When to Wear Patent Leather Shoes

shoe
PHOTO CREDIT: The Idle Man

Patent leather shoes are something that many of us wouldn’t think of owning, but this style guide is here to help you out with all of that. By the time we’re done you won’t be able to resist their charm.

Read more Men’s Style Guide features.

Now, patent leather might be something that you’ve heard of, but it’s not a term that gets tossed around a lot because really, who tells their mates that they’ve brought a pair of ‘patent leather shoes’? It doesn’t change the fact though that you should probably invest in at least one pair of these, because for certain outfits, nothing’s going to compare.

What is Patent Leather?

Patent leather in basic terms is a coated leather that has a glossy, shiny finish to it and is mostly used for shoes and other accessories (because a patent leather jacket would look horrible). The origin of patent leather is historically attributed to the UK according to a reference in a British periodical from 1794. However, it was made popular in the 18th century in the U.S. by Seth Boyden who wanted durable shoes that still looked fancy. Ironically the Jersey boy never patented the process. These days patent shoes have a plastic coating instead of the linen seed oil-based lacquer from 1819.

patent-black-leather
PHOTO CREDIT: MJTrends

Best Styles for Patent Leather

Now obviously sandals aren’t really gonna work with patent leather, and it’s best to stick to formal shoes if you’re buying this material. A lot of patent leather shoes have a narrow v-shape toe, a slight heel and are laced up. This iconic and unusual look kind of just embraces the boldness of these shoes.

Men’s Patent Leather Shoes

You can’t hide shiny leather shoes so it’s best to go full out. You also don’t need to worry too much about upkeep, despite their appearance. They’re actually pretty easy to take care of, and if they get a bit dirty you don’t need to polish them up like other leather shoes, just wipe them down with a damp cloth and they’re back to normal. Don’t worry, we’ll go through the different steps for the perfect polish in a minute.

Base London Hi-Shine Derby Shoes | Hudson Hi-Shine Derby Shoes
SHOP THE LOOK: Base London | HudsonFormal Shoes

Men’s White Patent Leather Shoes

If you’re looking to channel some rockabilly vibes, a pair of white patent leather shoes are just what you’re looking for. However, they can be quite out there so you need to be 100% sure that you’re ready for this fashion statement. When it comes to coloured patent leather shoes, there’s one brand really that deserves most of your attention. Dr. Martens have an incredible variety of patent shoes. Finding the right pair in white certainly won’t be a problem.

That said, men’s white patent leather shoes mostly come in the form of dress shoes and for that reason they’re more suitable for formal events. Plus, white dress shoes often feature black accents and they’re once again usually reserved for semi-formal or formal occasions. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you always have to wear a full suit. Get some inspiration from one of Ryan Gosling‘s best looks and pair your white patent shoes with a smart white shirt and light grey suit trousers.

white-patent-leather-shoes-outfit
SHOP THE LOOK: The Idle ManShirts | Trousers
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Patent Leather Sneakers

Thanks to their expensive and desirable finish, patent leather shoes have come to include sneakers in their ranks. Patent leather sneakers are often released under limited edition collections. What a better way to capture the exclusive essence of patent leather shoes. Plus, the introduction of patent leather sneakers is a great way to jazz up your street style. This way you can have the comfort of trainers and the elegant finish of the patent leather all in one.

patent-leather-sneakers
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Men’s Patent Loafers

If patent leather shoes are a bit too much for you yet you simply can’t give up on that shine, a pair of loafers might be the right pair for you. More suitable for less formal occasion, loafers are definitely a more laid-back option compared to your classic patent leather shoes. Whether you’re a penny, tassel or even Gucci loafer kind of guy, all the different styles come in a patent leather variation.

loafers-outfit
SHOP THE LOOK: The Idle ManShirts | SelectedTrousers | HudsonLoafers
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

How to Style Them

The trouble with bold shoes like these is that they can be intimidating if you’re not sure how to dress them. The main thing to remember is that these were made for formality, so don’t worry about dressing them or matching them with more casual clothes – let them complete your smart outfit.

Because of the high shine it’s best to try and let them stand out on their own, and match them with a muted jacket and trousers rather than something with a sheen to it. This will make sure the outfit doesn’t look too blinding, and the shoes will add a nice contrast to the piece, rather than clash awkwardly with it. For the shirt, pick a clean block colour to again compliment the shoes and not try to compete with them.

