The Quest for Classic, Vegan Men’s Shoes

by Joshua Katcher

I am not going to talk about sneakers here.

It’s almost impossible to find really well-made, stylish and classic mens’ shoes and boots that are also vegan. We don’t have a Stella McCartney or a Natalie Portman making amazing shoes for us like they do for the ladies – but clearly, the materials to work with are out there. I’d love to see some men’s 16-eye waxed canvass boots, or a vegetan frye-style boot with reclaimed-wood soles, or a simple, sheik camper-style boot with a thin, subtle sole – so for those of you who work in men’s fashion, spread the word and get to work!

When shopping for shoes, guys, four important things to look for are:

  1. Simplicity: you should strive to appear effortless, like you didn’t try too hard.
  2. Style: is it a trendy throw-away or a classic keeper? Aim for investing in classics, they’ll treat you well.
  3. Craftsmanship: will it fall apart on the third time wearing it? It might cost more, but it will last long.
  4. Impact: who made it, how and where was it made, and are you OK with that? Avoid sweatshops and hazardous materials by doing your homework and reading labels.

Generally speaking, here is a list of materials used to produce faux-leather. Most of these are ‘vegetan’ products which are up to 80% biodegradable. Others are petroleum products, so it might be better than tanning chemicals used in dead animal leather, but still not eco-friendly. Vegetan, hemp and canvass are the ways to go if ecology is your main concern. Why should we be wearing vegan shoes guys? Find out HERE.

One of my biggest complaints about finding good vegan boots is the way they look! Payless fails miserably not only in their labor practices but in the styles of men’s non-leather shoes. Orthotic grandpa shoes and work boots are the general mens’ selection there. It’s a shame, because they have some really nice women’s styles – but again – it’s all made overseas in bad conditions using petro-products or cheap leather. Payless should be a last resort. Personally, and ethically – I would buy vintage or thrift anything before a new Payless product.


I own ”Vegetarian Shoes Airseal Engineers Boot’and the sole is so chunky and ugly that I feel like I just joined a 1996 industrial-goth band.

Vegetarian Shoes Airseal Engineers Boot

I have plans to get the sole replaced by something a bit more sleek. The vegetan micro-fiber is really great, however. It’s sturdy, supple, and it breathes.

As of yet, the best classic men’s shoe I have come across is the classic ‘Dennis Brown’ by NOVACAS.

Dennis Brown, NOVACAS at

The sole is sleek (finally!), the faux suede is supple, and the shoe itself is effortless. This is definitely a versatile basic that looks great with almost anything – tight jeans, suit pants, or sock-less with summer shorts. The ‘Dennis Black’ is also a nice variation .

Dennis Black

If you need a versatile, basic shoe that’ll take you a few seasons into the future, go with this one.

A nice look right now is a tight-fitting pant or jean tucked into a half-laced 16 eye boot (only lace 8 eyes up, and let the tongue hang out. EXAMPLE: Look at the man in the green boots:

From left, John Varvatos jeans with Peal & Company shoes from Brooks Brothers; Cheap Monday stretch jeans with Polo Ralph Lauren deck shoes; Cheap Monday jeans tucked into John Varvatos suede boots; Cloak selvage denim with Converse sneakers; a Tsubi high-waist style with Acne ankle boots.
The leather ones are not veg, but keep these styles in mind.From left, John Varvatos jeans with Peal & Company shoes from Brooks Brothers; Cheap Monday stretch jeans with Polo Ralph Lauren deck shoes; Cheap Monday jeans tucked into John Varvatos suede boots; Cloak selvage denim with Converse sneakers; a Tsubi high-waist style with Acne ankle boots.

Xcap Boot

The best vegan boot I’ve found is the XCap.

The sole is not obnoxious, the faux-patent steel cap is clean and certainly badass – and best of all, this boot was featured in a porno flick, so it might just get you laid. This boot outdoes every other vegan combat-style boot I’ve seen. Oh, and it’s described as ‘macho‘.

Stable Boot

Some of my favorites to keep your eye on from UK’s ‘Vegetarian Shoes’ are the Airseal Stable Boot. The sole is not terrible, but still worth whining just a little about – it’s clear and just not elegant.

Alpha Boot

For you punkish hipsters, check the Alpha Boot. These are slick and understated – just like you, right?


Let’s talk eco-shoes. Most of what I’ve looked at seems so forced and intentionally hippie – or looks like a five-year-olds’ shoe – in size 11. Ecolutions men’s shoes have two of the more appealing eco-vegan shoes I’ve seen.


My two favorites are the Oxford and the Humboldt. They both come in natural and obsidian. Again, my biggest gripe is the ugly sole.

Seriously, people – who is designing these soles?! It’s a conspiracy…

We know what good shoes look like, we know they can be made well – both materially and ethically – and we know there is a demand. Someone can and will make it happen…. but guys, we’re going to have to wait until someone steps up to the plate. Batter up!

Have a question about men’s fashion? Ask me by posting a comment!
Joshua Katcher is an artist and lifestyle-television producer living in Brooklyn.

4 Responses to The Quest for Classic, Vegan Men’s Shoes

  1. Chay says:

    I totally agree about the soles being massive! What is wrong with these people?! I’m getting married in August and I’m deperately trying to find some vegan two tone (co-respondent or spectator) type shoes to wear. Can’t find anything, anywhere!

  2. Niki says:

    Do you know about any dress type shoes in size 16?? We ordered a pair for my husband a couple years ago from ousu in san francisco, but they’re out of business now.


    try here! a great source for vegan men’s shoes and boots in Melbourne, Australia.

  4. BobbyWilde says: has great boots!

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