How to Lace Dress Shoes for Every Occasion

If you’re stepping out for an evening in your favorite pair of dress shoes or slipping them on for an early morning at the office, you may be wondering exactly how to lace dress shoes.

There’s no single way to lace dress shoes, and the way you tie the dress shoes laces might depend on the number of eyelets, the type of dress shoe, and the event you’re en route to.

This guide will take you through four of the most popular lacing styles, with all the details you need to know to try these subtle fixtures of fashion on your best business casual shoes. From criss-cross lacing to bow tie, let’s get lacing.

#1 Criss-Cross

X marks the spot when it comes to criss-cross lacing. This classic and highly functional choice is a top pick across the board for dress shoelaces. Not only does the simplicity allow for a quick tie, but the universality of criss-cross laces means you can pull it off on just about any footwear and for any occasion.

For criss-cross laces, follow these simple instructions:

  • First bar – Thread each end of your shoe laces upwards through the top of the eyelets closest to the toe, creating a straight bar.
  • Cross – Bring the left side of the shoelace to the right eyelet and cross the right side of the shoelace over to the left, threading both from the bottom up.
  • Continue alternating – Repeat the criss-cross pattern while lacing up the eyelets toward the tongue or opening of the shoe.
  • Finish – At the final eyelets, make sure the laces go below the facing (the material that contains the eyelets) to ensure the shoelaces lay flat.

#2 Straight Bar

Clean, straight lines from eyelet to eyelet mean less lace showing. This understated look is often preferred on Oxford-style dress shoes.

That said, straight bar lacing isn’t strictly for one kind of shoe, and it might be the key to bringing out the more formal qualities of your dress shoes for a black-tie event, wedding, or job interview.

To create straight bar laces, follow these steps:

  • First bar – Thread both sides of the lace from above and down through the set of eyelets closest to the toe.
  • Left side – Take the left lace and thread it up through the second left eyelet, then directly across to the second right eyelet—thereby creating the second bar.
  • Right side – Thread the right lace up and through the third right eyelet, then across to the third left eyelet. At this point, you should be looking at three complete bars.
  • Repeat until completion – Repeat this process until you’ve come up and through your final eyelets. If your shoe has an odd number of eyelets, you’ll have to have laces coming from both above and under for the second to last eyelets. 

#3 Diagonal

Stylish and evocative, a diagonal lacing pattern means an asymmetric look that can set you apart from all the other snappy dressers. 

Often preferred at a less formal or nontraditional event—bachelor parties, outdoor events—or even on an occasion where experimenting with fashion is the top priority, diagonal lacing will make you a sartorial standout.

To pull off the diagonal look, follow these simple steps:

  • Opposite starts – While looking at the shoe head-on with the toe closest to you, start by threading the right end of the shoelace down through the right eyelet closest to you. Do the opposite with the left side, threading it through the closest left eyelet from underneath.
  • Cross over and under – Thread the left shoelace through the opposite right eyelet from the top down—from outside of the facing towards the tongue. Then take the right shoelace and thread it through the next left eyelet from underneath.
  • Reverse and repeat – Repeat step two but reverse left and right. As you move up the shoe, you’ll see that a series of diagonal lines across the tongue.
  • Final eyelets – When you reach the last eyelets, ensure that both sides of the laces are threaded from under to assure the laces sit and tie together correctly.

#4 Bow Tie

A slightly more refined version of the classic criss-cross, the bow tie lacing style can be a little flashy, while still retaining its formal look. If you’re donning bold colors and cuts, a bow tie lacing style might be the cherry on top to complete your highly curated look.

Consider bow tie laces for white-tie events, galas, balls, and all kinds of opulent occasions.

Looking to lace up? The instructions will vary depending on if you have an even or odd number of eyelets in your shoe.

Tying With an Even Number

  • First bar – Create a bar across the set of eyelets closest to the toe by threading your shoelace top-down.
  • Parallel – Bring the laces upward through the second eyelets without crossing them.
  • Cross – Now you may cross the left lace over to the right side and vice-versa, creating an X above the first bar.

Repeat – Repeat sets two and three to continue making a series of Xs across the length of the shoe until you reach the last eyelets.

Tying With an Odd Number

  • Opposite bar – Bring your laces up through the first two eyelets, creating a bar on the underside.
  • Cross over – Immediately cross laces from left to right to create your first X.
  • Parallel – Bring both laces up one eyelet without crossing them.
  • Repeat – You can repeat steps two and three until coming up through your final eyelets, completing the process.

Lace-Up With Toms

Now that you know how to lace up for whatever life brings your way, rest assured you’ll never feel out of place when it comes to your footwear. Regardless of the event—be it a beachside wedding or a backyard barbeque—you can look your best with TOMS.

TOMS offers slip-ons, sneakers, boots, and more, with plenty of options when it comes to lacing. We’re committed to durable, comfortable shoes and never sacrifice style. So lace up and make your next event something to remember with TOMS.


Reviewed By Dan Caves

Dan Caves is the Senior Manager of Digital Marketing at TOMS and has been operating in the digital space for 6 years, writing about the latest trends or styles and helping brands make bold statements with innovative tactics and creative concepts. He's determined to go all the places, see all the things, and pet all the dogs.