Monk strap shoes - style and attitude

Are Monk strap shoes the cool cousin of mens dress shoes?

Certainly some of the most stylish men we know love monk shoes, single and double buckle.

In this post we look at:

  • How formal or informal is the monk strap?
  • What's the backstory on this classic shoe?
  • What are different options available?
  • What's the best way to style it
  • What is the best colour monk strap for you?

Oxfords with their closed lacings are definitely the formal and and dressy of the dress shoe world.  Open laced derbys and bluchers especially brogues are more  more casual and relaxed.

But just look at those monk straps below.

Thomas Bird tan monks with light blue suit
Photo credit: @matty.filipo wearing Thomas Bird tan monks with light blue suit.

Monkstraps are in that interesting area in the middle, dressy at times but with an edge of daring and fun that seem to say ‘Hey, I’m smart and I’m relaxed’.

They occupy that centre ground with the penny loafer.  Hard to pin down but with a lot of options.

James Bond Monks

The beacon of sartorial elegance himself, James Bond is a fan, maybe just when not with a tux in the casino. Daniel Craig wore black double buckle monkstrap boots in Spectre. Before that the suave Sean Connery wore single buckle suede monks in Diamonds For Ever. When escaping the bad guys on a Honda trike no less. Fans of the original Bond books will know that 007 was not a fan of lace up shoes.

Thomas Bird blue monks with dark blue suit
Photo credit: @dailytouchofclass wears Thomas Bird blue monks and dark blue suit.

So what are monkstrap shoes?

They get their name from having one or two leather straps and metal buckles to fasten them up, rather than traditional laces like their oxford and derby cousins. They can have one or two straps, hence the terms single buckle and double bucklemonks. But which came first?

Thomas Bird conker brown monk straps shoes with mid blue suit
Photo credit: @meeeotch wearing Thomas Bird conker brown monkstraps shoes with mid blue suit.

That name? Why is it called a monk strap?

No-one knows the exact date, but monk shoes have been around for hundreds of years. European monks traditionally wore old school sandals with buckles when working outside, which of course have open toes. Could be chilly sometimes in those monastery gardens. To add extra toe protection and warmth a toe cap was added and the sandal converted to become a shoe, fully covering the foot.

The style faded in and out of popularity over the decades before being reinvented in the 1990s inspired by Italian designers and a new more elegant aesthetic. They then became a common sight at fashion shows like Pitti Immagine at London Fashion Week.

Photo: Thomas Bird Brooklyn single buckle with grey suit

Different types of monk shoe

There are many variations of monk strap - as we have seen, single or double buckled, then plain toe or a cap toe, plain leather or broguing.  While leather is traditional, suede is also a popular choice and a little more casual. Some designers also have some interesting monk strap boots.

Which is the more popular? It can vary a little depending on the person and the season but at the moment we’d go with double monk strap shoes. They are just that bit more visually interesting.  Single buckles though are not far behind, and we love their sleek, more minimalist look. (Watch this space for news soon.)

What colour metal buckle?

Monk strap shoes - 3 colours, brown, oxblood and black

This may seem a small detail, but the colour and weight of the metal buckle is quite important. As you can see in the photo above we paired brass buckles with brown monk straps, and silver or chrome with black and oxblood monks. These colour combos seemed to work the best.

Caps and brogue?

Classic monk strap shoes have a cap toe, but this is a matter of personal style and preference. Some have plain toes and some have broguing or punching.  We like most variations and plan to try them in future productions.

Leather or suede?

Over 90% of monk shoes will tend to be leather. Leather shoes always make good choices, easy to clean, smart and practical. There are a group of fans that just love suede monks. Suede is even more relaxed and casual which adds to their appeal.

Monks too informal? Really?

Some people see them them as less formal than other dress shoes such as oxfords. But this gives them some of their charm. They can give the wearer a little ‘edge’ while still being smart and formal. The glint from the buckle catches the eye, even on a black pair. And bolder colours such as oxblood or blue can really add pop to an outfit.

Oxblood monks with dark blue suit
Photo credit: @dailytouchofclass wears Bourne Thomas Bird oxblood monks with dark blue suit.

Styling with Monk Straps

They are more interesting to look at than oxfords and derbys, so add pop or interest to a neutral toned outfit, even more so if they also add a splash of colour eg oxblood. But we’ve seen very stylish guys pair them with some very colourful and punchy suits. Monk straps are strong enough to hold their own with them. And they can look equally good dressed down with jeans for more casual moments.

