Up until the age of five or six, the majority of children are too busy sporting shoes with velcro straps to worry about tying shoes with laces. However, by the age of six, most children will have mastered the art of lace tying, with the ever-popular “bunny” method.
From this age onwards, tying laces is just part of everyday life. What once took you several minutes as a five-year-old, now takes you a matter of seconds without having to pay attention to the process. However, when it comes to knowing how to lace a dress shoe, it can often be a far more complex process. There is not just one approach to mastering the process, and the wearer of dress shoes must take into account the type of shoe they own. Oxford dress shoes require a special tying method, whereas knowing how to lace a dress shoe that’s similar in layout to a sneaker can require less effort.
Within this article, we aim to show you how to lace both Oxford dress shoes and standard dress shoes. You will be surprised at how much the process differs.
Oxford dress shoes
Oxford dress shoes are the most elegant type of dress shoe. They are so popular that even the lacing system used to tie them up is commonly known as the “Oxford lace” even if the shoe itself is not an Oxford. Oxford dress shoes consist of two parts: the vamp, and quarters. The vamp covers the toes and instep and makes up the front of the shoe, whereas the quarters wrap around the heel towards the back of the shoe.
Knowing how to lace a dress shoe is very similar to a standard sneaker, but as Oxford shoes adopt the straight bar lace method, it takes a little more effort and know-how to achieve the perfect tie.
Firstly, it’s important to note that the straight bar lace method requires a particular style of lace. A thin round lace, or a thin flat lace, is the best type of lace for this method, and it’s even better if they’re made of waxed cotton. Waxed cotton helps the lace to remain flat and tidy without fraying. Nylon athletic laces are simply no good for lacing a dress shoe.
When you go to start the lacing process, it’s helpful first to count the rows of eyelets. An even number of eyelets means you can start with the laces evenly matched, but if they’re odd (such as having five eyelets instead of six), one lace will need to be longer than the other.
To start, you put the right side of the lace under the bottom eyelet and the left side of the lace through the opposite eyelet. From here, you alternate with the right lace through the second eyelet on the left, then the right, then the left lace through the left eyelet, then the right. Once you get the hang of ensuring the laces are straight rather than crisscrossed, you will have mastered how to lace a dress shoe.
Standard dress shoes
Standard dress shoes, such as brogues or derbies, require a less complex method. They are normally a more standard form of a dress shoe, and therefore, their lacing up process is akin to that of a sneaker. In most cases, it’s referred to as the “crisscross method.” The goal is to have the laces looking like hourglasses, which you can achieve by pulling the laces through each opposite eyelet until the last eyelet is crossed over for the final tie.
Straight bar lace method at a glance: how to tie an Oxford lace shoe
- Put the right-hand side lace under the bottom eyelet
- Put the left-hand side lace over the opposite eyelet
- Thread the right-hand side lace through the second eyelet
- Put the right-hand side lace into the opposite eyelet on the left-hand side
- Put the left-hand side lace through the third eyelet on the left
- Put the left lace through the third eyelet on the right
- Continue the process until you pull all the laces through eyelets in a straight pattern
- Tuck the laces into the shoe at the end
Check out this illustration for a detailed example of how the laces should sit:
(Photo via Menswear Market)
Criss-cross method at a glance: how to lace a dress shoe
- Put the laces through the bottom eyelets
- Pull the right-hand side lace through the second eyelet on the left
- Complete the opposite process on the right side – left lace through the second eyelet on the right
- Put the right-side lace through the bottom eyelet, and the same on the left
- Thread the right lace through the right eyelet – second from the bottom, and the left lace through the left eyelet – second from the bottom
- Repeat until the laces are at the last eyelet and put them through opposite eyelets
Below is an illustration of what this process looks like:
Are you interested in learning more tips about how to buy the appropriate dress shoes, how to wear them stylishly, and more? Check out our guide on signs of a quality men's dress shoe here. If you want to figure out how to pair colorful socks with your brown dress shoes, click here.