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Men's Dress Sandals


Men's Dress Sandals - A Rare Beast

Why Would Anyone Wear Closed Shoes Rather Than Sandals?

Sandals have a bad name.  They evoke someone unwilling to do hard work or at the very least unwilling to endure the discomfort expected of good hard-working men.  I strongly disagree with that thinking and have made a life-long quest to find or make shoes-with-holes-in-them - otherwise known as sandals.

I am certainly not advocating wearing the ugly abominations that are passed off as appropriate footwear like thongs and beach sandals.  The sandals I'm thinking of are barely discernible from ordinary Men's dress shoes.  Every year during my summer-season sandal-shopping endeavor I am amazed that so few of that type of shoe exists.

Below are pictures of my collection of such shoes and some descriptions, praises and prose.  Some are very old and seem to be irreplaceable.  I will even show you the most comfortable shoe ever made and the most subversive shoe.

My basic specification for a sandal-shoe

  • closed toe
  • closed heel but with breathing holes
  • no 'sidewalk' (footpath) meaning no visible stitching around the edge
  • an actual heel (rather than a molded, one-piece wedge-shaped sole)
  • a leather sole
  • no protruding decorations on the top of the instep

The leather sole is necessary to make an electrical connection to the earth.  The ancient Taoists felt that was important and I do too.

To add to the conspiracy of uncomfortable men's feet, even if one does chance upon a decent sandal-shoe meeting most of the above specification, there is an annoying rule that "you can't wear socks with sandals".  Rubbish.  Granted there are some sandals that when combined with certain colors of socks presents a most ungainly look.  However, tasteful shoe-like sandals with good quality, fine-woven, black cotton socks will offend no-one.

And while I'm on the subject of socks.  The Australian company Holeproof claims to have done a computer simulation of socks to determine why they fall down.  It turns out that the very elastic meant to hold the sock up, the uncomfortable elastic at the top, is exactly what forces the sock down.  A perfect irony.  As a result Holeproof created a line of socks called, 'Computer Socks' which have some elastic around the ankle area but a decreasing amount toward the top.  Embarrassing name aside, they work perfectly - a miracle of comfort and function.  They can't fall down, ever.  One is hardly aware of having them on.

If you should chance upon a rare and priceless pair of dress sandals make sure to buy a fresh pair of shoe trees and a cotton shoe bag to preserve them.  Always wear them with socks to protect your feet and your sandals.

Allow me to humbly present my collection of sandal-shoes.

Bally hand woven dyed black
The Last Hand-Woven Kid-Leather Bally Dress Sandal

The fine shoe company, Bally, used make a model call 'Marceau' - hand-woven kid-leather wonders.  They were discontinued a decade ago for two reasons: 1. the micro-thin woven kid leather is delicate, rips easily and can't be repaired and 2. they were too labor-intensive to make at a price people would pay.  At least that's what Bally told me.  The Marceau was the first sandal-shoe I ever owned.  I felt that I had found the love of my life.  I used to buy a new pair every year for $500.  When I discovered, horrified that they had been discontinued I bought every pair I could find, at great expense.  In the end, I even bought brown ones and hand-dyed them black.  The one pictured is likely the last pair on earth.  There is not a more comfortable business sandal.  I don't wear them much any more but my affection for their old-world craftsmanship remains.

The Marceau is almost unbelievably light.  And they make no sound whatsoever when you walk in them.  Two features accomplish the silence.  The sole leather is soft, flexible and springy (and doesn't last long).  The heel, while leather on the outside, has a rubber section hidden inside.  They are poetry.

The elegant elastisized slip-on setup is convenient and stays on the foot perfectly and comfortably.  I would swear they were custom made for my foot.  Wearing them one day, I won an impromptu 100-meter race against a younger, fit opponent wearing track shoes.

Also notice that they have no unecessary junk above the instep that might catch trouser bottoms.  One's microfibre woolen trousers always look perfectly tailored when wearing these wonderful sandals.

What monster-genius of design was able to marshall all those features into one shoe and implement them so perfectly?

A More Modern Bally

Stiffer, noisier, heavier, less comfortable and, being lace-ups, less convenient than their kid, hand-woven predecessors, I bought them mostly out of nostalgia and remorse of the passing of their glorious predecessors.  Still, not a bad shoe

Modern Bally sandal
The Most Subversive Sandal

What is the most conservative shoe?  The Wing Tip.  What is the most unconservative shoe?  The Sandal.  I have made the world's most subversive shoe.  I bought a standard Florsheim Wing Tip and turned it into a Sandal.  Now I can wear sandals in even the most dour of business environments.  Its an undertakers shoe for hippies.  How did I accomplish this subversive act?  I noticed that Wing Tips have about 150 little decorative holes all over the shoe.  Of course the holes don't go through the inner layer of leather - that would make them too comfortable.  That would allow men's feet to breathe during the day when they are supposed to be uncomfortable.  Oh no, there are no holes in Wing Tips.  The are not hippy shoes.

