It's bemusing that many style-conscious men who seem to know the right thing to wear for any occasion do not have a pair of formal shoes. They own their own tuxedo and wouldn't think of wearing a button-down business shirt under it, but they are still getting by with black loafers instead of investing in dedicated shoes for the ensemble.
I think I know the reason: the classic formal model, handed down from the nineteenth century, is the opera pump. If you're like many men, you might shy away from this option sight unseen. First, it sounds like something you put on to watch the fat lady sing. Second, while you might not know exactly what pumps are, you're vaguely aware that women wear them. But if you actually saw a pair of opera pumps, you might take a stronger stance. You would treat them like kryptonite. That's because a proper opera pump is a low-slung slip-on with a big silk bow on top.
But settle down, gents! Other options exist. Martin Dingman makes the patent leather Pittney pump (shown at right) with no decoration. It does, however, have all the sheen and insouciance that make it a distinctive, but not frilly, choice when dressing fancy, rather than utilitarian, is the objective. If you like to be a little sturdier shod, but still wax formal, Allen Edmonds offers a two-eyelet blucher, called the Kendall, which utters sophistication with its shiny patent leather and tapered toe.
Of course, dinner and dancing are not the only occasions for black-tie attire. Nothing caps an elegant evening better than a fine cigar, and for that you will want the ultimate comfort of velvet slippers. The pair from Del Toro (shown at left) also comes with a welcome lack of ornamentation. You may be more familiar with this style when it has the added embellishment of a coat of arms or club crest sewn on the front of the shoe. But really? Who actually has a coat of arms, and if you're at your club, why do you need shoes that advertise you're a member?
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