How to Tie and Lace Dress Shoes

The Balmoral, also commonly known as the Oxford, is the most formal dress shoe you will find in its category. Always looking sleek and timeless, they are considered so formal because of their fully closed lacing, which contrasts against their less traditional counterpart, the Derby.

You probably assumed that dress shoes can be tied like regular shoes, but there are many unspoken rules when it comes to formal wear. Regardless of the dress shoe style, this guide aims to help you not make a fool of yourself in front of an esteemed company; when you finish reading, tying dress shoes will be a breeze.

Choosing Laces

There is no guaranteed best shoelace for dress shoes as it all depends on your preference. Some may prefer a different style, be they round or flat laces, and some may choose brighter, eye-grabbing colors for a more contemporary look.

Fundamentally, laces that are closest to the color of your shoe are the most formal option. A conservative, corporate environment induces the idea of uniformity and formality.

Colorful shoelaces are best for formal events with more leeway. It’s also a good style choice to match your shoelaces with other items on your person, like a pocket square, for a cohesive look with a bit of personality.

The Ways to Lace Dress Shoes

There are six different ways to tie dress shoes. Your choice should be determined by the style of the shoe, the length of the shoelaces, as well as your stylistic preference. The number of eyelets that the shoe holds also narrows down your choices. The eyelets are the row of paired holes on the shoes where the laces interweave.

The most common is the ‘criss-cross,’ and it is seen on regular sneakers. It’s the easiest, therefore the most functional. The ‘diagonal’ technique resembles the helical structure of DNA. The ‘straight bar’ technique is a choice for formal events due to its simplicity and overall symmetry; it’s best for shoes with an even set of eyelets. The ‘over-under’ technique is best known for the simplicity of its crosses, making it easy to tighten. The ‘lattice’ technique is for wearers that want a more elegant design of lacing; it’s easier to do with six pairs of eyelets.

The final lacing technique is the ‘vice versa.’ It’s the most modern of the designs as it looks very minimalist, and it also has the most hidden lacing.

The How-To

Make sure the shoe is facing you. Most of these lacing techniques begin by creating a straight line either under or across the top of the bottom pair of eyelets. Enter one side of the lace into an eyelet and do this with the other. Make sure that the shoelace is even before starting the pattern.

  • The Criss-Cross

  1. Start by making a straight bar across the bottom two eyelets. It should appear across the outside of the shoe, with the laces pointing in.
  2. The current right lace goes through the next left eyelet. It should be inserted from beneath the eyelet.
  3. The current left lace goes above the crossed right lace to the next right eyelet, also being inserted from the bottom of the eyelet as in step 2.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 in an alternating fashion.
  5. At the top eyelets, run the laces beneath the eyelets to lay them flat. Tie them into a bow to secure.
  • Diagonal

  1. Start with the right lace going beneath the left eyelet. This technique makes sure it looks hidden.
  2. The left lace then goes diagonally over to the next available right eyelet. This will start the diagonal pattern.
  3. Next, the right lace should be inserted from beneath the next eyelet available on the left side and crossed over diagonally to the right. The laces should always cross on top from left to right.
  4. Once at the top, the laces go beneath the opposing eyelets to lay them flat. Secure the laces with a bow and tighten.
  • Straight Bar

  1. Create a straight bar crossing the outside of the bottom two eyelets.
  2. The left lace should then move one eyelet up on the same side and be inserted into the eyelet from beneath. Cross the lace over the top and across to the other side, creating the next straight bar.
  3. The right lace will repeat the pattern of the left lace, but it will enter the next empty eyelet from beneath. Since the left lace occupies the eyelet above it, you will need to skip to the next eyelet up. Cross it over to create the third straight bar.
  4. Repeat this alternating process until you reach the top eyelets.
  5. The laces must emerge from beneath the eyelets. Tie into a bow to secure and tighten.
  • The Over-Under

  1. Create a straight bar across the bottom two eyelets by entering the laces from underneath the eyelets. The bar should be hidden, and the left and right lace should be on the outside of the shoe.
  2. The right lace goes first. Cross it to the other side and go into the eyelet. The left lace then crosses over it and goes into the eyelet on the right side.
  3. Underneath, pass each lace to the other side and pass them into the underside of their respective eyelets to return both laces to the outside of the shoe, creating hidden cross on the backside.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the top is reached. The laces must emerge from beneath the eyelets. Tie them into a bow to secure.
  • Lattice

  1. Start by creating a straight bar on the underside of the bottom two eyelets.
  2. Take the right lace, cross it diagonally, and insert it into the top of the eyelet that is third from the top on the left side.
  3. Take the left lace, cross it diagonally, and insert it into the top of the eyelet that is third from the top on the right side.
  4. Continuing from with the lace in step three, pass it diagonally underneath and insert it from beneath the eyelet second from the bottom. Then, pass the lace diagonally over the top, weaving it under the lace it crosses, and insert it into the eyelet second from the top.
  5. Repeat step 4 for the other lace.
  6. Repeat these steps by weaving the laces over and under any laces that they cross until you reach the top.
  7. Once laces are laid flat, tie them into a bow to secure.
  • The Vice Versa

  1. Start by threading a straight bar across the outside of the bottom two eyelets.
  2. Insert the left lace from beneath the second eyelet from the bottom on the right side. It should emerge from that eyelet then go straight into the eyelet above it, creating a vertical bar.
  3. Do the same as step 2 but with the opposite shoelace. There should now be two vertical bars parallel to one another.
  4. Repeat this process by crossing the laces back underneath until the topmost eyelets are reached. They must emerge from beneath the eyelets to lay them flat. Tie them into a bow to secure.


It’s essential to keep a good reputation and image informal environments, and it all begins with minute details like your shoes. Poorly tied dress shoes may seem like a small thing, but they can make or break your formal attire. We hope this guide has saved you from any future embarrassment.

The best way to lace dress shoes is entirely up to you. The six methods of skillfully tying dress shoes all vary in technique and aesthetic. These techniques could even be applied to regular shoes like sneakers and boots.

Your writing isn’t reading smoothly a lot of the time, and I am spending a lot of time rewriting awkward sentences. Please pay attention to writing simply and read your writing out loud to hear any issues.

Please don’t just rely on a Grammarly score, this often means nothing when it comes to readability.

Please also pay attention to your instructions for the lacing – the instructions were very hard to follow and, in some cases, wrong. I have rewritten almost all lacing instructions from scratch. If you are giving written instructions with no visuals, they must be very clear and succinct.

Noted on this. I will be careful next time.

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