I will now describe the various shoes and boots that are suitable to be worn for morning dress (or indeed, formal day wear if one wants to). The main rule is that it must be black (the vamp I mean; though the uppers may be of a different colour; this will be explained later). Brown shoes or boots will not do, nor any other colour under the sun. They must also be well polished to an almost patent-like shine. Dull and scruffy footwear shows that one has not put effort into it. The leather should be box calf. Patent is really for evening wear though they were standard in the past.
Typically, these are the most common sort of footwear for morning dress and are readily available on the high-street as ready-to-wear in a range of different qualities and prices.
Essentially, they have closed-lacing rather than open (as is the case for the Derby and these are not suitable as they are more associated with the Country). There is the option to have one with or without the toe-cap. Sometimes for those with a toe-cap, a fine line of broguing may be added onto the seam. This is acceptable.
Extremely versatile, they can be worn for normal everyday business and also evening wear for those on a tight budget.
These also exist in a form where the uppers are in a contrasting material/colour (see button boots below for more info) but they are not available in a ready-to-wear form. Also called ‘two-tone’ shoes.
Moving up the scale, another less obvious choice is the Chelsea boot.
Typically, it is whole cut with side elastic to make putting them on easier. These are still versatile enough to be worn for everyday wear and can still be bought on the high street.
Now we are entering the more exciting range of boots. The Balmoral boot (or ‘Oxford boot’) is essentially like an Oxford but in boot form. Typically, it has a line of broguing on the toe-cap seam and sometimes around the vamp seam.
They can be made entirely of the same leather but may have the uppers/galoshes in another contrasting material and/or colour. This is often grey suede. The effect is like having spats on but in a more elegant manner.
These are much dressier, especially if you have contrasting uppers. Ordinary ones can be found on high-end shoe shops but the ones with contrasting uppers can only be had as a special order.
The ultimate form of footwear for morning dress is the button boot. These are known by various names, including ‘galosh-top(ped) button boots’, etc.
The pattern is more or less the same as that of the Balmorals but the uppers are not laced and instead button at the side. The uppers are almost always made of contrasting material which include suede, box calf, boxcloth (thick wool felt) and canvas. Colours could be black, grey, yellow/buff, white, etc.
The buttons could be horn, domed-metal, mother-of-pearl, etc. The way these are put on is with a button hook. Some are made with non-working buttons and with a zip at the back; these are to be avoided (if you’re going to spend all that money buying a pair, you might as well get a proper working pair or don’t bother at all).
These boots cannot be bought ready-to-wear and must be made-to-order or via bespoke means making them very rare and elusive.
UPDATE 2014: You can now order the button boots from several sources, including Alder Shoes of the UK and Skoaktiebolaget of Sweden made by Enzo Bonafé. They are, of course, rather expensive compared to normal boots.
Other sorts of shoes worth considering
Other kinds of plain ankle boots
Inappropriate shoes for morning dress
Monks (the ones that have buckles)
Norwegian (with a fringe at the front)
Half and full brogue shoes
Shoes in any colour other than black
Suede (i.e. the whole shoe, not just the galosh), reptile skin, etc shoes (only plain calf or cordovan is appropriate)
Riding boots, wellies, etc
Shoes with extra seaming going round the toe area, etc.
Notes on evening shoes
The above shoes could be used for evening wear provided they are of patent leather (yes, even the button boots!) Of course, with the Balmorals and button boots, the uppers should be of a dark colour (such as grey, black of midnight blue) and for the button boots, the buttons should be dark domed-metal or covered in black silk.
Another good idea is to get satin/silk ribbon laces for Oxfords and the like which will mark it out as different from a day shoe.
Your average Oxford and Chelsea boots can be easily obtained through high-street or high-end retailers. The customised Balmorals and bespoke button boots may be obtained from the bespoke shoe/bootmakers which includes:
John Lobb, St James’s Street, London (bespoke)
Henry Maxwell, Jermyn Street, London (bespoke)
G. J. Cleverley, Royal Arcade, London (bespoke)
Gaziano & Girling, Kettering and Norwich (bespoke)
Rakuten, Japan (does a line of button boots for around £570, MTO in standard sizes)
Justin Fitzpatrick, c/o Gieves & Hawkes, Savile Row, London (RTW, MTO, etc as well as selling satin ribbon and flat woven laces)