Today, we're going to be talking about men's patent leather shoes and when you can wear them.
I get a lot of questions from guys about this sort of topic. Men's patent leather shoes can be a tough style to pull off – and a lot of guys just don't know how to do it right.
In fact, I received an email just yesterday on this very topic. David from Kansas City got in touch to seek my advice:
Patent leather, I was wondering if you could do a video on the subject of patent leather dress shoes. I love the shiny gloss look and I could never seem to get this in my regular leather shoes despite how much I polish. I'm considering a pair of patent leather dress shoes, but since I'm worried it may be looked upon as boyish or cheating, similar to a clip-on tie, I wanted to ask your advice. Also, is patent leather considered too formal to wear as an every day type of shoes type? I think I've only seen them when I've rented a tuxedo. Thanks a lot. David in Kansas City.
Okay, David, yes, I think that they are too formal to wear as an every day shoe, so let's go ahead and throw this out there. I think there are three occasions in which men's patent leather shoes can be worn confidently: when wearing a tux, in children's clothing and in the military.
What Are Men's Patent Leather Shoes?
Patent leather is that leather that almost doesn't look like leather. It looks like a shiny plastic, glossy. This is something where it's built in to the actual shoe and this is where it looks like a mirror.
Now, where do I see this? I see this in black tie, I see this in military dress, and I see this in children's shoes, so unless you're in one of those three descriptors, unless you are wearing black tie or you're in a military uniform such as dress blues in United States Marine Corps in which we would actually wear that, or even with our Alphas, and the other places for children.
Now, why do we see it in each of the areas? Well, with black tie, it's pretty much one of the official shoes you can be wearing. The other one is the opera pump. I'm not going to get into what that is, but it's basically a slipper. You can go look at it. I talk about it on my website, but patent leather is something that you can wear — and it's not cheating. It's just something that has gone with black tie and with formal wear for decades and decades.
It used to be that you actually wore your classic oxfords and you just polish those and polish those and made them look great because you could get a similar shine. You need to know how to spit shine it and get that really nice gloss on there, but it's a lot of work. Some people want to sometimes go with the patent leather. Again, unless you're fitting one of those three descriptors, do not go with it.
Why do you see it in children's wear? Well, I think it's basically — and this is sort of a form of cheating — it's when parents want to show that their children are dressed up. I've got three kids, so I know this. You do not want to be shining your kids' shoes. Also, kids' shoes, they grow out of those things really fast, so you want something you could put on their feet and it's going to look dressy. It's going to have that shine and that's why you see them on kids' dress shoes.
In the military, it actually predates formal wear and I believe formal wear actually incorporated that from the military as most of what you see in formal wear and men's style. It has some type of origin coming out of the military. So again, if it doesn't fit one of those three areas, I would avoid wearing it. It is sort of looked at as cheating because we can all tell that you didn't shine that. Everyone knows what they are.
So David, now, for your own personal style. Here at RMRS I like to talk about classic and timeless style. So my advice is to stick to wearing men's patent leather shoes with a tux (and if you're in the military). I wouldn't advise wearing them anywhere else.
That being said – your style is your own, and if you want to try something new then go for it. Just be aware that wearing men's patent leather shoes with jeans isn't a traditional look than many people will like the look of.