I don’t know about you, but I’m deeply skeptical of anything that’s not been handmade in Northampton from a joyously supple piece of oak-bark tanned calfskin, unashamed shoe snob that I am.
Nevertheless, there’s a growing menswear demand for vegan footwear among stylish men – and not just sneakers either. While brands like Veja and Yatay have created serious demand for ethically-produced casual shoes, Marks & Spencer’s recent foray into fake-leather shoes – both formal and casual – signals that vegan footwear is finally moving into mainstream fashion.
Moreover, vegan shoes seem to be finding their feet (s’cuse the pun) aesthetically too; certainly, Marks & Spencer’s classic white sneakers in vegan leather are as clean and crisp as any other sneakers out there right now. If you’re after something a little smarter, a raft of forward-thinking vegan footwear brands are providing stylish solutions here too. Read on for five pairs of formal shoesthat have caught our eye.
Dr Martens derby shoes
Dr Martens is the first of the age-old heritage shoemakers to cotton-on to the demand for high quality vegan footwear, and these chunky Derby shoes mix the brand’s signature looks with innovative use of materials. The cherry red high-shine vegan leather is mixed with DM’s unmistakable grooved welts, yellow contrast stitching and oversized air-cushioned soles. These look the part paired with jeans or wide-leg chinos and rugged workwear jackets.
NAK ‘Julien’ Chelsea boots
NAK stands for ‘no animal killed’, a direct sales pitch if ever there was one. While not perfect, its shoes do offer a smart, contemporary look. These Chelsea boots are made with clean lines in smart matte black vegan leather and chunky natural rubber soles; you could wear them comfortably with everything from a grey flannel suit to (faux) suede bomber. We could do without the incongruous cyan rubber strip running through the heel blocks, but these remain a versatile pair of boots nevertheless.
Bourgeois Boheme Oxfords
You might not be bourgeois or a bohemian, but thanks to this brand you can at least wear a pair of bourgeois bohemian shoes. Effervescent choice of name aside, these are a good looking pair of Oxfords. Designed in the classic style with plain toe caps, an inset U-shaped throat and ‘closed’ Oxford lacing system, these are every bit as polished as you’ll hope they’ll be. They’re set on robust welted soles for a classic British look, and paired with a polished grey flannel suit, we think you’ll struggle to spot the difference between a pair of your finest calfskin brogues.
Ahimsa derby work boots
These boots tick a lot of style boxes. A vegan take on classic mid-century brogue boots, they’re designed with chunky lasts and almond shaped toes, complemented by punched wingtips and brushed-metal speed hooks. Sitting seamlessly across the smart/casual boundary, they’re easy to dress up or down as the mood takes you; and in a rich shade of cognac they’ll look sharp with just about anything you care to put them with. Chunky rubber soles complete the rugged aesthetic.
Nae ‘Austin’ penny loafers
Now, these are smart find; well-proportioned, polished black penny loafers. Classic, crisp and unfussy. Nae, more than some of the other vegan brands we’ve investigated seems to have got the formal vegan shoe memo spot on, with sleek designs and ethically sourced materials that really do stand up to comparison with the real deal. You can find the Austin loafer in dark brown and burgundy colours too. Snap up a pair in each colour and that’s your working wardrobe sorted for shoes.