Black tie events are generally considered to be ‘uniformed’ events, rather than just an occasion that warrants formal wear. There are certain circles that have strong opinions about black tie formalwear, and so to help you avoid a faux pas, we’ve put this guide together to talk about which shoes to wear with the tuxedo.
The Tuxedo Style
When thinking about the shoes to pair with a tuxedo, it’s important to think about what the tuxedo represents. As an ensemble, a tuxedo is all about simplicity and lack of accoutrements. It’s why a tuxedo jacket doesn’t have pocket flaps, and why ‘proper’ tuxedo trousers lack pleats and cuffs.
Overall, a tuxedo or black tie event is less about showing your personality and more about fitting into the accepted aesthetic of the event. That said, there are still ways of showing some personal touches when wearing a tuxedo.
Which Shoes Should you Wear with a Tuxedo?
Generally, there are four accepted shoe styles to wear to a black tie event: the court shoe or opera pump, an Oxford, a Venetian loafer, and finally a slipper (sometimes called Prince Albert Slippers). Before we go into each one, bear in mind that 99% of the time a shoe for a tuxedo is black. Occasionally, velvet slippers can deviate from black.
Court Shoe / Opera Pump
A rare shoe that originated in the mid-19th Century in England, the court shoe is a loafer made from patent leather, calf leather, or velvet, recognisable due to the silk bow on the front. Known as an opera pump in the USA, this shoe is considered standard footwear for white tie events, and acceptable for black tie.
The Oxford; a universal sign of formality in footwear that anyone can recognise. Typically chosen in patent leather for tuxedo use, though calfskin leather is also acceptable if highly polished.
Patent leather is made permanently high-gloss by the application of acrylic or plastic layers on top of the leather to create the shine. Patent leather shoes are highly susceptible to scratches and damage, so be careful how you walk when wearing a pair.
A rule of thumb when it comes to black tie events is that less is more; avoid brogues, even quarter-brogues, and the fewer pieces to the shoe, the better.
With this in mind, the wholecut Oxford is a good alternative to patent leather, if you’re keener on calfskin leather. This means that you’re more likely to be able to wear the shoes more often, in a business setting for example.
As we mentioned before, the tuxedo is all about the lack of bulk and adornments so the wholecut Oxford is an excellent choice to pair with a tuxedo. Of course, if you’re regularly wearing your Oxfords it might be a better choice to opt for a pair of black tie-only shoes if you are attending many events; you wouldn’t want to show up with distressed shoes!
You will recognise a Venetian loafer immediately, even if you haven’t called them Venetian before. A Venetian loafer refers to unadorned leather in footwear, especially when constructed like a true moccasin; with no separate sole. Patent leather is the choice of material for a loafer.
The lack of laces on a loafer allows the tuxedo trouser leg to break gently, and the easy on, easy off nature of loafers is always welcome. The simplicity of the loafer is what makes it a good choice for black tie events. The elegance of a shoe that has nothing to distract the eye is nothing to turn your nose up at.
The slipper, or Prince Albert slipper, is an elegant choice of footwear for black tie events. In calfskin leather, the black slipper is a laid back way of dressing your feet but still hits the accepted styles. Slippers are the only shoe that you can wear in velvet for tuxedos. The velvet slipper is also available in different colours.
Whilst technically correct with the tuxedo, a velvet slipper actually looks best with a smoking jacket. These jackets are also velvet and this continuation of material makes the look stronger.
If you’re heading to a black tie event that you know will be a little more fun, like a wedding, then you could opt for gold slippers as a statement; as long as the bride & groom don’t mind. Of course, a more conservative approach is best for a gala or similar occasion.
One thing to bear in mind with velvet slippers is that they are delicate shoes and if you are heading to an event in wet weather you may want to reconsider. Velvet slippers can get damaged easily in inclement weather.
Best Shoes to Wear with a Tuxedo
As with most things, which shoes are the best to wear comes down to personal preference and foot shape. The physical reality of your feet will have a large say. On top of this, your personal style should inform your choice too.
Someone who isn’t confident in the eccentricities of court shoes would do better with a pair of black patent leather Oxfords, and if standing out in a crowd isn’t what you aim for then stay away from any non-black velvet slippers.
If you’re on a budget, then polish up some black dress shoes and don’t worry about patent leather. The advantage here is that the calfskin leather shoes will work in more situations than patent leather will.
Our general advice on wearing shoes with a tuxedo is to go for patent leather, as a tuxedo is for special occasions so too should the shoes.
Can you wear trainers with a tuxedo?
A surprisingly common question. Despite how often you might find a celebrity on the red carpet sporting a pair of diamante trainers, we would advise against ever pairing a tuxedo with shoes as informal as trainers.
Whilst you can, you probably shouldn’t. Some events will even bar entry if you aren’t adhering to the dress code.