Go ahead and add a waistcoat if you fancy it, and if you feel the outfit is too plain, don’t be afraid to add some extra details, like bolder buttons or a contrasting coloured tie. So if you’re going somewhere posh and you want to go for a classic formal look, pick up a pair of patent leather shoes and go for the bolder look.

The Idle Man Tuxedo Jacket | The Idle Man Shirt | The Idle Man Trousers | The Idle Man Bow Tie
SHOP THE LOOK: The Idle ManBlazers | Shirts | Trousers | Ties

When to Wear Patent Leather Shoes

Patent leather shoes are dressier by nature. However, considering that patent shoes mostly come in black and relatively neutral colours such as white, brown and burgundy, they can be dressed down to feature in smart casual outfits. Back in the day patent leather shoes would only be accompanied by a tuxedo. Although, these days they can be a great way to elevate your smart casual wardrobe with one simple yet very effective style move.

casual-patent-leather-shoes
SHOP THE LOOK: The Idle ManJackets | T-Shirts | DickiesTrousers | Dr. MartensFormal Shoes
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

When to Wear Patent Leather Dress Shoes

Patent leather dress shoes are quite the luxurious item. If you’re going to attend a special event such as a wedding, they’re perfect for that kind of celebration. Even though black patent leather shoes can be easily dressed down, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. Save your patent leather dress shoes for a truly special occasion. No matter how formal the dress code is at your office, this kind of shoe isn’t quite appropriate.

There’s quite a festive aspect to patent leather dress shoes and so let’s keep it that way. Classic patent leather shoes traditionally come in the form of Oxford shoes. These shoes are quite magical, thanks to their shiny coating they reflect light as you walk along. Perfect for a wedding dance. Make sure that your patent shoes are accompanied by the right socks. A pair of black or burgundy over-the-calf socks are just what you need.

patent-leather-docs-outfit
SHOP THE LOOK: SelectedBlazers | Trousers | Dr. MartensFormal Shoes
PHOTO CREDIT: Adam Gallagher

How to Polish Patent Leather Shoes

Patent shoes look great. Unboxing them basically gives you the same thrill of getting into your brand new car for the first time. The smell of leather is incredible and you simply can’t wait to put them on. That said, you probably want to wear your patent shoes for a very long time. As it always goes with footwear, your patent shoes will be exposed to all sorts of damages, whether they’re accidentally self-inflicted or due to weather conditions.

black-patent
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

Carrying on with the car metaphor, there’s nothing as deeply heartbreaking as scratching your car. Same goes for patent leather shoes. Because of their plastic coating the marks will be very visible and sometimes permanent according to how deep the scratch goes. However most dirt marks coming from walking down the street or park can be removed.

Follow the simple steps below to make sure that your patent leather shoes get the care and attention that they require:

  1. Invest in a cleaning product specifically aimed at patent shoes for the best results.
  2. Grab a clean damp – not wet – cloth to remove any dust or dirt.
  3. Apply a thick layer of black polish to the entire surface of the shoe. Not only this will clean the shoe but it will also help restore the original shine and colour.
  4. Let the patent leather cleaner dry for three to five minutes. After this, you’ll notice a thin white layer over the shoes. That’s when you know it’s time to buff the patent leather cleaner.
  5. Finally, bring out the shine in your patent shoes. Make sure that for this step you use a cotton cloth. Your shoes will now be as shiny and glossy as they were when your first got them.

Quick Guide to Patent Leather Shoes

  • Patent leather has a glossy and shiny synthetic coat.
  • Classic patent leather shoes feature a narrow v-shape toe.
  • Invest in a shoe polish specifically created for patent leather.
  • When wearing your patent shoes, remember that they should be the entire focus of the outfit.
  • Remember to pay attention to finishing touches such as choosing the right socks.

On That Note

Now you have all the knowledge to rightfully describe yourself as a master in men’s patent leather shoes. With yet another staple piece in men’s clothing, all there’s left for you to do is get yourself a brand new shiny pair, right? Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait until your next chance to wear a tuxedo. Don’t forget to have a look at our range of shoes, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

SHOP ALL SHOES

Written By