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Q&A: I'm on a budget. What smart shoes should I buy?

Q&A: I'm on a budget. What smart shoes should I buy?

"If you’re only able to buy one pair of smart shoes, make it brogues," advises Thread senior stylist Millie Rich. "Brogues go with everything from suits to jeans—a greater variety of clothes than any other style of dress shoe."

If you're on a budget, Millie advises investing a bit more to buy a pair that looks high-quality and will last for more than a few months. "You can get a nice-looking pair from Hudson or Peter Werth for around £85," says Millie. "I reckon they'll last two years or more if you wear them on average of a week ... and that's only 81p per wear." 

Here are the things you should look for when shopping for an affordable pair of brogues. 

Photographed: Hudson brogues (£85)

  1. Toe the shape of the wide end of an almond. "This is the conventional brogue shape. Because it's more round than pointy, it means the shoes work equally well casually and formally."
  2. Leather upper. "Leather lasts longer, and looks nicer, than anything synthetic."
  3. Light-brown colour. "Tan brogues go well with jeans, any colour chinos, and navy suits."
  4. Leather sole. "A leather sole looks smart and refined. These shoes' subtle rubber heel caps might not be as classic as a wooden heel, but they help the shoes last longer. Thin leather soles are the most traditional, but I like thicker soles, too, because they're comfortable and slightly more casual."
  5. Waxed laces. "Waxed laces keep their shape better—and look sharp for longer—than cotton laces. If yours don't come with waxed laces, you can pick them up for a few pounds at a shoe repair shop."
  6. Clean punching and stitching. "Clear-cut punching is key in brogues. Zoom in on photos to check that the holes and stitching are neat and precise, not messy. Also, make sure the punching isn't in elaborate swirls or curlicues."
  7. Welt stitching. "This durable stitching holds the shoe firmly together, and is one of the features that makes brogues brogues."