Strap Up: Your Guide To The Monk Life

Now’s as good a time as any to start thinking outside the box when it comes to your dress shoes. There’s a wealth of footwear options that will keep you looking just as sharp, if not sharper, in times when a more formal outfit is necessary. Sure, a clean, classic captoe is always going to be a killer go-to, and a versatile wingtip can play many roles, both casual and dressy, in your wardrobe. What’s the next step you may ask? Joining the monk life.

Monk strap shoes, in both single and double varieties, have become the new go-to shoe when you’re looking to expand your footwear into next-level status. To get you prepped and ready, let’s dive into both the history and evolution of this unique shoe, as well as explore a few ways in which you can seamlessly incorporate them into the fold of your own shoe collection.

A Brief History
There’s a bit of debate as to when and where the monk strap first took shape. Some say that its origins start in the Swiss Alps, where a 15th-century monk altered a pair of sandals to suit his active, now swag-filled lifestyle. Others swear that it got its start in England. Regardless of the particulars, the monk strap became a registered design among cobblers around the turn of the 20th century, with documented historical references dating back nearly two centuries ago.

Single or Double?
There’s some debate as to whether a double monk strap offers more support than its single-strapped predecessor. Traditionally, the single strap was the shoe of choice simply because it was the only option available for some time. Once the double strap was finally invented, personal preferences shifted for some. Over time though, designers have taken creative liberties with the overall look of the monk strap to incorporate everything from three or even four straps, to buckles made out of expensive materials, like gold and platinum.

Most modern gentlemen, though, opt for a simple, black or brown leather option, featuring one or two cutaway straps. Suede and pebbled leather options can also add versatility and style with more casual applications. Generally, because monk straps are something of a statement piece on their own, adding any extra bells and whistles could draw unnecessary attention your way. So, we say, keep it low-pro.

Monk Strap Style, Three Ways
Granted, there are a host of different ways to wear monk straps that cover the entire spectrum, from weekday casual to holiday formal. Here are three specific ways, though, that you should try ASAP this season:

Blue Suede Cool
Sure, a leather monk is always an excellent choice, but don't sleep on suede. Find a nice pair in a rich shade of brown or tan and rock them with crisp, dark jeans, chnios, or a complimentary suit for an unbeatable look.

Draw First Blood
Monk straps are a cool, yet unusual, shoe. This means you can get a little creative with the colorways. Oxblood (a fancy name for dark burgundy) is a great way to give your newly acquired footwear some personality. Pair them with a suit in a bold windowpane pattern, and see if it doesn’t immediately improve your quality of life.

Get Booted
There’s a growing collection of monk strap boots that are slowly making their way onto the scene lately. We recommend investing in a pair of these only after you’ve graduated from staple options, like desert or Chelsea boots. Once you do, wear a pair of monk boots in place of a boot you’d normally wear, and gain a few extra style points.

A Word on Proper Shoe Care
Monks are designed to fit a little snugger than your average shoe, so invest in a shoehorn as soon as you settle on a pair. It will preserve the shape and condition of your shoes and keep you from having to struggle with slipping them on and removing them. Grab a travel-sized to use both at home and on the road.  If you invested in a suede pair, get a suede brush or block to keep them scuff and scratch free.  Leather pairs can be treated just as you would any standard dress shoe with regular polishings.  Need more tips on care? Check out our Dress Smarter Shoe Guide video Fundamentals and Care.

Monk straps are a happy medium between the casualness of a slip-on or loafer and the rigidity of a dressier wingtip or oxford. Although wearing them properly does require a little bit of finesse, they’re still accessible enough the incorporate into your shoe collection without feeling like you’re trying too hard. So what are you waiting for? Strap up!