How To Lace Dress Shoes

Lacing dress shoes is all about looking good. You might not consider lacing to be super important, especially when you’re spending hundreds on a suit, for example.

However, it’s the small details like lacing that sets you apart from the others at the bar or in the party.

When it comes to choosing a lacing pattern, you need to know what kind of shoe you have. There are two different shoe constructions that will affect the way you lace up your shoes.

Open vs Closed Lacing

Before we look at open vs closed lacing, we need to acquaint ourselves with two terms.

Vamp – The vamp of a shoe is the material that covers the instep and toes. It starts at the front of the shoe and finishes at the middle of the shoe.

Quarter – The quarter of the shoe picks up where the vamp leaves off. It goes from the middle of the shoe to the heel. The quarter wraps around the heel to meet itself at the front of the shoe. The quarter is where the lacing tends to start and finish on dress shoes.

Now, the difference between open and closed laced shoes is all down to how the vamp and the quarter are attached to each other.

Open Lacing

Shoes that have open lacing have the vamp stitched under the quarter. This leaves the ‘flaps’ of the quarters open and free to move.

Open laced shoes are more informal than closed lace shoes. They are not always appropriate for ultra-formal occasions, but they are a great choice for most parties or occasions.

The other great thing about open laced shoes is that they tend to be more comfortable. This is because they allow the upper to stretch and expand further than with closed laced shoes.

Closed Lacing

Closed lace shoes have the quarter stitched under the vamp. This means that the ‘flaps’ are not free to open very much.

These shoes are the more formal option. They’re not technically traditional formal shoes, but they are suitable for most formal occasions.

The general advice is to choose closed lace shoes if you’re only going to have one pair of dress shoes. Closed laced shoes are more functional due to the fact that they can be used for more occasions.

Lacing Styles

As we’ve mentioned, there are some lacing styles that are more suitable for open lacing styles, while others are better for closed laces.

Crisscross Lacing

This is the standard lacing pattern. It is probably the lacing pattern that your shoes came with, and most people don’t tend to mess with it.

If you’re looking to replace your laces, perhaps for a new color, then you’re going to need to learn the crisscross pattern.

The crisscross lacing pattern is suitable for open lacing but not closed lacing.

1.      Start by lacing through both of the bottom eyelets from the top to the bottom. Make sure the laces are even on both sides.

2.      Take the right lace across to the left side and the next available eyelet. Thread the lace from bottom to top of the eyelet.

3.      Take the left lace across to the right side and the next available eyelet. Again, thread from that bottom to the top of the eyelet.

4.      Repeat the above steps, alternating the laces until you get to the top of the eyelets.

Diagonal Lacing

This lacing style is suitable for both open and closed lacing. It is a modern lacing pattern that looks great on all kinds of dress shoes.

You can use this pattern identically on both shoes. This would make the diagonal lines all face the same direction on both shoes.

You could also mirror the pattern so that the diagonal lines face inwards on both shoes.

1.      Thread the lace through the bottom two eyelets. On the right eyelet, you need to thread from top to bottom. On the left eyelet thread, bottom to top.

2.      Take the right lace across to the left and thread the next available eyelet from bottom to top.

3.      Take the left lace across to the right and thread the next available eyelet from top to bottom.

4.      Repeat steps 2 and 3 from until you reach the top of the eyelets.

Straight Bar

This lacing pattern looks super neat and clean. It’s ideal for a simpler look, and it works on both open and closed laced shoes.

1.      Thread both of the bottom eyelets from top to bottom. Make sure that both laces are equal in length.

2.      Take the left lace and thread it through the eyelet directly above. Thread from bottom to the top.

3.      Still with the left lace, take the lace across to the right-hand side and thread it through the next available eyelet. Go from top to bottom in the eyelet.

4.      Take the right-hand lace and thread it from bottom to top through the next available eyelet. Then, take the lace across to the left and thread it top to bottom through the next available eyelet.

5.      Repeat the process of threading up and across to continue the bar pattern.

A Note on Laces

When you’re choosing laces for your dress shoes, you need to make sure that you buy suitable laces. You do not want to use wide, flat athletic laces that you’d use in sneakers. Instead, you’re looking for thin laces, either flat or round.

When it comes to the length, you want to look for 31.5” laces. Laces this length are perfect for 2, 3, 4, and 5 rows of eyelets.

The other thing to look out for in laces is the material. For dress shoes, you want waxed cotton laces. The wax coating protects the material of the shoe and helps to reduce friction on the eyelet holes.

Coarse laces or laces that are too wide will cause wear and tear to the eyelets and eventually ruin the shoe itself.


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