This past weekend I attended a dear friend’s wedding. The dress code was black tie, no complaints from me there. There was a raw bar at the cocktail hour, certainly no complaints there either.
Anyway, leading up to the wedding I received numerous inquiries from friends regarding what type of shoes they should wear with their tuxedos. They asked about everything from ‘that shiny leather’ (also known as patent leather) to velvet slippers. So the question arises, what type of shoes should a man wear with his tuxedo? Fortunately for us men, black tie has some flexibility in what is appropriate footwear, as long as said footwear is black.
But that black can come in three different forms; patent leather, smooth calf or cow and velvet. Of the three, I think patent leather is the most common and also perhaps the most appropriate. I think this is partly due to the fact that patent leather really only works with black or white tie. In other words, it is exclusively for black and white tie. Velvet is not as formal as patent leather, but significantly more stylish and elegant when paired with a tux. Some would even say foppish. It is worth noting that velvet only works in slipper form; commonly known as prince Albert Slippers and slung by brands like Stubbs & Wootton and Del Toro. The only catch is that in the most traditional sense they are worn only by a host or a gentleman at his club. Although I imagine few would quip if you were to wear them elsewhere, such as to a wedding. Lastly, we have your everyday smooth cow leather. It does not have quite the shine of patent leather, nor the matte textured look of velvet. But it is elegant and simple.
If you choose shoes in patent or regular leather there are a few things that should be avoided. The first is brogueing, which is a detail that is far to casual for black tie (minus the J. Fitzpatrick’s pictured below). The second is loafers and slip ons. Much like brogueing, penny loafers, tassel loafers and the like are too casual for black tie. Oxfords are preferable, more formal bluchers (like the two eyelet ones above) can work as well. And yes, there is the occasional exception I suppose. If you are of a certain sort, you may be able to pull off bit loafers or Belgain Shoes.
Personally, I prefer to wear a well polished black oxford, such as Jack Erwin’s Joe (pictured on my feet above and below), with my tuxedos. Patent leather is just too fake looking for my tastes. I do love to wear my Stubbs with a tux, however, I don’t turn to them as often as I should. There is also a strong financial argument to be made in favor of leather shoes; they do double duty. They need not be confined to black tie wear. They can obviously be worn with suits and other less formal attire. That said, I advise both my friends and readers to either pair some smooth black leather oxfords with their tuxedos. Take the money you would spend on patent leather shoes and funnel it elsewhere.