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Formal Wear

Shoes for a Black Tie Event

Kirby Allison, founder of The Hanger Project, goes over different types of dress shoes that may be worn at black tie functions. In formal black tie events, the shoes a gentleman chooses to pair with his tuxedo may make or break the look. In our most recent video, you will learn the advantages and disadvantages for each shoe style, what details to look out for, and which features make each pair stand out from the rest.


Hi I'm Kirby Allison founder of The Hanger Project, and here at the Hanger Project we love helping the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. In today's video I'm going to be going over the rules for shoes whenever it comes to black tie. If you have any questions during this video please ask them in the comments section below. I get back to all those questions personally. Finally if you have any opinions about anything we discussed, please share those with us also. Whenever it comes to the rules for shoes with black tie they're really quite simple. The rules are that they have to be black, they have to be highly polished and that they need to be plain with the no broguing of any kind. Now broguing are those small dots that are punched into the leather and broguing traditionally makes a shoe less formal. So with black tie, the peak the pinnacle of formality, your shoes absolutely cannot have any broguing, and the plainer and more simple they are the more elegant they become. But past that there are a lot of different options of what you can wear from an opera pump all the way to patent leather derby. There's a huge range of shoes that are appropriate for black tie and in this video. I want to go through a selection of different shoes that are appropriate and talk to you about what makes them special, what makes them beautiful, and finally kind of going into my personal opinion of what I personally would choose to wear for a black tie event. So here we have seven beautiful choices of black tie shoes. Now I'm going to explain each one of these in detail.

So first we have our opera pumps. Now of all the shoes available for black tie, a proper opera pump is the most traditional and in my opinion, without question the most elegant. Now, an opera pump is basically a slipper with a bow on the front of it. Now not all men can pull off wearing a pair of shoes with bows on them. This Saint Crispin's opera pump in calfskin is quite possibly the most elegant shoe that you can wear for black tie. Now the only thing that's missing is a really high gloss shine on the toe and the heel but with a high gloss shine it still has a degree of subtlety that you don't get from patent leather, but pinnacle elegance. One of the things that is almost as important is that anyone that knows much about black tie knows that you can't find a calf skin opera pump ready to wear. You most certainly have to have had it made. And that's one of the things about Saint Crispin's is they have an incredible made-to-order program and so you can have a pair of shoes like this made for you for really not that much more than a ready to wear pair. Now, they come and patent leather most traditionally. This is my personal pair of Grensons that I bought over 15 years ago in college and the beauty of patent leather is that it's easy to take care of. You don't have to worry about polishing it or shining and it's a really durable shine that really requires almost no maintenance.

Next we have a pair of my wholecut seemless Cambridge shoes that I had made from George Cleverley. Now these are a bespoke pair of shoes. Absolutely beautiful, elegant and what I like about the wholecut is that it's appropriate for daytime business wear, evening wear, you know, in a lounge suit, or with a proper high gloss shine on the toes, they're just as elegant for formal wear with a tuxedo. And so this is a great example of a shoe that is versatile you can wear during the day, you know you can wear it out to dinner at night with a nice dark suit but with a proper shine you can also wear it with your tuxedo. I had these made with an invisible welt which is basically where the welt is cut down and trimmed so that whenever you're looking at the shoe on the top it's a sleek plain shoe. It's elegant, sculpted, I love the shoes.

Next we have another pair of wholecuts. Now these are from Saint Crispin's and it's a wholecut seamless, so that means that it's made from literally a single piece of leather that is stretched over the last. There's no seam on the back, there's no seam anywhere on this shoe. Of all the shoes to make here there is no question that this is the most technically difficult to make. The purpose of the satin laces is to elevate the shoe and make it more elegant for black tie. With normal waxed cotton laces, this would be a perfectly appropriate shoe to wear during the day with a business suit or in the evening with the lounge suit. But throw satin laces on this and all of a sudden it becomes a beautifully elegant shoe for black tie.

Next I have a much more commonly available shoe. Now this is a plain Oxford. So there is no broguing or capping anywhere. It has a plain front and it's done from patent leather. Now this is one of the George cleverly Kingsman shoes that comes in the satin laces. Now this is a much more traditional shoe. It's a little bit more common than the other ones you've seen right here. And it's a beautiful patent leather shoe for someone that's looking for something specifically for black tie but doesn't want to wear an opera pump. Now, something that's important to note is that this same shoe in a calf skin with a proper high shine on the toes would be appropriate for black tie also. But you would also be able to wear that during the day time for business. So next we have a pair of my bespoke George Cleverley cap toe oxfords. Now this is most traditionally thought of as a daytime business shoe but with a proper high shine on the toe it's completely appropriate to wear it with a tuxedo. Now this cleverly cap toe oxford is appropriate for black tie because there is no broguing anywhere on the shoe. So if this shoe had any type of broguing across the cap, no longer would it be appropriate for black tie. If it had any broguing on the back, again, no longer would it be appropriate for black tie. This shoe is appropriate for black tie because it meets the requirements. It's black, it's highly polished, and there's no broguing.

One of the things I like about the cap toe oxford is that, again, there's a degree of versatility if you're traveling for business and you're going to a black tie function and don't have room for a pair of black tie specific shoes you could take a nice well-made pair of cap toe oxfords, give it a nice high shine on the toe and you could wear these with your tuxedo and it'd be completely appropriate.

