A concise history of monk strap shoes

The buckled monk strap shoe has become a hallmark of a fashion-forward, but still classically-inclined sartorialist. As opposed to the unfortunate square-toed, shiny-buckled versions of the 1990s and early aughties, today’s monk strap shoes are sleek, subtle and worn by scores of dapper Pitti-goers and regular style-conscious men alike.

These days, despite moderately widespread popularity the monk strap is considered a more sartorially bold shoe choice, but that wasn’t always the case.

In fact, monk straps were originally embraced by their namesake monks in Europe centuries ago for far more practical reasons. The shoe style actually evolved as a closed-toe version of a traditional sandal by monks looking for more protective footwear.

monk strap shoes history

Over time, the shoe was picked up by the general public as an alternative dress shoe style. While traditionally found with a cap toe as a nod to the durability desired by monks in their original design, you can now find plain-toes, brogues, and even boots.

In so many ways, the monk strap is a balance of two choices.

As far as construction goes, it’s halfway between an oxford and a loafer. It’s a slip on, like a loafer, but includes a tongue or vamp like a closed shoe. Instead of laces, monks have their characteristic buckles – usually one or two, but sometimes as many as three. One buckle is often seen as more formal due to the cleaner lines, but two is the most popular design by far.

monk strap shoes history

As far as style goes, the monk again walks a balance, this time between formal and casual. They are definitively more casual than an oxford shoe, but usually considered dressier than other loafers or even derby styles. Men originally struggled with the monk strap shoe’s middle-of-the-road style, feeling too informal for a suit but too dressy for casual attire.

More recently, however, monk straps been embraced for this very reason, as men have found that the lack of association lends more to versatility than limitation.

Chocolate Brown Suede Double Monk Strap Shoes - He Spoke Style

Today, it’s just as acceptable to wear a dark, polished monk strap with a business suit as it is to rock a pair with worn-in denim. Either way, wearing a monk strap shoe – whether a single, double, or even triple – is definitely a style statement. But one that’s anchored in tradition.

Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Adam Lehman
He Spoke Style

Photography by Rob McIver Photo


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