The best colour monk strap (for you)?

Well this of course depends on your taste, individual sense of style, the occasion and the other colours in your outfit.

And are you limited to one pair of monks or several?

First up, black monks will also be popular due to their versatility. Black shoes are the most formal. They go with nearly everything and will work in a formal dressy environment.  If your workplace is a little traditional, but you don't want to look too formal, a black monk would be perfect.

Black double monks with dark grey suit.
Photos: Thomas Bird black single and double monks with grey suit.

Brown and tan are good choices too, a little more relaxed, and brown earthy tones pair well with lots of colours.

Brown monks:

Brown monks with navy suit
Photo credit: @meeeotch wears Thomas Bird conker brown monks with navy suit.

Tan monks are in a similar tonal area, but generally lighter brown and tan is less dress and more relaxed/informal.

Tan monks with light blue windowpane suit
Photo: Thomas Bird tan monks and light blue windowpane suit.

Tan monks with navy blue suit
Photo credit: @matty.filipo wearing Thomas Bird tan monks with navy blue suit.

We're big fans of the oxblood monk strap. It's such a deep, rich colour in its own right, and it pairs beautifully with both blue or navy suits, and adds a pop of colour say with a neutral suit.

Oxblood monks with blue suit 
Photo: Thomas Bird oxblood monks and blue suit.

Finally, if you are up for it, try blue monkstraps. Like oxblood, this is a strong, bold colour and matched with the right suit, can look incredible.

Blue monks with navy blue pinstrip suit.
Photo credit: @dailytouchofclass wearing Thomas Bird blue monks paired with navy blue pinstrip suit.

Monkstraps make great wedding shoes

We've seen a big increase in popularity from customers buying monk straps for their big day. They add that touch of style interest to the groom's outfit.

Groom wearing tan monks with light blue/grey suit
Photo credit: @claracooperphoto - groom wearing Thomas Bird tan monks with light blue/grey suit.

Groom at wedding oxblood monks with grey suit
Photo credit: @rmparkinson wearing Thomas Bird oxblood monks with grey suit.

Join the monk club

Some people just love double buckle monk shoes. One is the very stylish Benn Bromley (Instagram @dailytouchofclass), based in Brisbane, Australia. (Photos above and below).

We asked Benn why he likes monk straps so much.

Benn told us “Monks are my favourite style of mens shoes. They offer a sophisticated look that dates back to a time when men used to men”. He believes they represent power and elegance that is unmatched in other styles.
We asked Benn what is his favourite colour? He replied, “The burgundy/oxblood is by far my favourite. I believe they are the most versatile colour. It can be formal but also help an outfit really pop when you want to style it up.”

Oxblood monks with dark pinstripe suit.
Photo credit: @dailytouchofclass wearing Thomas Bird oxblood monks with dark pinstripe suit.

Thomas Bird Monk Straps

Thomas Bird have double buckle monks in a range of colours. Classic colours are black, tan/light brown and oxblood. We will continue add other colours over time such as dark brown and suede.

Our monk straps have a cap toe and stitched leather sole with a rubber insert to make them wear better. We use high end full grain calf leather. Each shoe is coloured by hand in Italy to produce a rich, unique patina. They are made with blake construction typically favoured on high end shoes in Italy.

Looking after your monks

As with all leather shoes, look after them and they will keep looking good longer. We recommend  wooden shoe trees to absorb moisture ie sweat that has built up over the day.  Rotate ie rest them so you don't wear them consecutive days, again to let them dry naturally.  Use a quality shoe horn to protect the 'heel clip' or shape of the back of the heel and maintain good he fit. Apply shoe cream to keep the leather nourishedt.  Because Thomas Bird monk straps have a hand applied patina, we would say to try a neutral cream first to maintain the look.  You could try a matching colour cream to hide any scuffs or scratches.

So there you have it. If you want that bit of extra visual interest or pop, or edge to an outfit, try a pair of monk straps. Are monks for you? Or are you already a fan?

Browse Thomas Bird Monk Strap shoes.

Oxblood wholecuts

Monk Strap Videos

The video below shows black monk straps with a grey suit.

The video below shows oxblood monk straps with a blue suit.

The video below shows conker brown monk straps with a grey suit.

Thank you for reading this far.  Are you a fan too or possibly a new convert to monk straps? 

Please let us know and tell us what you think.

And you can see lots more photos of our shoes and boots being worn on:



All the best till next time,

Thomas Bird

PS: If you liked this post, please share it.

Other links/sources: