Two-tone shoes are a great way to add colour and texture to your wardrobe.
(Image source: Samuel Windsor)
Spectator shoes were the in-your-face black and white brogues Al Capone and the rest of the Chicago mob wore. But this isn’t prohibition, and it shouldn’t be about exhibitionism either – two-tone brogues are about style perfectionism.
To help you add a touch of jazz to your wardrobe, here’s the lowdown on Spectator shoes and how to make them work for you.
(Image source: Shutterstock)
Invented by English bootmaker, John Lobb, Spectator shoes began life as a white cricket shoe. However, given the propensity of the outfield to stain one’s leather, the Northampton cobbler replaced some of the white panels with black.
The shoe caught on with the high-rolling, jazz-loving young guys of the roaring twenties, but outside opulent circles, people thought the shoes too flashy for polite society – until the then Prince of Wales took them mainstream.
During and after World War One, dynastic families across Europe crumbled. However, the British monarchy flourished, particularly Edward, whose frequent visits to the front and his support for the troops made him a ‘man of the people’. A playboy and womaniser he certainly was, but when Edward started wearing Spectators, everyone wanted to wear them.
Life of Crime
Al Capone was a famous wearer of the Spectator shoe
(Image source: By Chicago Bureau (Federal Bureau of Investigation) – Wide World Photos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Over the pond, the prohibition era of the 1920s and early ‘30s made alcohol off limits, but all that achieved was to line the pockets of the crooks rather than the Federal Reserve. Gangsters like Al Capone became unimaginably wealthy – he was making over $100 million a year by the mid 20s.
With all that cash came a flamboyant lifestyle, which included big guns, big houses, big cars, and very flashy Spectator brogues. As we all know, Al ended his days in jail, and the Spectator brogue gradually found itself in the back of the wardrobe, but that wasn’t the end of the story.
Back in the Limelight
Fast forward the best part of a hundred years and the Spectator brogue is back – and in some ways, very little changed. Some men probably never stopped wearing Spectators, but the sharp contrast of black and white or brown and cream is a little too ostentatious for the needs of the modern gent.
Understand this: Spectators are flashy shoes – if you don’t want to be noticed, don’t wear them. Owning a pair of two-tone shoes is a very smart choice, but you have to do it right.
(Image source: Samuel Windsor)
Being so versatile, Spectators can be stepped into at any time of year but always let the shoes do the work! Think dapper, not daft. You want people to pick up on your sense of individuality and flair, not be bludgeoned by your caddish lack of style sensibility, so try to keep the rest of your outfit subtle. The secret to your success as a wearer of Spectator shoes is to make your feet the loudest part of your outfit.
The Spectator is mostly seen as a somewhat casual style and hence it has been said to be inappropriate for formal occasions. At the same time, it may also be too loud for some office environments, but hey, at the end of the day, it’s all up to how much swag and flair you carry them off with! It sure is the perfect shoe for hot dates, casual Fridays, evening dinners, snazzy lunch outings, outdoor weddings, graduations, christenings and so on – all excellent opportunities to put your best foot forward.
Spectators are definitely an excellent shoe for celebrating. They show you know how to let your hair down and have a little – well mannered – fun.
In closing, Spectator brogues are perfect when you want to show a little plumage – just remember to keep the clothing palette subtle and simple, or you’ll end up looking like a mad parrot......