Male Call — Casual shoes with slacks and a shirt

Q. I have sent you a question on suits before and thank you for a fine answer. My new question is this: Are there any casual shoes (we used to call them tennis shoes) that are suitable for wearing with a nice pair of slacks and a shirt? I always wear a dress shoe. 
A. I can’t remember a time in fashion when a man had more options with his choice of almost-dress shoes. Everything, from the new wildly-popular dressy sneaker to the more standard desert boots, boat shoes, driving moccasins, and loafers, offers an alternative to pairing dress slacks and shirt with ratty, or not-so-ratty, sneakers. 
All the big name shoe companies, especially such Italian designers as Armani and Ferragamo, are making versions of a dressy sneaker/shoe in dark colors. Tom Ford makes a low-cut sneaker with a sneaker bottom and leather upper; Cole Haan makes a variety of styles; Allen Edmonds makes a handsome trainer in woven leather, pebble-grain leather, and in several sophisticated shades of suede, all with rubber bottoms. When I asked one manufacturer just what makes them different from a standard sneaker and whether others would even recognize that they were not the same, he answered: “The look is different. When you see it, it is apparent that they were not meant to play basketball in.”
Over the years, Sperry/topsider type boat shoes have worked well in a casual setting; so have all manner of slip-on loafers. But today a dressy sneaker is a more modern look. It can move your whole look up a stylish notch. What do you look for so the shoe qualifies as a dressy sneaker? It is leather, has a rounded toe, a flatter bottom, and the price often reflects a big difference. 
If you were not comfortable with topsiders or tennis shoes, you still have degrees of formality among shoes. Keep in mind that there are dress shoes, and then there are dress shoes. You would not want to wear the dressiest of shoes, a wingtip, with a casual outfit. But a less formal dress shoe, such as a cap-toe, could work with a smart casual combination. The traditional horse-bit loafers (Gucci-type) are an ongoing part of Italian styling. Driving moccasins, plain loafers, and other comfortable shoes are still “in.” Even so, since you wrote that you usually wear a dress shoe, you must be looking for something that is a clear departure – something more current. That is where the leather or suede upper with a sneaker bottom comes in. 
A salesman in an upscale men’s shoe store told me: “We have more suede derby lace-ups, sort of a cross between a sneaker and a low-cut desert boot, than ever before, as well as suede loafers.” If you are wondering about suede for summer, many are designed for warm weather wear. Lightweight suede slip-ons and lace-ups have become seasonal spring/summer shoes. With a pair of the newer sneakers that look like dress shoes, you are blending into the recent resurgence of sneaker culture where styles are getting sleeker every day. Good for casual-business wear, for casual-social wear, and for travel, these are quite different from a chunky pair of athletic sneakers. With their rubber soles in a contrasting color from the leather uppers, you can wear them for their comfort and at the same time, enjoy them for their fashionable appeal. You should note that sometimes just adding color can upgrade an actual sneaker to a dressier look. Paul Stuart stocks quality sneakers in six stylish colors.
The fact that Paul Stuart carries them gives you a sense of just how much they have crossed over into the well dressed man’s closet, and why even somewhat traditionalists – including myself –recognize that dress sneakers present a polished casual daywear look. They can go with shorts or jeans during the day or with your nice slacks and shirt at any time. Some say they also go with a suit in the evening for events like a wedding, a dressy party, or a nice dinner out, but I do not agree. The look is too informal for such occasions and wearing them in such inappropriate ways takes away any appearance of “cool” that you have established by choosing them in the first place.
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