The World’s Best Shoes

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The World’s Best Shoes

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Marius W Hansen | Styling by Ms Sophie Hardcastle

30 September 2015

MR PORTER leads the way as the destination of choice for the best range of footwear on the planet.

Nothing says more about you than your shoes. Not the cut of your suit, the knot of your tie or the turn-ups on your selvedge denim jeans – not even your watch. A good-quality, well-maintained pair of shoes is the absolute, unshakeable foundation upon which all else is built. That’s why we’ve made it our priority to turn MR PORTER into a destination for the very best shoes in every category.

Where else but here would you be able to find a veritable Murderers’ Row of cobblers – Berluti, Edward Green, John Lobb and George Cleverley, to name but a few – alongside the latest limited-edition designer collaborations from Nike and adidas? If shoes were people, who wouldn’t want to frequent an establishment where exquisite velvet loafers from Rubinacci mingled unapologetically with hefty worker boots from Red Wing Shoes and Viberg?

Read on as we whet your appetite with just a small faction of the footwear available now, and make sure to check out our feature, Eight Shoes Every Man Should Own for a more detailed guide on the ultimate pairs to kick off your collection.


From their humble sporting origins, sneakers have gone on to achieve world domination. And they’re no longer just a casual weekend shoe: these smart low-top sneakers from Givenchy would work just as well with a slim-fit suit as they would with denim – assuming, of course, that you’re able to keep them in pristine condition. There is perhaps no better illustration of the sheer breadth of shoes available on MR PORTER than in our sneaker offering, which runs the gamut from classic Converse Chuck Taylors and Vans to the latest high-fashion sneakers from the likes of Balenciaga, Rick Owens and Balmain.

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Shown here are a pair of Oxford shoes crafted by illustrious London cobblers George Cleverley for MR PORTER’s exclusive Kingsman range, which is inspired by the film of the same name. Traditionally regarded as the first pair of shoes a man should buy, Oxfords represent the pinnacle of formality. But they can also be more relaxed, as in the case of the supple, unstructured ones made by the Tuscan leather specialist Guidi, or the hand-finished and burnished pairs from fellow Italian brand Officine Creative. Oxford shoes that are cut from a single piece of leather are an especially refined choice, so look to brands such as Berluti and J.M. Weston for the best examples. And no shoe wardrobe is complete without a pair of patent-leather Oxfords – the classic finishing touch to evening wear.

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You can tell a Derby, as opposed to an Oxford, by the fact that its eyelet tabs – the bits to which the laces are attached – are stitched onto the outside of the shoe. (Regular readers of The Journal: we’re really sorry to keep going on about this.) It may seem like a small difference, but the tabs give Derbies a unique utilitarian look, and it has found favour with many of the more fashion-forward menswear designers, such as Marni and Raf Simons. WANT Les Essentiels de la Vie also has an excellent version this season, shown above. However, Derbies can also be classic, and there’s perhaps no better example than Edward Green’s iconic “Dover” model.

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The word “brogue” refers to any leather lace-up shoes with decorative perforations. It does not refer to the construction of the shoes themself. As such, brogues can be Oxfords or Derbies. This particular pair, from Northampton cobblers John Lobb, is a Derby, but Oxford brogues are just as popular. Grenson makes a number of fine examples, many of which are available on MR PORTER.

Brogues can also be divided into subcategories, depending on how extensively perforated they are. The subtle “quarter brogues” only have perforations along the seam of the toecaps, while the “semi brogues” – a style first attributed to John Lobb – have added perforations on the toecaps themself. The “full brogues” are decorated in the manner seen above, with the defining feature of extended W-shaped toecaps, from which they gets their nickname: the “wingtips”.

And as if that weren’t complicated enough, there are a number of further variations: the “longwing brogues”, for instance, are wingtips where the toecap extends all of the way around the shoe. (This style is a particular favourite of New York-based designer Thom Browne.) Needless to say, this all adds up to a lot of brogues. You can find examples of all of them on MR PORTER.

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They’re synonymous with rakish, rock’n’roll style – in suede, they’re the natural partner to a pair of ripped skinny jeans – but to label these equestrian boots a one-trick pony would be to sell them short. In Australia, they’re quintessential work shoes, as they are valued for their sturdiness, and Adelaide brand R.M. Williams makes some of the best. This pair from Church’s is similarly tough.

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While monk-strap shoes fall naturally into one of two categories – the single monk and the double monk, with one or two buckles, respectively – there’s still plenty of scope for variety with these type of shoes, which we like to think of as an anti-establishment alternative to the classic Oxfords. The model seen here – John Lobb’s “William” double monk – is by no means a play-it-safe option, but in black leather, with a simple stitched toecap, they're certainly at the less adventurous end of the spectrum. The rakish man about town might decide to plump for the oxblood leather or chocolate-brown suede versions instead and, for the bold, there’s O’Keeffe’s “Algy” pair, which is punctuated with brogue detailing and has a beautiful, burnished finish.

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Loafers are inherently less formal shoes than their laced- and buckled-up brethren, but they still pack a stylish punch. The pair you’re looking at here is made by Saint Laurent, and is a fairly classic (if glossy) take on penny loafers – a style that first caught on in the middle of the 20th century, when they became part of the Ivy League look that spread across the campuses of elite US universities. But loafers have evolved since then and there are now plenty of other styles on the market. The iconic Gucci “horsebit” loafers are one – look out for the slipper version; a key shoe for autumn 2015 – and tasselled loafers are another, with Tom Ford and O’Keeffe both making excellent versions, so there are plenty of reasons to lose the lace-ups.

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Like complex automatic watches, driving shoes are a luxury as there is no real need for them. You don’t need a Rolex to tell the time, and you certainly don’t need special shoes to drive. But it’s this sheer lack of necessity that lends them an air of extravagance and makes them so desirable. The most covetable driving shoes are the iconic “Gomminos” from Tod's, named after the 133 rubber “pebbles”, or gommini, embedded in the sole. They're particularly luxurious in suede, as seen above, but they are also available in nubuck and full-grain leather, and in a wide variety of different colours. In fact, a recent search for “gommino” on MR PORTER returned no fewer than 37 results. Just take your pick.

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Nike’s innovative “Flyknit” sneakers were a huge crossover hit, becoming quickly and enthusiastically embraced by the style crowd when they debuted a few years ago. Despite their popularity as a casual sneaker, though, they remain running shoes through and through. This version is a part of Nike’s FREE range, which is designed to mimic the feel of barefoot running. Those looking for more of a specialist option might like to try Newton, the long-distance runner’s favourite, made in Boulder, Colorado, or Athletic Propulsion Labs, which was recently banned from the NBA for lending the wearer a “competitive advantage”. That’s the kind of publicity money just can’t buy.

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No holiday wardrobe is complete without a pair of sandals, whether humble Havaianas, classic Birkenstocks or something a little more sophisticated, such as these slick leather sandals from Gucci. And the selection available at MR PORTER runs the gamut: you’ll find sandals to suit all styles, all budgets, and if you take Suicoke’s new shearling sandal into account, all climates, too. Don’t miss Álvaro, a Florentine brand whose vegetable-tanned leather sandals are made entirely by hand, and Teva, the iconic American brand whose sports’ sandals are the perfect marriage of function and form. If you’re the intrepid sort, keep your eyes peeled next spring for what is set to be one of the biggest trends of the season: the triumphant return of socks and sandals, as seen on the runways of Bottega Veneta, Marni and Calvin Klein Collection, to name but a few.

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Film by Mr Jacopo Maria Cinti