When you have a physical shoe shop one of your largest customer bases will be men getting married and/or going to a formal function where a tux is required. Most men will phrase it as looking for formal shoes but many will also ask if you have patent shoes. Personally speaking, I never have been a huge fan of patent shoes as a requisite to attending an occasion. To me, that’s a waste of money. And therefore have never actually sold them in my own collection nor owned a pair of black patent shoes. Being a shoe company owner, I also never follow “the rules” and wear what I feel like when attending events, usually staying on par but always with a twist.
It begs the question ‘Are patent shoes actually necessary?’ In the modern-day setting, I do not believe they are. There is no argument that I can find that dictates a patent shoe is better than a well-polished (ideally mirror-shined) wholecut oxford. The point of the patent is that it is shiny. So is a well-polished shoe. The difference only is that one stays forever shiny while the other fades away without upkeep. But the main difference, for me, is one is practical for daily use while the other is for special occasions only. That is where the waste of money comes into play. And only a waste for someone that in the end doesn’t attend many formal events nor truly cares about dress shoes. They would be better off getting a practical shoe and a mirror shine. That shoe could at least be worn for other settings and event types. A patent shoe looks iffy outside of a formal event and/or fashion show.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if you are someone who has enough money to buy all of the shoes you want and regularly attend formal events, then knock yourself out. For you, it won’t be necessary, it will be because you want them and will get practical use out of them. But for the average guy who happens to be invited to a formal event or is getting married, they simply are no longer absolutely necessary like they might once have been. Like everything else in this world, a lot has changed and when the rules of formality were put in place, we had a society that adhered to dress codes, not only formally but just for everyday life. But now, what is promoted is being yourself and being comfortable and when you do that, the rules go out the window. There is no longer an idea of how it should be, only how you perceive it to be. Dress codes are now very loosely interpreted.
Just in case this post is confusing my point is not that you should not wear patent shoes. It is more so about the idea of one having to? If you like attending formal events and like the idea of shiny shoes, then by all means, add a pair to your wardrobe. Add three if you like. My argument is that they are no longer 100% necessary for formal occasions, only and specifically if 100% required by the hosts of said event. Failing that, if it states ‘Black Tie’ but does not specify, ‘patent leather only’, then who is to say that you cannot mirror shine up a pair of whole-cut loafers or plain-toe oxfords? No one.
I won’t lie though. I am a firm believer in carrying on traditions. And just because I typically don’t wear patent shoes, mainly because I do not attend many formal events, doesn’t mean that I do not appreciate the idea of doing so for tradition’s sake. And while I write this post and still firmly believe they are not 100% necessary, I am making myself a pair of samples to test out. The reality is that while I love the idea of giving a mirror shine to a pair of shoes for formality’s sake, I cannot argue with that tradition, and time again, people come to my shop looking for them. So, instead of now only being able to offer one solution (mirror-shined shoes) I will soon be able to offer the opportunity to take either route. And while I will always be happy to provide the solution of a practical shoe well-shined, I don’t mind carrying on the tradition for tradition’s sake! I guess I am softer in my youngish-old age 😉