How to get the most from your shoelaces

brightly coloured shoelaces

There are shoelaces to match every pair of shoes.
Image source: Shutterstock

Your shoes are only as good your shoelaces. Not only do your laces fulfil the essential function of securing your footwear to your feet, they also make a vital contribution to your overall appearance.

Here we give you everything you need to know to help you choose them well and tie them nicely.

The history of shoelaces

old old shoe

The original lace-up shoe.
Image source: ArmeniaNow

First worn by Icemen over 5000 years ago, it wasn’t until Harvey Kennedy’s patent in March 1790 that shoelaces became fashionable – if controversial, as Cameron from Feet, Shoes and Superstition explains:

“Shoelaces at first were viewed with suspicion. In the 17th and 18th century men wearing lacing Oxfords were considered effeminate and laces came to represent a moral decline.”

But despite initial skepticism, shoelaces have been popular ever since.

What are shoelaces made from?

leather shoelaces

A classic pair of leather laces.
Image source: Martin Sercomb

You get what you pay for. If you can, choose traditional shoelaces made from sturdy materials like cotton, leather, hemp and jute. They’s a little more expensive than synthetic alternatives, but they look better and stay tied for longer.

Nylon and polyester laces are glossy and shiny, but they are also slippery and much more likely to come undone.

Simply put, a traditional pair of laces is more elegant, stylish and sophisticated, giving your shoes a smarter edge. And you won’t have to keep bending to retie them – your back will thank you.

What style of shoelaces do you need?

shoe laces

Different shoe styles require different types of shoelaces.
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Flat shoelaces best suit casual shoes and trainers while smart shoes look better with round laces. Make sure the width and gauge of your lace is a good match for the shoe as Megan at The Idle Man explains:

“Don’t buy fat skater shoe shoelaces and expect them to fit on your dainty Converse. They simply won’t fit through the holes and will look way over the top.”

You won’t go far wrong if you choose something that roughly matches your current shoelaces.

Choose the right colour

colourful shoes

Coloured shoelaces can add interesting detail to your outfit
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The conservative route is to select replacement laces that match the colour and style of the originals. But why not be more daring by choosing shoelaces of a bolder hue?

Try mid-red leather laces with a pair of black Oxfords or pair royal blue laces with your brown shoes. Coloured laces are a great way to lend a pair of classic shoes a dandyish edge.

But if you’re considering fluorescent green shoelaces, don’t even think about it. They might make your mates laugh, but they’ll be laughing at you.

What length shoelace do you need?

coloured shoe laces

It’s important to get the right length of laces.
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The length of your shoelace is a very important factor. Choose the wrong length and you’ll end up with them dragging on the ground or being too short to tie.

The best place to start is with a shoelace length guide or calculator. As a rule of thumb, after lacing your shoes, you should be left with about 250mm (10 inches) with which to tie them.

Any surplus length is easily disguised by tying a double knot – just make sure you can untie it!

What is the best way to tie shoelaces?

How to tie shoelaces the Ian Fieggen way

Ian’s website lists 18 different ways of tying your laces.
Link Source: Ian Fieggen

Like tying a tie, there are an astonishing number of ways to lace your shoes.check out our gentleman’s guide to shoelaces, which features the 6 most popular ways to tie your laces.

When your shoelace snaps, it’s often because you’ve been using an asymmetrical knot which makes your laces wear unevenly. By employing a symmetrical knot, you’ll prolong the life of your shoelaces says Ian, who claims to have invented the world’s fastest shoelace knot:

Alternatives to shoelaces 

If you’ve really had enough of tying your own shoelaces, help is on the way in the form of ‘no tie’ alternatives. These include Hickies, elasticated bands that snap on to your shoes; Xtenex, adjustable elastic laces; and Xpand, a rubber elastic lacing system that’s getting rave reviews from casual shoe wearers.

Unfortunately, all of these solutions are designed for trainers and casual shoes, but it’s only a matter of time before there’s an alternative to laces for classic shoes as well.

If that’s left you in knots

Brown and Black mens shoes

Buckles, boots and slip on shoes are stylish alternatives to laces.
Image Source: Samuel Windsor

For a shoelace-free alternative, there are a multitude of stylish slip-on or zip-up shoes and boots to choose from. Look no further than a pair of classic penny loafers or iconic Chelsea boots – sophisticated styling without the knots.

For more shoelace advice and tying tips, read our shoelaces guide for gentlemen.

Have you got any smart tips and tricks for shoelace tying? Let us know over on our Facebook page. 

Posted in How To - Shoes.