Well.  The Florsheim Wing Tips have fake holes of two sizes.  I measured them precisely and ordered corresponding leather punches from the hardware store.  I sacrificed a pair of cedar shoe trees for support and proceeded to punch 300 holes in these shoes over a few days.

It was labor-intensive but worked well.  The first punch is the hardest.  They are reasonably cool and with black socks, no-one would notice that they are sandals.  When I wear them with a nice suit and tie I can hardly keep from laughing out loud.

Wing Tip hole punch
The World's Most Comfortable Shoe

Please forgive me for including a picture of such an old shoe.  These sandals are over 15 years old and I have worn them nearly every day.  Nowadays I only wear them in the evening or when I'm home during the day and don't expect visitors.  They are too dilapidated to appear in public any more.  They are so broken down that one shoe repair person refused to repair them any more.  I have now found a sympathetic repairer, a delightful character known as Pete the Pom, who has promised to repair them for as long as he lives and has suggested that when his kids leave home he will make me a new pair.  I always wear socks with them and am not really aware of them being on my feet.  I am wearing them right now, I think.  They have leather soles so I am electrically connected to the earth.  They seem not to actually touch my feet but somehow stay on perfectly.  I love these old shoes.  I treat them like a treasured child.

most comfortable sandal front,most comfortable shoe back
maybe the world's most comfortable shoe.
Cheap But OK

I am on a constant quest for Men's Dress Sandals.  I know exactly what I am looking for.  As stated above: closed toe, closed heel (but with ventilation) etc.  If I see a sandal-shoe that meets more than half of my specifications I buy it no matter what the cost.  In this case I got off easy at about $30.  They're not so attractive and they're made of plastic but they have their uses.

cheap kmart sandal
Other Dress Sandals

Here are some other dress sandals in my collection.  When you see a picture of these shoes they look like the most natural shoe in the world.  But shoes like this are nearly impossible to find.  I see one maybe once every three to five years.  Why?  They seem so obvious.

GNV sandal
joseph dress sandal
Shiny brown dress sandal
black shiny low heeled sandal
Saramanoa Dress Sandal
More Casual Sandals
saramanoa black
Nova Club Sandal
old rivers sandal
mathers shoe


Yes, It Is A Women's Sandal

On one occasion, out of desperation, after a multi-year sandal-drought, I found a large-size women's sandal that mostly met my specifications in the beautiful beach suburb of Manly, near Sydney.  It was made of kid leather and was almost unbelievably cool and comfortable.  It had a leather sole and a perfectly-proportioned heel.  The shop assitant said it was their best seller among mature women.  There wasn't much change from $300.  The downsides were that it was toeless and made a sort of bright thud sound when walking.  I ignored the thud and camouflaged the toelessness with black socks that more or less matched the texture of the matt kid-leather.  I was happy and comfortable.

Call me overly sensitive but while doing some on-site work for a client one day, I noticed one of their employees staring at my foot.  After that I found myself wearing them less and less.  Well, that, and the fact that the sandals seemed to cause concern for my (female) partner.  I still have them, safe in their cotton shoe bags and gently enveloping fresh cedar shoe trees.  They may yet rise again to glory.

A Sandal-Shopping Time Warp

Hopefully I've piqued your interest in finding a nice pair of dress sandals.  However, there is a final piece to the puzzle.  Shoe shop staff are embarassed about the dearth of sandals, and rightly so.  So, they will lie about stock.  Before a certain date they will say, "we are waiting for summer stock".  After a certain date they will say, "we are sold out of sandals".  To me, the two dates always seemed to be the very same day, or worse, that they were sold out before any sandals ever arrived.

I am a calm person but The Lie sometimes made me angry, especially during a severe sandal-drought.  I decided to observe the shop staffs' exact behavior across many shoe shops and log it over several years.  I have concluded that the time period between the two dates is only a few weeks which gives a very small window each year for sandal-shopping.  In the Southern Hemisphere, the window is the last three weeks of September.  In the Northern Hemisphere, its the last three weeks of March.  During those periods you can be sure that any shop that is ever going to have dress sandals will have them.  And you needn't quietly suffer the indignity of The Time-Warp Lie.

Now, I set an alarm in the calendering program I use to remind me each year of sandal-shopping time.  When presented with The Lie, I often say, "If you don't have men's dress sandals now I doubt that you ever will.  Would you be so kind as to ask your purchasing officer to begin searching for some nice, black men's dress sandals for next year?"


I have presented my collection of sandal-shoes to give other men hope that, with vigilence and persistence, one can find (or even make) dress sandals for work and casual sandals for play and thereby have cool, comfortable, healthy, happy, beautiful feet.


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