So what does all that have to do with Bates Military Footwear? The standard uniform shoe worn by most military service members in the United States is a classic derby (they are often misnamed as oxfords). Its the perfect shoe for dress or formal occaisions. And you can get an excellent shoe for a fraction of the cost that you might pay at one of the fancier name brand stores. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about shopping for those $300 shoes; in fact, I hope you can afford at least one pair of really fine men's shoes (which brings us, I think, to cardinal rule number two: own more than one pair of good shoes and rotate them).
You can get Bates oxfords with a few different options for color, material and outsole. Through the years, I've owned most every combination. I prefer a leather upper and a leather outsole, but if that's not your thing, there are synthetic uppers and two kinds of synthetic outsoles. Bates Lites are their lightest shoes, with their own unique Lites outsole (I've owned a few pairs of Lites. I loved them. Unfortunately, the Lites outsole does disintegrate over time. So if you are looking for a shoe that is going to last for years to come, stay away from the Lites.)
The top of the line is the 1208 Navy Premier Oxford, with a leather upper, leather lining, leather wrapped insole and leather sole. You're going to see most of those items listed whenever someone recomends a fine pair of men's shoes. The 1208 is classic, its subdued but stylish..and they are made in the USA. That last bit tends to be the difference in shoes that retail for $200 becoming $300-$400 dollars. I'm actually wearing a pair as I type this, and I can attest to the fact that they fit well, are very comfortable and look killer.
You can find Bates brand footwear in some retail stores and online at various outlets, including Bates' own website. But I bought mine on eBay. They are probably factory seconds, but even Allen Edmonds sells their factory seconds. What's wrong with paying significantly less for a good product that doesn't quite meet the manufacturer's highest standards? Absolutely nothing, I say. You can even sometimes find models that are unavailable to the general public (like the really nice, double leather soled version).
I can not recommend Bates enough. I've worn their shoes and boots for twenty plus years and never had a complaint. Besides the 1208, I highly recommend the 112: Leather Durashocks and the 007: High Gloss Leather Sole for formal occaisions.
Hey, man, nice kicks!