And lastly what I have is a patent leather derby or blucher, which I picked up from a tuxedo rental company here. So a derby with its open lacings with the flaps that kind of come over the vamp is most traditionally a casual country shoe because it allows you to loosen the shoe more, say for instance if you're wearing a thick pair of socks. So this patent leather derby, although completely appropriate for a black tie would be the last of my choices when compared to all these other incredibly elegant shoes. The other thing that is the fatal flaw for this particular shoe is that it has a rubber sole and no gentleman should wear a shoe to a black tie event with rubber soles. Next I would like to share with you my favorites and why. So even with a room full of men wearing black tie you're not going to find many with the confidence to wear an opera pump. And that's what I love about it. It just sets you apart as really having that commitment to elegance and to tradition. And so the opera pump is my favorite shoe for black tie. That's why in college, you know I went and was able to acquire this Grenson opera pump. I've got a fantastic deal on it and this single shoe right here has given me over 15 years of great wear, it's the shoe I wore throughout college, it's the shoe I got married in, and that's the shoe that I still wear to this day. Now that said, I would love to have a pair of opera pumps made in a proper calfskin.

Now I just feel that, again, a calfskin opera pump has a certain degree of subtlety to its elegance that I absolutely love. Now patent leather is beautiful it's durable it always looks great. But at the end of the day you can't get around the fact that patent leather is a corrected grain leather. It's essentially a leather that is treated with a finish in order to create that high shiny patent leather look. So as someone that just really appreciates bespoke and craftsmanship the idea of having a calfskin opera made for me one day is just something that I really look forward to. So in summary of the opera pumps my first preference would be an opera pump in calfskin but I don't own an opera pump in calfskin, I own an opera pump in patent leather and still with all of these other choices I would still strictly prefer an opera pump in patent leather to any of these other shoes. So a close second is a proper wholecut. Now I've got two wholecuts here. I've got the Cambridge wholecut, which I had made bespoke from Cleverley and then I've got the lace up wholecut, seemless at that, from St Crispin's now between these two shoes, I think that I would go with the lace up wholecut with satin laces and the reason is that the satin or silk laces just elevate the formality of this shoe beyond what you would otherwise wear during the day. And so this shoe is completely appropriate to wear during the day with a proper pair of cotton laces. But you add silk laces to this shoe, and all of a sudden it becomes something that you would only wear with black tie. And I just love the soft subtle elegance of that. Now the Cambridge shoe is still great. It's versatile. It's comfortable. And with the proper high shine, this is another perfect shoe for black tie. So next after the wholecut would be a plain oxford. So the thing to remember in black tie is that the simpler the shoe the more elegant and refined it becomes. And that's what I like about this patent leather oxford from George Cleverley is that with the plane front it is a beautiful elegant shoe the patent leather ensures that it's always going to have a nice high shine. Not only is it appropriate it is incredibly elegant and it looks absolutely fantastic. Next you have this black cap toe oxford. Now again this is most traditionally a daytime business shoe, cap toe oxford is not my favorite choice but there is absolutely nothing inappropriate about a plain cap toe Oxford with a high shine. And finally we have our derby or blucher. Now, a four-eyelet blucher, again is most traditionally a country casual shoe, even between these two patent leather shoes here this one from the rental company, and this one from George cleverly. You can even see a huge difference in the quality of the patent leather itself. This one is more akin to plastic and just lacks character. But this George Cleverly patent leather shoe. You can tell was made from an incredibly high quality patent leather and it has incredible depth and is really quite beautiful.

So even whenever it comes to the quality of patent leather there are huge differences. Just to be highly specific, of a beautiful black shoe that is still not appropriate for black tie: this is my Dimitri Gomez cap toe oxford semi brogues now this is an incredibly elegant shoe. It's bespoke, so it represents the highest level of craftsmanship. But because of the broguing, because of all these holes, it is not appropriate for black tie. So next are a pair of slippers which are totally appropriate if you're wearing black tie at home or your club in London or New York but are not appropriate for black tie to a wedding or an event. So, although you see a lot of people wearing slippers for black tie and even worse, without socks, resist the temptation. So, in summary there are just a few important things to remember about proper shoes for black tie. First, the rules specify that your shoes for black tie should be black. They should be highly polished, and they should be plain with no broguing. As long as your shoes meet those requirements they're appropriate for black tie. Now that said as you can see from this video there's a lot of options of what you can wear for black tie. And so that's where it becomes fun. And so, although most men may just own one pair of shoes for black tie if you're someone that goes to black tie functions often there's no reason that you couldn't have two or three different pairs of shoes that you wear with your tuxedo. Also, if you're wearing a pair of shoes for black tie that are made from calfskin, it is imperative that they be highly shined.

Now, the Saphir mirror gloss is great for producing a high glass mirror shine. And if you need any help learning how to do a proper mirror shine, please check out our video on the subject on YouTube. And of course, always make sure that you're wearing a proper pair of black silk socks with black tie. If you have any questions about anything I discussed in this video, please ask them in the comments section below. I get back to all those questions personally and of course let us know what your personal preference is for the types of shoes that you wear with black tie. Please take a moment to visit where we have the largest and most comprehensive assortment of luxury garment care and shoe care accessories in the world. We also have a comprehensive selection of formal wear accessories to help ensure that you look perfect for your next black-tie event. I look forward to you sharing with me what shoes you choose to wear the next time you're dressed in black tie. Please post them on Instagram with the hash tag #shoeshinesunday. I'm Kirby Allison, and I hope to see you dressed in black tie. Thanks for joining us.