as in the brown shoe below.
Being a formal shoe, oxfords should only be “straight-laced” to preserve its clean, neat look. Straight lacing appears horizontal and parallel when viewed from the exterior, such as in the picture below:
How to straight lace shoes
The method outlined in our diagrams below is the best way to straight lace oxford shoes. It is easy to tighten, and also provides even tension on both sides of the vamp. It is important to note that straight-lacing oxford shoes with even and odd numbers of eyelet pairs are slightly different from each other, and that you refer to the correct infographic below.
How to lace derby shoes (criss-cross lacing)
On the other hand, we have the slightly less formal derby shoe, also known as a balmoral. It utilizes an open lacing system which is when the vamp is not sewn into the quarters, such that the vamp forms 2 separate leather flaps over the main shoe body.
Derbies can be criss-cross laced, which is similar to how sneakers and sports shoes are laced.
How to criss-cross lace shoes
Criss-cross lacing should be familiar to you, unless you’ve spent all your life in hideous velcro shoes and their ear-splitting snapping noises (congratulations for moving on)!
How do I choose shoelaces?
Waxed cotton shoelaces for dress shoes
The best shoe laces are made from premium cotton and finished with a layer of wax. Cotton shoelaces are classy and refined, and the wax layer provides it with water resistance as well as friction so that your shoes stay tied. High quality shoelaces are usually thinner as the material used has higher tensile strength.
Never use polyester shoe laces on dress shoes as it takes away from the formality and ruins the classy look.
Shoe lace length
For dress shoes with 3-6 pairs of eyelets, an 80cm (32″) shoelace is the perfect length. Shoes with more pairs of eyelets or wider spacing between eyelets may require slightly longer shoelaces between 90cm (35″) and 100cm (39″).
Flat VS Round shoelaces
All formal shoes should only use thin, round shoelaces, in line with it’s clean, streamlined profile. Flat shoelaces are bolder, and can be used to introduce character and energy to your footwear, especially when paired with bolder colours.
In this section, we’re going to use a little colour science. We’ll be utilizing what is known as a colour wheel, which is a diagram that designers use to create colour schemes.
For the most formal shoes, you should use shoelaces of a similar shade to your shoe leather. Formal profiles favour subtlety, focusing attention instead on finer details like the craftsmanship of your shoes.
Give your footwear a little life without taking away from the rest of your outfit by pairing monochromatic colours, which are lighter/darker shades of the same colour.
Complementary colours are essentially colours that are directly opposite on the colour wheel. They create strong contrast while still looking in place with each other. Complementary colours are lively and bold, and can be used to make your shoes the center of your outfit.
In this example, we have red-accented shoes with green laces. Fun!